Home Is Wherever I’m With You, Part Two: My Mom the Superhero, Greenhouses, and Getting it Together

This post should have been written two weeks ago, but here we are. 2013 has been quite something,

For reasons that are strange, somewhat unknown and exhausting to rehash, our family spent the first week of the new year hanging out with Mom Wagner in the hospital. She’s fine now, and thanks everyone for the food, thoughts, beer, visits and everything else.

A shout out to my cousins Chris and Bernie, who brought flowers to the hospital. These are beautiful. And to Melissa, who showed up with bread, soup and muffins.

A shout out to my cousins Chris and Bernie, who brought flowers to the hospital. These are beautiful. And to Melissa, who showed up with bread, soup and muffins.

While we were hanging out in the ICU, mom woke up one morning and promptly sassed me about not figuring out my greenhouse plans.

Long story short, Donna Wagner, exhausted and, uh, did I mention pretty sick?, insisted I get my ass in gear. Because in case you didn’t know, she’s a superhero. And now that she wants to farm, we’re in this for serious.

That was the real kick I needed to get my act together. I made a couple phone calls to some farm friends. One helped me get in touch with folks about grant questions. Matt started researching greenhouse prices and calling companies for quotes. And that was how we met H. Schwartz and Sons, the folks I visited with Glenn on Friday to pick up my greenhouse.

Yes. Yes, yes. After all the false starts, big ideas with no direction and easy ways out, the greenhouse pieces are here. There’s no turning back now.

On Friday morning Glenn and I packed up at 5:30am and headed down to Wilmington, Delaware, where H. Schwartz and Sons has a giant warehouse/garage surrounded by piles of steel pipe. That’s his primary business, but he gets bundles of seconds steel for projects that have been bent or can’t be used for some reason, and since he’s bending it to make greenhouse and tunnel hoops anyway, can utilize this rejected material and make affordable, sturdy greenhouses from galvanized steel.  His frames perform well in snow, which is very important up in these parts.

Some of us felt some trepidation as glenn and set out on our greenhouse drive. We don't always do so well together. But it was actually a lovely trip. We may (knock on wood) finally be starting to understand each other.

Some of us felt some trepidation as glenn and set out on our greenhouse drive. We don’t always do so well together. But it was actually a lovely trip. We may (knock on wood) finally be starting to understand each other.

Next weekend we start assembly. We may just put up 45 feet of the 96 foot frame and use the other half for a high tunnel, or get so excited we build the whole thing. That remains to be seen.

Loading up!

Loading up!

This will become a 96-foot greenhouse. In the words of one of my farmers, booyah.

This will become a 96-foot greenhouse. In the words of one of my farmers, booyah.

These pieces will connect the hoops with the center purlin.

These pieces will connect the hoops with the center purlin.

The ground cover for the floor arrived first on Thursday, puzzling the UPS man as he handed me half a dozen packages for my mother and a 15 ft., heavy roll of the stuff from the back of his truck. The plastic for the roof and sides has yet to arrive, and then my co-builder and I must price out some lumber for the base and doors. We’ll need some other pieces as well – once we are in the building phase I’ll try to document the steps and tools as specifically as possible, because other than YouTube videos, there aren’t a whole lot of detailed assembly instructions with photos floating around out there.

We also had a nice visit from my dear Tomato Boys Matthew and Derek as they set off on their winter cross country adventure. We caught up doing what they love best – eating pizza. They’ve made it to Memphis and last I heard they were bouncing around New Orleans somewhere. Derek is taking notes – maybe one day if I get it together I’ll be able to replicate some of their trip on my own. They may be staying at some farms along the way, so maybe they can’t report back on their arrival in San Diego.

This doofus drove hours out of his way to get some upside down pizza. Derek, who despite many appearances on my blog, hates having his picture taken and is loafing in the back.

This doofus drove hours out of his way to get some upside down pizza. Derek, who despite many appearances on my blog, hates having his picture taken and is loafing in the back.

In other news, I continue to wander the Lehigh Valley and Philadelphia area looking for places to sell garlic and market my future produce. Over a dozen small natural food shops, restaurants and other similar venues have seen my nervous face and heard my bumbling, awkward spiel as I thrust some garlic bulbs on them and scamper out, but we’ve yet to see any returns. Keep your fingers crossed!

One of the owners of Food for All, however, seemed particularly excited (Nate Adams suggested this little number for lunch so I could talk to them about my garlic. Thanks, dude.). The store/café receives a lot of its food from a Lancaster-based co-op, but Food for All seemed interested in an additional food source. She asked if I would have my produce listed online to order – which is something I had not thought of, but is something that Matt seems to think is a good idea and is something his computer/farming brain can create. So that may be the avenue here. More to come with further investigation.

My first issue of Growing for Market came last week along with a hard copy of High Mowing’s seed catalog and a new Johnny’s catalog. I spent the better part of a day reading all the descriptions of the Maine Potato Lady’s seed stock and picking out my favorites. After some discussion, Donna and I came to the conclusion that since PA is a potato state, we should pick potatoes folks wouldn’t normally see, and will be choosing some organic stock that were bred for their antioxidant and vitamin content. Plus, they are beautiful colors. And I’m going to try some sweet potatoes, which have a growing process that isn’t quite the same as a regular potato, so it should be an adventure.

I mailed in my registration of a fictitious name and EIN application to the state and federal offices. I have to look into buying liability insurance if I’m going to sell produce at a market. And I need about two thousand more pieces of equipment and materials, from plows and discs to potting soil and trays, before I’m ready to roll. But we’re getting there. Inch by inch, we’re getting there.

Not the most organized planner...

Not the most organized planner…

And I’ve had nothing but support from my friends and family. One is helping me knock around branding and marketing ideas. One makes sure I’m trying to using my newly-created farm Twitter account to my advantage. Others make sure I’m not falling off my game. And some may not even realize how they help – I’ve got a friend traveling through Southeast Asia, another living in Japan, one becoming a father, one writing about music in a way that never stops making me laugh, and one picking up writing again, and reading their blogs motivates me on my own adventure and encourages me to be a more diligent writer.  And Nate has let me start writing for Patch again, so I’m getting back into the swing of what I loved most for such a long time; sitting down at a computer, making some phone calls, and starting to write.

Add soil and stir. The Farmer Liz gets back in the saddle.

Hey - this is my 3 and 1/2 acres from the sky!

Hey – this is my 3 and 1/2 acres from the sky!

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4 thoughts on “Home Is Wherever I’m With You, Part Two: My Mom the Superhero, Greenhouses, and Getting it Together

  1. Liz, exciting stuff. Let me know if you need any help or info with your tillage equipment. I would be happy to help, i love this stuff ! I do have a Ford 101 plow 3×14 with mechanical trips in pretty good shape if you are interested however I recommend doing the heavy tillage(plowing and heavy discing) with Glenn’s big tractor.In that case you would want larger equipment and spring returns on the plow .Just my opinion. Also your dad did express interest in seeing Kwik Goal some time . Please let him know if you guys would like to take a tour some time just let me know. Good luck with the green house Keep up the good work! Also try Tractor House .com for equipment it may be helpful, Anthony

    • Anthony, you rock. This is all great stuff. We’d love to come out, I’ll text Melissa later today. Would love to see Kwik Goal and talk about equipment for real, and see what we can corral you to do 🙂

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