Background Switcher (Hidden)

Shoals Ahead...The Groanhouse Construction Continues

Sunday, November 11, 2012

We’re now embarking on our third day of greenhouse construction. Maybe “kitting” is a better word for what we were doing.  “Pondering inscrutable diagrams” works, too. Today would be different. Today, rising to the challenge set out for me by the instruction booklet, I would do something truly idiotic.

While waiting for Dave and Marcy to arrive, we decided to construct as much of the roof as we could.

It seemed straightforward enough. Build the superstructure (done Day 1); now the task was to insert the plastic thermopane panels. We got the little stack of eight translucent panels and began inserting them into the grooved tracks. And two were too large for their window holes. Hmm. 

We pored over the instructions. No mention of the panels being different sizes. Manufacturing being what it is, we had to assume they were just cut wrong.

So, against Bill's great misgivings, I cut down the two oversized panels to fit. There. Nothing a mat knife can't fix. Here I am, massively screwing us up. Cut cut cutty cut.

Then we moved on to the last two window slots. Got the panels out. Too small for the holes. The slightest dusting of snow would cause them to fall in.  WednesdayThursdayFriday??

Pored over the instructions some more. Found a little "A" appended to the part number for the last two plastic roof panels. Grabbed the parts list. Found that two roof panels identified as PN40A are 4 mm. wider than any of the other six PN40's. Oh, well, DUH, we should have noticed THAT. The fact that the little part number stickers had fallen off the roof panels did not help. The fact that the book of diagrams masquerading as an assembly manual failed to mention that two of the roof panels are imperceptibly larger than the other six really, really did not help. But those 4 mm. were enough to bring the project to a screeching halt.

The fact that I'd now cut two roof panels to a smaller size meant that the greenhouse would not go up today. I could hear dominoes falling. If the greenhouse didn't go up today, then I would have to take all the plants out of the garage where they'd been languishing for almost a month, hack them apart trying to get smaller divisions/cuttings/DNA, and move their miserable shaggy dying plant butts all inside the house. As in, in the living room. Where I do not want falling blossoms and fading leaves and water mess. We would be away for a solid week and I couldn't ask anyone to come over and raise and lower the garage door to give them sun during the day but keep them from freezing at night. It was 24 on the night of Nov. 5. Sigh.

This pillaging of plant DNA I did not want to do. Tough beans. I did it. I ripped into those gerania and hibiscus and cuphea and fuchsias and tore them apart, trying to get divisions. Managed to do it, too. May have killed a couple in the process. Threw the mother plants out. Oh well. They were going to die anyway before we could get this groanhouse up. This had gone on for so long that I had already mentally surrendered the whole lot, and resolved to start over if and when we got this thing constructed and heated, up and running. Whenever that would be. Another sigh.

A Liam runs through it, wearing Daddy's shoes.

Our task today, after I finished ensuring that we couldn't put it up by nightfall, would be to secure the base of the greenhouse into the concrete pad we poured for the late Garden Pod. We'd already spent a second day trying to do this, reluctantly concluding that we lacked the right tools and bolts to accomplish it. Bill had established that the pad was quite a bit off level, having heaved up with frost, and come up with a plan to shim the base with pressure treated wood. He's good that way. 

Our day would improve greatly with the arrival of Dave “Tools” Wesel and fantastic founding Whipple Bird Club member Marcy Wesel. 

This is Tools. He was on it like Bluebonnet. All ate up. When you can see the whites all the way around his baby blues, that's when you have Tools' attention. Bill has the same thing going on. Watch for the whites of their eyes. They were both pretty googly-eyed at this point. They were going to get to use some tools (note massive concrete drill).

There would be shims; there would be spirit levels; there would be drills. But not just any drills. You call that a drill? 

Here, Bill is brandishing Dave's massive concrete drill. Dave is shop-vacuuming the junk out of a hole he's just drilled. That thing does the job. Of course, Dave brought his own shopvac, his own drill bits...he brought pretty much every tool he owned. Because, you know, this greenhouse can be put up without tools. It just snaps together. Or so we were told.

Tools and Bill started measuring, leveling, and cutting pressure-treated wood shims which would be screwed into the concrete, and then the plastic greenhouse base would be bolted right through the shims and into the concrete.

Shims in place, they drilled the holes and set the bolts.

They used a spirit level to make sure everything was square and plumb.

The noise was fearsome. Four people working away at it all day. But no tools were required.

Just love these guys. People, people who need people...are the LUCKIEST PEOPLE in the WORLD.

Gaaah I hate that song, but it's true, Babs, it's true. We are blessed with friends who will shove aside all the other things they could be doing to help us. Look at that smile. He's actually enjoying himself.

We would attempt to repay our deep and ever-growing debt to Tools and Marcy (who helped me finish pillaging and potting, clean the garage, and empty and collect all the plant containers around the yard, and this after having done that all morning in her own yard and her in-laws' yard)
with a modest meal.

Pork shoulder with fresh rosemary and sage, apple juice, honey, pepper, sweet potatoes, and apples. Cooked caveman style with briquettes under and over the Dutch oven, right next to our labor station. Which was great, because it got so cold toward evening that we couldn't handle the tools that weren't required to put up this easy-as-a-breeze snap-together-with-your-hands groanhouse kit. So we'd run over and stand with our lacerated hands over the Dutch oven until they were thawed out enough to work some more. 

To be continued. Oh, is it to be continued. We ain't hardly half done.


I feel your pain. I am spatially deficient and can't read words, much less pictures that give instructions on how things go together. I used to sew a little for my childen and spent more time ripping sections apart- because I had sewed one piece upside down the other, than actually sewing.

And you got down to the Valley too soon. I may get to spend the winter there if housing can be arranged at Laguna Madre NWR. But one day, I'm hoping to meet you in person.

And I'm also haveing a harder and harder time proving I'm not a robot.

I just want to thank you for your blog.. You speak of real life, real friends, real love and the beauty of nature in a way that touches my heart. You neither gloss over life's pain nor embellish its beauty beyond recognition. You are refreshing, your husband an, " I wish I had one of those", type of guy and your children are pure enjoyment and light. Thank you again for sharing your knowledge and your love with us all. Your writing and your photographs bring me great pleasure and renew my joy in life. Give Chet Baker and the children a big hug and tell them it comes with love and peace from a Grandma in the blog world. Here's one for you and Bill too. Wear it at all times.

Don't let it get you down. You guys do more with your life then most people dream of. And you are fantastic parents. You could have fabricated some tempory panels with card board, Saran wrap and duct tape that would have gotten you through the week, but I realize this advice comes a little late.
Anyway, have fun on your trip and know how much your loved.

Posted by Anonymous November 11, 2012 at 7:46 AM

Julie, I think you ought casually mention the name of the company that makes this monstronsity every few frames... you know, just in case some people might have reservations about spending $$$ with them.

Cyberthrush is right on. The groan house manufacturer should be busted.

All this reminds me of the fabricated-wood flooring that I talked Dave into installing, contrary to his fondest wishes, the flooring that was supposed to go together with a "click." When I came upon the scene, he had amplified himself with the handy neighbor, and they were having at the boards with sledges and rubber mallets. BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM and then they'd look at each other and chirp, "click!" BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM

Loads of sympathy for the pain you are enduring....and enduring.
Hardly anything in my life relates--except this. When my husband & I bought our first house, we needed to replace a sagging aging tool shed. SO, down it came, and we hired someone to pour a concrete pad on which we would erect a new tool shed. ONLY the guy poured the concrete and it was NOT level. So every time we tried to bolt together the new shed, we struggled and struggled. Nothing like a building that's not square to throw off the building process.

The key phrase is "against Bill's great misgivings", no? But this from someone who found a floor-model barbecue at Canadian Tire a triple bargain for being PRE-assembled, sparing me 16 pages of multi-panel assembly instructions.

Hope your story has a happy ending...

Nick from Ottawa

Posted by Anonymous November 12, 2012 at 2:41 PM

But how will our heroine resolve the short panel dilemma?
Phone call to 1-800-WTF-HAUS?
Panel stretcher?
Clear duct tape?

I've been away from blog reading for a couple of weeks and am just now enjoying the spectacle of the groanhouse saga. I also have to say, I have serious cast iron dutch oven envy. Add that to my ever growing list of zick envy...the land, the garden, the awesome dog.

[Back to Top]