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Helping Build My Winter Garden: High Tunnel Construction at the Potager

September 10, 2012

The idea of Community Help a Farmer Day came about at The Wild Ramp when Julie Schaer mentioned to someone that if she does not get her high tunnel enclosed this week she will forfeit the reimbursement of about $8,000 that one of the USDA programs offers.

Why did we care enough to take action, other than we are just nice people?  Well, in no particular order of importance to the decision:

  • Julie is very pregnant with her second child. This week at her doctor’s appointment they revised the expected due date to the end of this month from the middle of October. If you have been pregnant you well remember the feeling of carrying a bowling ball or watermelon towards the end of your pregnancy…in other words, moving is a bit tough.
  • The Potager is the only certified organic farmer that supplies The Wild Ramp. While the primary mission of market is to provide local foods we are so very happy that The Potager fills a niche that some consumers prefer. We also like that Julie offers a lot of heirloom plants for us to enjoy. Heirlooms offer more intense flavor but have been bypassed by large scale conventional farmers because other plants offer more/larger/easier products. It is fun to explore Julie’s tiny tomatoes , the colorful array of peppers and more.
  • We are a community and people who belong to a community help each other. Enough said!

So, for those of you who missed the periodic reports on Facebook as the work progressed, here is what happened.

The high tunnel frame had been raised but some of the connections were not complete. We added brackets, installing hooks for tie-downs and other small tasks that took about 3 hours. While Barney and Nick worked up high, Vivi and I did some low work, and Lauren did some garden tasks for Julie who wanted to reuse the weed barrier she had in one garden area. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~With more help arriving after church and a short break for lunch (thank you Julie!) we got to the hard part. While the nice cooler temperatures and mostly cloudy day made for easy working conditions most of the time, the periodic small gusts of wind began to concern Julie. She knew from her other experience with a greenhouse plastic roofing that we would need a strong grip on the plastic to deploy it without any tears. We were worried that the number of people who had shown up to help might not be enough for this step.

Julie remembered in time that we had skipped a step and the vents were installed at each end of the high tunnel. Together, Tim and Barney made quick work of it.

The first step was to attach some light lines to one edge in 3 places and get those lines tossed up and over the high peak of the roof. Barney had a pretty good technique.

Then, lines attached, people on one side started pulling and people on the other side shouted instructions to keep it all level, all the time holding on in case the wind picked up.

We then had fun getting them tacked to the structure with wiggle wire

Adjustments, of course, had to be made to make sure the plastic is taut.

Meanwhile, we noticed the temperature inside the high tunnel rose quickly and condensation started forming.

More wiggle wire adjustments were made. Annette had a great idea to use the pole that will eventually hold the bottom of the plastic sheet as a way to not only anchor each side but to permit us to make adjustments to each side easily.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~And then, we were about done. Julie still has to build doors for each side but can do that over the next few months. She said she can tack up the sides, till the soil and get some veggies growing for us for the winter.  Hmmmmm, fresh yummy veggies in January!

8 Comments leave one →
  1. September 10, 2012 12:26 pm

    The tunnel looks Awesome! It was as much an educational experience as it was a service to our neighbors (who we didn’t know lived so close). Thanks Beth, Julie and Nick for giving us the opportunity to be of use. I can’t take full credit for using the poles to pull the plastic tight, I think that was a cooperative effort :).

  2. September 10, 2012 3:02 pm

    The greenhouse is inspirational! Blessings to Julie and baby!

  3. September 10, 2012 3:45 pm

    The greenhouse looks fantastic. Looks like a highly professional job!

  4. September 10, 2012 9:27 pm

    The swing is brilliant. What a lot of work goes into raising those tunnels. I’m glad you all were successful. I bet Julie is too.

    • September 10, 2012 9:41 pm

      Julie wrote: I literally feel RESCUED today by friends and farmers who have helped me get my epic high tunnel project to the near end. Thankyou thankyou thankyou to all who came to the farm and made this happen. thanks to the Pennington family who watched Robin all day. You all blessed our family more than you know.

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