Almost Ready for the Workshop

2015092137837In a frenzy of activity, Scott and I find ourselves nearly ready for the workshop to begin. Yesterday we hung the doors. They will eventually be painted robin’s egg blue. However, for the time being, we’ll remove the doors (leaving the frames in place) in order to provide easy access to the walls during the workshop.

2015092137838Because our greenhouse has a shed roof,  it will not meet the walls at a 90-degree angle. So we do not have to re-tie bales in custom sizes with angles to fit the roof, Scott built these boxes beneath all the eaves on the north, east and west walls. Our stacked bales will reach the bottom of these boxes. Then we’ll pack these boxes with light clay straw, which we will create using our own soil, water, and straw. Once each box is filled, we’ll attach diamond lath to the front to hold the straw clay in place and to act as the tooth for the first coat of plaster.

2015092137841Our Snap-Fan and solar panel arrived last week. When the greenhouse becomes too hot, the fan will automatically turn on and vent the space. Once the greenhouse is complete, the fan will be installed in the square box on the north wall. You can see space for the Snap-Fan in the photo above



Homegrown Tomatoes


A famous Guy Clark song expresses one of life’s truisms: There’s only two things that money can’t buy, and that’s true love and homegrown tomatoes. The song goes on to say, “Plant ’em in the spring, eat ’em in the summer. All winter without ’em is a culinary bummer.” And that’s why we’re building a greenhouse – so we can eat homegrown tomatoes in all year long…or as close to that as possible.

Our progress so far…


Roof joists perched on the frame





2015083037797A gap between the joists and the frame







2015083037798Is filled in order for the frame to better support the weight of the roof.






2015090637809After observing the amount of shadow cast inside the greenhouse by the joists throughout the day, we changed the original design by increasing the amount of polycarbonate on roof. Painting the ceiling makes a lighter space for growing.


2015090637811Fascia and soffits





2015090637808Drip edge at the bottom of the south windows







2015090737817Insulation in the roof










2015090737820Tar paper





2015090637812Tired Scott and Stentor the cat sitting outside our strawbale house at the end of a long work day.






All the roof needs now is the metal sheathing with drip edges and the polycarbonate “glass.”

Greenhouse Frame

greenhouse prelim

This is Scott’s preliminary design for our project. The windows face south directly toward the garden. Now that the foundation is complete, the next step is to frame the walls.

Torrey. Greenhouse.

Thousand Lakes Lumber, the local mill in Lyman, provided the required 5” x 5” wood – two twenty-four footers, ten eight footers and one twelve footer.

Torrey. Greenhouse.

Using a water level, we were able to determine if the foundation is level. This made it possible to determine how long to cut each vertical post.

Torrey. Greenhouse.

Rebar embedded in the foundation will support each frame post.

Torrey. Greenhouse.

Scott measures the position of the rebar in order to drill the hole in the post in the correct place.

Torrey. Greenhouse.

Marking the rebar position on the post

Torrey. Greenhouse.

Drilling the post

Torrey. Greenhouse.

After drilling, the hole is filled with epoxy and the post is set in place.

Torrey. Greenhouse.

Each post must be perpendicular to the foundation in all directions.

Torrey. Greenhouse.

Bracing in two planes holds the post in place.

Torrey. Greenhouse.

Tools used on the cross pieces

Torrey. Greenhouse.

Cross pieces were secured in place using 8-inch log screws and hurricane straps. Here Scott drills the pilot hole for a screw.

Torrey. Greenhouse.

One log screw in place, another in the pilot hole

Torrey. Greenhouse.

Horizontal members tie the entire framework together. Now it’s really beginning to look like a structure that will protect next year’s seedlings and maybe make it possible for homegrown tomatoes in the winter!

Greenhouse Foundation Finished

2015081737692Nearly a week later and the greenhouse foundation is finished. The 4 x 4 sill plate is now secured to the cement foundation. On the south wall, where the windows will be, 2 x 6s are in place.



2015082037735Scott filled the space between the 4 x 4s with gravel. This, in combination with the tar paper, will wick away any moisture that might accumulate.




2015082037736We left two inches of concrete on each side of the sill plate. This will be the final plaster stop at the bottom of each wall.






2015081437675We tried to arrange for our straw to come from local sources. However, for this project, the timing of Wayne County’s harvest is too late to guarantee its arrival in time for our workshop. As a result, we contacted Don Brown, our friend in Hinkley, Utah. Don located 90 bales of dry, bright, tightly baled straw and drove it to Torrey.

2015081437676It is safely stored under multiple tarps, away from any wet weather that will likely occur between now and October.

Greenhouse Foundation

Workshop participants will arrive October 1, less than two months away. Between now and then, much must be accomplished. The first step, the foundation, was completed when Tyler Torgeson, owner of Double T Construction – – poured the foundation.

Torrey. Tyler T and Bob pour cement for greenhouse.

The 22-inch north, east, and west sides will be strawbale walls. This will accommodate an 18-inch bale plus two inches of plaster on the inside and outside of the structure. The foundation on the south side, which is five inches wide, will be fitted with fixed and awning windows made of 8 mm, twin walled, polycarbonate panels.

Torrey. Greenhouse foundation.

Torrey. Greenhouse foundation.

To blend the foundation with the surrounding soil, Davis Concrete Pigment – #10134 (salmon) was added. Tyler recommended the color as the best match he has seen in the area. So far, so good.


In order to keep everything isolated from the concrete, we install tarpaper on the foundation. This will ensure that no moisture wicks from the concrete into the frame and straw. The treated wood 4 X 4 sill plate will anchor the walls to the floor and, again, keep the straw away from any moisture in the concrete. As one might guess, moisture and straw do not make a happy marriage.


Gardening with Deer

One of the first things any visitor to our area encounters is mule deer. Everywhere you go, mule deer are there too. Not only does one see the creatures themselves, but evidence of their presence appears on every street in town. Just take a look at the arborvitae along the sidewalk at the local store. Deer have munched those bushed to within an inch of their existence, as high as a deer can reach. Everyone living in Torrey knows, if they want their landscaping to survive, they need to think about deer. That means using deer-resistant plants or creating some structure to keep the deer away.

Torrey. Deer Resistant info.

Judging from the number of publications and Internet sites related to the topic, it’s easy to see that Torrey, Utah is not the only place with a deer problem. One aspect one must consider is the amount of stress property receives from deer browsing. After seeing 30 deer in our pasture last winter, Scott and I decided “inordinately stressed” applied to our situation. And, after those 30 deer ate our expensive, deer-resistant mugo pines (labeled “rarely damaged” in multiple resources) down to nothing, we were feeling fairly stressed ourselves.

We should have realized this already. During our first summer here, we planted a row of cottonless cottonwoods, which we hoped would grow into a screen between our property and the lights of a business about a mile away. The trees were thriving and all was well until, one morning, we awoke to discover our local herd had had a delicious feast of Populus deltoids the night before. Fortunately the trees were still alive, and today their twenty feet of height is beginning to accomplish the job for which they were planted. That’s because we immediately built a protective fence around each cottonwood and have done the same for every one of the other 67 trees of various varieties we’ve planted since then. All of them are doing well inside their deer-proof environment. We hope the trees will eventually get big enough to withstand “deer pressure” without the fence.

Our shrubs are also fenced but, so far, the perennials we have planted really do seem to be deer-resistant.

As one can imagine, building fences around every plant involved many hours of labor. Obviously that wouldn’t’ work for a vegetable garden. We could have followed our neighbor’s example and built a 10-foot tall fence around the entire enterprise. The cost seemed prohibitive and the aesthetics leave something to be desired, so we searched for another solution. Here’s what we learned. 1) Generally speaking, deer can jump high or they can jump far, but they cannot do both. 2) If deer can’t see it, they won’t eat it.

Torrey. Garden flowers and double deer fence.With these two things in mind, we decided to try a double fence since we could incorporate it into a fence we already had in place and the price seemed reasonable. Using cedar and t posts, Scott installed a 56-inch high welded-wire fence around the perimeter of our garden. In one corner, a 16-foot metal gate will accommodate our tractor. Four feet inside the welded-wire fence, Scott pounded t posts at 10-foot intervals. To the top of these posts, we needed to attached something that would be visible to deer, was inexpensive, would stand up to Torrey winds, and through which Scott and I could easily pass. We decided to use polytape, an electric fence primarily used with horses. Scott wound two strands of polytape around each t-post, one strand at the top of each post, the second strand 12 inches below. It is visible, flashes in the wind, and we simply duck under it when we go into the garden. After three months of gardening, with deer in the pasture almost every day, none have ventured over the fence. So far, it’s been a success.

Torrey. Garden flowers and double deer fence.

In addition to the fence, to create something of a screen around the garden, and to attract bees and other beneficial insects, we planted an array of flowers purchased as wildflower mixes from High Country Gardens. Not only do the flowers appear to keep away our deer neighbors, our bees enjoy the smorgasbord, and the color is a daily feast for our eyes.