Seedling Transport Courtesy of Singer

We stumbled on this accidentally last year as we were trying to get the Catalpa seedlings we started at the Chicago workrooms up to the farm.

Catalpa seedlings at 4 weeks old.

Catalpa seedlings at 4 weeks old.

For the first couple of weeks, we used a cellophane-covered cage in a canvas bag and moved six at a time.  That was taking forever.

Catalpa transport method

Fine, but a little tedious on the train.

Then we noticed that there are three sewing machine cases that were sitting empty.  Genius struck, and now we use them to transport all of our plants when we have to travel back and forth.  It is light, protective, and very easy to carry!

Sewing machine cases make a great plant transport system.

Sewing machine cases make a great plant transport system.


And that’s it.  No need to worry and fret about the stems breaking or it getting knocked about.

Coldframes. Not Hotbeds, Definitely NOT Hotboxes. Coldframes.

Winters in Wisconsin are brutal, yes.  But what wears on you more than the long and cold Winter is the expectation and promise of Spring.

You wait, and then you wait some more.  Then, one day it is 60 degrees out and you start working and preparing to plant.  Once you have everything ready, it snaps cold and you are huddled once again in front of your fireplace with a bottle of Port and your tears thinking about those tomato seeds you just bought. Maybe your misspent youth too, but probably the tomato seeds.  At least you can do something about those.

The easiest answer to all of this* is, of course, a cold frame.



We started off this project, like so many others around the place, at Habitat for Humanity’s Restore shop in Plymouth.  We found some really nice heavy old pine tongue and groove boards, caulk, nails, and paint.  In the granary there were four old windows from places unknown that were still in great shape.

Essentially, whet you are doing is building a tightly fit box.  If you are worried about a dry climate, you would cut a few ventilation holes, but since we are more concerned with keeping them moist, we sealed them tight.  Once the plants get started the tops can be opened up to harden them off.  In our case, we built three that keep excess water out and one that channels water into it.

Make sure you revisit your high school geometry classes before you get started with something like this.  If you don’t get the angles right and keep everything nice, square, and true… you, my friend, are in trouble.  Either the window you are using will be too big or too small.  It sits at an angle, so you have to revisit Pythagoras and Euclid to get this right.  Not for long…  Just sit down in the shade and have a beer with them.  You will be glad you did.

Measuring width & length of windows...

Measuring width & length of windows…

Do the math, people!


Do the math, people!  Do the math!

Do the math, people! Do the math!

Figure for x.  That is the length of your box.

Figure for x. That is the length of your box.

Basically, the frame needs to be slightly shorter so that you have a nice slant in order for the rain not to pool on the windows.

Linseed oil soaking in.

After we built the bodies, we soaked them down a few times with Linseed oil.


Coldframe in progress...

Let the posts extend from the body and cut them off later so that you can compensate for any irregularities in the wood. It also gives you more pieces of useable scrap if you work and figure out little minor things like this as you go.



Building frames in the shade...

Try to build them on as level of a surface as possible. Our asphalt driveway worked well. Building them on a crooked or uneven surface may make you very sad.

Washing orphan windows...

Make sure your windows are clean and the glazing is intact. If you need to fix the glazing, do it before the window goes on and starts getting abused by Mother Nature.



As it turns out, we’ve been using them for early germination of most of our seeds.

Catalpa growing in coldframe

Catalpa growing in coldframe

Coldframes in situ.

Notice the paint peeling off the frame on the far left. If you use silicone caulk, nothing will ever, ever stick to it.




In situ coldframe.

In situ coldframe.


But wait!  There’s more!

If you live in the city and don’t have room for a proper cold frame, you can make one using heavy plastic and a wooden crate.  We start seeds at the workroom when we can’t get to the farm so that things stay smooth with the planting and harvesting:

Catalpa seeds germinating in Chicago workroom coldframe.

Catalpa seeds germinating in Chicago workroom coldframe.

Skylight coldframe.

We are lucky enough to have a skylight for a full day’s sun, but a South facing window works well.

Skylight coldframe.

Skylight coldframe.

Crate coldframe.

If you use a piece of wide elastic around the lined crate you will get a nice seal for germinating or rooting.

And that’s about it!  We have four large cold frames at Getaway now out on the South-East corner and a couple of crate cold frames in the Chicago workrooms!

*Well, the easiest answer to all of this is to get more Port from the Piggly-Wiggly in town and snuggle down with the dogs until the second week of June.  So maybe this is the second easiest. Building the coldframe is definitely nicer to your liver.

Kameo: The Experiment (Week #7)

{Because of business in Chicago week #8, I wasn’t able to go to Wisconsin.  Cynda worked with her over the week and wrote this week’s entry.}

In lieu of last week’s visit, I thought I’d write a bit about what I did with Kameo this week.

Ok, here we go…………..

BecauseTchad wasn’t able to come to Wisconsin last week, poor Kameo was stuck with me. We had a nice snow fall on Saturday so I took advantage of the opportunity to expose her once again to being out on the track. The snow was a soft consistency and anywhere from a couple of inches deep to almost knee high where it had drifted. I asked her for a number of things, such as disengaging her hind quarters, approaching certain objects such as a tree limb or clump of grass (she liked that part), backing up as I backed up, and simply standing quietly in deep snow.

Kelly (my shepard/golden retriever mix) even helped us out by pretending she was a swamp monster and rustling the cat tails as we passed them. Kameo got pretty excited by the strange noise, but kept an eye on me and followed my lead….good girl!

I am quite  direct in asking her to do a number of things in sequence, so she did need to take a couple of breaks to rub her nose on her leg….this helps her think and figure things out. When we paused, she would rub her nose, lick her lips, and eventualy exhale and let her adrenaline level drop.

She clearly is understanding most of the seven games. Tchad has done a nice job introducing her to these concepts. This week gave me a chance to help her make sense of why he’s been practicing these with her. She’s learning that I’m pretty good at the games and they really do have a purpose.

I also did some work at liberty with her, both in the barn and out in the pasture with the rest of the herd looking on. When I’m with Kameo, I keep the sessions relatively short (20 minutes or less) but I ask for a lot different responses…… move over, look at me, back up, stand quietly, etc.

I was very pleased to see how much her understanding and interest has improved. I know that sometimes Tchad doesn’t see the progress but as he hones his skills, things will only get better. I’m looking forward to working with both Tchad and Kameo in week #8

Pickin’ up paw-paws an putt’en’em in yer baskit…

Only coons sang this song.

Paw-Paw trees.

They always grew back along the creek banks back home.

I have tasted them once, but the coons usually got them before we could!

Asima Triloba (Pawpaw tree)

Asima Triloba (Pawpaw tree)

Kentucky State University’s Paw Paw Information.

Paw Paw fruit and tree facts.

Blossom Nursery’s Paw Paw tree site.

Wikipedia article about Asimina

Wikipedia article on Asimina Triloba (paw paw proper).


Tree Indentification

The Arbor Day Foundation has a terrific website that can help you identify trees out in the field.

Catalpa In Bloom

Catalpa in Bloom

You can either buy their guide What Tree is That? or you can use their online tree identification site.

Their site has tons of other tree-related information.  Go check them out!

You can also identify scores of trees by their common name at the Ohio Public Library Information Network.

Indiana Woodlands Steward has a nice site, and the Nature Conservancy has a great page on identification in Winter.


Topographic Maps of Southern Indiana

This is a great reference for topographical maps.

15 min IN index map 1:62,500

15 min IN index map 1:62,500

You can find maps from the early 20th century up to the most modern surveys.  It covers the entire state.

From the USGS (United States Geological Survey):

And, just for fun, the United States Geological Survey’s website.