Thursday, November 16, 2006

Howling Winds and Backup Power

Our greenhouse is located near the foothills of a large mountain chain. As a result, it can get windy sometimes. However, we were not prepared for the windstorms of this past week. Up to 62 miles per hour winds howled across this part of the state, accompanied by inches upon inches of deluge type rain.

Roads were blocked by fallen trees and many power line were down. It’s a risk that greenhouse owners have to deal with—our power went out two days ago. A potentially costly disaster, unless one has an alternate plan ready.

As I’ve stated before, Chuck is the visionary. Of the two partners, I’m the practical one. In our initial financial outlay I tried to warn him that something like this might happen. He agreed to spend money on water filtration (see last week’s blog) but when it came to the purchase of an electrical generator, he vetoed the cost.

Everything in our greenhouse runs on electricity. Just to run our 45 – 600W High Pressure Sodium lights for an average of 15 hours a day during winter costs $1,125 per month on our electric bill. And that’s not counting all the other electrical equipment that are necessities in a greenhouse such as ours. Pumps, timers, fans, heaters, etc. all need power.

Please remember that we’ve committed ourselves to producing 400 heads of Boston lettuce a day. Our clients are expecting this output. We can’t just say to them sorry, the lights are out, the pumps aren’t working, our lettuce plants are stagnating, come back next week.

Silvio the practical one jumped into action and grabbed the last available generator at an equipment rental house. I practically had to fight another greenhouse owner for it. We had to hire an electrician to hook everything up to the new power source. We were sweating as hours passed and the greenhouse was still dark.

Since the water in our Nutrient Pond was not flowing for a couple of hours, as soon as the rental generator kicked in, I flushed the system with a weak solution of HyOx once again. The whole area was asked to boil its drinking water, since turbidity in the system was the highest ever recorded. We didn’t want our lettuce plants to soak up potentially harmful bacteria, thus the need for the flush.

I also had to empty our pre-mix and reservoir tanks once again, since the pumps weren’t working and some bad water backed up into them. We had to augment our 180-mesh filter cartridge with a Dacron filter, in order to keep out the newly discharged sediment.

In addition to their regular diet of Micro and Grow, we had to mix in Piranha, Tarantula, and Voodoo Juice, in order to replace the beneficial microbes killed off by the HyOx. I decided to add Barricade powder and agitated the pre-mix like crazy, to make sure it dissolved properly.

Barricade contains potassium silicate, that strengthens the cell walls of our lettuce plants, so they can become resistant to pests and diseases, literally from the inside out.

It was time to give our plants another dose of Sensi Cal Mg Mix Grow, in order to replenish their dwindling supply of calcium. They always perk up after we administer this incredibly nutritious product. In addition to the right types of calcium, it has magnesium, easily absorbed iron, plus essential micronutrients necessary for the enhanced growth of our delicious lettuce.

For the second time in two weeks we all had to work overtime and our shirts were soaked after all systems were humming again. Once the power is restored to the regional grid, we’ll have to have the electrician out again to reconnect our equipment to the main power source.

Then I have to convince Chuck to invest in an alternate system all our own so we won’t have to spend big bucks to rent a generator next time. The system I have in mind includes a wind turbine and solar panels, so we can stop burning fossil fuels in order to supply our customers with healthy, nutritious salads.

posted by silvio @ 10:37 PM   0 comments


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