Our friend Allison, who visited us a couple weeks ago, liked it here so much that she came back. This time, we put her to work.
OK, first we taught her to shoot a gun, which she’d never done before. Then we put her to work.
A couple weeks ago, we started our fall project, a 12’x20’ hoophouse. Our goal was to get it up in time to get some cold-weather crops in, and bring it in under $250. So far, we’d spent about $200 – half on lumber and hardware, and half on plastic – so we were hoping we wouldn’t need too much more to get it up and covered.
Its foundation – and I use the term loosely – is a cobbled-together selection of reclaimed four-by-fours and six-by-sixes, held together with (new) treated two-by-sixes. Kevin and I had already done the cobbling, but the four sides had to be leveled and nailed together.
That meant digging.
Luckily, you can get Allison to do just about anything if you give her a tool she’s never used before. In this case, it was a grubhoe, the perfect thing to break up dirt in order to seat our foundation properly.
The first time I used a grubhoe, I marveled at how well it did its job, but I found that the novelty wore off pretty quickly. I figured we could get about ten or fifteen minutes of good grubhoeing out of Allison before it started to seem like drudgery.
Luckily, that was enough. We seated the four sides of the rectangle, nailed them together, and stuffed as much dirt as possible underneath them in the hopes that they’d stay reasonably close to where we put them, come the next heavy rain.
Once the foundation was done, the fun began. Our hoophouse is going to have hoops made of twenty-foot lengths of PVC pipe, which we’d already constructed with two ten-foot lengths (each with a flange at one end) and some super-duper PVC cement. Putting up the first hoop was as simple as drilling a hole in two corners of the foundation, and sticking the end of the pipe in it.
Of course, putting it up is one thing, and making sure it stays up is quite another. A PVC hoop, even with screws through the base that attach it securely in its hole, has a lot of play in it.
The structure is going to be kept rigid by framing at either end, and we tackled that next. We wanted a door that was three feet wide, and centered, but wanted the height to be determined by where the upper corners would hit the PVC arch, so we could clamp the pipe right to the doorframe.
To figure out what that height was, we had to make sure the hoop was directly over the foundation, and drop a plumb line from the arch. We didn’t have a plumb line, but we had a fishing pole, so we hooked the line over the arch and dangled the Deadly Dick lure until it just touched.
Once we had the dimensions, the frame went up in no time.
Once that first hoop was up, it started to look like an actual hoophouse, instead of just wood on the ground. It’s not just a pipe dream anymore.