Thursday, October 15, 2009

Posting updates

Yet again, I find myself well into a major, important farm project without having documented the first stages.

Baby step by baby step, we've begun the work of putting the hoop house together. Each step changes how the size of the future structure "feels".Today was a major milestone: the two south corner posts are pounded into the ground. Somehow this made it feel both smaller AND larger than the string lines strung between the formerly tentative corners. On the other hand, the sketched-in baseboards make the area seem huge, larger than the garden beds, even though it is lopping off a foot or two of garden bed on each side (we'll plant the margins outside of it with sage for one of our customers).

The instructions with this "kit" are very sketchy. But as we dig through our brains and the boxes of pieces, it begins to make sense.

The WWOOFer and one of my long-time farm buddies have been working on salvaging and laying out the base boards for the long sides. How will we splice them? They puzzled while I was at work one day, not knowing that there was a pile of special splicing brackets in the bottom of one of the boxes.

A summer or two ago, a co-worker asked if I wanted the lumber from a deck they were tearing off to build a new addition on their home. I said sure, before thinking about all those nails to pull. It's been stacked by the brown barn ever since, a nagging long-term "to-do". It's good wood--mostly sound despite more than a year of outdoor storage, because it was treated wood and had not lived out its useful life. I feel better about building with reused materials, even if it's more work.

One of the challenges of a project like this is to avoid frustration with the endless "prep work". It seems trivial, but it is such a huge part of the project. Gathering tools and parts. Clearing the site. Cutting the metal strapping that binds the groups of structural members together. Moving the posts from the trailer to their locations, and marking them with masking tape to indicate soil level as a rough guide when pounding them in.

We polled a number of experienced growers, and decided to take our chances with just pounding the posts in, rather than setting them in concrete. For one, it's faster, cheaper, and WAY easier. For another, we CAN pound them in--no rocks or heavy clay soil. Also, I like not being committed to it being right here forever (some would nod and roll their eyes knowingly at my general reluctance to commit to anything, in any area of my life). I had already made this decision when I went to get the giant post setter from the rental center. "Good call," they said. "So many people set them in the wrong kind of concrete, and it just eats the galvanized posts right off."

The risk we take is the lift created when high winds rush over a curved surface, creating a suction on the far side that could pull the posts out of the soft soil. Our hoop-house could become too much like a butterfly, and take off! But I think our site is obstructed enough that this is unlikely. The winds will be too confused for any such shennanigans...we hope. Gambling on the farm, again! Though probably I will prudently deploy a few of the anchors used for mobile homes, by and by.

I will try to remember to take pictures tomorrow.

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