8 Ridge Road,
Martinsville, Maine


Food, Plants, Gallery and Landscape Design in St. George, Maine

Things I think about while working in the greenhouse

Posted on by Anne Cox

greenhouse filling upWorking in the greenhouse, particularly up-potting little seedlings from flats to larger pots, is tedious, fairly repetitive work. It is delicate, and can’t be hurried much. At least I haven’t figured out how to hurry it. So there is plenty of time for my mind to meander to different subjects.

One subject I return to often is thinking about the energy we use, that is, the fuels we burn. Little wonder my mind goes there as the propane heater and fan in the greenhouse kick on during this season of prolonged arctic temperatures. There is the micro level of my personal economy and how much money I am willing to spend, but that’s not where my mind goes.

I think about the finite nature of the fossil fuels out there, our dependence on them (as a fat western society in general). I wonder if it is really okay for outside lights in the country to burn all night, even if people are willing to foot the bills: it seems that electricity, and hence whatever resource generates the energy, is being drained for no good reason really. And then what are good reasons for fuels to be burned. Is making plastic bobbles and knick knacks that get thrown away a few days after purchasing them a good use? Even if they give great delight for a little while? I mean in general. And what about jetting anywhere in the world on a whim?

I know we don’t have the most fuel efficient vehicles — as in an aging fleet of trucks — but then I don’t have the financial resources to buy a newer, smaller vehicle, and possibly an electric one. So we do economize, minimizing our trips into town. But what happens when the crash really hits, when fuel won’t be simply expensive but scarce, very scarce. What then.

Even in so-called green industries such as landscaping, I think about all the energy expended to bring a tree, for instance, to Tenants Harbor to plant. It may be locally grown; it may also have been trucked to a distributor so it can be sold to me, loaded and trucked here, off-loaded, then loaded again on a smaller truck and taken to be planted in a yard nearby, just because we’ve taken a fancy to a particular type of tree. Is this appropriate?

I participate in this great system of use and consumption, and am not particularly virtuous. But I do think about what is appropriate. I assume that sometime in the not too distant future we will not have access to easy energy. So I do think that I need to invest in solar panels while I can still get them. I do think I need to do what I can to make this drafty old house tighter and assure that the pipes don’t freeze up so the wood stove can supply enough heat for the house. For that matter, I think I need to get a hand pump for the well in case I need it. I think that I need a bicycle again for transportation (assuming that traffic on 131 will lessen). I think I will allocate what fuel I have to diesel for the tractor, heat for the greenhouse during seed starting season.

While I think about all this sort of stuff, I am glad to be growing food, for myself and hopefully my neighbors. Every year I learn more and more about how to do this well and efficiently. Not without energy inputs, from seeds that come through the mail, to compost that is trucked here from Gorham, to propane for the greenhouse heater to the plastic of the hoophouses to things I don’t even think about. So I just wonder how I will do what I do with less: can I do the same things with less outside energy input.

Meanwhile my seed ginger, which jetted on a two-day trajectory from Hawaii just arrived.

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