Saturday, February 28, 2009

!!Crocus Explosion!!

It just wouldn't be garden blog right if I didn't put my crocus blooming on the web. Its the crocus photos at winter's end that seem like photos of your friends' children at Christmas. I love garden photos, but everyone's dishing these. Here they are:

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


As I exited the subway tonight, accosted by noise, I thought of all the sounds I encounter from work to home. It goes like this:

At work, in a model studio full of wood cutting tools -its the steady whistling wind of the dust collection, the circular screech of the sliding saw, the rattling of the bad bearings in the old band saw motors, the deep thrumming of the re-saw, the rhythmic wih, wih, wih of the disc & belt sander, the thrumping of the drum blower that sounds pretty much like a dryer full of sneakers, the whirring of the laser cutters' fans, the laser pulsing which sounds not so much like Star Wars but eeeeeeeeaaaaaaa as it scores and vaporizes wood and pulp, the rattle-knock of the air compressor blowing wind onto the laser's flame, the wah, wah, wah of the nail gun compressor, and the drill press, table saw, and the hammer, and the.....

Ahh, to leave such a place and enter the traffic noise of Columbus Circle, down quickly into the subway always just when the steely roar of the 1 train coming in, down another flight to the A/D platform. Here its the musician banging his drums, trains roaring in, roaring out, lookout -the blare of the garbage train horn and its locomotive humrumhumrumhumrum. Onto a train, screech and squeal, bing and bong. 

Finally my stop, in Middle Brooklyn, I exit and it always seems another train is roaring in on the opposite side as I exit. Man with luggage opens the siren's gate as I rush to the portal to the outside world. 

Outside the rush, the constant rush of automobile whooshing and occasional Harley thromping and garbage truck harrumphing as I am ear level with the Prospect Expressway in its last throes of 70 mph. This sound follows me to the overpass, the sounds of street traffic, the rolling steel gates crashing down. I turn the corner two half-blocks from home and hear the buzzing of the sodium halide lights of the nursery and then the turbulence of wind in my ears.  As I turn the last corner I can hear my footsteps. I slow. I pause at the front yard garden and it seems so quiet compared to the day's noise. I imagine silence.

But I know true silence. In it there is a ringing sound.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Pea Shoots

Those peas sure grow fast once they stick their heads out of the ground.

And look at those roots 

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Broccoli Sprouts Are Movin Out

I've been sending the broccoli sprouts outside into the cold-frame now by day, inside by night.
Next to the sprouts is a single pot with the "winter-sown" broccoli seeds in it -no activity here.
Also, a 2-liter bottle of tap water to help keep the space a little warmer at night.

Snap Peas Sprout

The Scheeper's Snap Peas Sugar Ann are coming up, not long after I planted them, just a few days. Soon they'll be heading out with the broccoli sprouts into the cold-frame by day.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Trash in the Garden

I've gotten complacent, I just let it sit like fallen leaves. Unless its a telephone book or newspaper circular flattening some bulb shoots or something of that nature. I used to clean it up regularly, but now only so often. It keeps coming, never ceases no matter the season. But its in winter that I let it be the longest. It mostly blows in (infernal wind!), but I can tell a tossed bottle of beer or drug baggy from the blown trash. Bottles are more common in warm weather.

I live on a short, little-respected block. Two buildings on it, mine and the neighbor's. The neighbor's fronts the intersecting block so that the side of their house becomes a no-man's land of mostly dog-shit, no fault of their own. The opposite corner, mine, stands without entry or sentry and becomes a good place to toss bottles. But the whole garden fills up. I am reminded of Jonathan Letham's Fortress of Solitude:

"A fair question, actually. Did the renovators think this was Park Slope? Or what? Why should Dose have to carry them? Abraham and Dylan was one thing, but some of those brownstoners, David Upfeld, Isabel Vendle, the Roths, wouldn't look him or Junior in the eye, seemed to begrudge their place on the street. Upfield, out there each day in his Red Sox cap and handlebar mustache, picking litter from his yard. Glaring at PRs on crates in front of Ramirez's store, like they were ever going to quit tossing bottle caps and empty packets of plaintain chips in his forsythia."
pg. 461

Something else entirely? I dunno. I've gotten accustomed to the winter flower, the bleached colors of clinging trash. In the front yard, you gotta be cool. Or lazy.

Speaks To Me

Its telling me I should get out there and rakes those leaves!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Fear is Fifteen Cops With Hands on Their Guns

As I sit typing a post about some blooming witchhazel, I notice some shouts outside. My desk is by the window, our apartment building isn't insulated, so that outside noise is practically inside noise. I look out the window and I see about 7 police officers looking in my direction. Shouting, spraying mace, toward the landlord's driveway -right outside the window. I hear "put down the mace!" (I think) and then as more officers arrive, I hear "Put down the knife! Its all over!" They're screaming at the guy. I see him, can't tell his age, he's got a baseball cap on (maybe, its all happening so fast). He's just standing there in front of my landlord's pole-setting truck. They're continuing to spray mace. He seems to have a green leaf on his eye, maybe used to wipe the mace, maybe pulled from the english ivy on the neighbor's fence.

Reinforcements come in. Now there's at least 10 cops and one guy with a knife (maybe). Everyone's agitated. More cops are coming on to the scene. They're still yelling, "put it down, its over. Where's the tazer?" More spraying of mace. At this point their hands are resting on their guns. A blonde female officer arrives shouting to the man in the least calm manner, "calm down dude, its okay. Put the knife down, dude. Calm down!" Is she the negotiator?

I have two fears: I am going to play a part in a man getting shot to death by the police of the City of New York. I don't want to be a witness to this, yet I can't call the police! The police are Asian, Black, Hispanic, White, male and female. The man with the knife, a black man. I am aware of this despite my agitation. My second fear -in the rain of bullets my 1st floor apartment will be pierced and I will be hit. I leave my office area and go to the kitchen, 25 feet from the focus of the police. Over-reaction?

I put on shoes and head to the front door. By the time I get out to the stoop, the police are wrestling the man on the ground, trying to get him to give up the knife, I think. There are a lot of police now. A lot. I brought my camera because I feel I should somehow record what I am witnessing and at the same time as I sense the police don't want that. An officer (who happens to be my upstairs neighbor's son!) chases a man with a telephoto lens off my stoop, saying "Its private property, get off!" I feel how the agitation of the moment affects your memory, affects your perception. The camera resists that to some degree. How did this photographer know about this - a radio scanner?

Questions pour in. What if he dies? What has he done? Why are they chasing him? Why won't he drop the knife? Does he have a knife? A gun? He is surrounded, he doesn't have a chance. Is this a last stand? Is he mentally disabled? I have no answers, all I see is a sea of blue. I see the humanity in the police, the lack of clear structure, the rattled officers' attempt to keep procedure. "Where is the sergeant," I hear. It is chaos, but everyone knows who's side their on. It is a strategy of overwhelming force, really overwhelming. One man, 40 police. Most could do nothing but watch. Their discomfort, their agitation, they are on edge -those on the front line. So am I, just a witness, a bystander. To their credit, I never see a drawn gun.

I believe they tazer him. They carry him to the intersection. Cops laugh, those on the sidelines, complain of shit on shoes (welcome!). An officer is aggressive and told to calm down as they hold the revived man down on the hood of the police car. Finally the FDNY EMT arrives, then must have sedated the man, placed him on a stretcher, strapped him in, rolled him off to the ambulance.

What happened here? How did this happen in my front yard?

The second wave of police officers arrive at the scene. Notice the placement of some hands

The blonde officer arrives shouting, "calm down" and "dude"

I believe the yellow thing in the female officer's hand is a Taser

After tasering, the officers cuff him, relax a little

Now they carry him to the intersection

At the intersection they hold him on the hood of the car

You get a sense of how many police officers, detectives are present (no bystanders in this shot)

But now, sedated and strapped in a stretcher, only two cart him away.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

On a Gloomy Day, Witch Hazel

Ghosts From Season's Past

On a Brooklyn sidewalk.

I Drown Squirrels, But Its Okay Because I Use a Rain Barrel To Do It

This Highlighted Archive article from the New York Times Home & Garden Section, "Peter Rabbit Must Die," left me feeling shamed, ashamed of my people -the humans. The article seems to thrill in the confessional talk of killing yard animals -the squirrel, the raccoon, the woodchuck, even birds that chomp the carrots or mow down the tomatoes.

With rhythmic sensibility, the author mentions that killing wild animals may be illegal (as if that seems to matter) or that the reader should indulge in a book by John Hadidian on coexistence with wildlife. But in an article subtitled "Humane Ways to Deal with a Pest Problem", it was the description of the drowning of squirrels in a rain barrel that put me on edge:

"They did, however, as conscientious environmentalists, have a large rain barrel on the roof, which they used to water the garden. Who first came up with the idea of drowning, Ms. Lennig cannot recall, but it was her husband who handled the first executions. The trap, which was long and narrow, fit perfectly in the barrel.

Ms. Lennig has yet to be able to deal with the removal of the corpse, which is then thrown into the garbage. But she and her husband are now so comfortable with this form of pest control that when they visited Ms. Lennig’s in-laws at their lakefront property last year, where squirrels were climbing on the deck and ravaging the planters, they offered to drown them.

“My husband and I said, ‘We’ll take them to the lake,’ ” she says, “but our in-laws were having none of that. We had to get in the car and drive them five miles away. I spent the entire weekend like a soccer mom, driving squirrels around.

Isn’t drowning cruel?

No, Ms. Lennig says. She recalls reading that you lose consciousness and then your heart stops; it’s actually one of the nicer ways to go."

Drowning of squirrels? If a young man did this, people would call the police because it suggests his future as a serial killer -heartless, unable to empathize, no conscience. You know what I am saying here, but somehow in the name of the garden -that's fair, good reason, drown the squirrel. By the way, I once saw a squirrel swim across a lake -not kidding, they can swim.

I have experienced the ravages of squirrels on roses (eats every bud) and tomatoes (one bite, no thank you -next), I've seen the damage of deer and woodchucks. I don't belong to PETA or even the Humane Society, but as a gardener -the kind that I am, suggests that we are not using our brains or hearts if we submit ourselves to drowning of animals that are simply enjoying the things we set out for them. They do not distinguish between nature and culture -that's our pathology!

I live in the City of New York. I got feral cats, rats, birds, and squirrels. I am smarter than them -yes its true. But they have time on their paws. It is my job to outsmart their tenaciousness. Killing is not outsmarting them, its the tantrum of a child, undeveloped. Outsmarting them, that's fun, full of boastful pride.

I am growing vegetables. For the sake of aesthetics I should not build a cage around my vegetables? Build a cage around your vegetables! Put the wire mesh in the ground and all around so that the animals cannot reach your prized tomatoes.

In creating the garden we realize our connectedness to the animals of the world because we see how strongly attracted to that ideal environment we and many animals are. It is a garden for all of us, but only we have the intelligence to build it and protect it. I do not believe that aesthetics, irritations, or petty fears should trump life.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Infernal Wind

This is the season of wind -a constant blowing, or even nor-easter gale. I believe it is true that wind can make a person mad. I hate its constancy, its always in my face. It gives me head colds.

I don't want the wind, don't wish for wind. We were formed in the windless environment of the forest canopy or before that, under the sea. It is unnatural for us primates. Accept it only when it blows our sails, turns our turbines, or blows toward our backs.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Philadelphia Flower Show

I won two tickets to the Philadelphia Flower Show from the NYC garden blog called Garden Bytes From The Big Apple! The blog authors, Ellen Spector Platt and Ellen Zachos have great knowledge of houseplants and container gardening among other things, and they give away prizes!

I've never been to the Philly Flower Power Hour, or to anything remotely like a flower or garden show. I do know that its the top dog in the U.S. of gardening A. because it is so often mentioned in the gardening press. I have imaginings of something part Disney, part Automobile Show, part Rodale Institute, part Botanical Conservatory, and hopefully not part Funerary Display.

The one down side: getting there. A quick review of Amtrak says $180 round trip for two to Philly. $180!!! No wonder people drive. Mass transit should be cheaper than driving. That should be its priority selling point -Uh, we're cheaper than driving. I'll probably take Greyhound, at about 60 bucks for two, roundtrip. Cool, okay -reasonable enough, bus -well
I must submit to mass transit, I don't have a car.

Monday, February 16, 2009

PP in TPT or Planting Peas in Toilet Paper Tubes

I am planting Snap Peas for early spring harvest. Normally I would want to plant these directly outside, but I decided against that for this experiment. I will be planting them into my tomato planters and a good hard freeze is not only possible, but expected before winter gives it up. I thought -why take the chance. So I am starting these seeds indoors, then moving them to the cold-frame outside for hardening-off. Afterward, maybe sometime in early March, I will transplant them into the tomato planters if the weather seems amenable to the notion.

I am using TP/PT tubes. Paper Towel tubes, cut into three and Toilet Paper tubes used without alteration. The soil-filling process was a little messy, more than I would have liked, but it was easy enough to clean up the soil-less potting mix. You can see in the photo that I am also using yogurt-containers, old vegetable start pots and other recycleables -all of which have bottoms with holes.

I was most interested in the paper tubes because they have no bottoms. I wanted to see how well the soil stayed in the tube, even after multiple waterings. The soil was ever-so-slightly damp and it stayed in the tube with a little compaction. Here I am holding the tube, soil facing the force of gravity, yet the soil stayed in place.

A closeup of the bottom of the paper tube. I even used a large (about 3-inch diameter) paper tube from a role of drawing paper and the soil stayed put same as this.

In these two shots you can see the tubes placed in a plastic food container. I added water to the top of the soil and also into the plastic container. The water was quickly taken up and the soil stayed put.

You may have seen Johnny's, or even Martha Stewart hawking a device for making potting soil cubes for seed starting. Its a great tool for someone with tons of seeding to do, but for those of us in the city, with our small spaces -all we need is toilet paper or paper towel tubes.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

First Course: Broccoli

The Broccoli seeds (Lake Valley Organics variety Broccoli 'Calabrese') sprouted two days ago. 
The seedlings, most are up, are about an inch or so tall. I only get 4-5 solid sun-hours in the window, then bright daylight for the rest of the day. So far, so good. 

I'm going to seed some Snap Peas in tp and pt cardboard tubes (you see them up there) this weekend for cold-frame sprouting. I want those in the tomato planters by March for early April harvest. Spinach will go in, planted outside, before the end of February -hoping for moderate temperatures. You know, despite all the frozen weather this year, my spinach from last year survived this far in the planter. I will seed this planter again, soon with the spinach.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Never Be Fooled by the February Warm-Up

I remember these when I was a kid. February- President's Week Winter Break. Sixty degrees. Aahh. T-shirts, no shorts-too radical. That was last week. Seeds seeded, seeing seedlings-inside.
Outside, still too cool. 

Friday, February 13, 2009

One Sexy Cold-Frame

Well, there it is: the cold-frame. I put it in the front yard, facing south in a patch of asters. I put it there because there are fewer bulbs coming up in the aster patch. That black BBQ  paint sure gives it style!

I put legs on it to keep it off the upcoming plants. One design change had to be made on the spot. I didn't take into account the warping of the glazed roof panel frame. One piece warped out over night, so I added one block to each side to hold the frame in place. The back is held in place by its hinges. I think this will solve the problem, and anyway -its a 30 dollar project.

With the lid open you can see the interior. I have one pot inside now with a couple of broccoli seeds in it. I am attempting to sprout broccoli outside in the cold-frame and inside the apartment simultaneously.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Life Without the Fridge?

It seems some folks out there are going gangbusters. They're chucking the fridge. Even for those of us who live in the city, within seconds or minutes of dozens of groceries or eating establishments, I don't see this catching on. I work evenings/nights. I make four nights dinners on Monday morning and in the fridge they go till the day they are to be eaten. But why take my example as a reason to keep the ol' Frigidaire. The Times article that covers this story did a decent job of telling it like it is.

But of course we previously lived without the fridge. We had root cellars and other storage for food, no? Imagine dairy cellars and meat cellars. I worked in Maine where there was an old farmhouse that had a white-washed dairy cellar underneath that was "see your breath" cool in the depths of summer. Meats were dried, smoked, and salted. But rodents, insects, and mold were always a problem before the electric fridge. It was a big job keeping the family fed and thats largely what certain members of the family did. Life without the fridge? The fridge is liberation, baby. Or will some new technology liberate us from the fridge?

"FOR the last two years, Rachel Muston, a 32-year-old information-technology worker for the Canadian government in Ottawa, has been taking steps to reduce her carbon footprint — composting, line-drying clothes, installing an efficient furnace in her three-story house downtown." She tossed the fridge.

The writer really didn't have to mention the three story house, did he? Not unless he wanted to point to a larger "footprint" concern without making it too obvious. Her-three-story-house. Of course multiple story houses are more efficient than say, one level ranch types. So she's got that going for her.

Some kind of footprint arms race going on these days. Homes with angel wings.

If You Were At All Thinking of BioFuels...

I've long held negative opinions about the "biofuel" boom. The only answer to our energy problems is efficiency, not changing "forms" from one fuel to another. Some forms are more efficient, yes -but what we really need to tackle is how much we use. This, in my opinion, is the only place we can make real progress. Taking energy from one form and converting it to another on a large scale always creates unwelcome by-products . We need to focus on using less energy, or on creating tools (cars, appliances, trains) that require less energy and do more. This is the one sure way of reducing pollution. I often think of the old farmstead with its water-pumping windmill. What of locally-produced electricity? If our home-systems required less energy to do the same work, we could generate locally with much greater success.

Check out this post from the Organic Consumer Association on the Ethanol Scam. It can't possibly say it all, but its a nudge.

Short & Sweet

I'm painting the cold-frame this morning and I planted some broccoli seeds. 

Monday, February 9, 2009

My Farm

Have you heard of this business -MyFarmSF.

It operates like this: You pay a one time fee ($600-1000), they come in and install a vegetable garden in your yard. You pay them a weekly maintenance fee ($35+/-), they come by once a week to maintain it. They harvest vegetables and give you some or all of the produce. This is a for profit venture. For people who want home-grown vegetables but are so busy they cannot do it themselves, yet can pay for it.

Anyone willing to do this here in NYC? Call it PSA, Personally Supported Agriculture.

What have been people's experiences with the soil in their backyards? I've been doing research on companies that do soil testing for hydrocarbons (like gasoline, benzene, toluene) or heavy metals (like lead or cadmium). Accurate Building Inspectors, also known as the Ubells of The Guru's of How-To on the Leanoard Lopate Show offer these services. They offer many tests, but the charges are real high.

I had some of these tests done 6 years ago for a landscape job I was doing on 15th Street around Park Slope, yet I don't remember the company name, but I do remember that the results told me little of what the compounds meant to a gardener. I ended up excavating much of the fill that was present and replacing it a hundred cubic yards of compost/soil mix from Nature's Choice in Jersey. We didn't grow any vegetables either.

Apparently, a major metal to be on the look out for is lead. Natural accumulations in soil average 10 parts per million. The EPA considers 300 parts per million to be the upper limit of allowable. With lead, its the children we most worry about as it is absorbed more by their guts than those of adults. Fruit (tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, etc.) do not tend to store lead. But the non-fruiting parts of vegetables, and leafy greens do uptake and store lead. The upper level of soil holds the most lead. Therefore, any soil-contacting vegetable (like carrots, turnips, radishes) will have lead on it's surface should there be a problem with lead in your soil.

Where does lead most likely come from in your yard. Two places: Old house paint (old renovation debris stored on site or chipping exterior paint) and car exhaust. Of course, lead has since been removed from these sources, but the problem with lead is that it doesn't migrate through the soil. It stays put, no matter how many years are between your soil and the lead contamination.

The University of Minnesota Extension has a page dedicated to soil lead with some suggestions for remediation. A similar page at Cornell.

But I have friends who simply vegetable garden their urban plots. Best we do is see that the lot was always used for a residence. You can do this via old fire insurance maps of NYC. There can be rather obvious signs of potential problems like dirty fill or construction debris, buried rusty auto parts, or that no plants or weeds are growing there, or even that the soil smells "chemically."

I'd love to hear stories of people's back yards. What are they like? What's your soil like? Do you grow vegetables? Would you pay someone else to do it for you in your own yard?

Saturday, February 7, 2009

A Night Radio

I was listening to Studio 360 this morning while at the studio. I actually got off the internet, out of the house and to the studio by 10 am. Hard to imagine on a Saturday.  I heard this poem on the program, by Japanese poet Shuntaro Tanikawa, called A Night Radio:

I am holding a soldering iron
tinkering with a '49 Philco
Despite warm tubes, the radio is stubbornly silent
but its odor still fresh, mesmerizes me
Why do ears wish to hear beyond their capacity?
I think we hear much too much nowadays
and I feel nostalgic over this broken radio's silence
I can't say which is the more important to me,
tinkering with the radio or writing a poem
I long for the days when I'd nothing to do with poems
and walk those dusty childhood roads
But I've forgotten about women and friends 
as though time did not exist
I just wanted to hear, should have heard something more
My breath held, my ear cocked in every summer's towering clouds
In the muttering of family get-togethers in an untidy room
Refusing to compress living into a story

This is how I feel, often enough when I am working on a painting -particularly a stubborn painting. I long for the days when I'd nothing to do with paintings and walk those dusty childhood roads. It was comforting to hear someone with as much achievement as Tanikawa express this feeling. And to bring back that childhood feeling -a warm evening, focused intensely on some activity, some doing and all time is lost. Nothing exists but the warm, now cooling, envelope of air, a dimming light, your hands and mind. The intensity of love of life in that moment.

This painting has been kicking my butt for too long

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

How I Made My Cold Frame

Below are pictures of the cold frame I made. I have a table saw at work, so this made the job easier than if I had to make it at home. But cold frames can be made from a variety of things, like stacked bricks or cement blocks with an old glass window on top. If you are making it out of wood, you could just jigsaw (or even hand saw) some plywood into a similar pattern and throw a piece of plexiglass (or even plastic sheeting) on top.

The pattern can be as simple as a rectilinear box, but I sloped mine so I could let more sun into the box and allow rain or snow-melt to run off the lid. Yours could be set onto or into the ground. I will raise mine a few inches with some screw-on wooden legs because I do not want to smash any underlying plants (upcoming bulbs, particularly).

My cold-frame has quite a small footprint at roughly 28 x 18 inches, but they can be much larger and taller. I designed mine for a city gardener, someone with a small garden and not too many plants to start.

I used scrap wood left from student projects at work. This wood is primed, finger-jointed 5/4 pine. It is 1 and 1/16-inch deep by 5 and 1/4-inch wide. In order to get the height that I wanted, I used a dado to rabbet-joint and glue two pieces together, making for a 10-inch wide board. This gave me a maximum height of 10 inches for the rear plank. The side planks are cut on a diagonal, sloping from 10 inches down to 8 in height. I bevel-cut the top of the rear plank to accommodate the slope of the side planks.

I cut rabbet joints at the four corners to more securely hold the four sides and to help keep out cold air.

I cut the front plank at 4 inches high, leaving another 4 inches for a piece of polycarbonate glazing. I dado cut a groove into the top of this front piece to snugly hold the glazing. After that, I bevel-cut the top of the front piece at 30 degrees to help shed any water.

This view points to the inside-bottom of the cold-frame. I rabbet-cut the bottom to accommodate planking that will be the floor. Exterior water will shed without contacting the interior floor planks with this set-up. However, if you set yours on or into the ground, floor planking isn't necessary.

These views show the polycarbonate glazing on the front. I used glazing here to increase the amount of light reaching the plants inside. You can see how it is held tightly within the groove on the front plank. I cut the glazing 1/4 -inch taller between the side planks so that the roof-glazing would make contact with it.

The roof glazing is a sheet of double-walled polycarbonate set into a dado-cut groove in the wooden frame. The rear of the glazing-frame can be seen below resting on the back planking. Out-door hinges will attach the roof glazing frame to the cold-frame.

This is the cold-frame with the roof glazing on. I left the plastic film on the glazing so that I know which side goes out.

This is a close-up of the roof and front panel glazing. The glazing is held snug in the dado-cut grooves in the wooden frame. The roof glazing overshoots the front plank by 1/2 -inch so that rain drips beyond the frame.

For now, I will use a stick to prop open the cold-frame for venting.

The joints will all be set with waterproof wood glue and out-door quality screws. I will paint the cold-frame to protect it from weather and sun damage. If I had made this out of cedar or redwood I would not bother, but this finger-jointed pine is really meant for interior applications. But with a good couple of coats of paint, it should last long enough. I have some old black barbecue paint that I think will do for the outside. The inside I'll paint with glossy white house paint. The idea is to not spend any money, or more than I have to. The polycarbonate cost 30 dollars at Canal Plastics, and that's about what this whole project is worth to me.

I see that I could buy a really nice one at Johnny's for $325 plus shipping. Maybe in better times. I could also add an automatic roof opener (I actually have a couple of these, but they're in Minnesota, I think). These openers are often wax-filled cylinders. The wax expands as it heats up and pushes a bar which opens your roof. The roof needs to be lightweight for this and the polycarbonate fits the bill.

Tom Chrisptopher at Green Perspectives has some good points on the use of a cold-frame. The kind he describes is much larger, and I like his idea of using the removable-pin hinges as a way of connecting the side planks. His point about "managing" the opening and closing of the roof is well taken. I want to experiment to see how it goes, but will get the auto-open cylinder if it becomes too much hassle.