I began building a greenhouse today. Well, more accurately, I began clearing out the old earthen silo created decades ago when this was the old Moseley place. Unlike the tall vertical silos used by grain farmers, earthen silos are horizontal trenches dug into a sloping hill. They were used to store silage to feed cattle in the winter. This one is about twelve feet wide, fifty feet long and open on the bottom end. It dead-ends into the hill. Once the silage was packed into the trench it was covered with tarps and earth until needed in winter. Having fulfilled its usefulness for storing silage, this silo fulfilled its second destiny as a dump. Over time it filled with the flotsam of farming: old pallets, mostly used rolls of barbed wire, steel bed springs, old gutters, galvanized metal buckets and bins, as well as discarded steel automobile wheel rims, worn out tires, and rusting steel frames for everything from kitchen tables to a child's toy spring horse had all made their way into the silo. Once there, they became a platform upon which to pile brush which, over the seasons and years, had decayed and fallen into the voids and spaces between the exposed and rusting steel skeletons below. Eventually new plants emerged and the steel remnants disappeared once again beneath thickets of thorn bushes, cedars, and sassafras trees. Tall field grasses took over what little earth was left exposed by the great heap that lay atop it.
As time and economics changed and the discarded steel items rusting in the silo became more valuable, they were extracted and converted into cash at the nearest metal scrap yard. By the time I first saw the silo most of the steel had been removed except those few pieces in the far end so entangled and impaled by what are now medium-sized trees, they would require more energy and time to recover than they are actually worth. Though most of the metal had been removed, the woody thicket remains. It was the task of clearing it that I charged myself with today.
The temperature was in the low sixties as the sun shown brightly on this, the next to last day of the year. I readied my tools and with firm resolve, I entered the open end of the silo. First high weeds fell to the hard plastic cord of the weed wacker. After a quick change to what I call, "The Whirling Blades of Death" attachment, the woody bushes and small saplings relinquished their hold on the walls and floor of the silo. Finally, the chainsaw made short work of the larger saplings and a couple of dead medium sized trees. The trees were removed with the aid of a steel chain attached to my truck bumper as they will find a more productive place inside my wood stove. The rest of the woody debris will be allowed to dry and what the earth does not reabsorb by Spring can be easily raked out and burned. In all, about 35 feet of the silo's length was reclaimed. My plan for the silo's third destiny is to bulid a concrete, subterranean root cellar in the final ten feet of that distance with only its front wall and door open to the earth-bermed greenhouse I plan to build in the remaining distance. Berming will give the greenhouse a lower profile to the surrounding landscape than a more traditional design. The silo's east to west orientation will provide the most solar gain possible during the time of year it will be needed most. My hope is that my efforts in reclaiming the silo for productive purposes would make old Mr. Moseley proud.
The rest of the afternoon was spent cutting wood for the stove. With predicted overnight temperatures of 25 degrees and winds gusting to 20 mph., it looks like the last day of 2008 will again be spent contending with Winter. I now look forward to Spring with added enthusiasm. The greenhouse/root cellar project beacons with promises of delicious self-suffiency in the form of a seasonsful of vegatables from the garden, enough to last through the following Winter into Spring. Nothing seems more depressed economy-proof than a well-stocked root cellar, chocked full of nutritious food.