Well I was feeling like we were making some real progress on the greenhouse build in preparation for the arrival of the plugs for our hanging baskets this Spring, then suddenly Winter decided to show up with a vengeance. This is obviously our first Winter with the high tunnel so understanding snow loads on a structure that we yet to produce a single plant is extremely important. With this said I have been following weather forecasts and watching the radar to see where the snow and ice was heading. So we have made special runs to the farm specifically to get the snow and ice load off of the top of our high tunnel. The manufacturer has not tested the load capacity so I have no guidance other than common sense. So for the last month very little has been done.
Now what I have been able to do is the necessary things. I laid the foam board in the propagation room. I have temporarily hung the plastic around the propagation room to hold the temperature in the 50’s F. The plan is to hang plywood permanently along the bottom eight feet of the propagation room wall with a clear poly carbonate or acrylic sheet along the top. I had the propane tank filled and the pilot light was lit, so the heating system is ready. I was able to purchase and deliver the wood and tubing for the raised beds so once the weather breaks I can finish both of them. Since the forecast showed the actual temps were going to be in the single digits I was forced to cover the garage door side of the house with film so that I can retain as much heat as possible. The good news it that starting this Sunday the forecast calls for daytime temps in the 40’s and 50’s so hopefully we are done with the Artic cold for the year.
The propagation room is coming along. I was able to get the last 6 fiber boards in place today. These fiber boards need to be taped to eliminate and leaks between the boards.
As you can see from this view, the boards are not completely fitted yet. I am going to have to make some cuts and adjust these boards properly. The 2×4’s are there to keep the boards from curling. I plan on getting this done completed this Saturday. I was able to get several 2×4 boards secured into the wall this week. You might ask why is it taking so long to build two simple walls, and that would be a great question. The answer would be, first of all I’ve been working part time 0500-1000 a.m.to help slow the burn rate of our saved funds that we are living on while off season. So I’m tired, pure and simple. I’ve been trying to get out to the farm as often as possible. Secondly, It has been very muddy on the farm. I had our excavator dump 25 tons of a material that he described as slag. It’s basically crushed stone and the powder associated with the rock. I rented a dingo and laid this material along where the access road are needed and a four foot wide path that leads to the garage door of the high tunnel. This greatly improves getting around on the property, and I’m no longer concerned with getting the truck or trailer stuck now. I really need another 25 tons delivered, but for now I need to remain focused on getting the propagation room completed in time for the hanging basket plugs to arrive in early February.
I bought a hoop bender back in December of last year. The intention of this hoop bender is to create my own hoops for 4 foot wide low tunnel raised beds. One of these beds is planned to run parallel of the high tunnel for the entire 60 feet of the high tunnel and four feet wide. In addition there are plans to have another pad dug just below the high tunnel. This pad will be one hundred twenty feet long, and hopefully I can get a minimum of 20 feet wide. This will allow for considerable growth as we need more growing space.
This pile of rock came from when the excavator dug our water line trench. As you can see this land is very rocky. This is one reason that we will be growing the majority of our plants in raised beds. So we are at a point now that these rocks need to be relocated. Initially my thoughts are that they will go behind the fire pit which you can see in the left side of the above image. The left side of the fire pit is where the hillside begins and the rock would make a good border along the grade change. It may also be a seating option for use of the fire pit. I am wanting to develop this space into at least one, possible two raised beds, then a grassy space with a fence along the entire frontage. So these are some of the short term projects that need to be addressed for the farm to be successful.
Today is Christmas Eve and Gina and I just got back from Christmas Eve service. When the kids were younger this was quite a busy day, especially during the early years when we were in the military. These days Christmas Eve is full of last minute things, baking and cooking for the big day on the 25th! So I wanted to take just a few minutes and update where we are at the farm. My last update was a video update, which I kind of like. There is something more personal about a video than a page of text. That’s what I would like this to be, a personal conversation between you and me. My last video was a spur of the moment idea which I used my iPhone to make. This time I set up the GoPro camera so it should be a much higher quality product. I hope you find these posts on our site to be useful. We acquired this property is May of 2020 and now here we are at the end of December! This land was completely raw and undeveloped. In a short 7 months we have been able to make some large changes to this property. Sharing these changes I believe helps to share who we are and how we look at things. Isn’t that important to know something about those who grow your food? Well we are going to enjoy our Christmas Eve, so we want to wish you a very merry Christmas.
Today I am starting something different. I have always wanted to have videos as a part of the business, they are an incredible way to express ideas and concepts. I was at the farm today working on getting the gas lines completed, and fixing the man door, and I decided that it was time! So I am going to start now. I have a GoPro camera and equipment to make a good quality video, but I didn’t have any if it with me. All I had was my Iphone, so I did a Google search to make sure that I could easily get my video onto YouTube and then embed it into this post. So here it is:
My desire it to continue to make additional videos to share what we are up to on the farm. They will all be kept on a YouTube Channel, this will make them easy to access. If you desire to follow our videos you can subscribe to our YouTube Channel.
Well I am relieved that Derek and I were able to get the last end completed last week. It feels good to know that the greenhouse is pretty much enclosed. The man door that you can see in the image above is still open, and the garage door opening on the other end is without a door. My plan is to build the door for the man door out of the strut and hang it on hinges within the next week. The garage door I will probably wire a sheet of film in place for the winter. This will allow me to do the job right, and not rush through it just to be able to heat the greenhouse this winter.
Speaking of heating the greenhouse, I just signed a contract for Suburban Propane to be our propane supplier for the next year. This was an obvious choice considering that they have an office just four miles away on US-25. They will be delivering a 400 gallon storage tank on December 3, 2020. This causes more work!! I have purchased black iron pipe to run my gas lines for the two new heaters we will be using to start our market plants this Winter. Yes just like the water lines, I will be running my own gas lines. This, just like the water will be a first for me. The concept is actually straight forward, tape the threaded ends and connect them. It’s the same for any of the fittings. I have 1/2″ EMT clamps to mount the pipe inside of the house and along the outside where Suburban will be making their connection.
I have done quite a bit of research on heaters. Natural gas, propane, electric, wood burners, pellet shoves, and alternative methods such as compost heating. Natural gas is not available here so I didn’t do much with this type, electric is expensive, and we don’t currently have a pole set. I like the alternative methods, but I have no experience with this method and I need something that is proven and reliable out the gate. Wood and pellet burning looked to be the best for a couple of reasons. A pellet stove with a larger capacity hopper can burn for long periods of time without needing to be tended. A wood burning stove is a cheap means of heating, especially with all of the wood available on the farm. I have actually purchased a steel 55 gallon drum to build a drum stove. I would build a double drum stove which I have actually found the kit to build it. The issue I have with wood or pellet burning is running the stove pipe for venting. I really needed to finish up the ends, so for now I have put this idea on the back burner. Next Spring I can revisit this and build a gable so that I can pass the pipe through the film without melting anything. Propane heat proved to be the best method under the conditions and situations we have currently. So I have ordered the propane radiant heater pictured above. I did all of the research about radiant and convection heaters. So based on my research our primary heater will be a 22K BTU radiant heater. Now keep in mind we are not planning on heating the entire greenhouse. There is no need for this. I have done the calculations and the 22K BTU heater should be fine for the space we are planning on using for starting our early market baskets. We will be using a 320 sqft. area for basket production this Winter. The plants for the baskets require a 50F minimum temperature, so I assumed a 55F minimum in the calculations. We will need 20,429 BTU to maintain 55F if the temp outside stays above 15F.
That’s where this convection heater comes in. This heater is capable of heating the entire greenhouse. So you might ask, “Why not just use one heater?” Good question. The radiant heater above had a fuel burn rate of 0.274 gallons/hr, This convection heater burns 2.3- 3.7 lbs./hr with propane being 4.2#’s per gallon at 60F. So that’s 2-3 times more fuel than the radiant heater. The name of the game is provide heat at the best price. The radiant heater has a thermostat so it will run on a regular basis when heat is needed. If we have a winter event that requires more than the radiant heater can supply, then the convection heater can supplement the needed heat on a temporary basis. The best of both worlds. My long term plan is to implement thermal mass inside the greenhouse and insulate the floor to reduce heat loss through the ground. We will also use a double drum wood burning stove. The theory is to retain the heat by insulating the ground, to heat the air by burning wood which in turn heats the thermal mass. So what is this thermal mass you ask?
My thermal mass shall be several 275 gallon IBC tanks full of water. Water is a perfect substance to store heat, and water temperature fluctuates very slowly. What you wind up with is a buffering of the inside temperature. The water absorbs the heat all day long during growing season and gives it off at night which keeps temps quite stable. In the winter it absorbs the temps at night which is when you will be heating and buffers during the day. So year around the temperatures are rather stable. erratic temperature swings are really tough on plants that are actively growing, such as our hanging baskets for Mothers day which are trying to make it in February and March. So there is still a lot going on at the farm. We also have plants that need to be potted up for Spring sales. This will be another project over the Winter as we prepare for Spring 2021 sales.
Gina and I took a drive out to the farm today to check on things. I was quite pleased to find that it is bone dry now. So the plan is to spend some time each day getting to wiggle wire bases attached to the frame. Most of the bases have been attached, what’s left is mostly at the peak of the greenhouse frame so I will have to use the scaffolding to reach these points. The temperature is forecasted to rebound at the end of the week to the upper 60’s and lower 70’s. This may be our last chance to finish up and get the greenhouse film attached under favorable weather conditions. So we need to make the most of this weekend for sure!
Well just as I predicted, we did not work at the farm on Saturday. We loaded up our trailer and set up at the Boone County Farmers Market at Camp Ernst Road and KY18. It was a great morning to be at the market and we sold over half of the mums we had available plus several perennials and one tropical. We did make it on Sunday, we actually made it to the farm early. We watched our Church service online and had breakfast before getting to work.
We normally wouldn’t work on a Sunday, but we unfortunately we have a time constrained to get our greenhouse build and covered before the strong winds of Fall kick up. Today was a very productive day! I was able to get the final six sections of center purlins installed. So the whole frame is done except for the last hoop which we are waiting for the manufacturer to replace. On the end of the frame you will notice all four purlins extended in the air beyond the frame. Once we receive the replacement hoop we will bolt it together and then bolt the purlins to the hoop and the frame is complete.
I’m hoping to get out to the farm tomorrow morning if it isn’t raining and get some grading done, lay the Geo fabric, then start building the end wall. We bought a complete frame which includes end walls. So I will get one wall build, so that once the replacement hoop arrives and is tied in we can build the other wall. I still want to get the greenhouse film on during the week of October 11th. I’m hoping the hoop ships and arrives as soon as possible.
Well at least we have happy frogs right now. This is the current state of this water line trench. With the constant rain this trench keeps filling up with water. I was hoping that it would drain naturally and then I could back fill the sand and soil. With this new weather pattern we are in we keep getting rain every day or two. Looks like on a dry day I will have to pump it out to be able to fill it in. This is the last section of the trench that needs to be back filled then the water line project is 100% complete! The next project is the greenhouse build which is scheduled for this Saturday. Once the greenhouse structure is built and covered with film we will actually have a functioning farm! This is pretty exciting to get the greenhouse filled with all of our nursery stock, then Mid Winter get seed trays started for Spring sales! There is a lot to get done and the cold weather isn’t too far off now.
We are so excited that construction on our first greenhouse has begun! I must say that this is the most precise thing I have ever done! I think I measured each of the four sides at least six times and the diagonal measurements four times before the first ground post went into the ground. The first side of the greenhouse ground posts are all in the ground, although they need to be driven to the same consistent height.
The plan is to get the opposing side set tomorrow, finish back filling the water lines next weekend, then come back and finish the greenhouse build on Labor day weekend. We would like to be under film by mid September at the latest. I have been seeing the geese getting restless flying here and there. Stirring geese is a reminder that Fall is quickly coming, and frost not too far away. So we want to get our greenhouse covered and ready for the cold weather as soon as possible. Once the house is up there is still a lot to be done to make it functional for 2021 production.
I am very please to announce that we now have water on the farm. I was able to the connect the last hydrant up, and turn the water on at the meter. When I opened the cover on the water meter, I discovered a new friend!
Thankfully we had no leaks! I have not used Ford connector before, these things are really incredible. So now we can finish back filling, and getting the farm back to normal.