Solar Tracking

Solar Tracking
How low can you go? Snow and ice and cancelled school.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

March

 
              March weather…cold, windy, bright and dark. It has always been this way, on both sides of the country.

                When I was a senior in college, I had an internship with Strawberry Banke, the historic village in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. My task was to research the introduction dates for the various medicinal herbs that were planted in the doctor’s garden, to make sure the plantings were accurate. (They were not.) I was also researching how each plant was used in around 1790. I spent hours digging through old newspapers for ports up and down the coast, reading herbals that were common at the time, and charting it all on a huge piece of cardstock. I was fascinated.

                There were gaps in my knowledge, so, during Spring Break, I went to Boston for three days. I wandered between the Public Library, with its huge and old reading room, where you waited for your books to be brought out and the Massachusetts Horticultural Library, a nineteenth century double decker in South Boston, full of old gardening books. The streets between the two were lined with brick rowhouses close to the street. Each house had a ten by twelve garden in front, surrounded by an iron fence. The tiny spaces were all planted for Spring. One would hold a blooming cherry, the next a row of bright yellow daffodils tossing in the breeze. Others had early red tulips or late purple crocus. Spots of color between dark walls and fences. Blue sky high above. Cold wind. I carried my backpack full of notecards, lunch, and some Earl Grey tea, doing research. There was nothing else I wanted to be doing.


                It has been a very long time since I conducted original research on the plants, houses, and lives of New Englanders in either the 18th or early 20th century.  It was a good life, but I have moved on. I still have the chart. I still know how all of those plants were used in early New England. And I still watch for the spring blooms, the bright daffodils, that dance by the side of the road as I walk to and from work on these March days. 

Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Kimberly Stove, round two

   
            Five years ago, we purchased a Kimberly stove. My partner was intrigued  because it was very cool technically and, because it is highly efficient, it could be installed in our basement using the existing chimney without interfering with the fireplace upstairs. Mark wanted to heat the basement and his little office space with scrap wood; I was hoping to dry the laundry in less than a week in the winter.

                The first winter was a disaster. We purchased the stove in November, and what with one thing then another, it was not installed until late January.  Once installed, it did not work. Mark tried and failed. I read the directions, tried, and failed. We tried different wood—no luck. Finally, we gave up. Come June, and the Mother Earth News Fair, we found the manufacturer in his booth and complained. He came out the next day, pronounced the stove flawed, and replaced it.

                The next winter, we had no trouble with lighting the stove, but it did not heat the basement. It is a full basement, surrounded by wet fifty degree clay soil, with a serious seepage problem when the rains are heavy. Nothing will heat that basement! We tried for several Saturdays, even boiling water for tea on the top, but it raised the temperature about two degrees. Mark was disappointed; I knew that it was only a matter of time before it moved upstairs.

                The stove sat, unused, in the basement for two winters before I raised the issue. We have a garage converted into dining room that we have been heating with an electric space heater. All of the literature for the Kimberly stove suggests that it was designed to heat a small cabin, or tiny home, or RV…which is about the size and shape of the dining room. Why not move it up, where it will be VERY useful, rather than keeping it in the basement, unused? Mark saw the logic. We contacted the stove company.

   
             In January, we moved the Kimberly upstairs. It looks lovely tucked into a corner of the dining room, against the old wooden wall. The stove pipe climbs up, bends around the rafters, and shoots out of an old roof vent. It sits on a grey stone pad, which protects the floor from embers. We hang our clothes on the rafters above. On Saturday morning, Mark starts the stove while I make breakfast. It warms the room quickly. If we turn on the bathroom fan, warm air moves through the entire house. When people come over, they can take off their coats. When we sit down for dinner, the candles are not wavering in the breeze from the space heater. Our pile of junk lumber has gone way down.


                We are, finally, very happy with the purchase. It was more expensive than a traditional stove, so I cannot recommend it for everyone, but it does work as promised—when it is in the right space. 

Sunday, March 5, 2017

March-- the month, not the action

 
              March—the month when storms blow in, dump hail, sleet, rain, snow on our heads, and then blow out within the hour, leaving behind green grass and rainbows. The month when the light finally tips towards the sun again, so that, even on a cold and drizzly day, you can feel spring in the air. The month when that scruffy shrub by the back door blooms and sends out the sweetest perfume ever. Daphne.  March.

                In my classroom, the seeds I planted on Candlemas are sturdy little kales and mustards, lettuces and cabbages. So cute. In the greenhouse, the same starts are leggy and just putting out their first true leaves, victims of the cold, cloudy spring.  I rigged up the second grow light over them and set the timer, so that they will have a few extra hours of light in the morning.  That should help. The peas, planted on the same day, are thriving. This morning, between gusts of storms, I covered the first garden bed with plastic, so that it can dry out and warm for a few weeks before I plant out the starts. The cover will stay on for several weeks after the planting out, until the peas need a trellis to climb.  When the weather was bad, I went into the greenhouse and planted all of the tomato seeds, ready to come to school on Monday morning. 


               In the garden, the perennials are just coming up. The first crumpled leaves of rhubarb appeared this week, along with the small daffodils. Other herbs and bulbs are slowly emerging. The plum tree is thinking about blooming, but it has not committed to the process yet. Neither has the Camellia. The slow start is all right with me—I have only just begun the pruning because of a sore shoulder. We were going to prune the laurel hedge, but dark clouds came in and the rains began again.


It is time to move inside, start a fire, dry out the clothes, and attack some reading.  Maybe knit a bit. March.

And, the next day, they cancelled school because of snow. March.