Making Space For the Greenhouse Package
Fortunately pouring the concrete retaining wall and house foundation were completed before the greenhouse shipped but there’s still a lot of ground work to be done before the greenhouse arrives. Given all the pre-existing structures and obstacles on my property including 2 cabins, an RV pad, a 3-part septic system, 2 driveways and parking areas and a grove of matures trees I want to keep for a privacy screen, there isn’t much space on my property where the greenhouse could fit. All of that space is now taken up by the two sections of a retaining wall between the garage level and greenhouse level, the house foundation, and mountains of dirt waiting to backfill the foundations and raise the entire greenhouse grade about 2 to 3 feet. In other words, there is nowhere available to receive the greenhouse package. When space is this tight, moving machines and materials becomes a game of dominoes – move the first thing to be able to move the second thing, etc.
In this case, the first step was to move the large pile of dirt and level the area on the uphill side of the retaining wall. Fortunately there was just enough room for the backhoe to move between the dirt hill and one half of the retaining wall. But before they could move dirt to be able to get the backhoe to the second half of the retaining wall, they had to install drainage along the retaining wall footing. But before they could do that, they had to make room for 2 dump truck loads of rock for the footing drain ‘burritos’ made up of landscape fabric filled with 4” drain pipe and washed rock. The plan was to begin working on the drainage in and around the foundation the week before but we couldn’t get a gravel delivery so that delayed the start of this domino chain and compressed a lot of work into just one day.
With Matt in the machine and Dave on the ground, they got the drainage burritos installed and backfilled on both halves of the retaining wall. Then they ran the drain pipe down to the house footings where Dave worked on laying the landscape fabric and drain pipe while Matt rough graded what will be the machine access ramp during construction and eventually a wheel chair ramp to the lower level.
Then Matt leveled the courtyard area between the retaining wall and house foundation to make room to yard the rest of the washed rock over the retaining wall so that it’s more accessible for filling the house and pool foundation but also to free up space on the upper level in case that space is needed to store greenhouse pieces or for machinery to maneuver.
Of course digging in the courtyard area Matt ran into the septic system’s transfer pipe between the sand filter and drain field. There is so much ‘stuff’ in the ground on this property that I should have started a pool for how many pipes would be broken during construction. Fortunately the septic system isn’t in use and a new transfer line will be installed as part of the project so Matt didn’t lose precious time having to repair it.
It was a long but productive day. Fortunately the rain held off for most of the day but it was raining, cold, and almost dark by the time the guys finished. All ready for the delivery on the 8:00am ferry tomorrow!
The Greenhouse Arrives
It’s hard to express what it felt like to see the truck approaching the ferry terminal. I didn’t sleep much the night before and had to be up early to get the first ferry to the mainland to meet the truck. There was only my truck and a dump truck in line for the 8:00 ferry. The ramp is adjustable so the ferry crew is able to make each section of ramp as straight as possible. But the ramp would have been too steep and the angle where the ramp meets the boat would be too acute to load this long truck at low tide. Fortunately it was about half way between high and low tide and Mike loaded and unloaded without issue.
Mike’s GPS indicated he should turn right to take the shortest route along the shore road but I’d given him a map and explained to not follow his GPS due to weight limit on the shore road. Even with a map, we thought it best that I serve as a pilot car to lead the long way across the island over narrow winding roads through forests, meadows, and neighborhoods.
This first view was a wild mix of excitement that this day had finally arrived, relief that it got here without issue, and anticipation of how our unloading plan would change based on how the materials were actually loaded.
The 3 doors were in front, barrels and boxes of parts in the middle, and stacks of metal strapped in bundles in the back. There was also a pallet with the box of polycarb panels stacked in the back with the metal.
Matt first moved the doors and barrels to a safe location next door. After moving a load or 2 we decided it was too tight to maneuver in that area so Mike pulled the truck forward to a wider area. Unfortunately this blocked the road but one benefit of living on a small rural island is that Mike only had to move for one car that came from that direction during the 3 hrs it took to unload.
Another challenge to moving the long materials were all the obstacles at the driveway entrance. On the left are tall shrubs that I ended up cutting back and to the right is a post with my lot’s address and guy wires for a power and telephone pole next to my driveway. This meant each load Matt had to make a ‘doesey-doe’, moving the materials left around obstacles on one side and then right around obstacles on the other side, while driving backward.
The polycarb package was not as expected and turned out to be the biggest challenge and the longest to unload. There was a single box on a pallet about 25’ long by about 6’ wide. First Matt tried to lift the pallet from the middle to test the amount of flex in the pallet and his machine’s ability to lift it as a single load. The forks weren’t long enough for a 6’ wide load so strike that idea. Even if it could have been lifted as a single load, there was no way to do the dosey-doe with a floppy 25’ wide load. Ultimately we opened the box and moved each polycarb panel by hand. That was all hands on deck including me and Mike the driver. Not only is it unheard of for drivers to help unload, Dave, Mike, and I are all on, shall we say, the mature side. It took a long time and this pile was the result. I am immensely grateful for these 3 guys that day.
Finally, after the truck was empty, Matt retrieved the doors and barrels from next door.
Just like that it was done! Pieces are stacked everywhere! And after all that work to make space to stack pieces at the top of the retaining wall, we were able to fit everything into the parking area and woods on one side of the driveway and the easement on the other side of the driveway, plus the polycarb panels on the side of the public road.
Getting Ready For The Installers
The team that erects the greenhouse was supposed to come later in the week but got delayed by more than a week. Good thing because getting ready for them took much longer than planned. What constitutes ‘ready’ is different for a project where the house is built after the greenhouse than it is for a project where the house is built before the greenhouse. In my case, there are a few reasons to erect the greenhouse first and then the house inside. First, the greenhouse arrived before the house framing started so it didn’t make sense to have the greenhouse material taking up valuable storage space and have to be protected for months while building the house. Next, but maybe more importantly, is this will allow the house to be protected from the elements during construction. Less time and expense to dry it out before finishing the interior, less chance of materials cupping or warping, and less chance of mold growth. Finally, it will be more comfortable for everyone working on the house and folks perform better, and work more safely, when they’re not wet and freezing.
But this is changing the order that some things are normally done. Once the greenhouse is erected, it will not be possible to move machines around the entire exterior and only low machines like a Bobcat can fit inside the greenhouse. Therefore, Matt wanted to do everything that uses heavy machinery while he still could. This included cutting a trench for the footing drain out-flow, running conduit for electrical and pipes for the water and septic from the house to outside the greenhouse perimeter, setting sonotubes for the greenhouse posts along the pool (north) side, and backfilling the house and pool foundations. Then he raised the new grade for the greenhouse level a couple feet and built a ramp from the west driveway level up to the west greenhouse ‘drive in’ double doors. It has been very satisfying to watch the mountains of dirt disappear and to see final grade appear.
Finally Matt installed 2 of the air-to-ground heat exchange systems – one under the pool and one under the food garden end of the greenhouse. The green tubes are for one of the air-to-ground heat exchange systems. The green pipe in the background will draw hot air down into tubes that run under the pool where the air will be cooled and de-humidified and then exhaust back into the greenhouse through the green pipe in the foreground. He also sculpted the area for the regeneration ponds at each end of the lap pool and the incline to each door.
A couple days later, Adam, the excavation contractor, was on site to drill the 24” diameter holes to set the greenhouse posts in concrete. These passed inspection the next day.
We’re now officially ready for the installers to arrive next week!
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