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RBR News | June 6, 2014

Posted in Ranch Report

Around the Ranch
It is June and the days are getting longer. Increased day length is a welcomed friend to our pastures, vegetables, and the agriculture staff – who now work most of the daylight hours. Today begins the final week before farmers’ market season, so we have one last rush to get as many projects completed as possible. 

We have been working for several months to get products ready for the first farmers’ market. The first round of pigs have reached market weight and made their trip to the processor this week.  The meat chickens are now 12 weeks old and will be making their trip to the food processor next Tuesday. The hoophouses are starting to fill with produce ready for our first harvest! 

For the first week of farmers’ market most of our vegetables will be coming out of our climate battery hoophouse. This amazing structure allows us to extend the growing season for several weeks in the early spring and late fall – adding at least two months of additional growing time. 

This structure began its humble life as a simple hoophouse – essentially a metal building frame with plastic stretched over and attached to it. Through a Green Key Grant (now the Randy Udall Energy Pioneer Grant) from the Community Office for Resource Efficiency (CORE), we were able to drastically improve its energy efficiency by adding insulation, thermal mass, and installing a climate battery. 

The climate battery is a relatively simple arrangement of underground, perforated tubes that allows heat to circulate around the hoophouse. The idea of this system is to take advantage of solar gain created in the hoophouse during hot summer days and store it underground in a ventilation system. The system is designed to regulate the inside temperature so that our plants can enjoy a consistent climate that does not excessively overheat or freeze. This hoophouse will even allow us to experiment with year-round production of cool season crops.

We also added 3.5” of rigid foam insulation on the two endwalls and the entire north wall of the hoophouse. This insulation, much like a house, helps keeps the warm air inside the structure. In addition, we added several tons of crushed stone, which acts as thermal mass to absorb heat during the day and release the stored heat at night.  

Once this underground heating and cooling system was installed, we built four 44’ long raised beds. And by raised bed, we really mean raised - they stand over two and a half feet above the ground. We used the soil that was excavated to install the Climate Battery to fill the beds.

Currently, we have spinach, beet greens, arugula, Asian greens, and several kinds of lettuce growing in the beds. We will harvest this round of vegetables for the next several weeks and then transplant warm-season crops for the summer.

Available Products
RBR’s pastured hens are still laying lots of fresh eggs! Pasture-raised, Animal Welfare Approved, non-GMO, chicken and duck eggs are available for purchase at the Ranch Monday-Friday 9AM-5PM, and Saturday from 9AM-1PM.

~ Harper Kaufman, Agriculture Assistant & Jason Smith, Rock Bottom Ranch Director

Join us for Farm Tours Monday – Saturday at 11AM.  For questions about Rock Bottom Ranch please email Jason at jsmith@aspennature.org.