[I was reminded of this old article of mine after seeing John Robb’s recent post about cold frames. I’m sure there are better DIY instructions out there, but some people found this helpful and maybe a repost will be useful to some more.  (EDIT: Added comments at the bottom about angles and sourcing materials that I also posted on Robb’s G+ article about this.)

This was an article I wrote several years ago for Green Options, and was probably one of my most popular pieces. (GO eventually turned into a number of different blogs, including Green Building Elements, where I wrote for a couple years, and you can find the original there.)  It’s a longish piece, as well, since it’s DIY instructions, so I’m tucking it behind a cut. The links didn’t copy over (and are probably out of date, for the most part), but I’m tracking down a couple of the images and adding them back in. I had a nice hand-drawn diagram illustrating the construction, and I need to see if I still have a copy of that somewhere that I can add in here to help make this more useful.]

Weekly DIY: Cold Frame

This weekend we got the first tantalizing taste of spring as the weather was clear and bright and temperatures rose well above freezing for the first time in months. Snow melted (though not entirely yet), and started the thoughts of summer gardens in mind. But nighttime temperatures are still falling below freezing, and it’s far too early to put plants in the ground, unless you provide a little assistance.

If your garden has a spot with good access to the sun throughout the day, you can use a cold frame to start your plants earlier in the year than you would otherwise. A cold frame is a very simple item. It is really just a small greenhouse. Daytime sun will warm the air and the ground inside, making it easier for plants to start growing. Nighttime temperatures inside the cold frame may fall back close to outdoor ambient temperature, but the extra heat gained during the day and the wind protection the enclosure provides will help keep the plants alive even if there is an overnight frost.

Building a cold frame should be a simple project. An elaborate structure is not required. It should cost little or nothing to build and nothing to operate. Plants can be started close together while they are small, and then, as they get bigger and the weather gets nicer, they can be moved out of the frame and put into the garden. (more…)

I used to be a space colony proponent, years ago, when Gerard O’Neill was in his heyday. There were attractive images of what these cities of the future might look like, as idealized and unreal as any other grandiose project. I was recently reminded of this when SF author Charles Stross pointed out an article by a professor at UCSD that concluded that they were not likely to be viable, at least in the near term, and the considerable outcry that came from those who still hold to the posibility.

Space colonies seemed to be a natural extension of the program of venturing into space in the 60s and 70s. Astronauts led the way, and the rest of us would follow in a few decades. Maybe there was some good rationale for having thousands of people living in space. New manufacturing processes were one concept. But what can you make better in space than you can elsewhere? And where would you get the materials to make it with?

The same thing is going on with vertical farming. A lovely rendering seems full of possibility and allure, but the fundamental reality is that it would be enormously expensive way of providing a very tiny fraction of the farming space needed.

I still love space colonies and vertical farms, but in the same way that I love science fiction movies, not as something I think has a serious place in policy discussion, as much as I might love for it to be otherwise.

Last fall, I designed a chicken coop for a competition. My entry (called NeSTCooP) didn’t win, but it did get some recognition from the judges.

For a while, I was thinking that I would try to develop the plans and sell them myself, but I’ve found that there are lots and lots and lots of chicken coop plans already on the web. Some are free, others are for sale, but it’s already a crowded field.

Instead, my neighbor and I are working out trying to start building and marketing these in some form or other, and I’ve created a Facebook page for NeSTCooP. We’re getting close to building a prototype for someone who is interested in having one built.

The version pictured is the chicken tractor version, which can be moved around the yard, instead of having to always be in one place. There are also other variants that can be built. Part of the intent with this design was that it would be possible to have different arrangements depending on individual needs, and that it would be possible to modify the coop if configuration changes were necessary.

Maybe we’ll sell these as kits, with materials and assembly instructions, as an IKEA-like flatpack. We don’t have that worked out, but we’d certainly be interested in feedback about the idea.

Chicken coops are turning up all over. The growing popularity of chicken coops even made it into an article on Custom Home. I’m also contemplating doing a Kickstarter project for NeSTCooP. If we do that, there may be some fun things we’ll come up with besides full-built coops or kits.

If you’re interested in chickens and coops, follow NeSTCooP on Facebook; I’ll be keeping things on that front updated there.

(ETA: And yes, there is a reason behind the goofy orthography in the spelling of the name ‘NeSTCooP’)

[Originally posted on EcoGeek.]


While we are intrigued by the idea and we like some of the eye-catching images, we don’t believe that current conditions make sense for tall urban buildings to be built expressly for growing food. That’s not to say that we are in any way opposed to the idea of growing food in cities, closer to where it is going to be consumed, instead of trucking it from farms hundreds or thousands of miles away.

An alternative concept has been developed by Natalie Jeremijenko, an aerospace engineer and environmental health professor at New York University. Taking advantage of otherwise unused rooftop space, her rooftop pod designs minimize the weight added to the building roof by transferring the load to load bearing walls, thereby avoiding overloading the roof structure. The pods are also configured for hydroponic growth of plants, which eliminates the weight of soil. The lightweight pods are made with EFTE, the same lightweight, translucent material used for striking aquatics facility from the Beijing Olympics, and are aerodynamically designed in order to reduce the wind load added to the building.

Bringing more green into cities is a positive step, whether through exposed systems like green roofs and green walls, or with enclosed systems like this one. And producing food in the city is also an effective measure to decrease the transport needed to bring food to the people who will eat it. By using local production, food can be fresher, and varieties of fruits and vegetables that do not withstand the rigors of transport can once again be made available.

via: Popular Mechanics