Wednesday, December 03, 2008

I Present to You, Our HayGrove Hoophouse!!!

Well, here she is in all her glory!  We only have a few more tension wires to put in - we'll be doing that this Friday, but for all intents and purposes, we have a 1/2 acre hoophouse at our farm!  This has been a long road for us, as you blog readers know, and we couldn't be happier!  The next major challenge will be putting the plastic on, but we have several months to figure that out!  Meanwhile, we wait for the oat cover crop to die off, the snow can come and saturate our soils, and we will plan.  We are receiving so many seeding catalogs everyday, our lists of crops for next year are already long, and we have entered that annual process of circling everything in the catalogs - then the crossing off of so many that don't make the cut for so many reasons.  Then, finally, in January the final cuts are made, we await the crops and we prep our seeding plans.  I love the rhythms of our year, so predictable but full of plenty of variables.  Well, we have the HayGrove, and here we present to you, the process so far!  Enjoy!  Particularly enjoy the wonderful timelapse videos Spencer put together!  They are so fun and say so much in just a few seconds.  We welcome all your comments!
Here's their company truck.  The crew came in from PA, that's where the East Coast office is.  They come on-site and bend the hoops to fit the size of hoophouse you have bought.  In our case, each of our 3 bays is 25' wide, so the hoops need to be bent to make sure they span that distance.

As one might be able to imagine, that takes some precision, and after the guys got the bender off of the truck, level, and at the position they thought it needed to be, they bent a hoop and it was too long.  They made some adjustments and still the hoops were being bent too long.  This process took 1-1/2 hours.  Did I mention it was raining and sleeting?  Did I mention that I had a crew of my own that had come to help out of the kindness of their own hearts and were standing around unable to do anything while the adjustments were being made?  Well, that's how it happened.

video
However, this is one impressive piece of machinery, as you can see here.

Since this piece of the day took so long, we decided to just go ahead and bend all the hoops, put up a few on the end, and stabilize it with the windy end kit (basically a bunch of cross-beams holding it in place) so that the hoops don't bob around in the breeze unfettered.  We dismissed our intrepid crew and worked with the guys to get the first windy end kit up the next morning before leaving for Boston for Thanksgiving.  They showed us how to secure the ends with tension wire and a sweet little tool called the Grippler.  It's a fun word to say a lot, and I've been finding many excuses to use it!
video
So, the crew left, we finished the rest of the windy end kit ourselves (much faster!), and headed to Boston for a Thanksgiving that couldn't be beat.  

Back in VT and out to the field on Tuesday to put up the other windy end kit, which was challenging with 2 people.  That, and the van kept getting stuck in the mud.  We have realized that we have bald tires on our van!  We also realized how nice it is to have help, and called on some friends to help us today, Wednesday.  
video
We were able to get up every hoop, and the wire tension setup for each row.  We're going down tomorrow or Friday (weather permitting) to do the top wire, star wire and anchor wires.  Should be fun!  The end is in sight!  One more major day of work on this and then we can relax with these crazy building projects until Spring!