Dead Chickens and a Half Completed Greenhouse

Well, a typical spring season so far. I wish the produce were growing better and further along-another cool spring isn’t helping matters. I’m behind on most things that need to get done and if it’s not one challenge it’s another.

Today’s Challenge
This morning as I sleepily went out to feed the laying hens like normal I noticed big piles of feathers all about the coop. Being the sleuth that I am, I followed the trail out into the pasture where I found not one, not two, but four dead chickens. Argghhh! Whatever came in last night wasn’t even courteous enough to kill off the old laying hens, but went for the young ones now just begging to produce eggs. Don’t these predators
know I’ve got better things to do this time of year than to play security guard to some laying hens?

Typical Incomplete Spring Project

Like most people who farm, I dream up how the spring season will unfold every winter from the warm confines of my home. This winter I was thinking that I would leisurely put up a new 26 by 96 foot high tunnels and have it planted with tomatoes, cucumbers, and pepper by early May.
Hah…three weeks ago we finally finished the frame and it still sits there without any plastic covering (a greenhouse is pretty useless without a covering).
Winter plans never foresee the crazy planting schedule that explodes in my face every spring. It’s a lot of waiting and waiting because of cold, rain, and high winds before trying to plug in as many seeds and plants as possible in a whatever window of time nature gives me. I also have to juggle this with the beginning battle with weeds which erupts in June as well as the first forays of insect mercenaries who try begin their invasion on all fronts. Typical…
Dad and I working on high tunnel in April (note snow on ground!):

Still, it always turns around. The plants will grow. I’ll fight the weeds and bugs. Produce will be harvested and delivered. It’s only a matter of time, but I know we’ll get there.

Have you ever built a greenhouse?

Installing hoops for the main frame
Greenhouses are great for growing produce. They protect the plants, decrease disease, and increase yields. Really no market gardener should be without one.

Last year I built this mickey-mouse 10X10 greenhouse out of PVC pipe to start transplants. It swayed in the wind and basically collapsed by the end of the season–two nights last summer I was out with a roll of duct tape at 3 am just to hold it together.

So, I sunk everything I earned last year at the market into a solid greenhouse…actually a “high tunnel” with a double layer of plastic for extra insulation. Most use high tunnels with a single layer and plant directly into the ground. I have a hybred of sorts, first starting my transplants on tables and planting directly into the ground when I’ve finally moved them into the field.

Have you ever built a greenhouse? It’s a nightmare. I had helped put plastic on other greenhouses in my apprentice days, so I was estimating a good afternoon to do the job, maybe 4-5 hours. Problem is, putting the plastic on is the easiest part of greenhouse construction…we were in for the duration.

Putting on sidewalls
My big learning about building greenhouses… it’s all in the framing! Building requires many holes and screws, which takes a lot of time. It also takes a lot of balance when you are atop a ladder which is in a trailer in a 20 mile-an-hour wind!

All told, my 4-5 hour project took 18-20 hours and that’s with the help of parents who invested their whole weekend. Who could ask for better parents?

We’ve certainly had our stops and starts getting the greenhouse working for the season–it was filled with propane one day when high winds made the sidewalls flap so much that the propane line was pulled out…I’m glad I don’t smoke.

Now that it’s done, it’s not going anywhere in my lifetime. It’s currently filled with Gourmet (orange) and Labrador (yellow) peppers, eggplant, basil, and a couple rows of cherry tomatoes.