After a few months of experience with techno-druidism, I've decided to do a preliminary review and write up my thoughts for the many others who will wish to follow me down this path. Overall the experiment has been a success. For my green house, I first tried Home Depot. They did not in fact carry green-houses, and instead only had depressing and dark huts made out of plastic and failure. Next I searched Amazon, using the Piraha's long house as the model for my new green house. I was able to find a decent one for ~$200, and it covers a 10x10 area which is plenty for my needs. So! How did it turn out?
On the positive side:
- It is perfectly viable to work there during both day and night hours. I feel that I've been significantly more productive and clear-headed since moving out of the poison-house.
- At least during winter, the greenhouse effect is great. On a sunny day, temperatures inside the greenhouse are 15-20 degrees warmer than outside. You can be lounging around in a tank top and shorts in the middle of January. If you have any form of SAD, I would highly recommend it.
- It is easier to sleep at night. The effect is akin to the effect you feel when going camping; the increased sunlight during the day and the increased darkness at night really kicks your natural instincts into drive and makes it tough to stay up too late. I'm usually good about falling asleep, so your mileage may vary on this one.
- Similarly, it is much easier to keep to a regular, day-night sleep cycle. Sleeping in is much harder (due to the sun and heat), and going to sleep "early" at night is easier. So far I haven't done a cycle-flip (e.g. reversing my day-night cycles) since moving in, whereas before I would change my day-night cycle by 360 degrees every month or so.
- On clear nights, the moon is pretty through the canopy.
- There is a certain amount of insect life that enters the place through osmosis. By and large this isn't so bad, but you do need to adjust your sensitivity to bugs. Just accept the fact that whenever you go to sleep you will immediately be covered by spiders, and move on.
- It doesn't deal well with cold temperatures. The walls of the greenhouse provide very little thermal insulation. Once the outside temperature reaches ~45 degrees, bundling up is no longer enough to sustain you while you are in front of a computer. I have a heavy sleeping bag out in the greenhouse, so I can at least sleep out there when it is cold, but I don't do even that once it gets down to 40 degrees or so. I'm worried that my delicate Texan extremities will get frost bite.
- It won't deal well with hot temperatures once the summer comes. I'm going to have to explore different solutions to this in a few months, e.g. dressing less, have the fan on me, and making more openings in the greenhouse to help the heat disperse.
- It does not deal well with high winds. The experience reminds me most closely of that described from an Age of Sail novel, where a ship is being tossed around in a storm and absolutely every wall is moving around like it is possessed. So far the worst I have dealt with is ~30 mph winds. I'm not sure how the greenhouse would fare if it was in a really windy location.
- Security is a potential issue. I live in a very safe neighborhood, so it is not a huge concern for me. However even where I live I feel better doing things like A) bring your comp inside if you leave for vacation, and B) keep a katana by your bedside in case ruffians try to assault you at night.
- When placing your greenhouse, look up. Make sure it is not under any large and creaky branches, any branches with berries, any branches that birds might want to rest on, etc. Just avoid branches.
- Before moving in, consider your setup in terms of air-flow, sun lines, and sight lines.
- Even being "outside", air flow is important. You can carbon-dioxide up a 10x10 room fairly quickly without good ventilation. I've placed my computer chair and sleeping bag so that they are as close to the entry way as possible to maximize airflow to me. I also put in a $15 Walmart fan to help circulate the air.
- For your computer, you don't want the screen to be in direct sunlight. I keep the monitor facing away from the primary sun-lines. I've also done something where I hang a bed sheet down the middle of the greenhouse, that way it blocks the worst of the direct sunlight. Otherwise you won't be able see your monitor during the mid-day hours.
- For sight lines, consider how visible your monitor will be for your neighbors. My assumption is that my neighbors enjoy hardcore porn as much as I do, so I've angled the monitor/greenhouse openings so that they always have a good view.
- Setting up the greenhouse was relatively easy and straightforward, and overall I found it to be very well designed. Creating a floor for the greenhouse to rest on was the much more difficult part. To provide the floor, I dug up and leveled a portion of the backyard. On top of this I added a layer of playground sand from Home Depot; it lets you get the surface smoother and raises it above the surrounding ground by a bit. After that came 1x1 stone tiles, 121 of them. There are about $1.20 a piece from Home Depot, and a giant pain to move and emplace. On the plus side, the tiles also come in brick red, so I used those tiles for where my computer would be. Should help it go faster. After the stone layer, I added a layer of anti-weed fabric ($20?), and then on top of that two layers of plastic sheeting ($10). These final layers help keep bugs and moisture from coming up through the floor. The greenhouse provides enough weight to keep these layers all in place, and I placed many stones on the edges of the greenhouse keep it from flying away during high winds.
So, I am maybe 80% happy with the greenhouse. This Spring I will try out a second iteration, this time utilizing the powers of dirt-bags and cob!