It wasn’t just a greenhouse I had to be concerned about. There were environmental controls such as heating, humidity, and ventilation. There was a lot of things to be concerned about. But first and foremost, I needed to find a structure. I wanted a beefy structure to hold up to Ohio winters. I preferred the aesthetics of glass.
One other thing to consider going back to that life decisions comment…we were looking to buy land and build a new home. I wanted the perfect land, in the perfect location, and to build the perfect home. I wanted the sun and moon but they were both just outside the budget…unless we wanted to continue working for longer than I had planned and certainly wanted to. Oh….and all of this must include a greenhouse on this new land as well. So maybe just the moon.
We had been looking for land for nearly a year now. It was truly a frustrating experience. There was always some issue that would be the deal breaker. It went something like this: developer was a dick, no water, neighbors too close, next to busy train tracks, too far from dad, too far from work, too flat, soil was wrong for a pond, horseflies. Horseflies? Yeah. We stopped by a tract of land for sale one day during lunch and the car was swarmed with horseflies. None of us was getting out of that car into those nasty bastards! My wife is far from being a country girl…or wanting to be, but even this was too much for me. What a pain in the ass I was!
This budget thing might have a negative bearing on my greenhouse ideas too…something my wife would mention now and again…and again. After yet another tract of land fell through our grasp, the frustrations with our search for land came to a head. Around this time my wife made an astounding observation and offer. She said if we stayed in our current home, while not perfect, we could retire on schedule as well as get a nicer greenhouse. She also added that the greenhouse must be a nice structure to compliment the house. No eyesore. Have I mentioned lately just how much I love my wife?! So with the prospect of not having to work 30 more years and have a new, large house payment, we made the decision right there and then that we would stay. We would make some improvements here and there but this home would be it. It was like a giant weight was lifted off of our shoulders.
As it turns out, the very next day after this decision was made, we were contacted by our real estate agent to tell us that the sale of one of the parcels of land we were wanting had fallen thru, and that the owner would accept our offer. My wife and I surprised each other. We both stood firm by our decision to stay. Didn’t even give it a second thought. The attraction of earlier retirement and a greenhouse was just too much to ignore…at least for me!
I had been researching greenhouses for some time now and have come to a few conclusions. Good ones are expensive. Large ones are expensive. Glass is expensive. I communicated with several manufacturers…most of which were mainly sunroom companies.
My goal was to have a large enough structure to house the plants I wanted to grow. The structure must stand up to our brutal Ohio winters where temperatures can and do hit -20 degrees Fahrenheit. We can get lots of snow as well. So my structure needed to be sturdy and insulated. I also wanted glass. Nothing beats the vision and beauty of glass. And glass meant more light available to my plants. I do not like the looks of polycarbonate glazing. Last and most important of all, the structure had to pass my wife’s main requirement…it must NOT be an eyesore. All of this meant the structure would be more expensive. I determined that normal greenhouse structures were not suitable for my needs. While you could get nice, large greenhouses, overall, the structures themselves just seemed puny.
This was going to be a lean-to design attached to our home. I settled on this design for the following reasons:
- I didn’t have to purchase a fourth wall…structure nor glass.
- One less trench to dig for the foundation, less gravel, less concrete.
- This would give me the added thermal benefit of the house being the fourth wall on the northern side.
- I don’t have all that big of a yard to start off with, and having a structure right up against the house still gave me some back yard and garden area.
I went with a sunroom manufacturer. Sunrooms, or four season rooms, are large and designed to stand up to the elements. A big reason for this choice was my wife’s number one requirement. The greenhouse could NOT be an eyesore. It had to be an attractive structure. The size would be 22’ deep and 26’ across with a ceiling height in the front at 9’ to 13’ in the back where it attaches to the home.
I finally settled with a company in Kansas, Sunshine Rooms, who seemed willing to work with me and accommodate my needs. There was a local company but unfortunately, everything was either their way, or no way at all and I had heard some negative feedback from others around town. So much for supporting local business.
The company took my requirements, dimensions, hopes, and dreams…and would manufacture a kit that would be delivered to me come spring of 2006.
Sunshine Rooms provided professional blueprints for the greenhouse itself. I had to produce very detailed plans and drawings of the foundation, knee wall, sill plate, and how the structure would be attached to the home. Oh yeah…electrical too…which turned out to be a separate permit process.
Armed with graph paper, pencils, and a ruler, I started drawing and narrating my plans. Folks, I’m no engineer by any stretch, but I made me up some damn fine looking plans for the city! I learned a lot during this process too. I learned just how bad I wanted this thing because this process really tried my patience. Everything going into this structure had to be accounted for. Depth and width of foundation, type of block, height of knee wall, type of gravel to fill in, types and amount of rebar, anchor bolts, outside grade. I gave them that and more. I was thorough and I was confident.
My first meeting with the city planning office didn’t go off quite like I expected. “You want to build what?” A greenhouse. Yeah. “You can’t do that.” I will admit that at this very instant, I probably exercised more restraint than I had in my entire in my life. All sorts of vile comments were competing to be set loose upon this…person. Good sense won out and I proceeded to explain to him what I was hoping to accomplish. “Nobody’s ever done that.” Strength Jay, strength. Count to four billion. He got around to mentioning a four season’s room. I said yeah, something like that but with plants in it. “No, you can’t do that either. A three season’s room would be okay.” Seems they had a problem with heating living spaces. The damned meeting was just wearing me the hell out both mentally and physically…all that restraint was costing me! Then things started to click into place…just tell the damn people what they WANT to hear! Yes…it will be an unheated three season’s room. NOT a living space. I’m sorry. I was confused and didn’t make this clear in the beginning. Sorry again.
Yeah…I’ll play along with this silly assed game, but I had to go home and redo all of my documents to pretty much say the same thing on every page and on every drawing and every picture…”NOT A LIVING SPACE”. I guess they didn’t believe plants were living.
The plan was finally approved and I was given a long list of construction stages where an inspection was called for. But I had the green light to proceed and I gave Sunshine Rooms the heads up to start making my greenhouse…I mean my three season’s room! Sheesh! Believe me…I thought the difficult portion was behind me. Just how bad could the rest of this be?
The next step was to load all of this crap into my pickup truck. I wanted to make only one trip. My truck has never been loaded like this. The rear suspension was completely and totally compressed! The front end was way up in the air. I so wish I had taken a picture of this. But we got every last scrap of wood in there. How’d the truck handle you wonder? Like the front-end was on skis. I also had to remember that I wasn’t slowing this damn thing down as quickly as before either. While taking one turn thru an intersection, I ended up going straight across the other lane into a parking lot. Guess I was taking that turn a little hotter than I should have. I was turning the wheel, but the truck had other plans! Close call. Need to slow my ass down here. We could feel every pebble and imperfection on the road. It was like riding with no suspension.
Need Serious Therapy
The Hard Work Begins
How Stupid Can One Guy Get?
Phase One Near Completion
The good news is that we were breezing thru all of the necessary foundation inspections up to this point. When you have a professional doing the work during this phase, how could we not? It’s only when yours truly got put in the game where inspections turned lively.
What’s left to do you wonder? Well, Randy still needs to put in the patio surrounding the knee wall. We’re waiting for the structure itself to arrive and then start on that. How bad can that be? I have pretty detailed blue prints and instructions that I’ve gone over and over and over…and over. There will be electrical work later to worry about. And then there are a few items that pop up that spawns even another project! It’s only April and I’m close to being institutionalized.
Sunshine Rooms called and set up a delivery date for the greenhouse. It would be delivered by FedEx. We ordered a semi bed with a lift gate knowing some of the items were going to be quite heavy. I really had no freaking idea just how true that would be. But at the time, I felt that my wife and I would be able to handle the unloading no problem. After all, it was a “kit” and doesn’t the FedEx people help unload?
Well, the big day is here and FedEx is out front with a large semi trailer being backed into the side of my yard. I’m pretty excited. The driver, who I notice is by himself, tells me to sign on the line and to call FedEx when I want them to pick up the trailer. He then walks away, unhooks the cab from the trailer, and drives off. I stood staring at the FedEx dude driving away. When he got around the next corner and out of view, it finally dawned on me that he ain’t helping. I also noticed that FedEx did NOT give me a trailer with a lift gate like we asked for AND paid for...those dirty &^*$@# %^(*#$%! Things went from exciting to pissed off and worried in a matter of moments and I haven’t even opened the trailer yet.
When I did, what greeted me made my stomach drop to my feet. The largest groan and “oh shit” came out that caused my wife to stick her head out the garage door to see what was wrong. The thing was packed with all sizes of boxes of every dimension and most of them extremely heavy. On top of the whole mass was nine cardboard wrapped pieces that spanned the entire length of the trailer. These were obviously the huge support bars that would run from the house down to the front onto the block. So the longest portion ran roughly 23’ or more with another 7’ coming off an angle. Bottom line was that I could barely even budge one end let alone attempt to move one. I was stuck before getting a single piece off the damn truck. There was no way in hell, even with my wife’s help, that we were moving one of those pieces.
I could not reach my brother and I really couldn’t think of anyone else I could call this late in the afternoon. It’s when an individual is at one of these very low and desperate points where salvation, when it arrives, is at its sweetest. A coworker of mine, Dave, called at that very moment and asked if I thought I needed any help. I damn near cried right there on the spot. Dave pretty much figured I was biting off more than I could chew and was on his way over to help.
Thank God for Dave. If it wasn’t for him coming to my rescue, this crap may still be sitting inside that trailer! Oh…by-the-way, I was reimbursed some money from FedEx because of their “mistake” with the trailer and no lift gate. This was only after several calls and ass chewings I gave to whoever I got on the other end of the line. It’s all unloaded and that this episode is behind us. But it’s far from over!
Randy is back for this job as well. He brought another guy with him. The plan is for me to get the concrete from the truck and get it to wherever Randy points for it to go. Randy’s helper will spread the concrete while Randy does the detail work with it. My job is to keep the concrete flowing and stay the hell out of the way. Once the concrete is in the initial set, we…meaning Randy, will throw down the color and “stamp” a pattern into it. Timing is everything and jacking around was not on the schedule.
Remember how nice it was on Friday and the forecast called for the same on Saturday? Nope. The temperature dropped down to around 50 and it started raining.
I hope you all enjoyed part one of my greenhouse adventure. A good lesson to take away from this is not to schedule multiple projects at the same time...especially when they are all major!