Expedition: September 2009

Our project has been successful beyond our hopes

IMG_7459 Sept 2009
Matt and George at cold frame
IMG_7470 Sept 2009
A bumper crop
IMG_7479 radish Sept 2009
The radish harvest
IMG_7498 Sept 2009
Salad greens prospered too
IMG_7503 potatoes Sept 2009
Productive potatoes
IMG_7581 cooked potatoes Sept 2009
Potato harvest at dinnertime
IMG_7577 September 2009
Observatoary after sunset

When we arrived the left hand chamber was like a lush jungle. Radishes gone to seed were poking their flowers out of the ventilation hole in the top. The roots were still crisp and sweet, though. Bees were buzzing around the flowers.IMG_7575 September 2009

Dori Cann and Scott Cole, caretakers at the Barcroft Station, said they had taken several harvests of radishes and salad greens from the cold frame left chamber in July and August and had made several salads.
Dori and Scott also told us that on August 7th they had a hard frost (low of 22 degrees F!) and that after that our gravity-fed watering system ceased to function properly – it just drained quickly instead of dripping like it should. Up to then, it had worked well. We will repair it and improve it in the Spring. For now, we left it disconnected and drained. The interior of the left hand chamber was quite humid, although it hadn’t been watered in almost six weeks.

We downloaded some temperature and humidity data from all three chambers, and harvested a LOT of radishes and salad greens from the left and right hand chambers. The plants in the right hand chamber (which has no window glazing) were much smaller, but they were alive.
The central chamber had been planted in potatoes. The potato plants were now dead above ground (probably they froze on August 7th) but below the ground we harvested a big bowl full of new potatoes. The variety is called “Alaska Frostless.”
We added some local sheep manure to the left and central chambers and planted them with a variety of winter wheat called CDC Falcon. We removed a portion of the window glazing from the left hand chamber.

Our work done (for now!), Matt and Cooper climbed 14,000’ White Mountain Peak. They saw two coyotes, a flock of bighorn sheep, and ballooning spiders and butterflies. George and Mike found some great examples of hypolithic cynaobacteria growing underneath quartz rocks. We also saw some amazing black-sky stars.
What we learned:

• The idea works!
• The Bayliss vents opening a window flap at the top of each chamber worked.
• The gravity-fed watering system worked for most of the growing season.
• The WMRS Staff are very supportive of this project.

Ideas for next season:

• Photovoltaic system with a 12-V sealed battery
• Rebuild the gravity-fed watering system
• Also build a pumped watering system – compare performances
• Plant: radishes, greens, potatoes, winter wheat, herbs? Calculate yield per acre.
• Convert the (no glazing) control chamber to a chamber that is glazed on the lower two thirds; open at top.
• Replace the Bayliss pistons
• Hook up a web cam?