So dinner tonight started with a mixed greens salad with 2 varieties of carrots. No big deal except that all 3 varieties of greens and both of carrots (dragon and Nantes) came from our garden not an hour before and it is the second week of October in WI. 2 years ago I was in the belief that gardening was a summer hobby-one that distinctly ended in early September here in Zone 4. But then reading books like Eliot Coleman's Four Season Harvest, and the knowledge I picked up working on a CSA opened my eyes to the idea of seasonal plantings that can extend the season up to frost-or beyond with Leeks and Kale. So this year when the basil came down in August, in went carrots, lettuce, and radishes (which the basil had replaced in June!)
The fact that garden fresh tomatoes are precious beyond compare is common knowledge. But what happened to carrots on the way to the supermarket is downright criminal. Carrots are sweet, not starchy. Carrots are tender, not with skin so tough it has to be peeled to be edible. And carrots don't have to be orange-cultivars in red, white, yellow, and even purple exist and are delicious. Kids don't like veggies? Start a garden! I don't like store bought carrots either. Now I have to pick at least 2-3 carrots extra for dinner because I know that each of our kids will eat one on the way. Prep work? A good scrubbing with a brush under cold water: no peeling, no steaming, and no butter or ranch. The sugars in carrots start turning to starch the second you pull them. Eat them within the hour and they are like candy.
But looking at the shortening days and crisp nights I know that even the lettuce will soon fade. When Mia and I were discussing this blog, and the thought of staying local thru the WI winter we went from "can't do it-not without a root cellar" to the opposite spectrum "look this greenhouse here is only $1300!". I kept coming back to the plans I've seen for cold frames. The fact that they are all very different, but engineered the same led me to believe that as long as you stick to the theory (get heat in and keep it there long enough to warm the soil), the materials had a lot of lee way. Cold frames on line go for about $100-$250. In my hubris, I think I can build anything with a basic structural plan, 2 hours of free time, some scratch paper, $50, and a good hardware store. And today that is what I did.
So in the hopes of prolonging the bliss into December I broke out the power tools today and built a cold frame. Actually I will be building 2. One is dirt cheap, but you need some carpentry tools, knowledge of their use, and $40 in supplies. We'll call this one Low Tech. The other requires zero skill, a screwdriver, and $10. Let's call that one No Tech.
Look for upcoming step by step posts for both!