Here in Michigan’s winters all that stands between utter oblivion and a flicker of life is a hunk of Bob’s plastic. Because of that exceptionally durable plastic we can eat from our garden while spring seeds are still dreaming in their soil cubicles of their future life in the sun.
But the price we’ve paid for such luxuries is a form so functional as to make any architect who touts the infamous “form follow function” dictum quickly reevaluate the meaning of function. Some functional structures are better left hidden, or placed in an out of the way tundra or other unpopulated area. There is such a thing as too functional – so functional that it squeezes out form to the point there is no form at all. This describes our greenhouse. All function, little form that could be properly called form. It could simply be called an invertebrate greenhouse, with its primitive semi-circle frame, looking as if it could slither away or eat a smaller greenhouse with its hidden mouth underneath.
But as discomforting as its appearance is, as “laughable” and “unphotographable” (as in My Funny Valentine), its 100% function has us eating lettuce well into December, or wintering over hardier vegetables such as kale, swiss chard, and parsley till mid spring. It has protected all kinds of potted plants through rough winters and turbulent springs such as Japanese Maples too small to set out, or without a prepared site. I usually sink these pots into the soil for added protection. In short, this greenhouse has been indispensable to a certain level of self sufficiency and soul sufficiency – in the case of Japanese Maples.
If I can find some time after fending off frost threats in the landscape, by covering Japanese Maples with a shaky edifice of slender bamboo poles and a roof of old sheets, I plan to make a recipe from The Splendid Table website called Masa Crepes With Chard, Chilies, and Cilantro using this newly regrowing swiss chard.
Just behind the greenhouse are some 4 x 4s – framing for a new greenhouse on a new axis. Formless things tend to have relatively short lifespans, although this greenhouse has lived for over a dozen years with the same plastic. It may take a couple of summers to complete, but we’re going to try loading this one down with form, form, form…….stay tuned…..