Building a Cold Frame

Building a cold frame was last weekend’s project at our house and we did it in the nick of time, just before the cold blast of arctic air and many inches of snow hit us this week.

Although we built a winter greens hoop garden a few years ago and it is working to produce winter greens like a charm (see my post about that here), my goal was to do a fall gardening project using the salvaged glass I’d saved years ago to make a cold frame.

Being in town, unfortunately, our neighbor to the south has a lot full of huge overgrown trees which shade our house in the wintertime, therefore my chosen “best” spot site for this mini-greenhouse isn’t perfect, but will get a few hours a day of sunlight on sunny winter days. The spot happens to be sandwiched between the concrete driveway and the house.

First, we took a trip to a neighbor’s dumpster where they are deconstructing part of a house and picked up a couple pieces of wood there, and then, we headed to our fabulous Boulder Resource Center (recycled community materials) to look around. It was a lucky day there, because we found three perfect sized lengths of redwood which ended up being exactly what we needed for the project.

The first photo, below, shows the project in its early stages. Designing the box with the materials at hand was the hardest part and I took a great deal of care and time in the planning stage. To construct it, my husband did the sawing and I got to have fun using the electric screwdriver.

This photo shows the project farther along, with glass in place. Careful measuring has paid off nicely.

Finally, the box is in place. Since this photo was taken, I’ve sunk it’s edges into the ground, found an old thermometer to put inside, and started a few spinach seeds as an experiment. I stacked rows of bricks against the back wall and plan to place a few old milk cartons inside that are filled with water as additional heat sinks. The floor is already covered in small rocks which should also help retain heat for this passive solar mini-greenhouse.

It seems to be pretty well settled that the plastic hoop house works best for growing winter greens in our area and if you think about it, glass conducts cold a lot better than plastic does. Eliot Coleman layers plastic with success in Maine’s cold winters. My project is an experiment and I hope to try a few things but mostly I want it for starting seeds next spring. I already think I should have made it taller so it could house some short tomatoes, but I will work with what I have. The glass panes slide apart nicely to vent it when it gets too hot inside and I will either bring the cold-sensitive seed starts indoors or throw a blanket over the frame on the colder spring nights.

Whew. Got it finished just in time. The total cost was about six bucks for this salvaged-materials project.

NOTE: As I post this, the outdoor temperature is 27F and the cold frame’s thermometer is showing 85F after the sun hit it an hour ago. Later… 100. Wow.

Also recommended, this previous post: Extend Your Growing Season with Simple Backyard Coldframes or Hoop Gardens.

Old Image: British Poultry Farmer 1944

How To Keep Poultry – Advice To Chicken Keepers, UK, 1944. A poultry farmer adds chicken feed to a food trough on a farm somewhere in Britain, as some of his chickens look on. The original caption states that “food should be placed before birds in a simple trough that can be cleaned easily. The trough should never stay on the same spot for successive days”.

(Note that Thursday is Luddite Photo Day at B.P.A.)

TED Talk on the Coming Antibiotic Crisis

This 14-minute TED talk by Ramanan Laxminarayan discusses the history, the challenges, and the squandering of antibiotic use, beginning with the story of penicillin.

“To save a few pennies” for our meat, we’ve used antibiotics sub-clinically for growth-promotion, not for treatment.

Now, bacterial resistance has become common.

Included in the talk is a stunning must-see U.S. map showing the progression of Carbapenem-resistant Acinetobacter baumannii across the states from 1999 to 2012.

“we stand at a cross-roads”

Every time an individual misuses an antibiotic, it affects humanity as a whole, which is “a problem of the commons”. Laxminarayan describes this as a problem of co-evolution, and compares it to using oil appropriately – related to climate change. He suggests an antibiotic tax just like people have suggested emissions taxes.

The newer antibiotics are becoming much more expensive, too. He tells us that this newer higher price is a signal that we need to practice conservation of antibiotics, just as high priced gasoline signals to us that we need to switch to methods that conserve gasoline. He mentions newer avenues and investments in antibiotic technologies, but says that these need to be balanced by investing in the proper use of antibiotics.

Because of resistance to our treatments across quite a number of areas to technologies we’ve only had for the past 80 to 100 years,

“essentially in a blink, we have squandered our ability to control”

because we have not recognized that actual selection and evolution was going to find a way to get back and we need to completely rethink how we’re going to use measures to control biological organisms … and we need to start thinking about them as natural resources … and change how we do business.

Which States Produce the Most Pumpkins? Illinois is Number 1.

I consider this good news, to find out that the fourth-top corn producing state of Illinois produces way more pumpkins than any other state. Next comes California, followed by Ohio and Michigan.

See the following chart and information about pumpkin growing from the USDA:

In 2013, the top 6 U.S. pumpkin producing states supplied over 1.13 billion pounds of pumpkins. Pumpkin production is widely dispersed, with crop conditions varying greatly by region.

Illinois remains the leading producer of pumpkins, with a majority of the state’s production processed into pie filling and other uses.

Supplies from the remaining top five pumpkin producing states are targeted primarily towards the seasonal fresh market for ornamental uses, as well as home processing.

Demand for specialty pumpkins continues to expand as consumers look for new and interesting variations. In addition to the traditional jack-o-lantern market, there is an increase in pumpkins available in alternative colors (white, blue, striped), shapes (oblong, upright), skin (deep veins, warts) and sizes.

The TPP: What Might it Mean for Agriculture?

Note: In this post, I have excerpted some of the key statements from recent USDA reports on the TPP and what it might mean in dollar and percentage numbers for agricultural exports and imports, especially for the United States. –Kay M.

(credit: wikimedia. Note that not all of the blue on this map is included in the TPP.)

The proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a trade and investment agreement under negotiation by 12 countries in the Pacific Rim, including the United States.

The twelve countries are Australia, Brunei Darussaiam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, United States, and Vietnam.

With a combined population of about 800 million and a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of about $28 trillion, these 12 countries encompassed 11 percent of global population and almost 40 percent of global GDP in 2012. The total size of their market for agricultural imports averaged $279 billion over 2010-12, 51 percent of which was sourced from TPP partners. The TPP accounts for 42 percent of the global agricultural exports of the United States and 47 percent of its agricultural imports.


Cutting tariffs is only one of the many goals of the TPP negotiations, but it is an important one for agricultural trade. The value of intraregional agricultural trade in 2025 under a tariff-free, TRQ-free scenario is estimated to be 6 percent, or about $8.5 billion higher (in 2007 U.S. dollars) compared with baseline values. U.S. agricultural exports to the region will be 5 percent, or about $3 billion higher, and U.S. agricultural imports from the region in 2025 will be 2 percent, or $1 billion higher in value compared with the baseline.


By commodity, the percentage increase in the value of intraregional trade due to the elimination of tariffs and TRQs will be largest for rice, sugar, and “other meat” (which includes animal fats and oils and offals); in absolute value terms, the increase will be greatest for bovine meat (which includes beef and mutton), “other foods” (which includes processed foods and feeds), and poultry meat. The total increased trade in meats of about $3.7 billion will account for 43 percent of the expansion in the value of intra-TPP trade in 2025, most of which is supplied by Australia, the United States, Canada, and New Zealand. About three-quarters of the increase in meat exports is destined for Japan, whose meat imports (mostly bovine and poultry meats) from TPP members will increase by about $2.8 billion relative to the baseline.

To learn more: