I have had a ton of you (my lovely reader friends) asking a ton of questions about our greenhouse.

  • Why did we do it?
  • What do we do it for?
  • Why Plants vs. flowers?
  • Why inground instead of on tables?
  • Why so big?
  • Why build it ourselves vs. hiring a company?
  • How do you keep it hot?
  • How do you keep it cool?
  • How do you water?
  • How do you feed the plants?
  • You do you use pesticides or garden naturally – how?

These are just a few you all have been asking me.  This wonderful spring month of March, I am going to try to share our reasons for doing what we are doing in the greenhouse.  What works and what doesn’t work will be shared.

I’m going to split this up into several weeks and just post on Saturdays about this.  My other posts will be about other Helberg Stories (farm or family).

leveling the ground

(The spot we picked to build the greenhouse.  We had started to level the land in this photo.  You can see the piles of dirt saved on the far left side)

The first question I am starting with is “Why did we decide to build a greenhouse,” which also goes with “Why so big?”

Most of you that are following me already know that we were raised on an 80-acre farm in Wisconsin.  The love of soil is in our blood.  In my teen years, the folks sold the farm and tried their hands at bars and restaurants.  My father had this dream of having a great, famous place that he could pass on to his daughters (He even named one Rachel’s Café after me…that almost worked, but that is a story for another time.).  Through bad timing and a tough economy, we ended up in Denver, Colorado. Yep, big city – by our standards “HUGE” city.

I was 21 when we moved there, and it was great fun at the time.  So many different places to go, people to see, parties to be had; it was amazing!  Then life happened, and I was blessed with a beautiful baby girl!  Her daddy skipped out on us because she was born disabled and he was not ready to be a father.  I made a decision at that very moment that I did NOT want her growing up in a big city.  I wanted to be back in the country again.

Time went by, as it does, and my daughter was in middle school (1 grade away from high school) when the Columbine shooting happened.  All schools all over Colorado, but especially in Denver, went to major lock-down security.  The kids had to pass through hired police and security details to get into school.  Once in it was locked up tight.  A very scary time for the kids and the parents!

I had my home; my younger sister had hers and mom had just passed away about a year earlier.  Our older sister was settled with her husband and son, but I was very unsettled with worries of my daughters’ safety.  One evening I approached my younger sister (I will call her “D” for these stories) D and asked if she would keep an eye on my daughter while I go to see farms with an RE Agent.  Instead, she proposed that we go in together on this.  She wanted out and back to farm life also.  Thus the search started!

After about three months and over 3000 miles, we found what we wanted.  We knew what was already on the property and in the house, but then we discussed what we wanted to do with our futures.  This is where the greenhouse idea came up.  We had several ideas that would take us from the current stage (me in my early 40’s and she in her late 30’, and my daughter about 14) to the end of our lives.

  1. We wanted animals – preferably ones we did not have to kill to make money off them.
  2. A structure that we could turn into some type of shop so that we could sell off the property instead of spending money to rent a store.
  3. A greenhouse to grow things in year-around. We saw the land that was already there but decided that adding a greenhouse would give us an extra advantage.
  4. We wanted to build this place into a perfect place that we could retire. Worried that Social Security won’t be available when we need it, we wanted alternative sources of income.
    1. Land and greenhouse for year around produce
    2. Goats for the fiber (hair) to turn into clothing items.
    3. Chickens for eggs to sell and meat for ourselves.
    4. We also picked Yaks for fiber, milk, and meat (This is another whole other story!).
    5. And we started with Angora rabbits – again for fiber to turn into clothing.

(This story is about the greenhouse.  Someday I will go into all the fiber animal do’s and do not’s.)

So; the biggest reason for the large greenhouse was to be able to grow enough food in there, all year long, to preserve for our family and us and sell extras for additional income.  Eventually, we planned to sell processed foods as well.  Ahh, best-laid plans of mice and men! It is good to have a plan in everything you do, just make sure you leave room for “life” to interfere – because it will!

I hope this explains why we chose the greenhouse and why we built one so big (yes, we built it ourselves – see blogs from 2011-2012 about this).    The next one will be how and why we decided to plant the way we do in there.

Please feel free to ask any questions and thoughts about this.  I love getting input and sharing our experiences!

setting the footer boards

(Leveled land covered in bindweed – yes we get TONS of the stuff – and 2”x12”x12’ boards used to build the footer/base of the greenhouse)

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I get a great newsletter from a group called MNN (Mother Nature Network).  It carries a ton of different bits of information.  The latest one that caught my eye had something to do with me, or so I thought.

What is microsleep – and did you experience it?


Microsleep – I thought it was going to be information that could tell me why I can’t seem to get more than 4 hours sleep a night – nope!

The article states that a bunch of us (me included) go through micro – sleeps during our day – WHAT???  Apparently, I have been doing this for decades and didn’t even know it had a name.  I hate to say it, but I am also guilty of the driving micro – ouch!

The article goes on to tell me that the only cure is to get 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night (yes, I am laughing hysterically right now).  Well, that was just a big help wasn’t it – not!


It is nice to know that I am not alone when I do this.  It is also nice to know that it can happen to anyone at any time.  It would be better to know ways to stop or cure it.  Here are my tried-and-true methods for handling this epidemic:


  1. Bag-o-chips: doesn’t matter what kind you favor. The crunching seems to help to keep me alert.
  2. Heavy duty mint gum: (or cinnamon if you prefer) the taste and smell help to keep me from drifting off.
  3. Open windows: WARNING”  this one may cause your sleeping passenger (in this case my sister usually) to slap you upside the head for making her freeze.
  4. Turn up music: “WARNING AGAIN” for the same reason the open window may not work – – unless it happens to be her favorite rock song.
  5. Sing along with the song: “HUGE WARNING” If you cannot carry a note, do not attempt this method of staying awake.  It may cause a black eye and several bruises (especially if you don’t get the hint!).

Well weary warriors, hope these micro shares help you in your endeavors.  A little side note:  Should you microsleep when you are gardening – got with it!  My suggestion is to simply lay down on the warm ground and take a good nap.  If you are really lucky, no one will ever know, and you can wake up refreshed!


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I have never cared for romance novels.  Their stories always seemed too unrealistic or predictable.  My love life has NEVER been that way.  I have tried reading sci-fi because I love sci-fi movies, however, with a mind that wanders as much as mine does, I could not follow their plots.  I do have a passion for all kinds of how-to books.  Maybe it goes beyond passion to obsession.


I was sitting alone after one of my surgeries and after the fire.  We were living in a trailer that was placed on our farm to use while the house was being redone.  It was a cooler, rainy summer day and the crew had the day off.  I wanted to try to crochet or knit something.  One of our many friends gave me some alpaca yarn to begin to replace all that I had lost.  The problem was that I had no patterns – 50 years of collecting, all gone.  I began to cry.

Here I sat, alone, hand all wrapped up, half my major yarn-holding finger gone, yarn – my passion- in hand and no ideas in my head.  Then, almost as if someone said “she deserves a break,”  I remembered: Knitting Daily TV is on the internet!  (Now they are connected with Interweave.com) They have free patterns, books, and even DVD’s all on “how-to” different knit and crochet things.  They did not have any free patterns, so I went digging!


I found this: http://www.beginner-crochet-patterns.com/ – thank you, God!  I then found out through doing just the beginning basics; this was not going to be as easy as I thought!  The ½ finger was my yarn guide finger.  I saved several how-to patterns on my laptop.  I was feeling life again!

One of my goals this year is to read at least one book per week.  Now I know that some of you do not consider how-to’s in the “book” category, but I have and always will.  They saved my sanity!  Losing as much as I did in such a fast, and short time was more devastating than I had realized.  Crying on that couch woke me up to that reality.

Decades I had surrounded myself with yarn crafting.  Whenever things were bad or tough (had a lot of those), I could count on my yarn, a project, and someone in mind to give the finished product to as a means of moving forward.  To wake up one moment and realize that my “constant” in life was in a dumpster filled with ash broke me.

*The home was gone.

*Grandson is gone.

* Passions gone.

*Life forever changed.

I learned, at that single moment, just how strong I was – mentally.  I knew what would bring me back to the land of the living again, and it worked!  It took my sister a couple of years to find herself again.  My daughter is still struggling and has not figured it out for herself yet.  Time does not always heal all wounds, at least not for us.  Purpose does!


I now have a pretty good sized library of how-to’s now.  Everything from yarn workings, to wood working, to furniture restoration, to a multitude of crafting ideas.  I am hooked on several blogs that deliver shared ideas every couple of days on how-to do something or another.  My cousin, bless her agricultural soul, has sent us a ton of ag how-to books, magazines, and hooked me into Pinterest (here is my site: https://www.pinterest.com/gardenglows/)  for millions more great ideas.

I believe that how-to books are real books and I will continue to push on to completing at least one per week.  (Truth be told, I have about 4 or 5 going at any given time and get excited when I actually get to the end of one!  Tricks me into thinking I know what I am talking about on that subject – LMAO!)

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