June 3, 2011: We leveled the ground over the last 2 months. It took 2 months due to a large variety of personal intrusions. I call them intrusions because they were nothing that was planned but things that needed to be attended to. If we were allowed to just do what we had planned when we had it planned, then everything would have gone according to plan and we would have had sales by September 1, 2011. Unfortunately nothing in this whole project went according to plan.
The original greenhouse structure called for it to be on the ground. If you ever look at a city garden greenhouse, they usually have metal posts stuck into holes in the ground with cement poured into the holes to hold the post in place. Now some places will just clamp the cover down on this, others may have a 2”x10” board running along the ground then clamp the cover onto that. After several lengthy discussions amongst our team, we decided that we wanted to be able to use as much space in the structure as possible. In order to do that, we needed at least a 3’ high wall. In order to create a wall, we needed a footer.
I have built a number of things in my past, chicken coop, fences, cages, garden stuff etc., but nothing that required a “footer”. I had no clue what a footer was until this project. Turns out that all it is, is a 1-foot block of cement running around the base of a project – wow – footer – who’d a thought it was that simple-a foot equals footer-wow! Construction for creating that thing was not so simple.
We purchased our first major set of materials – 2 different size boards, wooden stakes, rebar (Which is just a piece of wire multiplied by the size of the Incredible Hulk! They can run even bigger, but we just used the half-inch size. It does bend, but you need a machine to do it – ours was just a manual one so all my muscles – or lack of – got tested…I failed!), water/weather proof paint/stain for the boards and special wire that is shaped to hold rebar in its place while you pour the cement, a whole wagon full of stuff! This was shaping up to be an enormous learning experience for me, and silly me and I was all excited about it!
Once you have gotten the ground as level as you can (Keep in mind you will always have some curves and divots and the wind will sneak in when you are not paying it enough attention and really screw up your work!), the next phase is to set up your forms for the cement to get poured into thereby creating a footer. Sounded easy enough so I spent several very hot days painting all the wood pieces with the sealant first. Since we were going to be pouring wet cement on/into them, and since we hoped to use them again later for other parts of the project, this step was critical.
The combination of 90+ degree heat, sticky waterproof stuff and biting black flies are a real fun mixture! The only relief I got was in the form of a brief afternoon storm almost every day. Once the clouds started to build the wind would kick up (ahhh, my friend the wind – jerk!) and that was my signal to get the wet boards covered so the sealant would have enough time to dry – before they get wet. How moronic does that sound? It took 3 tarps to cover the wagon I was using to paint all the wood on, and I swear the wind knew exactly which corner to blow into while I was trying to tie it all down. Tie the northwest corner down then run over to the northeast –oh – wait – the wind decided to blow in from the southeast and throw my tarp up over the whole mess. This usually went on until just before the rains started. The real fun part was within about an hour, the rains would stop, sun would pop back out and then I could go out, uncover it all and continue till nightfall. Nightfall meant wrapping it all back up again (Our peacocks liked to perch on it at night – not fun trying to paint and running into wet peacock poo!).
After about 7 days I had it all done, time to move on to setting it up. Just for grins and giggles, take a trip to your nearest lumber supplier this weekend. Request to see a 2inch by 10 inch by 16-foot long board of pine. I dare you to try to lift it yourself. I had been in a “desk jockey” job for the last 20+ years – what was I thinking? Yes we had a farm again, yes I could still throw around a 50lb bag of feed or a 70lb bale of hay pretty good, but this was a totally new animal.
The weight didn’t throw me off as much as the length. I was also stupid thinking it would help speed along our project by unloading each one of them and setting them out, on the ground all the way around the inside and outside of the area so we just had to put them upright and slap them in – IDIOT! When you set them on the ground, even with the weather treating, they will warp – and these did! When Keith saw what I did he was so nice about it (he laughed!), politely stated that they can’t be on the ground and should all go back on the wagon. He didn’t even offer to help me put them back, just kept giggling!
So, after several hours I got them all back on the wagon except the one he was working on. This was used to start in a corner. Holding the board upright on a 2” side (so its standing up 10”) you have to level it in ALL directions. A little more dirt under here, a little less dirt under there and after about an hour, you have 1-board leveled. When you are absolutely sure it’s as level as it’s going to get, you pound I the wooden stakes – outside only- then use screws to attach the stake to the board to hold it in place. All the while making sure you did not cause it to become unleveled.
With nice straight boards would have been a great time/body saver, but no…I had to bring a challenge into the equation with my warped boards. It was loads of fun trying to push-me-pull-you on the massive boards to try to get them all in line.
Once all the boards were set with the stakes screwed in to hold them, rebar was then run 2 sets parallel to the boards about half way down. This is where the funny special bent wire came in. We screwed 1″ boards across the top about every 2 feet. The wire was then strung from the boards to hold the long rebar pieces suspended as to allow the cement to flow all around it. (The rebar is supposed to add the strength and flexibility to hold the structure as the weather moves the ground.)
Once the cement is poured I had to run along behind the cement truck shoving 4-foot high rebar rods straight up and down into the cement. I had to make sure it was in a specific spot and the cement was slightly set so the rod would not fall over or slip out of place. (Learned a lot about cement that day – like it can burn your skin if it sets and dries on it – OUCH!)
After all is said and done and the cement is totally cured – all the wood gets removed! Nice huh? Spend days putting it all up, just to tear it all down. So, June 3rd we started the footer project, on July 9th it was done – cement and all! Next phase is the special 3-foot, triple insulated (ya, we had a meeting and decided that just cement insulation was not good enough), sidewalls.