Aug 30, 2013

Our Dream Project--we're doing it!

Do you all remember when I posted about our confusing, scary and often strange journey to finding our home?

I talked briefly about how we've dreamed of building an attached greenhouse onto our home, and how this house provides the perfect structure for that. Well, we thought of it as a long-ways-off project, because even estimating using the cheapest materials (polycarbonate sheeting, and the thought of doing it that way, attached to the house, makes me shudder) we estimated the project would cost around 15,000. Well, again, I feel like some prayers have been answered. Glassing in our east/south porch would provide two sources of financial relief for us. One is, we eat a lot of vegetables, and up here, they're expensive. If we grow our own all the way through winter, we'd take a large chunk out of our grocery budget *and* more importantly, be self-sufficient.

The other benefit to an attached greenhouse is heat. Our home is not what they call passive; able to operate without electricity to heat and cool. But we'd like to take it closer to that. Our floor is heated by hot water in tubes connected to a boiler that can be fed by either electricity or wood. We love that. But... heating our house in winter still costs a lot. Having an attached greenhouse, and the stored heat that this would bring to our walls, would make a big difference.

I've been saying prayers now and then that we can get this project off the ground sooner rather than later. Our budgets are pretty tight, and there are a lot of things we'd like to do. Get a real lawn going, for instance.

The other day, Jeff drove by a glass store in town and saw they had glass windows at a steep discount. 4'X4', 2'X4', 2'X6', all for ten dollars each. Most of them are sliders, so they can be opened. It was an *amazing* deal, and Jeff quickly got out our sketchup models of the house and designed and moved things around until he came up with a plan using those window sizes. We estimated the other materials we'd need--cement, ciderblocks, lumber & plywood. And then we went on down and picked up 32 windows. For 10 dollars each.

They were salvaged from a complex that had been remodeled in a town a ways north of us. They're not perfect, but they're perfect for our purposes.

We estimate that our cost for the structure is going to be around 1,000. That's a much better number for us. Doable, in fact. IN fact, we are going to try to get it done before the ground freezes this winter. That means a busy few saturdays for us. But in the end... we'll have our greenhouse!

(it's not going to end up looking as nice as this, I don't think. And it won't be a stand-alone building, it will be framed by our porch. But that's the general idea we're working with.)

I'm excited because this is also a project that has been a source of joy and exhilaration for Jeff and me to plan. We love growing stuff. Love plants. We're planning on square-foot garden boxes all along the south side containing things like lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, carrots, potatoes, celery, cabbage, onions, squash etc...

all the stuff we use. But we are also planning on hanging some awesome strawberry planters on the posts from hooks we'll install. I have a seed packet of alpine strawberries I've been saving for a long time.

We also have big plans for other sorts of things.

We actually already have 2 avacado trees. We grew them from pits starting about 6 years ago. ... they need to be planted somewhere.

Our other plans are to create these garden boxes/other fixtures and planting devices so they are close to the south/east walls of glass away from the house walls, put in a mist/drip irrigation system, and then on the side closest to the house, we'll put sand down and do a path of black or dark flagstone, which will soak in the heat. We're also considering stripping the isulation on the wall until about 2 feet up and painting it either black or another dark color, so we have a wall that brings the heat more into the house.

I'd like to grow some plants to fill in the cracks of the flagstones as well. One possibility is irish moss, which is edible and a good thickener for raw food dishes--gels and puddings and such.

Another is elfin thyme, which grew in the flagstones of our front yard where I grew up. I love it.

I also want to put a small nest of orchard mason bees inside. They are known not to sting. They don't produce consumable honey... they're just for pollination.

Jeff plans to grow some dandelions in our lettuce garden, so even during the times of year where there aren't enough tree or vegetable flowers, we'll have dandelions for them to use as nectar. At least that's the plan. Grandiose, perhaps. And the outside structure might go up fast, but the inside stuff will probably come around 2 things at a time... probably we won't finish it all inside for a couple years. But in the meantime, we're excited to finally be building it. Hooray for not deciding things are improbable, and for asking for help and getting it.

I feel pretty blessed.


David L said...

Yay for Masonry bees. Gad to see my suggestion implemented, though I'd love to see you do honeybees someday. I wonder how your masons will handle that small space. They are solitary, but I don't know how much space they need for foraging.

Either way, I'll gladly help construct come October.

Nate N Rebecca Scott said...

This is awesome! I wish you the best of luck as you guys build!