Let It Grow Organic Gardens

And I resumed the struggle. -Vladimir

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Pipe Dreams

Before I proceed, I want to apologize to all of you for the above title. I had no choice.

The new greenhouse, while neither green nor a house, is well underway and should be functioning shortly. It stands, now, outside in the dark and the rain, awaiting but a few finishing touches from yours truly. I shall scribe the whole process, perhaps in more detail than you really desire, for no other reason than to document this particular greenhouse and to demonstrate that you, too, can do this.
No. There won't be any pictures.
Our project began with a pile of one inch iron pipe (hence the regrettable title.) The pipe started out life as well pipe, was useful in such a capacity for a long time, and then retired. Replaced, like so many things in our world, with cheaper and lighter plastic. I scored the pipe from a well digger who has a seemingly unlimited supply behind his shop. Nevermind its original purpose. Suffice to say that it was piled behind my shop for a few years. I finally got around to doing something with it last week.
Our existing greenhouse, heretofore to be referred to as GH #1, is made of plastic PVC pipe. I rescued it from behind the house of a guy I used to work for, and set it up in my front field. It has served us well for oh so many years, but we've ourgrown it and require additional space. GH #1 is of the traditional half circle design. I sometimes call it a Hemi. This shape can be achieved with iron, as well. The traditional method, as you may know, is to wrap a pipe around a grain silo until the pipe is a half circle.
I have seen many adaquate structures built using this method, but none of them have really grabbed me. They always seem a bit cattywampus, no matter how much care is given to silo selection and subsequent bending. I've also seen greenhouses made from pipes bend with homemade jigs, and these too, are perfectly functional, but never seem to have perfect symmetry. I began to explore alternate designs.
I envisioned a greenhouse built from a series of strait lines, what is sometimes called, in the business, a gothic arch.
I planned a greenhouse built from sticking my iron pipe strait into the ground, where it would rise six feet, then bend 45 degrees. At the pinnacle of the greenhouse roof, this pipe would be coupled to another pipe, which went downward at another 45 degrees, until it, too, was six feet above the ground, where the pipe would be bent again and head straight down into terra firma.
No. I don't have any pictures.
My first challange was to put a forty-five degree angle at the appropriate place along my iron pipe. The plan I devised held to pipe in place and braced against one of the poles of the barn (the poles, locust, are two feet in diameter.) I's chain the tractor to the free end of the pipe, back up until it was at 45 degrees, and viola!
The plan worked surprisingly well. The pipe bent just where I wanted it to, and to a surprising degree of accuracy. One problem was the inherent flex or lack thereof in the pipe. It wanted to spring back to its original shape. I learned that I had to pull the pipe to forty-five degrees, and then pull it just a bit more, to get it to spring back to forty-five.
The second challange was caused by the varying degrees of rust in each individual pipe. They wrapped themselves quite neatly around the locust post, but each successive pipe bent in a slightly different way, depending on where the most amount of rust was. I bent six or eight pipes, and then stacked them all on top of each other, checking for uniformity. Each pipe bent in a slightly different way from all the others. I determined that they were all usuable, that I would be able to piece them all together and play with them all enough to make the structure work, but, still, I was not satisfied. The slight difference in each pipe could make the plastic hang funny, and that was not acceptable to me. It was back to the whole drawing board.

Stay tuned for further installments.


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