Winter Growing- Heating Plants from the Roots Up

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At about 7000 feet, Taos is known for its tumultuous climate- temperature extremes and unpredictable weather patterns govern daily life in this mountain town. During a typical winter, Taos is bedded in drifts of snow that gradually melt into swaths of mud just before the snow covers again. As we transition to early spring, the sunlit days may even begin to convince us that it is time to put everything into the ground, but temperatures plunge at night and windy days threaten to relocate anything not staked down, freezing temperatures and snow continues, sporadically, until the second week of June.

For several years, Hanuman’s Garden has begun producing small early crops of spinach, kale, and cilantro that are especially tasty when they get a dose of cold. Even when kept in the greenhouse and covered with frost-cloth, fingers of frost can creep in beneath covers and lay waste to many hours of care.   These and other limitations to growing in winter explain why many farmers decide to simply step away from growing during the winter months and save their efforts for spring.
Knowing there is no better food we can offer than fresh food, every effort to extend our growing season gives tangible benefits to the quality of the food we serve every day at the temple.
Last year, Jesse built a Rocket Mass heater for the greenhouse.  The heater sends hot air under and around the floor of the greenhouse, heating plants from the roots up. In this way, the heater charges the soil like a battery and protects plants from dangerous low temperatures. Without the heater the greenhouse offered about 10 degrees of protection.  Now, we are able to keep the soil around 70 degrees even when temperatures drop below zero. On average, the greenhouse stays 40 degrees above the outside temperature, and that has allowed us to continue growing all winter long.

The Rocket mass heater allows Hanuman’s Garden to grow a broader variety of plants such as broccoli, cauliflower, cress, sorrel, masuna mustard, cilantro, dill and even summer crops like tomato, tulsi, dahlias and gladiolas. Experimentation and experience will show what does best in this new system, but it is clear we have broken through one threshold -in previous years we never exceeded 50lbs of production until almost midsummer-when production explodes in the abundant light of the New Mexico season. Now we have already exceeded that figure and will go far beyond it by this June. On average over 10 lbs of fresh greens for the kitchen roll in each week, and that number should only increase as summer approaches.

Maharajji ki jai!

by Daniel Smith
contributing authors Jesse and Harmony

Hanuman’s birthday is on the first full moon of Spring. Beginning at 1:08 pm on Friday April 3rd, we sing Hanuman Chalisas for 24 hours followed by prasad Saturday afternoon. The celebration concludes with a big birthday cake and a children’s party for Hanumanji.
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Click for stories and translation of the Hanuman Chalisa for a more intimate understanding of this transformative prayer.

In the Ramayana, Hanuman symbolizes the sadhana shakti, or power of spiritual practice. He is also the symbol of the faith that can move mountains. He is the son of the monkey hero Kesari (lion-like resolve), and mother Anjani (beautifying collyrium—the divine ungent of pure feeling applied to the vision of the soul). God in the form of Cosmic Prana-the wind-god, Vayu (an aspect of the Cosmic Mind)-is his Divine Father. In fact, Hanuman is an emanation of Lord Shiva (Brahman, or the unchanging reality amidst and beyond the world). The emergence of faith in the heart of an aspirant is the result of the convergence all of these mystical elements.

It is believed that wherever and whenever the Ramayana is read, Hanuman (in an invisible form) is present with wistful ears adorned with mystic earrings,
craving to listen to the delightful narrative of Lord Rama’s life story again and again. 

-Based on commentary by Swami Jyotirmayananda, “A Mystical Interpretation of the Hanuman Chalisa”