Ramblings of a Grower: 11

Good morning everyone!

It is a brisk and cool day here at the farm. There were flurries this morning! It was very exciting. I am sure by the end of winter that will no longer excite me as much as it did today. But for me, the first flurry is always very exciting. I love winter. I am currently wearing a fleece lined flannel and I am very content. All I really need is some hot cocoa and I would be set.

Many of you may be wondering why and how I am still at the farm and working in the greenhouse. Its simple, we have gigantic heaters in here! Which means I can grow your favorite produce year round. For those of you who are not familiar with greenhouse architecture, there are some other factors that help as well. For starters, the whole structure is wrapped in plastic. Ever worn something really synthetic and just instantly over heated? Basically the same thing. But additionally, the greenhouse is actually wrapped in two layers of plastic! There is a fan that fills those two layers with air and that air adds an extra layer of insulation across the top of the greenhouse. Ever worn a wet suit? The layer of water trapped between the suit and your body gets heat from your body and holds in there, insulating you from the cold water. Same exact thing. Also, while we use a fair amount of supplemental lighting, we do still rely on light from the sun. That light is going to come through the plastic and help heat the air in here. Now its not nearly as strong as it is in the summer, hence the heaters.

Greenhouses are the easiest way to fight off that seasonal depression. They are hot, humid, and bright. Everything we become deprived of in the winter months. Not to mention to bright green, thriving plants they house. I personally know that my mood gets lifted when I am surrounded by tons of plants. The air is fresher, cleaner, and more oxygen rich in here from the many clean air factories growing within this small space. So if any of you find yourselves feeling a bit down as the gray and cold winter takes over, stop by the greenhouse just for some warmth and humidity. Its currently a very comfy 72 degrees in here. Depending on how much the sun stays out it may creep up to a toasty 80 degrees, but we will have to wait and see for that.

Now we will see a bit of a change in the plants despite our nice cozy conditions. Not all of the plants are under that supplemental lighting, so some will definitely have some reduced growth with the shorter day lengths. Even the ones that do have the supplemental lights will show some reduction in growth. The greenhouse with full summer sun is extremely bright. So bright that we actually have to put a shade cloth over the top to keep from cooking everything in here. But that cloth came off a few weeks ago. And the overall light in here is definitely diminishing as the seasons progress. That extra ambient light really provides a boost to our crops. So losing it will be noticeable.

Additionally, the over all temperatures are much lower. In the summer we would float between 95 and 105 degrees on any given day. Now, like I said, we will be lucky if we crack 80. This will affect the plants in a few ways. The growth will be slowed down. For those of you familiar with chemistry, you know that heat makes reactions go faster. Every living thing functions on chemical reactions. And cold weather brings their rates down. Plants in particular feel that reduction because they produce their own energy. Less sun and less heat means less energy. Less energy for plants means less growth. However, on a more positive note. We should see some really rich red tones start to come out of some of our lettuce. Some, like the oscarde, have a rich red color year round. But others, like the skyphos, grow green when it is too hot. It is only when the temperatures cool down that its brilliant red starts to appear. Now I am not certain on the science there but I have to imagine it is based on certain chemical byproducts only being formed under cooler conditions. Possibly related to trees showing red tones in the fall. Something to look into in the future perhaps.

Even the chickens notice the changing of the weather. Without enough light, the girls barely lay any eggs. We are bringing them back to their main coop so that they can also get the supplemental lighting they need to thrive. While they love the chicken tractor and the daily change of land, they need to be warm and healthy as well. So back to the barn they go!

For now, it is time to get back to work! I hope you all enjoy this sunny but chilly day! And that you all get excited for snow and the beautiful winter to come!