Last fall, after market season was over, we spent our free time building a 30’x96′ high tunnel.
Before we started, we spent a lot of time planning, and we attended a course at Iowa State about High Tunnel Production. Then, we began preparing the site. This area had rows of broccoli, cabbage and onions in 2011 and 2012. Once those crops were done, we pulled the plastic mulch up and cleared the ground to begin plotting out the holes for the posts.
Lots of pieces arrived in lots of boxes! Everything was accounted for, and we started sorting through it to see what we needed to start with first.We have built two other greenhouse structures, but this one was the largest and the most complex. We needed to start with the posts. They were cemented in the ground—all 28 of them!
Things were measured, re-measured and checked and double checked in many different directions, angles and ways. Somehow there was still an error and we found ourselves ripping out some posts that needed to be reset. A minor setback that was a lesson learned—maybe we were in over our head! Too late now, must correct the problem and move on!
On to the rafters! Believe it or not that is mud under the high tunnel. We have just survived (barely) the worst drought since we’ve lived here, and now when we have a building project going on, it decides to rain!
Once these started going up, things were looking like they were progressing quick! There is a lot that goes into supporting this structure, and we had a lot of bolts to secure and purlins to attach! A LONG way from done!
Finally after hundreds of holes were drilled and what felt like thousands of bolts had been tightened, we were ready to pull the plastic. And we could not have gotten any luckier. It was a balmy October afternoon with no wind and plenty of help (this job takes 8–10 sets of hands) and we were ready to cover the high tunnel! I’d had many a days that I doubted whether or not it’d be done by the time the snow started flying, but we’d finally made it! What a relief!
The first Saturday in November we were able to get the roll-up sides on and now everything was sealed up and we could finish what was left even if the weather turned on us. We ended up not finishing all the support rafters till sometime in January. It is amazing how nice it feels in there on a sunny day. It will heat up in a hurry and it’s been a great place for the kids to play while we work this winter.
We could not have done this project without the help of family and friends! Whether they were actually working with us on the high tunnel, or just watching our kids for an afternoon while we worked, we are very grateful to have so many people helping us work towards our dream.
This has already been an adventure, and I’m sure we will learn a lot more as we go through our first growing season. Be sure to start looking for tomatoes and peppers early this year. With any luck, we will have them BEFORE the 4th of July!