Thursday, March 22, 2007

Intro to the "Barn"

The other day a casual acquaintance happened to say, "Let me know if you want a hand sometime," and I was quick-witted enough (and, finally, organized enough) to reply, "Great, how about Thursday at 9:00?"

So this morning she came, and we spent a little time just wandering around, talking, finishing up chores and looking at several projects that we could work on. Then some more visitors came, and we were back to step 1: Look at the lambs awhile/talk/wander around. Which was fun, but delayed our start.

During the night's rain, about 50 gallons of water had collected in a pool in the tarp that serves as a temporary roof over the end of the "barn". That translates to about 400 lbs. hanging 6' above the ground, supported mainly by baling twine...and the tarp. Don't know the bursting strength of the tarp, don't really want to have to know....

For those who haven't been to the farm, I should explain the barn. Conceptually, it's a lot like a hoop-style greenhouse with walls, built of salvaged arches from a quonset hut and (prior to the summer I started my sabbatical, when a storm collapsed the cover and the arch that had previously collapsed and been replaced with plastic pipe) covered with recycled greenhouse plastic. The plastic was never replaced during my absence, and now that the weather's warmer it's a project I really need to tackle.

The really big on-going issue with the barn has been water ponding on the roof. It starts with a shallow pool, which catches a little water...the weight of the water pulls any slack out of the plastic/tarp, which can hold more water. The weight of the additional water manages to pull in more slack, which holds more water, which pulls in more slack....until it stops raining, the water is drained, or something collapses. I know several Lawrence Sustainability Network (LSN) members who are interested in catchment systems for rainwater, but trust me, this is NOT a good design no matter how effective it appears at times!

Re-engineering the purlins that help align the arches is the real solution, and I think I've got a plan, but it will take some preparation. Meanwhile, I've developed a very efficient way of starting a siphon to empty these ponds when they occur. So, just in case you ever need to start a siphon on a large scale:

I have two garden hoses, connected together with 2 "y" fittings, one attached to the other. One hose end is connected to the hydrant, the other is placed in the bottom of the aerial pond.

Step 1: Both unconnected branches of the "y" fittings are CLOSED, and the other branches of the "y" fittings are open. I turn on the hydrant, and water runs into the pond. I listen for the air bubbles to stop, then I know that the hose is full of water.

Step 2: I open the valve on the "y" fitting closest to the pond. This lets water come, my helper said something that reminded me to put a barrel under the hose and catch the rainwater for use later, which is how I know there was about 50 gallons.

Step 3: I close the valve on the "y" fitting closest to the hydrant. This shuts off the water flow from the hydrant, and then the water coming from the unconnected, open "y" fitting closest to the pond is the rainwater from the pond.

We made some good progress on the overall barn repairs, clearing saplings and stored materials away from the north side of the barn to have working space; replacing the missing arch with plastic pipe; and measuring and refolding the piece of recycled greenhouse plastic that a friend gave me to use as a cover, so that it is ready to "pull". There's a little more prep work, a little more clearing away of stuff, a few more structural repairs, and then soon the barn will have a new temporary roof. The plan is that the temporary roof will give me protected workspace so that I can do further improvements by halogen light after work, or on rainy days.

After my helper left, I planted two more garden beds: one of spinach, and one of tat soi (an Asian green that's good in salads or stir-fry) and salad turnips. This is one of the few times I've ever found that my soil was wet enough to clump on the tire of the Wheel Hoe, and even not responding well to the 7-Row Furrower. But I managed, and I know I haven't done much harm to the soil because my method disturbs it so little. The intersting, inexplicable thing was that only the second bed was in this wet condition...the first bed, right next to it, was in perfect condition. I'm baffled. I raked off the next bed and left it uncovered for the night, to plant in the morning. Normally I would not leave a bed uncovered, but if it's as wet as the second bed today was, I want it to dry out a bit. And maybe I'll have time to do it AND another bed in the morning.

And...the first lettuce and peas are up! looked and sounded like the grackles were eating every last oat seed. NOT a quiet day at the farm, with so many grackles around!

And...the mosquitos are out!

No comments: