And this is the picture once the door was installed:
At sometime I may have mentioned that there was a greenhouse in the works. Then it rained for two months and all the work of maintaining a large vegetable garden (with labyrinth) was compressed into three six-hour blocks of sun while the weeds had a field day. Or a field month, as it were. Which somewhat delayed the construction of said greenhouse.
However, greenhouse planning remained on the schedule, and we finally got to start it today!
Actually, the construction started last week with driving 18 three-foot long pieces of rebar two feet into the ground. (That, by the way, is a lot of work.) This formed an astonishingly lethal array of spikes in the back yard: good for fending off a prolonged siege, but slightly less than ideal between the house and the playground. Hence, the pressure was on.
The first step was to put t0-foot pieces of electrical conduit over the spikes to prevent catastrophe. (This was not included in the instructions, but I think it should have been.) Thus what we had for the weekend was a double row of 1/2 inch thick pipes sticking up nearly to the height of the house. Very artistic looking, and vaguely aesthetically interesting, but since I was not making a statement, I decided not to leave it that way.
One of the first things that we bought for greenhouse construction was that nifty gadget in the foreground.
It is a pipe bender with a 12 foot radius, developed for the explicit purpose of making hoop houses. You can get one of your very own at Johnny’s Selected Seed. We used ours on the ground with one of us pinning it in place and the other one doing the bending.
We were using it to bend only the centre portion to create a gothic arch, greenhouse shape of improved wind and snow stability. (So sayeth the experts, namely the guy who had to build more than one before he came up with a design that withstood his winters. Plans are here (PDF), since there’s an error on the page between the article and the plans.)
As always, we have made some modifications. The first one was to use 1/2 inch conduit, because that’s what everybody had previously mentioned. Also, the 3/4 inch seemed a little slack over the rebar. However, we’ll see whether this stands up in the snow. I’m not entirely convinced. There’s a certain amount of prototyping going on here, since the frame turns out to be one of the least expensive parts of the greenhouse. If it works out, we have visions of temporary (non-winter-proof) greenhouses popping up all over the yard. Maybe with one of these super domes over everything else! And then we could get a cow, and a llama, and make our own flour with the wheat from the front yard, and run a power grid off the stream and… Hey, can we keep a cow in the garage?!?
Ahem. I’m back now. (Aren’t you glad you don’t have to live with that every day?) (Did I mention the internet’s been off for four days?)
OK. After a couple of starts, we decided to bend the pipes from the 2-foot mark to the 8-foot mark, giving us enough flex to span 11 feet. After growing here for nearly 5 years, we also decided to skip using our own soil, going straight for high raised beds. We’re building over a base of sand for additional drainage and to keep our feet out of the standing water that plagues our yard. On the plus side, we hardly ever need to water. We also are incorporating some of the features from those fab domes, but the greenhouse at the end of this evening stands thus:
Now, if only we can keep the landscape fabric from blowing away…
So, after the debacle with the greenhouse on Sunday, and reassurance from the farming community yesterday, this morning was spent taking the plastic off the defunct frame so that I can reuse it on a sturdier frame. While I was trucking the remains of the greenhouse back to the shed, I discovered the feathery remains of a chicken. I do not see a body, but the exploded-chicken look is strongly reminiscent of the last encounter with a fox. I’m quite sure that the chicken is an ex-chicken.
This causes me to rethink my approach to free-ranging the chickens, especially as 1) my daughter rolled in chicken poop in the middle of the lawn the other day, and 2) the chickens are proving nearly impossible to keep out of the gardens. I think I need about a five foot wall to exclude the chickens, and the first pass is only four feet tall. It seems to me that I could fence in 1/4 acre or so for the critters, rather than needing to fence all the garden beds and the children’s play space.
I’m thinking it might be time to divest ourselves of about 2/3 of the chickens and get back down to the number that feed us and a couple of immediate friends. They really are more trouble than they are worth, since I calculate that they are paying off at about $5 per chicken per month, and doing about that much damage to the vegetable garden. Even if they didn’t do things like skeletonize the chard bed just when it was ready to take to market, dig up the garlic, and eat all the baby spinach that we’ve been growing since last autumn, the chicken care work would only pay about $2 per hour. Add in the damage, and the extra effort on containment, and we’re almost certainly losing money. In my ever-articulate style, “Flurm,” is about all I have to say.
Today’s post: a little more with the practical, a little less with the dilettante.
Yesterday morning was entirely consumed with attempting to rescue the greenhouse from the dying throes of winter. Despite nigh-Herculean efforts, we were not successful.
However, I think we kept our cool throughout most of the situation, and I was able to remain on top of my emotions, ranging only as high as disgruntled, with a brief foray into demoralized. I went to the farmers market this morning; this is the market at which I sell my wares when I have them. I told my sad tale to my two farming friends, and the first one said, “Oh, yeah. That’s why mine is attached to my house.” The second said, “Yeah, we’ve lost three.” And when I told him that it was only staying in place while the car was parked on it, he told me that’s how they keep theirs from blowing away also. I came away feeling somewhat better, and preparing to once more tackle the greenhouse problem… after my farming partner returns from Ontario. Clearly the hoop-house is every bit the problem I expected it to be in a climate that experiences gale-force winds on a bi-weekly basis. In the meanwhile, I will plant what I can, and pick up some of the smaller jobs that have been lying about neglected.
I think the sewing machine will figure prominently in the remainder of the day. I have a pair of PJ’s that is only waiting for the sleeves to be attached, and I have to get started on some summer clothes for the girl-child. The older boy-child has kindly turned out to be the next size down from one of the other farm-kids hereabouts, which means that pants may be in our future. I am all about the hand-me-downs… except that I do like the score of a sweet pair of jeans from the thrift store. (I’m wearing a pair now.) I also have two sweaters in mid-knit, and a door to install on my studio. (exterior door with window – large garbage pick-up) The living room needs to be painted, but first needs some drywall touch-ups. I did finish reading my most recent “By Its Cover” book, so a review is in the offing. If the wind ever stops, I do need to pick up the cover from the greenhouse. And I was going to work on some query letters. Gee. I’m tired just reading that list.
Oh, well. One thing at a time.