The Hardest Project

Last spring, after several years of thinking about it, Sandi and I purchased an unheated hoop house kit from a company in Virginia. Since they wanted almost $1,800 to assemble aforementioned green house, I choose to have it delivered after asking them if the house came with “good” instructions.

A week or two after I ordered the structure (notice how I have used at least four words to describe it) I received a call that it was on its way to Boone and I left work and went to meet the delivery guy. When he showed up he told me he had a bad back and asked if I wouldn’t mind helping him unload all the pieces. Somehow this should have been a sign to me what was in store for the next month and a half.

After unloading all the parts and pieces I laid a tarp over them and waited until the weather warmed up enough to begin what was to become one of the hardest projects I had ever undertaken in my mid-sixties journey.

During the next several days I pondered the directions that came with it and began to wonder if this project was even remotely possible with the plans in front of me. What I did not know at the time I asked the nice lady on the other end of the hoop house company phone about the plans was that I would encounter lots of steps where leaps would be made and only a builder or carpenter would understand what I was being asked to do.

Needless to say, by about the 2nd day into the project I had the cell phone number of the company’s owner on speed dial and I was sure that I was looking at the project to end all projects. Granted, I have a tendency to over think things and the fact that I am slightly perfectionist only worked against my ability to do almost anything I set my mind to. Many things in the instructions didn’t seem to make good sense and I was often left with the uneasy feeling of making an unfixable mistake if I were to continue without getting clarification from the buildings maker.

At one point in our almost daily conversation, the owner told me I was going at it all wrong—that I should lay down the plans and only consult them if needed and that I should just go out and build the hoop house. This is after his son admitted to me that the plans could indeed use a little work for the sake of clarity. I have to guess that their hope was that most people would hire them to put the green house up and is probably true based on the fact that many people were using grant money to get their houses built.

Anyway, during this building process, I would get ahold of the next step or two and then head to the back yard in order to make it happen. Many times, in between, my wife would find me in a state of bewilderment and almost hopelessness, wondering if I could ever get this thing up and finished. I was discouraged by my lack of understanding and the inch by inch progress which seemed to tire me out ever more so as the days and weeks rolled past.

I am grateful at this point that I had the help of my good friend Carey, without whom I would have had to give up the self-help dream and hire the building’s finish. Also, there was another hoop house from the same company in the next county that had been erected by a farmer’s market friend of my wife. I went by his farm one day and took several pictures of his building which helped me visualize some of the finer points of construction magic that had been left off the directions.

Once the frame was up and it came time to put the “skin” on it, I was faced with the prospect of getting at least 4 or 5 people at my house at 7 am in the morning on a day when the wind was not blowing. I started making calls based on what the local weather guy said was going to happen, wind-wise, and on that fateful morning, rose early and got all the plastic covering and tools ready to rock and roll. Oh, and did I mention that a lot of work had to be done on tall step ladders. Just add that to the mix in your imagination.

So, I have several friends helping me put the skin on and it seems to be buckling in places that I don’t think look to nice and I am using speed dial again to find out if we are really doing it right. The guy on the other end of the line says to me (hoping this is my last call) that we only have to pull the plastic with our thumb and one finger and only as tight as this will allow—and yes there will be wavy parts and remember, this is only a hoop house—it’s not supposed to be “perfect”.

So, I guess that was my whole problem all along and the cause of most of my frustration with the directions and so forth. I thought every piece was supposed to fit together and that everything was already cut to size and that I would not end up bending stuff this way and that in order to make it fit. What I didn’t realize was that this project was a work in progress just like our lives—that adjustments often have to be made in the most awkward of situations—standing on top of a ladder with a drill and a self-tapping screw that doesn’t really want to bite into that galvanized metal framing.

We often have to push beyond our natural limits in order to get the job done and for most of us, this is uncomfortable and unwelcome.

Is the hoop house perfect—heavens no. But is it a functional tool that I will be able to use and enjoy for years to come—yes indeed. After several weeks of living with the finished product I was able to over look the flaws and appreciate the whole building for what it is—a place to grow stuff and extend my season by a month on either end of the growing calendar.

And that my friends is a good ride anytime.




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