First of all, the day was perfect. Spring is still a month or so away, but today, you wouldn’t have known it. The smell of thaw was everywhere, the sun bright and high and warm and beautiful, the sky clear and blue, everything shimmering. We arrived at the barn with a load full of lumber and tools, opened the big doors, and immediately took off our jackets. The day seemed to be calling out for us to make cold frames, a symbol of the farm spring.
Our design idea is simple – a sloped box frame with a pane of glass on top. We knew the boxes needed to be tall enough to hold our trays of seedlings just before we plant them, when they’re tallest, up to 6 or 8 inches including the tray. Other than that, our plan was simply to work with the lumber and windows that we had. So, first step: lay everything out.
Here is our collection of windows. We didn’t do much to seek these out. Ask, and you shall recieve. All of these came free from friends, family, and the local dump.
Next step: we decided we wanted our frames to be 12″ at their highest point, and slope downward to 8″ at their lowest. The slope will help collect sunlight and keep our plants warm. We spent a while digging around in our stash of lumber to see if we could find pieces that would fit with the dimension of the windows we have.
After a lot of searching, measuring and figuring, our layout looked something like this: piles of lumber arranged around the appropriate windows.
These are not pre-fab cold frames we are building. In order to make it all work, we had to improvise. In some cases, we attached a 1-by board to the top of a 6″ board to get an extra 1″ of height. We used what we had – plywood with holes, mismatched lengths of wood, scavenged windows, to make, in my opinion, the most beautiful cold frame in the world.
As you can see, we had a lot of fun doing it:
We hammered in nails, screwed in corner brackets for extra strength, and made a satisfying working mess of the barn.
What we ended up with was not perfect. We realized, after the box was built, and we were sliding the window on top, that we had forgotten to take into account the extra width of the boards when we nailed them together. Our window came up a bit short, and didn’t rest exactly on the edge of the frame. After a few last minute fixes, though – we added a piece of wood that made a nice ledge for the window to rest on snugly – we ended up with this. The most beautiful cold frame in the world.
We have two more cold frames to build – all the materials are laid out and waiting. An enormous thank you to all of our friends, realitives, neighbors, and fellow farmers who have donated wood, windows, nails, screws, hammers, drills, saws, sawhorses, hardware, and much, much more. We couldn’t have done it without you! For about $8 for brackets, we got ourselves….well, the most beautiful cold frame in the world.
The day was perfect. We left the farm grinning big, fulfilled and satisfied with the happiness of a good days’ work. Making something, even something as simple as a cold frame, entirely on your own, from start to finish, through all its quirks and kinks, under a high blue spring-smelling sky bright with sunlight, with the enthusiasm and support of friends built into its very frame….it’s a pretty fantastic way to spend a Saturday afternoon.