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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in winter
Posted by on in Imani


Travis Frazelle and I spent a lovely Sunday morning moving the solar panel from the aquaponics system in Imani I to the new greenhouse in Imani II.  The aquaponics system goes quiet in the winter while the greenhouse scene comes to life so we figured the solar panel would be more helpful with the greenhouse.  We also removed the pump from the pond for the winter and moved the two six volt deep cycle storage batteries to the greenhouse. 


I salvaged a 12 volt fan from an old computer and hooked it up to the batteries (connected in serial to create 12 volts) and it works fine, as you can see below.




Next step: bury 4 inch plastic drain pipe along the sides of the greenhouse.   We then tie 4 inch aluminum duct along the ridge at the top of the greenhouse and connect it to the buried drain.

We'll connect the 12 volt salvaged fan, controlled by a attic fan thermostat, to the front of the top tube.  


We will cover the floor of the greenhouse with thick plastic, then sand and finally gravel.  

Finally we'll place donated six 55 gallon barrels filled with water on top of the buried drain pipe and paint them black.  These barrels serve as the base for our planting trays in the greenhouse.  These also store heat captured during the days.

Once the system is all in place, the fan will move warm air at the top of the greenhouse down into the soil under the barrels.  The fan will only come on when the temperature reaches 60 degrees at the top of the greenhouse. The black barrels will also absorb heat directly from the sun.  The heat will then dissipate slowly over the cold nights to keep our greenhouse warm.

We'll also be installing a thermometer to measure both indoor and outdoor temperatues to record the temperature differentials we are achieving.  

At the very least, we should be able to grow cold hardy plants such as lettuce, kale, cabbage and brocolli during the cold winter months.

Net cost: about $175.

More soon. 


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Posted by on in Imani



It seems that the drought in California is really kicking in.  According to today's New York Times, experts estimate that over 500,000 acres will not be planted in the Central Valley this year.  As you may know, the Central Valley is the single largest source for fresh fruits and vegetables in the United States.  The four most productive agricultural counties in the US are in the Central Valley.  The total agricultural production of the Valley amounted to $17 billion in 2002.  It is the leading source in the US for tomatoes, almonds, grapes, cotton, apricots, and asparagus.

No water has flowed in irrigation canals for three years now at some farms and drilling wells, if one can find a well-driller who isn't booked years in advance, is very expensive.  Without regular rain to replenish the aquifer, it's only a matter of time until the water in the wells dries up as well.

In a February 13th article in the National Geographic, Celeste Cantu, manager of the Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority, states that "the cost of fruits and vegetables could soar" because of the drought.  In the same article, B. Lynn Ingram, a paleoclimatologist at the University of California at Berkeley who has studied 1,000's of years of drought history, states that "California needs to brace itself for a megadrought—one that could last for 200 years or more."

Because we receive most of our fresh fruits and vegetables from areas such as California, the implications for NYC are clear.  We need to obtain a lot more food independence.   One of the ways we can do this, in addition to relying on local farmers, is to begin growing food on vacant lots. 

With some 596 acres of city land sitting vacant, growing in community gardens is a real possibility.  And because we need to eat year around, we need to grow food year around as well.  Growing fruits and vegetables inexpensively in the winter in the Northeast requires a special kind of greenhouse, one that maximizes the sun as a heat source. 

Several gardens have been developing this capability for years.  One example is at the Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute at Basalt Colorado.  Jerome Osentowski, their executive director, has been growing semi-tropical plants year around using what he calls a "climate battery" to capture the warmth of the sun.  More well known in the Northeast of course is Eliot Coleman, whose Four Season Farm in Maine is an example of what can be grown year round in a cold climate.

The Imani Garden, at Schenectady and Dean in Crown Heights Brooklyn, is about to build a greenhouse that uses a climate battery and a below grade design that should achieve semi-tropical temperatures throughout the winter with few external inputs.  Working with the architectural firm of SRY Rainbow, Imani and its sponsor Green Phoenix Permaculture with the assistance of Citizens Committee NYC, Project Green Thumb and New York Restoration Project, hopes to begin construction this spring.  By using earthbag construction that incorporates earth from the excavation to build walls on three sides of the greenhouse, construction costs will be kept to a minimum.

If you would like to attend a pre-construction fund raiser to help us raise funds for the construction and view the design for this new greenhouse, please contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.




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December 20, 2013
Weather is a major part of our lives here on Lost Cat Farm. It interrupts our routines not unlike problems that arise in the community and other complications of life. All of these obstacles are gifts that wake us from our calm and strengthen our relationship to the unpredictable nature of this region and the role we play.
I am now looking at a foot of slowly melting snow, water dripping from the roof and an occasional goat peering out from their barn shelter in conflicted boredom. Three of these goats are six months old and have never seen snow.
The snow changed everything in terms of the animals’ willingness to break through to the last remaining edible grass. This worried me, because it means we will have to feed them more hay. Our hayed pastures are like most of the dairy pastures around here, that haven’t been grazed by animals in 30 years. As a result, they are over-grown with thickets of honeysuckle, black raspberry and multi-flora rose. I know that our goats love all of these plants when they are in leaf. Will they be willing to forage these thickets this winter? Can we feed them while they help us manage our overgrown pastures?
Yesterday, our goats finally got bored enough to trudge through a foot of snow to munch the branches of multi-flora rose. They especially liked the hips at the top. We will keep you posted as to how good a job they do in their eating.
Wilton & Joan   
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