Thursday, February 26, 2009

Demo Days


Did you ever notice how when a building or structure gets altered or removed, it seems to release the memories? It's like the walls absorbed images of the events they witnessed, and as the walls come down, memories that have been long forgotten suddenly reappear.

Can you remember back thirty or so years ago? No internet - no cell phones - and two, yes only two, periodical resources for organic gardeners: Mother Earth News and Rodale's Organic Gardening magazine. At the very back of Organic Gardening, in the classifieds, was a tiny ad of just a few lines: "Four acres under glass. Being demolished. Glass for sale." An Indiana address followed.

First thought: "Four ACRES under glass?" Second thought: "Being demolished?!" Third thought: "How can we salvage some??"

Okay, those were early days on the farm. We didn't have much in the way of trucks, cash or even a phone where we lived. No MapQuest either! But somehow we contacted the greenhouse operation going out-of-business, rented a trailer, and headed off into unknown Indiana territory - somewhere over by Indianapolis - and made it back in one day to return the trailer!

And now what to do with our salvage project. We had been using a makeshift greenhouse formed by taking the roof and one side off the old chicken coop and replacing them with plastic panels and poly film. Just barely serviceable. The recycled glass panes with balsa wood supports seemed a beautiful upgrade; we just had to put it back together.

Farmer K. did some figuring - I'm a little foggy on this part of the process. But soon enough a handsome glass structure sprouted on the side of our barn, with a fieldstone retaining wall to add style and support. And we went to work making memories.

The structure was moderately sized - maybe 15' x 27'. It didn't take long to fill it with plants, and we found other uses for it as well. Now that the chicken coop was freed up, we decided to buy a batch of baby chicks. The bins in the new greenhouse seemed like a perfect place to keep the little fluff bundles warm for the first week or so. I remember talking to my very suburban mother on the barn phone. "What's that sound?", she asked suspiciously, never quite sure what her cheerleader-gone-farmer daughter would come up with next. "Oh, that's just the baby chicks peeping," I blithely replied. "BABY CHICKS!!", she, ahem, squawked. And they did just fine in the toasty new structure until they were ready to move to the cooler old coop.

We continued to find multiple uses for this glass house's new incarnation. To maximize space, three tiers of seedling flats filled the back wall. To maximize mother's time, three young sprouts played in the sand at her feet as she transplanted tens of thousands of seedlings into their more spacious containers. Before long, those young sprouts were running and whooping outside the door while mom worked. And soon enough they were in the greenhouse helping transplant as well.

And now young men, they start to dismantle the structure that the farm has outgrown, and that now must give up its space for new ideas. The remaining materials will be reused somewhere else on the farm. And the former greenhouse space will become an auxiliary kitchen and living quarters, adding on to the studio that musician son has already built into the barn. The sons will start to build their own memories into the space. And that's okay. I still have mine, and I'm keepin' 'em!




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