Building the Greenhouse

As i said before, i had my eye on a super fancy super huge greenhouse with solar powered vents and fans. It would have been larger than the tiny house itself. However, when Covid-19 took the stage the money i was saving for the greenhouse had to go straight into buying my own ppe and getting a 6 month supply of meds for me and the dogs. Then there was the rice. I had hoped to buy these large buckets of rice to keep on hand so the dogs and the chickens always had something to eat. I didn’t want to watch them go hungry or skinny while i rationed what we did have. I tried to fatten them up with supplemental insects i found on the property. They would charge me for the rice immediately but it was on back order until late spring. Late spring would come and go and i’d never hear from the people again but they still took the $800 they wanted for the rice. It was just one of those things. You had to let it go. You had to try. And then when it failed, you had to let it go and keep walking.

Anyways, the stores were cleaned out good by the time i got off work. People lined up in the parking lot of the local grocery store every morning, waiting for the doors to open like race horses listening for the gunshot on the track. When those doors unlocked it was a full-on stampede.

I couldn’t get my hands on any food. My first thought was that i ought to purchase a greenhouse, though i was saving that for another year. It seemed now had become the time. I knew i couldn’t buy my dream greenhouse so i went the other way. I bought a 500 dollar greenhouse from walmart. It arrived in pieces with an instruction packet that read, “Takes 2 to 4 people for assembly.” I thought, “Here we go.” I tied on my bandana and tucked in.

The going was slow from the very beginning. There was not a single word to the instructions. It was all pictures, and some of the parts were labeled wrong. The picture showed an L shaped piece that said 893 while clearly the long metal sticks lying in my yard bore the stickers that read “893” and the bag of L shaped ones said “992”. Though i looked through all the pages of the packet, i couldn’t find “992” mentioned anywhere. Then there was the problem of the picture angles. You could only see what was going on from one side of the picture. It was unclear what the opposite side looked like. Frequently i’d get 3 steps in and realize one piece was turned in the wrong direction and i would have to undo all 3 of the steps just to go back and set it straight so it would connect to something else properly later.

Some pieces, like the bolt that was supposed to go through the door handle, were too short to fit in the place the diagram swore they were supposed to be. I was so frustrated with the cryptic asinine instruction diagrams that i was stomping round the yard in my steel-toed boots, shaking the instruction packet at the heavens while pointing emphatically and telling all the wildlife that would listen, “This is clearly not 893!!! That there is 893! This here is 992! Where the **** does 992 go? Nobody knows! Nobody knows! But we got 16 of those 713 pieces over there. 16 of them! And it says here there should be 4.” “****ing Walmart.” I was at a loss as to how i was going to turn those instructions into some sort of roadmap i could follow in any way.

I had 2 days blocked out to get this project done before my work week in healthcare resumed its wicked pace. It was now or never. **** the instructions. I was going to have to do this, trial and error, until all the steps were run through, all things were assembled, disassembled, turned, and reassembled…i was going to have to construct this greenhouse one way or another.

Right from the beginning i noticed a design flaw. Instead of using nuts and bolts as they were intended to be used, the company in their infinite wisdom said, “let’s make the heads of the bolts square and then we’ll slide them in a loose track and the track will grab the square head of the bolt and hold the thing together. That way, if the wind blows or the foundation shifts, the client can have the fun of scrambling around trying to get all the square heads of the bolts back in the tracks they popped out of before the whole thing falls apart.” I could not believe it but the whole greenhouse was to be held together by tracks sitting precariously balanced on the ends of square bolt heads. I pulled at my face. This was not going to last. But, what was there to do? I had already spent the money. It was already here. I couldn’t afford a different one. This was it. This was what we had to work with. The dogs eyed me cautiously from a distance, wondering if the swear words were just in general or directed at them.

As i began to put pieces together the wind was blowing something fierce. It was howling through the trees and the rustling branches were bent back towards the ground only to be thrown the other way with the next violent gust. I was shouting at God. “Please, *** ****** please! Just wait, WAIT! Wait!! Wait!! Lord please, PLEASE!!! Just let me get the frame up first! Not yet, don’t blow it down yet Lord. Wait, no, no, no, no, no; OH COME ON!!!”

“2 to 4 for assembly” meant i had to get creative about who was going to be holding the pieces in play for me. Meet “Mr ladder” and “Mrs wheelbarrow”. He was a pretty good helper but she was lacking in the height department.

The thing was flimsy as could be and i tried frantically to hold it all together long enough to get to the next step and the next one while the wind whipped my clothes around and threw dust into my eyes, bent the trees and threatened to tear down all my progress at any second with a mighty gust.

Finally i reached the stage where i could start putting the panels in. That was a dangerous endeavor as they caught the force of the wind pretty good and having one side up without the other side anchored in threatened disaster with random gusts of wind slamming into the barely standing half-wall.

The edges of the panels were sharp and as i carried them the wind threatened to rip them out of my hands or bend them, twisting them this way and that as i walked through the yard. I held tight to the panels, determined not to let the wind carry them away from me. The edges of the panels dug into my fingers and the palms of my hands and drew blood.

It was a little bit better balanced against the wind once i got the panels in on both sides but not by much.

As the sun set on day 1, i had the base erected but still lacked a roof.

I hoped it would still be there in the morning and reluctantly quit for the night.

In the morning i set about adding a roof.

Getting that middle bar on was quite the task! It was one long piece, bolted together. I had to maneuver the ladder in through the greenhouse doorway while still folded, open it, stand it up, climb on top of it, and balance the majority of the bar on my shoulder while bolting one side down to the frame. I then scooted the ladder to the middle of the greenhouse and laid the other end of the bar carefully against the top ladder step. I then hurried to the other side of the greenhouse frame and hoisted the bar onto my shoulder once more so i could bolt it to the frame on the other side as well. When the bar was bolted in place i dropped to my knees and sighed in relief. I had done it. The part that REALLY required 2 to 4 people to assemble was over.

I erected more bars and slid the roof panels in. At this point process of elimination was helping me figure out which pieces the diagram was referring to. There weren’t many left to choose from so i was piecing the puzzle together.

When all the roof panels were in i began to feel as if maybe i could see the finish line.

As the sun set on day 2 i began work on the door.

I installed and uninstalled the sky light when it became apparent that the plastic arm that was supposed to hold it open had a tendency to drift back to its original position; closed. Also it was catching wind pretty effectively and i was worried it would be torn off by the first rain storm.

Then i mulched around the bottom of the frame so the grasshoppers couldn’t slide under. It was dark when i finished the project. I finished by lamp light, alone, fiddling with nuts and bolts and trying to whisper my disdain for Walmart because the neighbors were sleeping. I had to wait until the next day for a final picture. In the end it took 19.5 hours to complete the project. I had to zip tie the door handle in place because the bolt ended up being too short to poke through the other side to catch the nut. I was so thrilled to be done with it but i had an uneasy anxious feeling growing in the pit of my stomach. I worried that the slightest wind could probably leave all that work i’d just done in vain.

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