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By Julie Zickefoose
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Greenhouse Do-It-Yourself

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This blog is a shiny happy place where we come to learn about birds, trees, flowers, droppings, clammy cuphea, busted box turtles, futile attempts at growing obscure wildflowers and batkeeping, among other things. This post is a bit of a departure.

Warning: Uncharacteristically Acid Sarcasm is Employed in This Post.

So this is going to be a greenhouse. Really. Looks like Rion Prestige Greenhouse Co. has got some ‘splainin’ to do. Science Chimp, stumped, for the first of dozens of times in the process.
My beloved Garden Pod was destroyed in the derecho of June 29, 2012. Bill and I put it together from a kit about 10 years ago. The kit  had eight big pieces of superduper double thermopane plastic, an aluminum frame, some hexagonal plastic spacers, and a lid. I remember Bill and me putting it together in a few hours. Perhaps I gloss over it, but I don’t remember it being a big deal, or cause for contemplation of suicide.

I shopped long and hard for a replacement, and finally settled on the Rion Prestige 8 x 8 greenhouse as the most bang for the buck.

It came in three big heavy boxes, with several hundred small parts, which seemed to breed within their boxes. Make that several thousand small parts.

Some assembly required. The saleswoman on the phone told me that two people could put it together “on a good Saturday.”  One, perhaps, that happened to be June 21, the longest day of the year.  And one when maybe five other people, each of whom had engineering degrees from MIT and giant toolbelts, stopped by to help and brought two friends to make runs to town for different lag bolts. And when you had floodlights rigged up so you could work past midnight.  I’m guessing that was the kind of “good Saturday” she was referring to. Ours was a good Saturday, but it was not that good.

I decided to sort all the parts into piles so we could quickly grab a B-10 when we needed a B-10. They did not arrive thus sorted.  I so proud of me. You can see the footprint of my dearly departed Pod on the cement pad where I’m standing. Sigh. It wasn’t big, but what joy it brought. And did I mention that it went together so quickly?

While I was sorting, Bill worked on the bottom frame.

Chet Baker was supervising. It was a beautiful day. The very last one we had before Hurricane Sandy bore down on us, in fact. 
The Prestige greenhouse is made in Israel. Where, apparently, they have no use for words in their instructions. Everything is diagrams, arrows, and outrageous slings of misfortune. I quickly grew to hate, then loathe, the construction manual. Which isn’t a manual at all. Just a bunch of drawings. And if you fail to pick up on the nuances of the tiny projections on the little pieces and which way they’re pointing, you’re going to have to do it all over. Which you fail to notice, and then have to do all over.
The manual says nothing at all about anchoring the base in concrete. It doesn’t tell you what tools or hardware you’ll need; it doesn’t tell you that you will have to make three different trips to two different hardware stores to try to find concrete bolts that will fit through the eensy-weensy holes in the base. And the reason it doesn’t tell you this is because if you do it wrong and something breaks or someone gets hurt or it blows over, they don’t want to have told you what to use and have you bring a lawsuit against them because it didn’t work. So they leave you twisting in the wind. All the while telling you no tools are required for assembly. Well. I am in danger of putting this whole flipping post in red italics just for sardonic emphasis. 
No tools, except every damn drill in the house which failed to penetrate the concrete, and then our friend Dave’s huge concrete drill. And a socket wrench for which he had to specially machine a thinned down ratchet head that would fit into the eensy weensy holes in the base so he could tighten the nuts down. Nope, no tools at all. Just your fingers.
Which, by the way, resemble raw hamburger by the end of the day even though you wore gloves the whole time.
It’s not that I’m work-averse. No, Bill and I work like mules most every day, all day long. C’mon. We have 80 acres in the country. But there’s something about paying that much for a greenhouse and then having to put every blessed piece of it together yourself for hours and hours on end that augurs “postponement of pleasure” down to entirely new depths. By now we’ve figured out that there’s no way we’re going to get that base drilled into the concrete without expert outside help. Clouds are gathering, and we’ve just heard that a Really Big Storm is headed up the East Coast, thence to jag inland. Oh. What timing. And here we are without the faintest idea how we’re going to get this base anchored. Which it’s going to need to be, if we’re going to get this thing constructed before bad weather sets in.
I know. These photos taken at half-hour intervals don’t look all that different.
That’s because Bill and I are building the roof off to one side. 
When we look at the directions and anticipate that every single pane of plastic in the greenhouse is going to have to be hand-weatherstripped with a tiny sharp painful-to-hold L-shaped “tool” which pokes the rubber weatherstrip deep into the green frame, we almost kill ourselves. Instead, we just start poking the weatherstrip into the grooves with the tiny painful tool. Hey. I thought they said no tools were required.
By the time the evening shadows are growing long, we’ve admitted to ourselves that there is no way that, even if we could get it constructed in a day, we’d leave this partially completed structure out for Hurricane Sandy to play with. Time to box up the 500 or so remaining unassembled parts and haul them to the garage.  So ends Day One. A good Saturday, ten man-hours down the road (well, five man-hours and five chimp-hours). 
It is no longer a greenhouse. It is now a Groanhouse. 
Next: Dave “Tools” Wesel to the Rescue.

Julie Zickefoose is a painter and writer who lives on a nature sanctuary in Appalachian Ohio. She is the author of Letters from Eden and The Bluebird Effect: Uncommon Bonds With Common Birds, due in spring 2012.


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