January 22, 2008

My New Coldhouse!

Last autumn -- which, by the way, seems like a very long time ago -- I reported to you about the wonderful Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Pocantico Hills, New York. I wrote about the greenhouse designed by Eliot Coleman, an expert on four-season farming, and how they are able to grow crops year-round. This notion inspired me to have a similar greenhouse constructed at my farm and it's finally nearing completion. The concept of this greenhouse -- or coldhouse, if you will -- is that produce is grown right in the ground in richly composted soil. The house is minimally heated, just above freezing, mostly utilizing energy from the sun. All winter long, cold hardy crops, such as lettuce greens, root vegetables, bunching onions, and brassicas (cabbage, broccoli, kale, etc.) can be successfully grown and harvested. Here are some photos of the progress.

Here are landscapers from Dom's Landscaping in Norwalk, Connecticut, loosening up the soil called the hard pan. This hard pan is great for building on but not so wonderful for growing in. These guys work hard, don't they?


This is Nick Brigante of Dom's Landscaping explaining the proceedings to my property manager, Mike Fiore:


Chris and Nick accepting a rather large delivery of nicely washed gravel:


These are the drainage pipes:


The drainage pipes are laid out and connected in a grid with the holes facing down. When water reaches the hard pan, it will rise into the holes of the pipes and then drain out of the coldhouse.


After the pipes were connected and the rest of the gravel spread out, the coldhouse was filled with yards and yards of organic compost, which we have been making right here on the property. The compost is about two feet deep. Jodi and Erika will now see that the compost is enriched with nutrients, following the very special Eliot Coleman and the Stone Barns Greenhouse soil recipe.