Friday, October 29, 2021

Building Panes

 Above are the four panes I built from scratch to fit the weird sized opening. As it turned out, they were neither very time saving or cheap. Evidently acrylic prices have spiked thanks to Covid and unlike lumber prices, they haven't come down much. Also, in the midst of this build, I opted to get my Covid booster and flu shot and suffered a bit for a couple days. But I persevered and got the windows built. They are waiting for glue to dry, need caulking and then I can hopefully work to install them in the next day or so. 

To make the frames, I started out with some select grade studs so they weren't especially crooked or knotty like building grade studs are.  It took me about an hour of table saw work to cut the geometry on them the first time, and another half hour later on when I realized I was two pieces short for my windows, after painting them all. So I ended up with another day of delay in their cutting, painting, and sizing the final two pieces I needed. At least this is one of those mistakes nobody can see when everything is done.

Below is a closeup showing my simple window frame geometry. The beveled side will case out and has a small relief cut into it for caulking to be applied to make these more or less water proof.  I just cut the pieces with a bevel on each end and wood glue. Normally this is considered a weak joint and if I were shipping these across the country, I would reinforce it but since it is just going to be carried down the hill and inserted into a rough opening where it should never see any stress for the remainder of it's life, I forwent the reinforcing of the corners. The wood glue should be enough to get it in place where I will screw is securely to the surroundings.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021



Projects are all about compromise. Knowing it would take a bit of thinking to create typical greenhouse ventilation by raising roof panels while maintaining water tightness and that I would be pushing the season limits of getting this project done, I compromised. I bought new windows for four of the openings. Had I planned this out, I would have looked for some salvaged ones somewhere but I ended up just buying some bottom of the line big box store ones. They were super easy to install which saved me on the time element. 

The middle slot however on this side and the other, as well as the ones on either side of the door were not standard sizes. I could have ordered windows to fit but increased the price drastically. I could have spent longer planning things out and designing around salvaged windows or standard sized windows. Or I could just fill those in with a plexiglass window and call it good. I chose the latter route this time but in the end, it wasn't all that much of a savings, time or cost wise. More on that in the next post.

Monday, October 25, 2021


 I had hoped to get some help roofing from my brother while he was up visiting but my youngest daughter suddenly ended up with a fever and a cough. Since she can't get vaccinated yet due to her age and only had the original alpha variant of Covid, we assumed it was Covid again, this time the delta variant. The tests came back negative for flu and strep but we had to wait three days for the Covid test results. They finally came back as negative, meaning she just has the average viral cold, thankfully.

So while waiting for the results and assuming I was perhaps going to end up with a break through infection, I spent my time applying the roofing panels alone. It wasn't the easiest process but it wasn't too difficult either and I just kept plugging away at it over two days and got it done. Just getting to this stage makes me really happy and hopefully will give me a burst of energy to finish the rest.

After the negative Covid results, my family came up and spent a couple hours helping me apply the fascia aluminum covering to protect the wood fascia board from the elements. Handling 12 feet long pieces of thin gauge aluminum is one of those jobs best done with about six hands. I'm sure it would have taken me most of a day with lots of clamps and trips up the hill for this or that to accomplish the same task. 

Next up, I need to finish siding in the gable ends with plywood and then water seal up the sheathing from moisture in case I can't get it sided until next spring. After that, I hope to start installing doors and windows to completely weatherproof the exterior.

Friday, October 22, 2021

Ready To Raise the Roof

After getting the last of the rafters up, I put in the eave blocking. It is the board between each rafter right above the green sheathing on the outside of the building and essentially fills up that gap so when the roof is on, everything is tight to animals and birds. It was pretty repetitive work requiring lots of trips up the ladder.

Next I installed the fascia board to the ends of the rafters. This will provide a nice cosmetic look but will also allow us to install gutters at some point which will allow us to capture water for use in the greenhouse. As you might notice, I have to get creative hanging a eleven feet long board with only two hands and one ladder. I made a jig that I temporarily screwed to the bottom side of a rafter to help support one end until I got the other end lined up and nailed into place. 

To attach the roof panels, it will require me to have to reach across a four foot sheet without putting all my weight on the panels and perhaps going right through one. It doesn't seem safe to try to do them from a ladder or perches on a rafter and so with two long boards and a bunch of short scraps, I made a bridge to span from one side of the building to another and fits in-between two rafters. This should allow me enough stable footing to put in fasteners as required without putting a lot of weight on the greenhouse panels. Above I am testing it out to make sure it felt stable and it did.

Another shot from below. I plan on climbing the ladder on the outside of the building and then stepping on it from between rafters. There isn't enough space, or really I am just not agile enough to access it from a ladder inside the building and then get stood up in the small opening and height I have to work with.

A final shot with everything in place and ready to start applying the roof. Tomorrow is supposed to be pretty windy and ideally, I think it would be nice to have some help at this point. My brother (and family) is coming up for a week arriving tomorrow and my dad is back at the farm so between all of them, I'm hoping I can enlist one or more sometime in this coming week and just do it all in one go with plenty of help. Until then, I may cut a panel to size and make sure I know how it all goes together since this is my first time with working with flat panel multiwall polycarbonate greenhouse roof panel systems. 

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Last Rafter

 Although it feels like a momentous accomplishment to get the last rafter fastened into place, I still have quite a bit of work before I can start adding the roofing panels. I still have to attach the fascia board so that someday in the future we can add gutters and perhaps a water collection system for use in the greenhouse. I also need to add some blocking to fill the gap between the top of the wall and the bottom of the roofing (and comprise the third build in purlin for support) and I have to flash all the fascia. Then I can start putting on the roofing material. 

Then I can finish siding in the gable ends, apply waterproofing tape at all the seams, install doors and windows and everything will be weather tight. Hopefully all this happens before snow flies.

Monday, October 18, 2021


 A week after our last visit to the garden, we returned to find all of the above. Probably well over 100 pounds of filipino upo, three baskets full of green beans, another basket mostly of tomatoes plus tomatillos, egg plant and okra and another basket of filipino sitaw (long string beans) and bitter gourds (those green warty looking things). 

It was way more than we cared to consume or preserve and so we sold all the upo to the asian store on our way back home. The three baskets of green beans, along with some bitter gourd, we gave away via social media and I turned the tomatoes and some frozen ones we had around into twelve pints of tomato soup ready to heat and eat this winter. I would have preserved some of the beans but we still have probably a two or three year supply already canned up. 

I did start some tilling though it is really too dry to really do more than chop up the green vegetation on top and the mulch a bit. My goal is just to till in the mulch a bit so that come next spring, it will dry out a bit quicker and allow me to work in the garden sooner, always a problem most springs. 

Friday, October 15, 2021

Seething Over Sheathing

 With the exception of the gable ends, I finally got the exterior of the building sheathed and ready for application of siding, windows and doors. It wasn't without problems however. When I was trying to calculate how many sheets of plywood I would need to sheath the entire building, calculating it made my head hurt. So I figured I would order what I felt would cover most of it and then estimate how much was left and order that. It only had a lead time of a week the first time around and I knew I could haul the remainder in the minivan to avoid another delivery charge. So I put up what I had, calculated what I needed and place a second order. 

The lead time on the website had changed from one week to three weeks but I didn't think that would matter as I had other places I could focus my attention on. But three weeks later on the last day of September, my order switched from being delivered on September 29 to just being on order. No notification except that change of the order status when I manually checked myself. So I called up the store and was told that the soonest they could get in the five sheets I needed was probably going to be around Thanksgiving time! They didn't know why and couldn't offer any alternatives.

I wasn't about to wait for another seven weeks just for sheathing so I looked at other (of the same name) stores around and found one about 60 miles away that had exactly five sheets on hand. I called down to verify first and then hit the road. About five miles from my destination and literally probably less than a minute ahead of me, a four car pile up blocked the road (fortunately nobody seriously hurt) delaying me by nearly 90 minutes but I was able to obtain my sheathing material. Back home I called my local store and canceled my order and got to work. I wanted to get the rest up so I didn't have to use spacers for my rafters to account for the thickness of the sheathing. Next, I am going to get back on the rafters and hopefully get the roof installed as soon as possible. Then I can put the last of the sheathing up, windows and doors and have a weather tight building. After that, I can rest easy.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Back On Top

 After a couple days of letting my leg heal, I was itching to get back to work on the greenhouse project. Although it has been pretty warm for such work, I'm just worries it will be plenty cold for such work before I know it. I really want to get everything dried in at least before winter comes. So I started in slowly and made a conscious effort to keep the bum leg in a brace and as immobile as possible. I finally started developing a rhythm and made pretty good process before the sun was just blazing away in my face. So I worked in the garage awhile precutting more roof rafters so that I can start the next day without running the loud saw and possibly disturbing any neighbors with their windows left open. I'm one shy of half way done with the main part of the roof structure. 

The flat greenhouse panels I'm using require support every two feet and are generally installed on purlins which are boards that get stalled perpendicular to the roof rafters running the length of the building every two feet. Doing this would be easy but requires a lot of sealing work to be done around the perimeter to make it air tight. Rather than go this route, I'm just blocking between the rafters every two feet as I go so the panel will sit flat on everything and the only place to air seal will be up under the eaves which I think will be easier in the long run. I'm still not quite sure how I am going to install the greenhouse panels and get the required fasteners where they need to go but I'm confident I can work something out by then.

Monday, October 11, 2021


According to the resident expert, I probably ruptured a cyst in the muscle on the backside of my leg and needed a couple days off to let it heal. So I focused my efforts on inside projects, starting with the preservation of a couple bushels of apples we picked off our apple tree at the farm. We don't spray them so they get a good bit of insect damage which doesn't make for an appealing eating apple but with our hand crank corer and peeler, it cuts them into spirals where it is fairly easy to cut the bug eaten bits out of them. I loaded up our freezer with premade apple pie filling so later all we have to do is make a crust, dump in the filling and bake. With the rest, I have been dehydrating them which doesn't take a lot of effort but does take a long time. It takes about a full day and a half per batch of apples to dehydrate them down so when one batch is done, I load it up immediately and keep it running. I have probably done about three gallons zip lock backs of dried apples but until recently only had the one seen above. We just kept eating them as fast as I was getting them dehydrated. This morning I finally had to start a second bag when I unloaded the next to last batch of apples.

We buy all our chickens from a local grower who free ranges them and tries to keep them as organic as possible. We place our order in the winter and usually pick them up during the summer but this summer, the weekend for slaughter occurred while we were on vacation and so they kindly bumped us to their fall schedule. On the arranged day, we just have to show up with our cleaned out cooler and they pull already slaughtered chickens cooling down in a tub of ice water out and weigh them as they dump them in our cooler. We drive home and break down a good share of them so that they are ready to cook in various dishes and leave just a few to roast whole. When we break them down, we end up with parts that aren't very appealing to use like backs and necks so I toss all that into a pot with some leftover veggies we had on hand and cooked them down into a broth which I then canned. My mother-in-law proceeded to pick all the very tiny bits of remaining chicken from the bones and she will use that to make some Filipino dishes. Nothing went to waste.


Friday, October 8, 2021

Putting Up a Beam

Moon Shining On Me

I was able to lift the beam into place, four pieces at a time and it went relatively smoothly, more smoothly than I anticipated. Part of that is because I fastened on some temporary pieces to cradle the ends of the beam until I could get it fastened in place. Another part is that they were longer than each of the rooms so I could get them lifted part way up, readjust as needed, lift one end into the cradle, readjust and then lift the other end into its cradle. 

But it wasn't without its setbacks. For some reason, I designed it for 2x10's and order 2x12's. While the latter is stronger and only cost perhaps $10 more for all four pieces combined, it did affect my plans in subtle ways. The ridge is 2 inches higher than planned which means the roof pitch is a bit steeper and all my roof joist calculations are now off. This wouldn't be a big deal but the beam boards of course are cupped and twisted in places which complicated finding out where they theoretically should be in space so that when my roof joists are in place, everything is in a straight line. Long story shortened, it meant a half dozen trips back and forth between shed and garage and dozens of climbs up and down the ladder to determine the correct geometry as best as I can figure. 

All that finally caught up to my aging body and I pulled something in my knee during one of those trips up the ladder. It isn't terribly painful but it is such that I didn't feel stable enough to continue putting up joists beyond the four (not shown) that I got done. I'm giving it some rest and spent time cutting out some more rafter joists in advance so that when better, I can get a better start. 


Wednesday, October 6, 2021


Upo: Lagenaria Siceraria, also known as bottle gourd, is a popular vegetable originating in Asia and is the only thing known to be more prolific than zucchini. It's green skin and white flesh is used in many Filipino dishes for the first week of production. After that, growers are generally overwhelmed by the sheer volumes it produces and resort to dumping it off at the doorsteps of unsuspecting Asian families just to get rid of it. Growers must exercise caution and stay in motion when around producing upo plants or risk being covered in vines and desiccated in the plants efforts to produce even more fruits.

Besides asparagus and potatoes, the other overwhelming success in our garden this year has been upo which I made up a definition for above. I have literally never seen anything like it and I have grown zucchini before! The vines started off very slow in the cold west spring we had and even into mid summer they hadn't produced a single fruit. But in the last few weeks of summer and the first week of fall, it is like they are making up for lost time. Each week, we pick about what you see below in the two baskets and the pile between them. Just one of those is enough for a couple meals in our family so there is no possible way we can consume it all. Filipinos cube it up and sauté it in a wok in various dishes but I'm not sure of a way to preserve it beyond that. Canning it would turn it to mush and I don't think they would use it if I dry it. Freezing is out as we already have a freezer full of other things. 

So we started out by selling it at a local Asian grocery store which worked but word got out and soon we were giving it away to Asians in a ten country region in SE Iowa. Even that wasn't enough to get rid of it all and it has been piling up in our pantry. With today's picking below, I probably have about five baskets brimming full of the stuff. I think my wife is going to take it all back to the Asian grocery store and see if they will pay us a pittance just to get it out of our house before an avalanche in our pantry buries someone alive.

On a serious note, our arched trellis made of steel fence posts and metal hog panels has been such a success, I'm thinking that next year we should build another one or expand this one. Another project to add to my never shrinking list!


Monday, October 4, 2021

Change Order

It wouldn't be a full blown project without change orders and this project is no exception. Had I just done it right to start with, I wouldn't be faced with a change order but lets not dwell on that. I got things framed up and my wife and I were doing a walk through when we both noticed that there weren't any windows on the side of the greenhouse with the door. A quick look at my plans showed that I had put windows on either side of the door but neglected to put them in. So I got out the sawsall and rejiggered things so that there is now a window on either side of the door. These will just be fixed plexiglass windows but will add to the light inside.

With the window openings framed up, I began sheathing the outside of the building which was miserable since after weeks without hardly any precipitation, we got an inch last night which made the clay up next to the foundation a slippery sticky mess. I made it one row around two and a half sides and called it a day. I still have four more sheets but will run short so I placed an order for a few more. While waiting on those, I will work on figuring out how I'm going to install a large beam across the entire thing and swing rafters into place with me, myself and I to help out. I've got an idea so we'll see.

For the sharp eyed among you, I just overlapped the plywood across the window openings in the greenhouse for now. I will cut them flush at some point before I install the windows.


Friday, October 1, 2021



Up until this point, all the frame work has simply been sitting on the concrete slab. It was what I call a calculated risk. I could have anchored all the sections immediately upon putting them up but that wouldn't allow me to tweak things if I needed to later on. Or I could get all the walls up and tweaked to be square and plumb and then risk the possibility of a high wind coming along and blowing the entire thing into a splintered heap into the nearby woods. So I had made a calculated risk and left things sitting just on top of the slap with an eye on the weather forecast and tools ready to go so I could anchor what I have if high winds were forecasted. Fortunately they weren't around during the four days I spent framing up the walls.

I was brought up by a father who used J-bolts to anchor things to concrete. This requires sinking the hook part of the J-bolt down into wet concrete and leaving the straight end exposed, precisely where it was needed later on to apply a washer and a nut. Having done this many times with a small crew on the farm, it is precise work that needs to be done in a hurry and if you mess up and get off, well then you have to jury rig things to make it work. I didn't want that hassle or level of precision. 

Fortunately I was watching a YouTube channel that I normally do a few months back and they used the above anchors for a house they were building. They simply drilled a hole in the concrete after everything was where they wanted it so there wasn't a need for any precision. So all I needed was a hammer drill to drill the holes and an impact wrench to screw the anchor down to hold the structure to the concrete, both tools I already owned. So all I needed was a half inch concrete drill bit and the anchor screws.

The entire process took only about 20 minutes not counting the half hour spent driving downtown to obtain a concrete bit that would work for my drill. (The bit I bought ahead of time over the internet was evidently made for a different type of drill.) Because I had all my studs in place, there was no complicated head scratching to figure out locations ahead of time that wouldn't interfere with a stud or be too close to a stud that my tools wouldn't fit. The anchors were pretty pricey and I ended up being short three so I have to get another full box, further increasing the cost but it will be worth it and I will have some extras. My dad is getting ready to build a storage shed down on his property by the cabin so maybe he can take the extras off my hands. It was well worth the experiment and the structure is now rock solid and the wind that will sweep it from the foundation will be the same one that takes my house too so I hope I never see that day.