Friday, January 14, 2011

Building a Greenhouse

One more project completed. One last project in the works.

The ugly metal, porch railing we took to the dump after we'd moved in is replaced by an oak railing on our steps to the second floor. Johann, our carpenter, creatively hides the holes drilled in the bottom step for the grey aluminum railing with a four by four capped post. A few minor details such as filling in nail holes and rounding the corners of the post cap were supposed to be completed today. I got side-tracked.

A phone call from Johann right about breakfast time leads to his dropping by with a bag loaded with garlic bulbs. I'd mentioned, yesterday, during railing construction that we were on our last bulb.

After fixing Johann a small breakfast of three pullet eggs topped with mozzarella, a bagel slathered with butter and raspberry freezer jam, six pieces of thick cut bacon, organic hash brown potatoes topped with feta cheese and a cup of coffee washed down with a glass of orange juice, we get down to business.

I need an air nailer. The prices and details are mind boggling for someone with limited construction knowledge. I research framing nailers on the web and in Lacrosse. I find a tool site with a top of the line nail gun at a reasonable price. I boot up the computer and show it to Johann. With his experience as a carpenter, he quickly points out that the framing nailer is a good buy, but "Don't be surprised about the cost of nails," he says. "It won't be like going to the hardware store and buying cement coated sinkers for 99 cents a pound.

I tell Johann how pleased I am with the new railing. It's easy to rattle on after a cup of strong coffee for breakfast. I walk in my office and grab two sheets of paper off the shelf. Then I attempt to draw a schematic of the foundation for a proposed greenhouse.

It's like talking to Dawn, my wife.

I start by describing the traditional board and batten method of squaring off the foundation site. He interrupts by proposing a method which merely involves a few stakes driven into the ground. When I question a few details, like what happens when you drive a stake and the foundation string lines aren't square, he says you move the stake.

"But," I interrupt, "If you're using 2X2's which make a large hole and need to move the lines an inch or two. Won't the existing hole cause a problem with moving the stake." I get the standard answer. "Just call me and I'll come down."
"But what if you're not around?" He doesn't have much patience for my prodding questions. I know from experience that if Johann says we'll start work on Wednesday, that might mean beginning a day later. His favorite saying is, "Don't let yourself get a nosebleed."

I delve deeper into the issue. "If you dig your foundation holes ( I'm doing a post foundation) and they're off, it could throw the whole project off." He tells me, " You dig your holes, put in your bottom block and don't fill the holes with gravel after you set the posts, you can take a sledgehammer and knock the foundation square." Then as if this would calm my fears, he says, "Yeah my cabin is a little off."

The piece of computer paper I'd brought out is filled with squares, rectangles squiggly lines, numbered notations and a lot of graffiti. Although Johann's methods are unusual, I have a sense that there's a certain amount off "leeway" in the construction process. I may have to fix a few more lumberjack breakfasts, but the consultation fee is actually quite low. I'm nearer to having a good mental picture of a lush greenhouse filled with garden plants and a warm chicken coop behind the greenhouse filled with happy, clucking hens and a ferocious rooster guarding the flock.

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