Building a hoophouse, Phase 3: time for fortifications

We’ve been at this hoophouse-building project now for several weeks, and my good husband Bryan is starting to look a bit raggedy.  He could use a haircut, and now and then I discern a limp.  He’s pretty much tuckered at at the end of every day, and he’s had a bit of a maniacal gleam in his eyes.

I’m gonna owe him (and Timothy) big-time after this project is finished, I can tell you that much.  (Please don’t tell him that I realize this, Gentle Reader, or he undoubtedly will use it to his advantage!)  He’s ready to finish this hoophouse so I can plant it full of gorgeous flowers and veggies, and so he can go on to other projects that are waiting for him.

Building a hoophouse is certainly not a job for sissies, as my first post about this project was aptly named.  Also, though it’s true that we’ve encountered our share of challenges (documented in this blog post) they’re not over yet, baby.

But. Onward and upward, as the saying goes.  The next couple of weekends of work on the structure was all about fortifications.  Living on the Great Plains, in a relatively flat and treeless area of Nebraska, we are poignantly aware of what damage the wind can do out here.

Some examples of what the wind can do out here: 

Example A: I think I’ve mentioned that the first hoophouse that we put up out here on the prairie (a structure made out of hoops of PVC and plastic sheeting from the hardware store) blew away the very first day. It’s true.

Example B: One night, years ago (the wind blew like crazy then, too) when our two older boys were camping out in the back yard with some friends, a thunderstorm blew in, and we hustled the boys indoors to spend the rest of the night under our roof.  The next morning, the tent that they had been sleeping in was gone.  Though it had been firmly staked down, it blew away.  After some searching and head-scratching, we found it a half-mile north of us, totally ruined and tangled in a neighbor’s fence. I still miss that tent.

Example C: Oh yes, and now that I mentioned the roof . . .  Yes, in another storm the roof of our sunporch blew clean off.  “Whomp!” was the enigmatical (and frighteningly loud) sound that that portion of the roof made when the “straight-line winds” (in that case) picked it up and moved it dramatically to another part of the house. Where it wasn’t needed, actually, because there was already a roof there.

That’s probably enough examples to convince anybody that we respect the power of the wind out here.  I do have more, if you’re interested. Send me a message and get–in your in-box–a dozen wind-disaster-related stories–for free!

I have nearly as many wind stories as I have stories about dreaded varmints, and that’s saying something.  Anyway.  So we respect the wind, we set our jaws to embrace the wind, but we certainly never turn our back on the wind.  We keep our eye on it, to be sure. And we stake everything down securely.  Our tents.  Our pool. Our everything.  Heck, I probably should stake the chickens down–perhaps they wouldn’t disappear so often on windy days.

With that in mind, you’ll understand why nearly everything we did during Phase 3 of our building project had to do with ensuring that our new addition does not ever blow away.

I have to look away when Timothy is up this high.

I have to look away when Timothy is up this high. He, on the other hand, is as comfortable as a well-fed howler monkey up there.

First, we (by “we” I am referring to Bryan and Timothy) installed the other two purlins, parallel to the first one, which runs along the very top of the structure.  It was a tricky thing to install these long pipes, as they are heavy, and did I mention that my husband and son–though well over 6′ tall, both of them–are not fifteen feet tall, nay, not even close.

Unfortunately, we own only one very tall ladder.  We don’t own stilts.  We don’t have any scaffolding, either, more’s the pity. We sure could have used it. But my husband is good at “making do” and improvising when necessary.

The tractor makes a passable ladder, in a pinch.

The tractor makes a passable ladder, in a pinch.

Timothy attached the pipes to the hoops, and Bryan kept the ends of the pipes where they needed to be.  I took pictures and tried to stay out of the way, and did my usual excellent  fetching chores.

It took some effort to get the screws through the pipe, sometimes. Good thing Timothy's a strong farm boy.

It took some effort to get the screws through the pipe, sometimes. Good thing Timothy’s a strong farm boy. He writes code and designs websites during the day, so I’m sure that it was a delight to come home and do something physically active like this, right, Timothy?  Timothy??


The side purlins are so much easier to install, since the guys can keep their feet firmly on the ground.

The purlins are attached down here, and then carefully pushed up, until the ladder is necessary.

Hooray! The UPS man brought us our box full of missing bolts, screws, washers, and assorted bits, just in time.

Hooray! The UPS man brought us our box full of missing bolts, screws, washers, and assorted bits, just in time.

It takes a pile of wood to build the ends of the hoophouse.

It takes quite a mess of wood to build the ends of the hoophouse.

Bryan made a hardware store run and brought home a load of 2x4s, which will be used to build hipboards, and also will be used to build the ends of the hoophouse.

More support!

More support!

Bryan and Timothy installed these pipes diagonally at all four “corners” (for lack of a better term).  They try to get the angles to look good together, knowing how sensitive my artistic sensibilities are.  I assure them that I’m not going to be crushed if they aren’t all at exactly the same angle. Honestly.  Where do I get this reputation for being so choosy?

Gorilla tape is expensive, but totally awesome in my opinion.

Gorilla tape is expensive, but totally awesome in my opinion.

Then the unbelievable happens:  the ground shakes and the sun dims for a moment, and I hear a chorus of song coming from somewhere above.  Bryan asks me for a bit of help, and it does not involve fetching.  “Your dad suggested that it might be a good idea to cover the joints of the pipes with tape,” he allows, “and I think perhaps you could handle that . . ” he says, haltingly.

Even after he says it, I wonder if he has regretted it.  “I can do it! Sure, I can handle it!” I say, sounding like an enthusiastic Opie from The Andy Griffith Show. “Sure, Paw, and then can we go fishing??”

I am happy to do something besides fetch things that aren’t needed and carry ice tea, so I have my hand in the project, even if it is just applying gorilla tape.  It’s an important job.  Just think how disappointing it would be if the plastic sheeting tore on those jaggedy pipe ends?  Bad news, baby. My job is important! I (by association) am important! I set to my task.

Dewberry report:  berries are beginning to set on!

Dewberry report: berries are beginning to set on!

When I’m finished, I take a few more pictures.

Bryan proudly shows me how square the corners are.  I'm totally not surprised.

Bryan proudly shows me how square the corners are. I’m totally not surprised. I applaud him.  Of course I think you’re wonderful, I enthuse. The hoophouse is beautiful!


Time to start building the ends!

Time to start building the ends!

It’s exciting to start building the ends at last.  It makes the building look like a bonafide structure.

Hoophouse Phase 3

Bryan is a bit, er, fanatic about making everything completely level. Here he checks out his angles with the level. Again. He’s gonna wear that thing out, I’m sure of it. Can you wear out a level??

Little Mack announces that he can see a long ways from this perch.

Little Mack announces that he can see a long ways from this perch.

There will be large barn-door style sliding doors on both ends of the hoophouse, and you can see the sliding part in the photo above.  Please avert your eyes from the weeds growing below. Thank you.

Here Bryan demonstrates the pulley system which will open the little window at the top that he has built, on very hot days.  I love this man.

Here Bryan demonstrates the pulley system which will open the little window at the top that he has built, on very hot days. He added this little feature just for me.  I love this man. When I install a hammock from the top purlin, I’ll let him doze in it once in a while.

Well, there it is.  The supporting purlins are installed, the diagonal supports are in place, and one end is framed in.  Oh! And the (ahem) joints are carefully taped.

Still to come:  all the tracks (polytracks) for the wiggle wire (which will hold the plastic down, at the hipboards) will need to be installed, not to mention the the larger double tracks along each curving endpiece.  Now we’ll cross our fingers that the trenchers can come and install a water line this week, and with any luck we’ll be able to build in the other end this weekend.

I’ll keep you posted–I may be able to plant this baby before long!


10 thoughts on “Building a hoophouse, Phase 3: time for fortifications

  1. Gillie

    Please come and visit. Please bring all your boys and husband. I will provide material and an endless supply of tea. My husband will be your gofer (he doesn’t know this yet). I am drawing up plans for my hoophouse (or polytunnel as we call them in the UK) as I type. I would like a hammock too please 🙂

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      I can see that this could be a very affordable way to see the world. A month or two in southern Mexico, followed by a month or two in the UK. Building hoophouses during the week, sightseeing on the weekends, spreading four-season gardening capabilities throughout the land. I am picturing it, and I like what I see . . . must share this with good hubby and sons.

  2. Chef William

    OK, So it is agreed, on November 1st. we will all meet at Alameda 532 in Coapinole, Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco,, Mexico (My sister-in-laws house). From there we will proceed to La Playa Grande to start construction on my new two story house. Now the men will need to work a little faster because out building season is only from November until Late April. And if anyone asks, they are all my brothers. Non-family are not allowed to work on the house because it takes jobs away from locals. Oh ya, you might want to let them know that we will be building with construction brick and rebar plus heavy duty cement. Along the river construction begins three feet below the surface of the ground. So, is it a plan??

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      It’s a plan,Chef William, or should I say “Uncle William.. For my part, I’ll book the airflight and will sit in the shade sipping margaritas. 🙂 You, I presume, will be doing the cooking? Will evening walks on the beach be part of the plan? We Nebraskans really value beach time, you see.

  3. Alana (@RamblinGarden)

    Now, I used to live in Kansas. I was a Person of the South Wind. The first time we entered Kansas we wondered why all the trees seemed to be leaning in one direction. (we soon found out.) That winter, we wondered what that “snirt” people talked about was. (we soon found out). I also found out what it was like to have a scarf freeze to your face in February while it got to 112 degrees in July. We thought we were smart and, when we got the itch to homestead, we did not do it in Kansas. But there are worse places than Kansas….and it sounds like one of those places is Nebraska. I won’t invite you to my house. We wouldn’t have enough room in our backyard for a corner of your hoop house. But, come anyway and dear spouse will cook you a meal, and maybe we can all ride a carousel.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      That is such an enticing invitation, Alana! Thank you and I’ll be there as soon as my bags are packed. 😉

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