- Jackie Skrypnek
Updated: Nov 20, 2020
This past winter, I wrote about our plans to build a passive solar greenhouse in our yard. Here we are in a new season - and in some ways a new world entirely - and I'm happy to report our little food-growing addition is complete.
The first part of April was spent waiting out a protracted winter amid a developing pandemic and we felt confirmed in our belief that boosting our personal food sovereignty made a whole lot of sense. All the compelling reasons we're all familiar with for cultivating our own food still applied, but some had been brought into sharper focus by the effects of Covid-19. Abstract concerns about the dependability and safety of our centralized food supply chains were suddenly legitimate, real-life worries. In the midst of momentous global changes beyond our control, it also felt good to put our energy into a very tangible project that would contribute to the future we wanted and would guarantee us a positive outcome. That's the beautiful thing about investing in the "antifragile": it's a win if things remain status quo, but an even bigger win when disruption strikes.
Once the frost was finally out of the ground, we set about taking our greenhouse from idea to substance. My husband worked relentlessly for at least 21 days straight and, though I had a couple other things on the go, I joined him for much of that. I had hammered out the basic design on paper, but translating that to the meticulous levelling, measurements, and cuts needed to execute a quality build was definitely carpenter domaine! Our days ranged from the gruelling (excavating the perimeter by hand) to the mildly strenuous but rewarding (erecting the walls) to the fiddly and finicky (lining roof rafters and knee wall up for perfect fit of polycarbonate sheets).
I must say the process was unexpected in a few ways. First, building this type of greenhouse was far more involved and required more skill than I would have thought - almost more like a small house than a shed. Second, the cost of this little structure quickly added up even with labour being free (we'll have to grow quite a lot of tomatoes before we break even in that regard!). And third, in our pursuit of a highly-efficient end product we wound up using mostly new materials some of which have a pretty hefty energy footprint in their manufacture. I had to wrestle with the fact that this supposedly sustainable food-growing space actually ate up a lot of resources in its making.
Given all that, though, we think the wee greenhouse is a net positive. We celebrated our anniversary with a glass of cider among the happy plants in there and we should have all the homegrown makings for bruschetta, salsa, and pickles before too long. I'll be sure to pluck a few fresh items for the B&B menu as I go along, too. What remains to be seen is just how far into the shoulder season this greenhouse will grow food and provide a warm and sunny space - if we're in there at Christmas plucking greens, we'll call it a wild success!