Friday, October 30, 2009

HT Progress

Mom and Dad keep asking for photos of the high tunnel construction project, so here goes. Getting Blogger to load the photos may take almost as long as building the HT...well, not really. But it's very slow with the new camera, for some reason.

Progress on the HT seems slow. But it keeps proceeding, and the weather is cooperating at least in terms of not freezing yet. Not setting deadlines helps keep tempers in check. Mainly, it's hard to fit in time around all my other schedules for market, picking for the hospital, and driving the bus. Mon., Tues., and Wed. mornings from about 9:30 to noon, plus Sat. afternoons and some time on Sunday, are about the only time I have. Various friends and strangers contributed a few hours here, a few hours there. Feel free to drop by!

The first photo (if all goes well) shows various framing members loosely connected to the second bow. The directions are along the lines of "Now install purlins." Install WHERE, exactly? the novice wonders. One vague drawing shows the approximate relationship of the roof braces, diagonal braces, and side purlin, so we "sketched" them all in to try to figure out how they need to fit.

Note that the purlin is very bendy along its length. This makes it quite annoying to work with. I assembled it on the ground and attached it to each bow with slightly loose baling twine. The twine, with the weight of purlin on it, will bind against the bow and support the weight of the purlin at any height...most of the time. Three ropes provide a check against backsliding. This method allowed us to work the purlin up the bow little by little, many trips back and forth along the tunnel pushing it higher and higher. Primitive and slow, but effective and safe and do-able working alone.

The second photo shows the technique I devised for attaching the roof braces, which span the upper part of a bow to make a sort of truss. The long-nose vise-grip nicely holds the band in place on the bow, then I have both hands to put the brace in place and jiggle the bolt through the band and brace and get the nut started.

The last photo shows all roof braces hung on one end, the other end resting on the ground. After initially assembling them low on the bows, I supported the far end on a milk crate (so it could slide) and then "walked" the band up the bow to approximately the right spot. Fine tuning those roof braces so that they are level enough to not drive my printer's eye nuts will be an interesting project with one ladder and one person...though probably they can be adjusted down the road sometime, after the cover is on.

These tunnels do not have to be built perfectly plumb and square; they can roll along a hilly site and everything about them flexes with the contours. But my site is nearly flat, and my garden layout is geometrical, and I like things to look nice. So we are taking pains to measure and level things as best we can.

Next will come placing the ladder just so, tip-toe among the seedlings already thriving in the beds uner the HT, and hoisting the other end of the roof brace and attaching it to a similar band...times 7.

Thinking of trying this at home? Don't even consider it until you've mastered assembling one of those cheap metal storage shelf units without cussing or yelling at anyone, or losing all the nuts in the gravel driveway.

If you decide to try anyway, let me know. I'm trying to keep track of some of the fine points & methods we've figured out along the way.

One is to start out with the right tools. That means cobalt drill bits for drilling pilot holes...the pipes are very stout. When I tried drilling the 3/8 holes for the baseboard at the end bows, I thought I'd just use my regular multi-purpose bit that came with my bit set. After all we only have to drill a dozen holes that size. After drilling approximately forever on the first hole, I went and forked other the 14 bucks for the cobalt bit, since we have to drill 11 more holes that size. It took less than half the time.

Magnetic nut drivers that fit in a of each size of, make that two so that two people can work at, make that 3 or 4 as they end up in pockets and other odd places. Long enough extension cords or cordless drills are vital, as well. When we were assembling the bows, having a drill bit for the pilot holes in one drill, and a nut driver in the other, saved a lot of time. A bucket hanger designed to hold water buckets in lambing jugs fit nicely over the back of the ladder...and held the drills safely within reach of the person at the top of the ladder.

Still waiting for those photos. Apparently something timed out and "Internet Explorer cannot display the web page." Sigh.

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