Do It Yourself Kitchen Garden Inspiration: Build An Amish Cold Frame (photo & video)

Amish Cold Frame - In My Kitchen Garden

Realization of the Day:
In all my years of gardening, I've never used a cold frame—and I love cold frames.
Several Amish families moved to this area two years ago, and in my opinion we're all the luckier for it. The Amish neighbors I've met so far have all been very friendly, and they've already brought much to our rural community. There are three basket makers and a furniture maker. The rough cut siding on our new sheep barn came from the Amish sawmill down the road.
More below. . . 
One of the families sets up a stand next to their house each summer and sells organic produce from their large garden. They grow wonderful sweet corn, and I think I ended up buying most of their tomato harvest last year. The stand is run on the honor system so you can shop anytime; the very reasonable prices are posted, and you just leave your money in the coffee can on the table, making change if you need it.
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The husband's brother lives with his wife and young children on the farm next door, and the two brothers do carpentry work. They're the ones who built our sheep barn last fall, and they came back last month, along with a young apprentice, to build us a big new haybarn.

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It's a little different working with the Amish. They don't have telephones, preferring face to face interaction instead. Dropping by unannounced to discuss business or for a little visit is perfectly acceptable. Not knowing if there's a change in plans until they simply don't show up for work that day is something you get used to. (Actually, construction workers with phones often don't call either.)
Since they drive their horse drawn buggy to work, part of the deal is that you have to go pick up their gas-powered table saw, ladders, and any other big tools in your truck before the work begins, and then bring them back when the project is complete. You also have to provide a place for their horse.
These guys usually only take jobs that are within a 10 mile radius from their farms, but fortunately they made an exception and traveled a few extra miles to work for us.
While we were picking up the tools a few days before construction on the haybarn was set to begin last month, I spied this cute cold frame in their small front garden.

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The Amish don't like to be photographed, and of course I respect their wishes, but oh, the wonderful photo opportunities I've missed! Fortunately they don't seem to mind the fact that I'm always pointing my camera at everything else except them, so it didn't seem odd when I asked if I could snap a few pictures of a cold frame.
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 Did you notice that the title of this post isn't How To Build an Amish Cold Frame? The guys didn't use blueprints or plans of any kind when they built our barns, so naturally there aren't any for this little impromptu project made from scraps of wood. He didn't even know what size it was when I asked. (It's 24" x 66.")
As for whether it's an authentic Amish cold frame design, I have no idea. He said they had one similar to it back home in Ohio, but the top didn't open; you had to lift the whole thing up and move it off the plants on sunny days. My favorite part about this one is how cleverly it opens up. I love the shape, too; it looks like a little house rather than simple a box.
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This isn't a particularly complicated project, and I thought that if I photographed every angle and detail of it, some of you handy types would be able to figure out how to build one for yourself if you liked it as much as I do. As I said, it measures 24" x 66", but you could adapt the design to pretty much any size.

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Actually, at the time I was taking these photos it was for purely selfish reasons. My hunky farm boy Joe also happens to be one of those handy  types who doesn't need plans to build things, and I'm hoping that I can get him to build me my very first cold frame for fall—or at least before next spring.


If not, I know somebody who might be talked into making me one—and I won't even have to drive over and pick up his tools first.
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Do you use cold frames in your garden? If you've shared cold frame photos on your own blog or on flickr, you're welcome to include a link in your comment—I'd love to see them!

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