Making Heat, The Solar Way

Some 37+ year’s ago, while studying at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, I had the occasion to meet a man who was living on a small farm property outside of town.  He was into recycling, vegetable growing and had built a solar furnace which helped to heat his poorly insulated wood frame home.  Well, I was intrigued that an individual could do something like this so I kindly asked if I could stop by someday to see it’s construction.

When arriving to his home I quickly told him that I was anxious to see his solar furnace.  Thinking back to my visit I recall that he wasn’t so impressed with my curiosity and perhaps thought that everyone already understood this basic technology.  Sorry, not me!  To my amazement, it was a poorly made wooden box covered by an old exterior window.  Inside the box was a metal baffle (a piece of corrugated metal roofing material) which collected radiant energy.  There was a hole at the bottom of the box through which cold air entered and a hole at the other end from which hotter air emerged and was vented into his home.  I was amazed that something so crudely made could actually generate heat!  Well, I never went back to this chap’s home and promptly forgot the experience.

Now, all these years later, I’m reading an article about a fellow (Jim) in Canada who owns and operates Con-Solair.  Basically, and after much study and refinement, he developed a solar furnace that is being marketed throughout his country.  Sorry, it’s not the same fellow.  After reading through his material and watching a video of his I decided to contact him via e-mail to ask some questions about the adaptation of his technology to a small passive greenhouse.  He was very helpful and encouraged me to explore similar solar furnace technologies on U-Tube.  Yes, and as you perhaps already know, many individuals are playing with the solar furnace principle.

Like Jim, I encourage all those interested to check out this technology.  It is super easy to build a system and won’t cost you much money.  This technology may be a real boost to winter veggie production here in the Midwest!

Brain Hatchery

Brain Hatchery is a place to explore used and new ideas in gardening.  It will be a culmination of what gardeners are doing on a worldwide basis while adhering to organic cultural practices.  Additionally, if you’d like to share an idea of your own on The Garden Dreamer, you are welcome to send it to me for consideration.  Of course, if your Brain Hatch is added to this blog, we will certainly include your name, business name, etc.

The first idea (#1 Brain Hatch) explores vertical gardening with repurposed wood pallets.  This idea is great because anyone can do it and space is not an issue.  By the way, when I get up from my cup of coffee, I plan to repurpose a pallet to start a vertical herb garden or perhaps a strawberry patch (click on patch).

#2 Brain Hatch:   This idea relates to increasing vegetable production efficiency on a micro-local basis. It departs from a single grower producing everything under the sun to a small network of growers each with the responsibility to raise a handful of select veggies. In theory, if an individual is focusing on growing lettuce, spinach and carrots it is conceivable to assume that this person will have greater production success than if they are tasked with cultivating 10 to 12 crops.

So, let’s say that in a relatively close-knit community there are 6 growers (g’s) who raise vegetables on slightly different soils, have different levels of expertise as gardeners and have restrictions on land use. Thus, it is reasonable to believe that overall production could be enhanced by planting certain veggies (lettuce, turnips, onions) with g’s 1 and 2. To continue, g’s 3 and 4 might be tasked with tomatoes, sweet corn and zucchini while g’s 5 and 6 culture cantaloupe, peppers and eggplant. Why two growers are tasked with growing the same crops is a matter of risk management.

Let’s also assume that crop rotations at each location could take place at each garden location so that each g will eventually work with all of the crops elected for production by their particular group.

Anyway, this is simply an idea which has perhaps been done many times before.  However, I don’t hear folks talking about it. I’m hoping that this blog will draw many comments as I’m certain that variations on the theme exist.  All ideas, suggestions and critiques are welcome.