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The Glass Goes In! Day Three

Tuesday, October 31, 2023


We're on Day Three, Thursday, October 26. The frame was up and ready for glass by nightfall of the second day. On Day Three, almost all of the glass would go in. 

 They had a regular workshop set up, with sawhorses where they'd prepare each pane for insertion, and ladders to reach the ceiling of the emerging greenhouse. It was fun to watch them flow through the work.


Everything gets pinned on Brian, the eldest. Here, he's applying a suction cup, while Bob hammers in the spacers (?) to hold each pane in place. I couldn't help but think how much better this will be than holding the panes in place with Gorilla Tape, my best friend in the plastic deli-box Groanhouse decade.


The afternoon of the 26th, the glass started going in. 

The low panes are easier. Putting them in over one's head is a whole 'nother thing. 

The way to pick up, carry and especially insert a 30 pound pane of glass is to use a suction cup, since you can't very well hold a 30-pound pane by the edges and set it into place in the frame without smashing your fingers.


Doing all this over one's head while balancing on a ladder? Nooo thank you. I'll watch instead. 

As I watched the McCollisters work, and looked at the absolute battery of special tools they used, it sank in on me that trying to hire someone who had never assembled a greenhouse or solarium, as I had, was total madness.  The extended ghosting I got from the local glass guy, ending in a big nothing, is why my greenhouse is being constructed at Halloween.

I was encouraged to find a local glass specialist. What did I know? So I tried. And tried. If I'd only engaged American Glass and Metalworks from the very start, I wouldn't still be waiting to use my greenhouse on October 28. So please, learn from my mistakes. When told you can find your own installer, say, "Who do you work with, and whom do you recommend?" Then engage the installer who works closely with the glass company/greenhouse supplier of your choice. It may seem expensive to bring a crew who live in the Carolinas and Georgia, but trust me on this: Unless you're experienced in it, you can't do it yourself, and engaging someone who comes in with a lower estimate but doesn't know what they're doing is false economy. These guys assembled the frame in two days and had all the glass in the third day.

 Helping anyone who wants to have their own greenhouse built is a big part of why I'm blogging this process--to save you some of the trouble I've run into. As Bob said, "This is not a kit. There are no instructions." And no tools included.

There's no substitute for the peace of mind of knowing your project is in the right hands.


Coming back from my evening walk I marveled at all they'd accomplished. 

I gazed out at the meadow for awhile, feeling exhausted, overstimulated, awestruck, and lucky.

 It's hard to put into words the mix of emotions I had on finally seeing my dream take shape. I'd been away for a full week in coastal North Carolina, doing field trips and giving a talk at the 25th Annual Wings Over Water Festival. I was so out of practice traveling, my suitcase weighed in at 49 pounds. Embarrassing!  I flew back Monday, getting home in the evening of the 24th.  Tuesday morning the 25th, bright and early, the crew arrived and sprang into action. There'd been no time to unpack or rest--I just had to fling myself at the job at hand. There's what you wish for (downtime to rest and recharge) and then there's what happens, and you've got to take everything just as it comes. 

That's been the big lesson in this whole endeavor. So much of what happened along the way was out of my hands. But now, with 20/20 hindsight, I could see the wrong turns I'd taken; the blind alleys I'd traveled. To have things suddenly go right was almost more than I could process. The right people had finally come to me--AJ Johns, Lane and Stone; Chip Ditchendorf; Jeff and Chris Cline, and the McCollisters. It just took awhile. Nine months, like making a great big stone, glass and aluminum baby where there had been nothing before.


In the rare moment of quiet, I waited for the great horned owls to start calling, as they have every evening this week. It seemed fitting that I had to listen for them over the snarl of a nearby chainsaw. Everything's going to be all right, their soft hoots reassured me. You may not have done everything right, but you've done everything you could. Soon. Soon.

Day Two: Building the Frame

Sunday, October 29, 2023


The day started innocently enough, with the flashing cap on the wall tops, the facing on the building...
I went inside to leave them to their work.
The saw was set up under the studio window, where Brian and Bob conferred.

There was a LOT of banging and hammering from outside, and things were jumping off the shelves on that wall. I was rescuing figurines left and right. I kept at my blogging about the prior stages, though, never thinking to check on the progress...
and the next time I went out to look, there was a building frame in place!
I squawked so loudly the three men jumped and stared at me, thinking I was upset about something, when I was just hopping mad at myself for missing the construction. We had a laugh afterward.

Lots of ladders for three men. More ladders than men! 

I didn't expect it to look quite like this. I don't know what I expected. I keep walking around and staring at it, like a kid whose dad went away for a few months and grew a beard. It's just so different! I realized that I had this kind of wispy image of a lean-to greenhouse and this looked so solid and square and strong. So it took some getting used to.

I went out with Curtis to take some mail and stared at the clouds for awhile. Truly, it's all too much for me, the way it's happening all at once, and it's going up so fast.

When I won't be in the way, I sneak into the space and imagine it with glass and plants. That makes me very happy.

The glass awaits, leaning in boxes against the house. But for the swarming ladybugs, they've got perfect weather to work all week. For that I'm very, very thankful!

The overall scene.

 By sundown, they had the frame all built, and had put in quite a bit of the glass. The McCollister men do not fool around. They work sunup to dark, head to town, do a Door Dash, sleep, then get up and do it again. Next: Glass goes in! 

I promise I won't make you wait so long for the next installment. I can't apologize for not blogging daily. It's been so much work getting everything done that needs to be done before the cold clamps down. In one day, with a forecast for days of pouring rain followed by freezing temperatures, I turned the earth and finally replanted the flowers on Bill's grave, mucked out the fishpond and cleaned the filters, and dug a 9-foot L-shaped trench for the greenhouse gas line. Then I went to Lowe's to (fruitlessly) try to buy gasline fittings. I gave up after two hours of trying to figure out what to buy, because I know when I'm beat. I'm doing things like that, and trying to keep up with blogging in the cracks. My body is sore all over at nightfall, and then I, too, get up and do it again (albeit with a lot less sleep than I'd like, because it all worries me). But it's all for the good, and I can't wait to show you the end result! And there IS an end result!

The Glass Men are Here!

Thursday, October 26, 2023


Here's the last photo I took of my walled patio, as I had come to think of it, on the morning of October 24, 2023.  Curtis and I were setting out on our morning hike, and we were waiting for a 9 AM meetup with the glass crew. Along about 8:55, Curtis took off running toward the house, leaving me out at the end of the orchard. I heard laughter from the yard and knew he'd found his mark. Sic 'em, Curt! 

From left: Brian, Tim and Bob McCollister from American Glass and Metalworks.  It's three brothers...omg they crack me up. Right away, I had to figure out the difference between Tim and Bob. Tim has a wavy beard and Bob's is straight. Both their beards are breathtaking. I say that as someone for whom it has taken about eight years to get used to great big beards. I'll never forget walking into a bar in Marietta when the trend was first starting and seeing all these young guys with beards from the Civil War standing around with beers. And beards. I actually asked what the heck was going on. Now I kinda dig it. 

I asked  Brian why he doesn't have a bee beard and Tim said it's because he doesn't have the hormones for it. Snort laugh! Tim is particularly terrible. But later Brian told me Tim got worms from his hogs (I said ringworm isn't a worm) and they were even. Brian is the eldest, Tim is the youngest, and Bob (in neon green) is the middle sibling, cracking the whip!
I would hang around all day just to listen to them give each other grief but don't want to be in the way.

If you look closely in the picture above you'll see Curtis is panting, because has just finished an enormous zoom through the backyard in his extreme joy at having a crew to snoopervise for the next few days. It was so funny and fast I couldn't get it on video.

The McCollisters live down south, Savannah and Georgia, and they convene for road trips to install greenhouses. They stay in a hotel for the duration of each job, which will run about four days here on Indigo Hill.

The first day was a lot of nitty gritty measuring and making sure everything was going to work. Which it will. In this photo, note that they've cut off siding and applied boards to which they can anchor the greenhouse frame, up there under the slot windows. It's really happening! 

It was very exciting seeing the struts leaning against my liberated bonsai!

There's a cap of metal flashing atop the wall, which will integrate it with the bronze frame. I had a choice of white or bronze. Knowing how algae loves to grow inside greenhouses, I opted for the darker color. I would have liked white, but the inside of the Groanhouse was absolutely green with algae after ten years, and I don't want to look at that. I'll figure out how to wash it down over time. I can run a hose in there and have at it.

A significant wrinkle in Oct. 24th's progress was the annual explosion of Asian multicolored lady beetles, the dreaded, detested ladybugs that get in everything. They were flooding into the house by every crack and crevice, and poor Brian, who was putting facing on the high siding, was bundled up in a hoodie on this warm afternoon, just trying to keep them out of his clothes. They were so bad even Curtis couldn't stand to be outdoors, but the crew kept working through this fresh hell.

Photos can't begin to show the horror of a house seething with ladybugs, which head right for one's face and neck, crawling down your shirt and up your pants legs. Then they work their way into every door and window opening so they can spend the winter biting your neck and the back of your arms, getting into the butter and the sautée pan, filling the vacuum tank so it always smells like ladybug BO when you vacuum. That kind of thing.

Curtis made sure everything was ship shape on the site.


Later, the ladybugs go so bad he asked to come inside. He went downstairs to continue snoopervising 
from bed! 

At sundown, the McCollisters and I went up to the towertop to see the colors. It was a nice break from the beetle assault. They would be here until dark, and they'd show up shortly after daybreak the 25th, to erect the metal frame for the glass. I didn't sleep too well that night, for the excitement of it all. The blazing fall foliage would be excitement enough, but having a greenhouse suddenly appear after nine months of gestation was a bit much for my nervous system!

Facing the Stone Walls: Greenhouse Construction Continues

Tuesday, October 24, 2023


October 7 was a dreary, cold day, made considerably brighter by the arrival of Jeff Cline, who came to apply the manufactured stone facing I'd chosen for the greenhouse foundation walls. 

At first I had thought I'd have it only on the outside, but I quickly realized, living with the structure for a month, that the part I'd see most was the inside, so it was important to me to put beautiful stone there, too. In the photo above you can see the huge difference it makes, comparing the raw cinder block of the inside with the stone-faced outside.

He got most of it done on a Saturday of work, starting around noon. Amazing! This is why we hire professionals.

The stone is manufactured in Amish country Ohio. There are several companies that do it. This is Weatherledge Tan and it's made by Prestige. I chose it because it was pretty close to the natural riverstone that makes up the chimney on the house. I also liked its light color and the occasional orange and red stones in the mix. We're all about warm colors here.

Dorito break! 

He's leaving blank the area around where the big glass double doors will go. He won't finish up until the glass is installed, because he doesn't want to interfere with the installation. I caught a video of Jeff putting the last couple of stones in the south outer wall.  I love to think how his brain works, getting the mix of stone sizes and shapes just organically right. He must have jumped up a hundred times to back up and look at it overall, like the artist he is. I do that in the studio all the time! 

Here's a glam shot of the walls. Now, the buff-colored grout (Colonial Buff) isn't in yet. He keeps telling me how awesome it's going to look with the colored grout. I believe it, because it looks pretty awesome right now! 

And here comes the grout!

Colored grout gives it a pulled-together, finished look

which I particularly appreciate on the inner walls

which are the ones I'll see most often as I appreciate my new living space with my planties (as Bill called them) all around me.

Jeff has  left the area around the double glass doors unfaced so as not to interfere with their installation. He'll come back and finish it all off when the glass has been installed.
What a beautiful job he's done. If you need masonry work in the Marietta, Ohio area, 
Jeff Cline is your guy.

All this whets my appetite for the glass installation, the basic rudiments of which began TODAY, October 24! And the thought of  being able to install my plants in it at last, once the two gas space heaters are installed, is the most delicious of prospects. It's been such a long and sometimes weary road, but we're finally getting there. I'm kinda waiting for the next person who innocently exclaims, "You're so LUCKY to have a greenhouse!"

 And I might just sing softly, 

What's LUCK got to do, got to do with it?

Houston, We Have the Glass

Sunday, October 22, 2023


Because of all the delays back in January when I was being strung along by the Dematerializing Glass Installer, I'd been told to expect my glass to be delivered in November. There's an eight month lagtime between laying down your first deposit until the glass finally ships. Whew. That'll cool your jets. And then, out of nowhere, I got a call in July telling me the glass would be shipping at the end of August. Holy cow. Now that changes things! Hence my mad scramble to firm up the mason. You see, my part in all this was having a concrete foundation with monolithic footers poured, and having the supporting walls done before the glass got here, or Florian Glass simply would refuse to deliver the glass. They have no place to store it and everything has to be dead ready when they ship.

The problem is, I didn't know whether the glass shipment would take hours, days, weeks, or months. It was all a big mystery. As the weeks wore on, I began to wonder if it would even arrive before frost. Some nights dipped into the upper 40's. It was invigorating, but also concerning. Creole Lady is way too big now for me to easily schlepp her in and out of the house. She's way taller than I am, and in a huge pot. Arrgh.

On September 20, we finally got word that the glass would arrive at 9 AM Sept. 21. Well, that's not quite the end of August, but it's better than November. I'll take it.

 AJ Johns hustled out with his skid steer to shuttle the glass from the semi truck to my house. Nobody showed up. First it would be an hour late, then two hours late. AJ had to go to another job. He told me to tell the driver just to drop it off at the driveway turnaround, and he'd be by to get it into my garage in the next day or two. 

Instead, the semi just came roaring right up the driveway around 11:45 am, and the driver jumped out to start unloading it. 

As it happens, I was trying to leave for a talk I had to give in Columbus that same evening, but instead I (of course) started helping the truck driver to unload the glass and metal framing. It was a JOB. Lord, it was a job. I wasn't prepared for that much exertion  in 80 degree heat before leaving for a talk (I'd already loaded my car full of heavy books and stuff). But it had to be done, and NOW. 

He was such a nice could I leave him to do this alone? We had to cut this whole skid apart, steel bands and all, because the glass was too tall to go into the garage. Good thing I have a boltcutter.

I gave him quiche and cold water, and he got to relax a bit and tell me what it's like to be a long-haul trucker. He'd been on the road for two days, bringing this load of glass from South Carolina. Now his truck was empty, and he was going to comb the Internet for loads he might take back on his way home to Titusville, Florida. As he sat on the new greenhouse pad, he said he loves this weather and wants to live in a place like this. We talked about the real estate market here, and I could see him dreaming of living in Ohio. It was nice. For me, living here is a continuing dream.

The glass all fit in one bay of the garage, thank goodness. That right there is my greenhouse, just not yet put together. A heady thought. I don't even let myself look at it, or I'll get too impatient.

 I'm told the glass installation process takes about five days. I can understand that, looking at all the parts we schlepped into the garage. 

Again, for weeks on end I had no idea when the glass might arrive, or when installation would happen,  but I've learned to expect nothing, to bide my time and wait for weeks, and to be happy with whatever happens. I just have to work on keeping the big picture in mind. I started working on this in January, for goodness sake. I can't lose my cool now, eight months later. If the weather freezes up (and it did) before the glass gets here, I'll deal with it; I'll lug the plants into the house and somehow keep them alive. I suppose I can take a bunch to the tower room. (I did...) When I heard the glass was shipping in late August, I never thought I'd still be waiting in late September for it to be installed, but hey. This whole experience has taught me a lot about perseverance and patience. Or doggedness and indefatigability. It'll be worth it!

It'll be worth it. 

A Snag, and then: Masons Arrive!

Friday, October 13, 2023


 I had plenty of time to admire the new concrete pad

and photograph it from different angles, and dream about when there'd be a real greenhouse on it. 

We'd made such great progress, something had to go wrong. I'd been talking with a mason since March, calling him periodically to make sure he was still on for the job. Well, it was getting on time to order the block and rock facing and line him up, so I called him on Thursday, August 10, wanting to discuss the specifics of the job. He was strangely detached, and as we talked I could tell he was looking for a way out. It was unimaginable to me that he'd back out now. But I truly felt my dream slipping through my hands again when he told me I'd have to be the one to order all the materials and have them on the site, waiting for him. How in the holy hell was I supposed to know what to order, how much block, and mortar, and...seriously, WHAT??

I'd learned so much in this project, but I had not learned the ins and outs of masonry as yet.

 And then he dropped the bomb. "Well, I'd just as soon not fool with it." 

"With what?" I asked. "Ordering the materials, or the job?"

"The job." 

I gaped like a fish, speechless. He hung up hurriedly, without even an apology for stringing me along for five months. Embarrassed, I guess. After a wonderful interlude with AJ Johns, my flair for finding people who promise big and don't intend to follow through came roaring back to the fore.

After I'd cussed and stomped around for awhile, blowing off steam, I got on the phone to Pioneer Masonry to ask if they could recommend a mason who could work at a moment's notice. Because I had been told the glass would ship at the end of August, and it was August 10! I had no idea how long it would take to build the foundation for the greenhouse, but if it wasn't ready when the glass was, I was in big trouble.

 Always helpful, they emailed me a list of recommended masons. I noted that the man who'd dropped out on me was not on it. On their list of general contractors, I saw the name of someone I knew--Chip Ditchendorf. I called him and described my sudden and unexpected plight. Chip didn't mess around. "Call Jeff Cline. I think he's the right guy for this job."

I called Jeff on a Thursday afternoon; he CAME OUT TO LOOK AT THE JOB THE SAME DAY (yes, I'm shouting!) and by Friday morning, the block and mortar he had ordered were on their way to me. Whoaaaa!! Jeff was as responsive and thorough as anyone could hope. I didn't have to estimate how much block I'd need; I didn't have to order the materials; he did it for me. I think that's the way it's supposed to work. I don't see how it could work the other way. 

I'm so grateful to Chip for this recommendation!

Here's the truck that delivered the block and mortar.

I was thrilled to watch the remote-controlled crane on this huge truck, and the way the driver deftly operated it with what looked like a gamer's remote. Crazy how people operate machinery with these little plastic controls.

And get this. Mason Jeff Cline and his son Christopher were on the job by Saturday!! Thursday morning, I'd thought all was lost. Saturday, I had masons on the job, and the materials there waiting for them. What a gift Pioneer Masonry and the Clines were to me and this project!!

Jeff and Christopher did NOT fool around. That's a rented electric concrete mixer dressed in red.

They're building the wall the glass will rest upon. It's going to look like a real building! 

Imagine my excitement, watching it all go up.


By Saturday afternoon, their mission was accomplished. Sweetest guys you could ever want to meet, and they did beautiful and precise work. Curtis and I are their biggest fans! 

I knew, looking at this beautiful wall, that I'd want rock facing not only on the outside, but on the inside, because that's what I'd be looking at most of the time. So off I went to Pioneer Masonry to choose some manufactured rock facing: Weatherledge Tan by Prestige. It's made in Amish Country, right here in Ohio. Jeff and Christopher would return to put that facing on in just a few weeks' time.

They're standing in the double doorway. I'd say that's big enough to get Creole Lady in and out of...for now. 

Pouring the Concrete Pad: Greenhouse Construction

Sunday, October 8, 2023



It's October 6, and I'm still waiting for the greenhouse installer to get here. So I'm parsing out the steps in the construction along the way. On this day, we got concrete!

On August 3, it got real when the concrete truck growled up the driveway. AJ, Lane's dad and the company owner, ran the skid steer, taking scoopfuls of concrete from the driveway to the construction site. There was no way that concrete mixer was going to drive over what remained of the "lawn." 

I can't even imagine how sore my arms, shoulders and back would be after raking concrete for hours. Lord have mercy, I felt for those guys.

And still the scoops kept arriving. 

At one point Lane stepped into one of the footer holes while raking, and got a muckboot full of concrete. That must feel AWFUL. He had to hose it out right away and put the boot back on, wet. Ugggh! I could just feel the blisters forming.

By the end of the day, we had a pad. I was so excited to finally see the dimensions of the structure to come! It felt REAL now!

Once it had cured awhile, it needed to be buffed to make it nice and smooth.

Curtis was SO good about not walking on it while it was wet. But the next morning, he instinctively knew it would be ready, and he wanted to be the first person to walk on it. As it should be. 

As I write, it's gone down to around 40 at night for the last three nights. I've made a massive push to get all my treasured plant friends inside and installed in windows where they can, I hope, get enough sun and light to get them through until the glass installer gets here and I get the heaters installed in the lean-to. 

You cannot even imagine what it was like to carry Creole Lady up those tiny wooden stairs. She's over 6' tall. I let her dry out for a couple of days (she wasn't really dry, but she was wanting water), then just carried her in short bursts up two flights of stairs. Here's to big plastic pots that look like terra cotta but weigh 1/20th as much! And here's to loving a plant this much. She said thank you in the most beautiful way the very next day! Six enormous coral violet blossoms.

Who wouldn't be happy, with warm sun, lots of companions, and this view! You can just see the new red dogwood I planted below the center of the photo.

I also made pesto, three cups' worth, out of the massive, gone-to-seed, leaf-droppy plants in my garden. I really need to make pesto when the basil is happy and green! Oh well. It still tastes pretty delicious. Note to self: 8 cups of packed leaves makes 3 cups of pesto. I used sunflower seeds as the nuts, because who can afford pine nuts these days? And I used gorgeous homegrown garlic from my dear friend Tami G. 

I will admit that my pesto is garlic-heavy, but when ONE bulb yields this much gorgeous fresh garlic, you have to do something! Good thing there's no one around to offend with my hippie garlic power breath.

Because someone is going to want the recipe,
I used 8 cups of basil leaves, packed
maybe 3/4 cup of roasted salted sunflower hearts
one 8 oz bag of freshly shredded parmesan
and maybe 1.5 cups of olive oil.

I can't be specific; I was doing it strictly by feel. I like a fairly loose pesto that packs down well in the jar. I refrigerate the jars. I also froze a ziploc, filled with a thin flat layer of pesto and it's great to be able to snap off the amount I need and keep the rest fresh. So I think I'll transfer that jarred pesto to ziplocs, because I know I'll use it more, and it won't go bad in the jar.

Bathed in nostalgia by the overpowering smell of basil and garlic, I had one of those winter-is-coming melancholy days on October 7, but then the light did this 
(note gratuitous rainbow fragment)

and a shelf cloud did this, and Curtis and I did this

and I felt a bit better. 

I hope your winter preparations, whatever they are, are going well. Caved in and turned the heat on last evening--it felt so good to wear fleece again! Hot tea and lamplight season is here. Might as well embrace it.

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