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"Salad in our Bowls" by Beth Weick, as published in North Country News, April 2010

There were remnants of slushy snow patches on the ground, but I was standing, sweating, with my sleeves rolled up. I was inside the cob-and-recycled-glass greenhouse at D Acres Organic Farm & Educational Homestead lifting sheets of remay from rows of radishes and hardy greens, propping open cold frames, turning flats of transplants to better catch the sun.

And there was water spraying…slightly out of control.

Today was my day to water the greenhouses. It's a fairly pleasant job, and simple. More than anything it's a welcome excuse to notice, carefully, how different plants are growing, how quickly various patches of soil are drying out, what needs to be thinned, what is ready for harvesting. Each of our three greenhouses here at D Acres has a slightly different set-up with regard to water. A collection tank off our barn roof gutter offers abundant water and short hauling for our lower hoop house. Buckets and watering cans are our precise distributors. The new kitchen greenhouse requires a hose run from an outdoor spigot though an extra tank, when filled via the hose, accommodates the watering can option as well. Our "g-animal" cob greenhouse is best watered with a hose and watering wand combination.

This is where things can get slightly out of control. It would seem to be a straight-forward process…ok, yes, I can generally keep myself dry. But I'm short, some shelves are tall, and the hose rarely wants to bend in my preferred direction.

For someone who spends a fair amount of time getting dirty, I don't particularly like getting wet. But it's a moot point in the end, because I sure do like eating…and this time of year I'm willing to employ the word 'ecstatic' with regards to salad greens. Testing my mettle against a hose a few times a week is an exaggerated comeuppance for sure.

The more worthwhile point to be made is: it's April and we're stuffing ourselves with salad! Yes, that definitely deserves an exclamation point. Our freezer continues to burst at the seams with bacon, sausage, and the likes, so no-one can justly accuse us of eating like rabbits. But after a season of potatoes, turnips, and squash every day, greens are a delicacy. Some spicy, some sweet, some bitter, some so potently green, others fresh and light to the palatte…forgive me - throw in the word robust and I'll start to sound like a wine label.

But you get the point. It feels like a power meal of nutrients, all that photosynthesized energy fueling our own muscles, our own efforts. And we've been stuffing these delightful leaves down our hungry gullets for a couple of weeks now. So the real story is season extension.

The warmth of the sun, when captured by simple set-ups of glass or plastic, is remarkable – even before it feels like a trustworthy springtime outside. Sure, we arguably have a bigger set-up than the home gardener may want. But don't use that as your excuse. We also make use of cold frames, simple boxes built with a glass pane top (i.e. old doors or windows), essentially creating a mini greenhouse. These, too, do the trick, reliably producing greens while Jack Frost is still threatening to come 'round. So think about it. If we're going to provide for our own food in this northeast climate, we need to do so beyond the months of June, July, and August. Cold frames, indoor starts, greenhouses: these are all ways to do so. Please, drop on by the farm, ask us some questions (try some salad), we'll even offer you some salvaged doors to build your own cold frame. Just be sure to make use of it, and spread the good and tasty word. Growing your own food is quite doable…and the reward so delightful. That's right, nod your head; how 'bout giving it a try yourself?

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