It is a cold snowy day here on our Albergue Garcia farm in Black Forest, Colorado at 7300 feet elevation. On days like today it is especially important for us to make sure all of the animals who live here on this farm with us have a warm shelter to be able to get out from the elements. Bonnie, our pig, has an A frame wooden home with lots of straw to arrange around for her bedding and warmth.
Mary, our Alpine goat is now rooming in with Gracie, our horse. She is taking a break from babysitting Ellie, our calf at night and is serving as an emotional support goat for Gracie. Gracie was feeling a little down lately and not eating as well. There is nothing like some healthy competition for the food to get a horse back to eating all of her feed. She is doing much better now. Our Mama alpacas and their babies are huddling in their own barn area. Dolly, our Jersey milk cow and Ellie, her calf are also huddled in their own stall. The chickens hang out in their big chicken houses between snow flurries. And us humans are inside our home with a warm fire, Christmas tree lights on and hot chocolate between brrr cold treks out to the barns several times during the day checking on and feeding the animals.
So what are the plants doing that are not suited for this type of cold? Some of them are nestled in our greenhouses, warm and green. We have 3 greenhouses that each have different climates. My favorite is our Texas climate greenhouse. It gives me more produce than I can usually manage to freeze, dry and can 3 seasons out of the year. Now in the cold of winter we have herbs, tomatos, peppers, kale, broccoli, cabbage, jicama, onions, celery, carrots and potatoes still growing and the orange, grapefruit, lemon and lime trees producing fruit.
We also have avocado and fig trees that are dormant at this time. We harvested over a hundred pounds of grapes from this greenhouse this past summer. The large vines that cover a lot of the north side of the greenhouse are also dormant at this time. It is a delight to trudge through the snow and be able to come back to our house with hands full of veggies and fruits.
For this greenhouse we dug a big hole in the ground 6 feet deep, 48 feet long and 24 feet wide. We used cinder blocks to line the hole in the ground and a foot of gravel for the base. It is a blend of a solar greenhouse and a walipini. Between the cinder blocks and the outside dirt we placed sheets of foam insulation. The greenhouse is oriented lengthwise east/west to make the most out of the sunlight throughout the year.
Along the north side of the greenhouse we placed large water tanks filled with water and painted them black to absorb the heat during the day and radiate off the heat during the night. We used the metal frame from a large hoop greenhouse we got on Craigslist and assembled this down inside the cinder block walls. The top of the thermometer gauge you see below is actually at ground level outside.
For the east and west end walls we used corrugated insulated greenhouse walls and we covered the entire structure with large flexible clear polycarbonate roofing panels.
Along the northside we added a layer of insulation sandwiched between the base sun panels and another layer of metal roofing panels. We then covered the entire greenhouse with thick greenhouse plastic.
Inside this pit greenhouse we have 2 long raised beds for our plants and trees.
On the west end of the greenhouse is our entrance with a double door system to keep as much of the cold out as possible.
All of this just to keep those little plants warm and protected. Sometimes when it dips well below zero, we turn on a little oil space heater to help curb the chill.
Just think about how much trouble we go to protect people and animals and plants and things that we care about. Now think about how much more the Lord protects us, His children whom He created and whom He loves.