Sunday, December 5, 2010

Open Garden Report, solar panels, yellow celery, carrots

What a great morning I had yesterday at the open garden! Everyone was so kind and appreciative! It really gave me a "high."

There were lots of "oos and ahs" over my cold frame that is chock full of Burpees two-season Chinese cabbage. It is believable already that I will harvest two meals a week throughout Jan. and Feb. of fresh vitamins for stir-fries from them. In answer to a question, I said I cut the leaves around the edges and the plants keep growing. I have used this cold frame for years. I bought it from Johnny Seeds, and put it up and down every fall and spring.

"I did close it last night."
When pushed further, I observed that I put a large plastic over the cold frame when snow is predicted. Otherwise it freezes shut. Then I can shovel snow off the cold frame, then push the rest off with a brush, and then open it to pick dinner.

The first question was about my solar panels. How did I feel about them? They have been a far greater financial benefit than I expected. Not only do I get large REC payments capably administered by my solar panel maven Bob Simpson (, but last month my electricity bill was less than $3. When I said this, I heard a gasp. I added that this was with a refrigerator that dates to 1965. I saw eyes widen. "We bought it second hand in 1975 for $100, so I know its age only from repairmen, but it serves my needs and I know someone who has had five refrigerators during that time because they don't last. It certainly isn't energy-efficient, but the solid waste problem is worth considering too."

Someone else asked if we had a large battery. "No, our solar panels are connected to the grid." The dial runs backward much of the time, which is why my electricity costs are so little. Admittedly, last month seemed to be an all-time low, but they are never high.

I said I was very impressed with the installer, Jake Wig, who Bob had recommended to me. However, I am not happy with the state or local government's "help." The state required installing posts in the attic in any house over 30 years (are they really less well-built than newer ones?), to support the panels, which are light enough for me to pick up myself. The town harassed Jake about fire safety, but he seemed saintly to me. However, I am very pleased with the cooperation of PSE&G, who have a special telephone-answerer for solar panel customers. Someone else commented that she is plagued with telephone solicitations by alternative energy sources, so she investigated those who have already switched. The majority are unhappy because after a short introductory offer, the prices soar, and you must wait six months to get back to PSE&G. I said some more pleasantries about PSE&G and repeated my sentiments that I wish our governments would catch up in cooperating with solar panels.

Someone commented that her celery has turned yellow. "So has some of mine. I tasted it, and it seemed fine. So I serve yellow celery to Fred and he eats it and never comments." Smiles all round.

My carrot tops are many and big. I pointed to a row of plastic bags filled with leaves and said when the weather turns really cold at the end of this month and the tops drop, I will put those bags over the carrots. That insulates them from the serious cold. Then I shovel snow off the top of a bag, pull up the bag, pull a week's worth of carrots, and replace the bag till next week. It will take 8-12 bags, I think, to cover the bed.

In the summer I thin the carrots first to a half inch, then a month later to an inch, eating the "finger carrots," then a month later to two inches, eating store-sized carrots that are the thinnings. This means the winter carrots are two-inches apart, which some need to be. "That's why I'm not having success with carrots," observed one visitor.

I pointed out my unimpressive kale, which, like the collards, has been attacked by some bug this year. Kale goes through out winter without protection and was my major winter salad green when I was raising kids. With the carrots and seed sprouts raised indoors, we had good winter salads. Now with only two of us, I can raise enough lettuce in the greenhouse window for winter salads. I could point proudly to them yesterday. For the first time this year I am (successfully) raising basil in the window, which is a nice addition to salads already.

Happy eating!


No comments: