The Sine Curve (Hoophouses and Pitfalls)

by jericho | April 03, 2012 at 02:47 PM | categories: building, maine, seedlings | View Comments

As Jean-Paul mentioned in our last post, we have been hard at work getting our hoophouse built so that our seedlings will not perish from lack of light or from too much heat in our makeshift low tunnel (all of our broccolli and kale seedlings fried in there and we had to start them over again). The 80 degree weather a couple of weeks ago provided the perfect opportunity to get outside and get to work!

First, we had to lash pairs of saplings together and bend them (as JP mentioned). Then we started assembling the endwalls by attaching our sapling hoops to 2x4's as shown below. Sidenote: this idea to use saplings for just about everything this year prompted the first name suggestion for our "farm" which is Crooked Sapling Farm. I think this is a fabulous name. Others are not completely sold...yet.

Next, we covered both endwalls with plastic and cut a hole in one endwall where a door will go. Another sidenote: in future, I must remember to make JP pose for the photos because really, this is ridiculous.

More 2x4's were used to finish the base of the frame, more sapling hoops were attached, and voila! A hoophouse skeleton! About one foot of each of the sapling hoops was stuck into the ground to provide some support and stability, and then each one was also attached to the 2x4 base with pipe grip ties/two-hole straps (there was some confusion about what they are actually called). We also pounded some stakes (i.e. more saplings) into the ground against the endwalls and attached the endwalls to them to prevent bending inward or outward.

The last stability measure was attaching a "spine" along the top of the hoops. This also helped to pull each sapling hoop into the shape that we wanted (although some were more agreeable than others).

At this point, it is time to explain the title of this post and say that although life up here is amazing, it is not all sunshine and roses. Sometimes our seedlings fry in the sun and sometimes they get moldy from lack of it; sometimes a porcupine decides to take up residence in our outhouse; sometimes I wish I could turn on a tap to get hot water instead of having to heat it on the stove; and sometimes it snows at the most inopportune times...like when we are trying to put plastic on our hoophouse. Granted, we should have known better than to try when the forecast said there might be snow, but we were feeling optimistic and really wanted to get that plastic up. It was an incredibly frustrating and somewhat demoralizing experience.

But you know what? We made it through as we always do and I am sure that we are stronger for it. Building character and all that.

And now our seedlings have a place to go!! The last hoophouse addition (for now) was 8 55-gallon barrels and four hardware cloth tables to set the seedling trays on. We filled all of the barrels with water in hopes that the water will heat up during the day and then help to keep it warm inside the hoophouse during the night. The filling process took about a week because we were hand pumping all of the water (my arms are still sore) and then using a large elevated tub and a garden hose to get the water to run into the barrels. Thank goodness the hoophouse is slightly downhill from the pump or we would have been hauling a whole lot of water!

As I think about it, I realize that I really should have called this post "The Sine Wave" because living is a series of ups and downs as opposed to just one, but you get the idea. Luckily, we seem to always get past the dips in our sine wave very quickly and spend most of our time at the top. Can't ask for much more than that.

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