The holidays have arrived! The greenhouse construction is well underway, and the end is in sight. I asked myself countless times, why is the construction taking so long when we have such talented and committed people working on it together? Answer: Consensus construction. Because we are designing this greenhouse from the ground up without much more than a few rough sketches on a piece of card board, the planning phase is lengthy and extensive. Our crew wants this greenhouse to be seismically sound (read: snow load resistant), well insulated, roomy on the inside, and most importantly, cool-looking, we had to put our heads together. We all love what we’re doing and simply can’t get enough of it, but are mercilessly busy with all sorts of other projects we’ve committed to, and at times, progress seems slow. We had a great workday on Wednesday with a couple of volunteers to lend a hand. What have we done so far? We finished the bending, cutting and welding eleven steel hoops to contain the same length and arc. We bolted these, inserted into insanely durable hand-crafted flanges, to the cement jersey barriers on the North facing wall, and to the cement pad/floor on the South facing wall. We have completed the framed East and West walls to contain a total of three doors, one on the West, and double doors on the East wall to allow the maneuvering of bulkier items in and out of the greenhouse like tables and wheelbarrows. After much discussion of our ridge pole design, or “spine” of the greenhouse, and wanting to avoid purchasing materials, we agreed on using 3-12 foot 2×4’s supported by apocalypse proof steel poles which the ends of abutting 2x4s will join and attached. We also rehabbed two antique wood doors that contained flimsy veneer paneling which we promptly extracted and replaced with recycled plexi-glass storm windows donated to use by one of our supporters who does landscaping and construction. We clear coated them to preserve the exposed wood, silicone caulked the cracks between the wood and the plexi-glass, and affixed an antique (and, now, sort of mangled!) glass door handle and latch. Another local supporter donated a screen door which actually comes with proper glass panels that should be easier to hang since it’s a lot lighter than the wooden doors we are using.
We’re also beginning to bulk up our compost pile with food scraps and wood chips and stock piling materials for heating the greenhouse like wood, plastic tubing and 55 gallon drums. We are working on the logistics of assembling a critical mass of nitrogen and carbon rich compostable materials from various establishments in the area. For now, wood chips seem to come before we ask for them (!), looks like we’ll be able to get newspaper from Clark University (carbon rich), coffee grounds and some food scraps from Acoustic Java, food waste from the Shop as well as from Butterside Down Cooperative, and hopefully from a few more vendors in the area. It’s critical that we limited our compost input to meat and dairy free, as well as limited vegetable fats so that composting happens in a consistent and pest-free manner. We’re looking to utilize the heat produced from the composting process to warm our seedling beds and reduce the amount of wood or recycled vegetable oil we’ll use to heat the space. Other possibilities that will have to work together with the compost system, which may or may not produce a lot of heat initially, include radiant heating under neat the tables, or tubing laid on top of the tables, underneath the seedling blocks.
There is much to consider, and very little time to make things happen, so we’ll (hopefully) be moving quickly after the holidays to zip this structure up and get things toasty warm. Anyone interesting in helping, offering suggestions, resources, sources or general inspiration are welcome to contact us through firstname.lastname@example.org
Here’s a great source if you’re curious if people actually do this stuff elsewhere: http://www.youngfarmers.org/blog/2011/04/05/farmhack-katchkie-farms-greenhouses/ We’re not the only ones! And Viva open source farm plans!
Also, Our greenhouse website: http://the97webstergreenhouseproject.blogspot.com/ Check back at Nuestro Huerto for updates, since I haven’t figured out how to update this blog just yet!