We live in abject fear. Cars, planes, and everything else that runs on fossil fuels have loaded up our atmosphere with lethal amounts of carbon dioxide — enough to melt glaciers, froth hurricanes, and tip the earth off its axis. Plus those fuels that run those cars that each individual on this planet needs parked in his or her driveway, ready for the next quarter-mile trip to the pizza joint, these fuels, as every one one of us knows, hustle us into war after war as we guard the oil derricks in whatever Middle Eastern principality pockets our dollars, and grins and bears us. The science has long been in. And as more people, e.
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Thus, while the outside temperature is 5 degrees below zero F - though actually much colder because of the windchill factor - inside the Solviva Winter Garden greenhouse it is warm enough to maintain a thriving garden, abundant with vegetables and flowers, without any heating fuel. I can go back to bed without worrying about the greenhouse freezing.
So I tromp back across the fields, a bit more easily now as I retrace the deep footprints I left on the way down, feeling entirely at peace and as one with Earth, Universe and self.
This is true plenty, freedom and security. Two fans, powered by the sun shining on the photovoltaic panels, hum as they force hot air from the top of the greenhouse down through ducts and into heat-absorbing water-mass storage. Some of the heat-activated vents are slowly opening, increasing air circulation and preventing overheating. The massive waterwalls are passively absorbing the solar heat. Inside: 80 degrees Fahrenheit Nine levels for growing Twenty-five varieties of lush greens and herbs fill the raised beds, with names like hon tsai tai, arugula, tah tsai, Osaka mustard, mache, radicchio Treviso, mizuna, and the divine lemon-flavored sorrel de Belleville.
Above them rise growtubes hanging in seven tiers to the top of the greenhouse. They are overflowing with 25 varieties of lettuces with names as lush as their appearance and flavor: Lollo Rossa, Rouge Grenobloise, Rosalita, Merveille de Quatre Saison. Three of the seven tiers of growtubes are set upstairs along the catwalk, and here are also a steady succession of dozens of seedling flats ranging from just seeded to 3 inches tall and ready to be planted into the raised beds and growtubes.
Here they sprout and grow strong without anyextra light or warmth, even through prolonged cloudycold spells. Seedling thrive upstairs Wall of Nasturtiums Three of the seven tiers of growtubes are set upstairs along the catwalk, and here are also a steady succession of dozens of seedling flats ranging from just seeded to 3 inches tall and ready to be planted into the raised beds and growtubes.
Here they sprout and grow strong without any extra light or warmth, even through prolonged cloudy cold spells. Hundreds of tomatoes are ripening on foot climbing and cascading vines. Along the north wall, where the light is too dim for greens to thrive, there is a tall wall of nasturtiums with thousands of blossoms in infinite varieties of pastel and deep velvety colors. Fennel reaches 8 feet, tipped with 6-inch umbrels of tiny yellow flowers, exquisitely anise-flavored. The delicate red trumpet flowers of the 6-foot pineapple sage bush yield little drops of nectar that actually taste like pineapple.
Another variety of scented sage reaches 16 feet tall, covered with sweet pink flowers. A lime geranium yields exquisite fragrance, as do carpets of honey-flavored sweet alyssum. Gigantic 2-year-old collard plant. One leaf can feed a family. Giant 3-year-old kale and pepper plants Donna with eggs A few square feet of bed was planted with radish seeds three weeks ago and now yields 1-inch red and white globes, mild and succulent.
Another patch contains hundreds of the sweetest carrots. I pull up one daikon and find to my amazement that it has a three-pronged root, each prong pure white, thick as my wrist and 16 inches long. Many branches of one pumpkin plant a volunteer from the compost cavort 15 feet in all directions, with pumpkins up to 12 inches supported and hung on various improvised shelves and slings.
The breath from the chickens and rabbits and their bedding enriches the air with several times the normal level of invisible molecules of carbon dioxide. The plants breathe in the co2 through the stomata on the surface of their leaves, and the co2 enrichment causes them to grow much faster and healthier because it provides them with many more carbon building blocks to create plant tissue.
Good soil is full of endless varieties and numbers of lifeforms, billions of microscopic ones in just one teaspoon. Here an earwig cares for her nest of eggs. Earthworms are essential. Syrphid fly, Brown Lacewing, Green Lacewing and aphids in various stages of develpment. Nasturtium is favorite for harmful insects, which then attract the beneficial insects.
Ladybugs eat aphids, miniscule Encarsia formosa wasps lay eggs in the pupae of whiteflies, while green lacewings flit about like little fairies in search of any vegetarian insect. Syrphid flies seek nectar from fennel flowers, hovering like hummingbirds, and a dignified praying mantis is surveying the scene and, blessing me with her eye contact, pronounces it Good.
Praying Mantis Heaven That day, in spite of the cloudy, cold, short days of mid-winter, we harvest, picking leaf by gorgeous leaf, wash and bag 80 pounds of Solviva Salad, enough for 1, servings. Some go off by UPS truck to the finest restaurants in the Boston area, and the rest is delivered to customers in local Vineyard restaurants and stores. Above: Brian harvesting from hanging growtubes. Left: Annika harvesting.
Solviva’s Anna Edey saves the world, truly
Edey tends to her plants in her kitchen. After nearly 40 years on her acre farm Solviva in West Tisbury, Edey, at 80, downsized last year to one acre. The closing of her farm happened the day after my visit. The home Edey lives in now is just temporary in her mind, even as she brings it into its most sustainable, with least environmental impact. The windows in the living room are obscured by floor-to-ceiling plants on rolling wire shelving. I asked about the age of some of her plants.
Gardens of Love: Anna Edey
Thus, while the outside temperature is 5 degrees below zero F - though actually much colder because of the windchill factor - inside the Solviva Winter Garden greenhouse it is warm enough to maintain a thriving garden, abundant with vegetables and flowers, without any heating fuel. I can go back to bed without worrying about the greenhouse freezing. So I tromp back across the fields, a bit more easily now as I retrace the deep footprints I left on the way down, feeling entirely at peace and as one with Earth, Universe and self. This is true plenty, freedom and security.
Imagine if we could get to where we want to go in cars, trucks, buses, trains, boats and even airplanes, without the need for gasoline or other fossil fuels. The fact is that we now can live that way. Some of these technologies are literally available right now for anyone to use, and are highly cost-effective and reliable, such as food production and heating. Once any of these sectors have gone into streamlined SolarGreen mode, the cost of living will go way down, and national and personal security, freedom, economy and health will dramatically improve, compared to the obsolete 20th-century toxic nuclear and fossil-fueled mode.
I have read nearly all of Solviva, and all of Green Light. The first book has about 40 pages of glossy color photos and drawings with notes, whereas Green Light has all glossy color pages throughout. Many of the photos and captions are exactly the same, but Green Light has more, especially depicting construction phases and designs. I have been focused on the wastewater management sections, specifically the designs and effectiveness of brown and green biofilter systems.