Greenhouses and Gables, Farmhouses and Fables

 on STARTING with PANES (recycled windows):”Pain”(Pane?) has its own Noble Joy; when it starts a strong consciousness of life, from a stagnant one.     -John Sterling

I toyed with many titles for this one.  I first wanted to use the homophones “Pane” and “Pain”, thus the above quote. I liked that Joy was in this quote, and all 3 of us are suffering a certain amount of pain right now, at the end of a very long, if productive season outdoors and in kitchens! Not good enough.  Then there was the possibility of the old standby about People with Glasshouses, quoted more properly at the end of this posting. That was weak.  However, as I turned the article into something I didn’t expect in the latter quarter, I decided to settle once more for a title with my favourite Alliterative Rhymes!

There’s a pub in Japan that frequently gets shown on social media, especially the types of self-sustaining and eco-friendly pages to which we subscribe.  The front is made entirely of recycled windows that would have ended up in a landfill somewhere, and inside (see below) they recycle as much as possible also – the chandelier is made from old soda bottles!

While we have been following others’ blogs and pages, and reading magazine articles about the many ways to make a greenhouse, this concept has always been what has intrigued us the most.  Down the road another family lives self-sufficiently and they have one of the metal-arced/covered-in-plastic greenhouses – and they eat fresh greens nearly all year long! (just not Dec. and Jan. and part of Feb.)  This convinced Richard that our seed boxes and lighting system in the basement just wasn’t enough, and he was determined to  “keep up with the Joneses” : plastic green

HOWEVER, to all who know me, this is anathema to my soul!  Imagine me PURCHASING- NEW – well, anything! And on top of that, then having all that plastic on my carbon footprint, only lasting a few years and going right into the landfill after.  We live on a very windy mountaintop, so I can’t imagine that this plastic wouldn’t be ripped to shreds in under 5 years.  Besides, I LOVE the look of old windows, and Rustic Revivals uses lots of them for various projects, so why not have a bunch on hand?

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Thus, all summer we collected them from various ads, and from people we heard just wanted to have us take them away. I think in total we spent about $40. for about 30 windows of varying sizes, and another $30. for an old sliding patio door.   Richard had to replace the windows in the Rustic Revivals shop/cabin anyway and I certainly didn’t want anything NEW in there! (before and after shots of that, if you haven’t read this blog for a while, though the windows weren’t yet put in, in the ‘after’ shot !) :

 

Richard being Richard we had to discuss this project at breakfast and lunch at our kitchen table for WEEKS before he was inspired to get started.  We had 3 different choices of where to actually PUT the greenhouse, taking into consideration not only the most south-facing spot for sun, but also how to access it in winter with massive snow drifts from snow-blowing and wind, and still keeping it very close to the garden for transplanting in June… Then he took measurements of each window and went on his computer for another week and made graphs, charts and diagrams.  Then I finally got cheesed off and said I’d have had the whole thing built by now if I’d just done it myself (which, if you know me, I WOULD have!  It might not have stood up through the winter, but I’d have had it standing, at least!)   This was late September, and I was still busy doing a lot of gardening and canning/freezing, etc., but I just started dragging windows out of the barn and that’s what finally got Richard to throw most of his paperwork aside and just deal hands-on with what he had to work with. Unfortunately, he didn’t stick to the HEIGHT we’d agreed on, and things got a little out of control…

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Richard was trying to lift these heavy windows by himself out of the barn , and being a Reich, I knew there were bound to be too many breakages this way, incl. his own back.  I remembered that buried somewhere in the barn we had an industrial dolly… and things moved along a little better after that:

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Thus, laying out the windows for each of the four sides took some puzzle-fitting and decision-making, but not nearly as long as all the ‘kafuffling’ around at the computer and the kitchen table!

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Once Richard knew the ‘footprint’, he had to start digging and rototilling, which of course the chickens ADORED as they were finding plenty of worms.  He was constantly tripping over them and swearing at them, but when I suggested he leave them in the coop until such time as he was finished, he wouldn’t hear of it! Richard spoils all the animals.  Here he is with a most-attentive Lucy the Layer:

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The hens ALSO loved the pile of earth he put aside for spreading in holes all over our ‘lawn’ , so they would run back and forth between the greenhouse space and this ever-growing pile.

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By the time Richard was digging the corner post holes, I was back spending a lot of time in the kitchen again, and not really paying much attention… I assumed these corner beams would be cut down to the height we’d discussed originally, about 6 ft. on the front side, and slanting down to just 5 ft. on the back(garden) wall, which is mostly northwest.  And yes, the wood DID have to be bought new, whereas if we were still in Ontario I would have sourced out enough reclaimed wood.  ( I also wouldn’t have used so much wood if I were building this myself! Richard always likes to go overboard on projects, in my opinion, but I’ll grant him that the thing WILL stand the test of time as he’s done it!) But here in N.B. there are no wonderful Habitat for Humanity RE-STORE type places, nor are there many old wooden barns or homes being taken down or restored.  The few there are are just burned, or left to rot… so sad – what a waste of material for something like our project!

Richard installs the first window.  At this point, I was still assuming that this corner beam would be cut down to what we had discussed.  That’s what it LOOKS like, right?  By the way, in this next photo you can also see that just laying the windows on the ground to get the ‘puzzle’ figured out killed the grass over JUST ONE AFTERNOON!  So you know our little greenhouse is going to be a HOTHOUSE! Thus, Richard planned to keep a few of these windows (such as this first one installed) so that they can still be cranked open to let air in when needed.

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Next came the studs. Far too many of them by my way of thinking. I had to keep reminding Richard that he wasn’t building an actual HOUSE:

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Same with the roof, but he didn’t want the snow to cave it in, and I suppose he’s right.  It was at this time that I said “why the hell is this greenhouse so tall? I thought you were cutting the corner beams on the south/front down to 6 ft.?”  I never really got a satisfactory answer, either, just “the more sun that comes in the better” and “it’ll be nice and high, you can hang things from the top, and we can grow climbing vines a long way up!”

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Then a good period of time elapsed where I kept forgetting to take photos of the progression (and also a lot of VERY bad weather, including 4 days of snow that stayed on the ground!)  But as Richard had gotten the framing done and MOST of the windows and roof up at this point, he was able to stay inside to work on keeping it waterproof .  The roof and the bits of sides that didn’t have total windows as their surface (mostly on the west and north sides)  we DID use recycled material for – the  tin/metal that Richard had ripped off the Rustic Revivals cabin earlier in June!  There are just two sections of roof that have (grit my teeth) corrugated plastic put on, to ensure that some sunlight comes in from above as well, and that some heat may escape (rather than just an all-tin roof!) I really wanted WINDOWS up on the roof, but Richard didn’t think he was up to the task of making that safe and sturdy.

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Here, then, is the near-finished project (some holes and gaps still to be filled up) – taken today, before our 2nd snowstorm blows in tonight…  Keep in mind that pub in Japan – doesn’t it look like a mini-version?

The south side, or front:

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The 2nd door, and more tin, on the side that faces north, and the shadow of our house:

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The side that faces south-west, mostly west. Sadly, for poor Mom/Joy, those are her two living room windows on either side of the chimney, and she now has to look out at what some might consider a ‘monstrosity’.  Especially since it was built 14 ft. high instead of 6!

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The south-west and west(back) of greenhouse:

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I have always adored old painted doors, with their many textures, mouldings, colours, peelings and characters… Here’s another building made from just such old wooden doors in Seoul, Korea:

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This door was purchased for $5.00 at a yard sale and was intended to be a display for Rustic Revivals’ items in the new shop, but when Richard didn’t seem to know whether to put tin siding or “some kind of door” on the north side, I suggested he TEMPORARILY fit it with this lovely:

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Incidentally, the garden has been nearly all spread with the dark, lush ‘black gold’ manure and compost that the chickens have spent all summer and fall ‘turning over’ almost daily so it’s in perfect condition.  The other spots in the garden where you see old hay and woodchips are protected spots for over-wintering leeks, parsnips and a garlic patch Mom/Joy just planted last week:

 

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Wikipedia has an interesting history of greenhouses: “The first description of a heated greenhouse is from the Sanga Yoruk a treatise on husbandry compiled by a royal physician of the Joseon dynasty of Korea during the 1450s , in its chapter on cultivating vegetables during winter. The treatise contains detailed instructions on constructing a greenhouse that is capable of cultivating vegetables, forcing flowers, and ripening fruit”.  And other words for greenhouses that you may have run across, reading books from other countries, are “orangeries” (because the French botanists were trying to protect their orange trees in the 17oos) “hothouses, glasshouses, gardencastles” – like the Crystal Palace-, “conservatories, sunrooms and coldframes” (smaller versions on raised beds). The one I like the best, however, is a “pinerie” – because it’s not at all what you’d expect! These were for the wealthy landowners to grown PINEAPPLES in!

Next week’s blog posting will be about a new eco-project Mom/Joy has taken on for the winter and which will be an amazing eye-opener for many who don’t do their part to protect our environment, I believe. It will also include the full process we have just finished this week of getting our only snack food   – popcorn!- ready for a winter’s pleasurable treat that we have finally grown ourselves.  More work than you might think – but isn’t everything we’re doing?

And regular readers may have noticed I didn’t do my regular fun Hallowe’en post this year, allowing the crows and scarecrows from last week to take its place.  But is that enough?  I think with the use of all these old windows in our greenhouse, we should show a few ghostly faces peering out of the old panes:

This one’s from Birmingham, U.K. See the old lady?

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A SPOOKY hooded figure was photographed in Queensland, Australia, in the window of a building where 18th century Catholic trainee priests tried to escape persecution.

 

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And  perhaps the most frightening – this chimp-boy calling out from the window of a psychiatric hospital in Brecon, Wales that had been closed for 16 years!

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And, a house I have visited (near Salem, Mass., where else for spookiness?) and an author I’ve studied and taught, Nathaniel Hawthorne (The Scarlet Letter and The House of Seven Gables to name a few works) has left his etchings on the window of his old manse, along with those of his young bride’s. With her diamond engagement ring, they wrote the following on the pane, still visible to this day:

Man’s accidents are God’s purposes. Sophia A. Hawthorne 1843
The smallest twig leans clear against the sky
Composed by my wife and written with her diamond
Inscribed by my husband at sunset, April 3 1843. In the Gold light.

Here’s the Old Manse and it’s many wonderful old multi-paned windows:

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A ghostly book I love with some amazing fables, especially the Legend of Seven Gables is  Jenn Carpenters book entitled Haunted Lansing.  You can read this chapter online as a sample; it’s unbelievable how many ghosts have appeared in the old windows of the 7-gabled farmhouse – and ELSEWHERE there!

Lastly, it may interest a few of you to know that the house my grandparents built in the early 1950s, and in which I spent most of my childhood (either living there or being baby-sat there) was referred to by teasing/curious neighbours as “The Greenhouse”.  Designed by the same architect, Ian J. Davidson, who built the great houses of wealthy folk like Canada’s E.P.Taylor, our place was an odd assortment of higgledy-piggledy experiments, and the part most people saw from the highway was just a long series of windows that stretched all along the upstairs hallway, bathroom and what became my bedroom (facing due north, though, so hardly a ‘greenhouse’). The photo below is taken recently – when my grandparents built it, there were of course NO trees around it, so it just looked like a long line of windows stretched together under the roof.  The tree to the left is a catalpa, planted by Grandpa Johnson in the early 1950s, and to the right, a red cedar planted by Mom/Joy in the late 1970s.  The catalpa is hiding 3 more window panes that were the bedroom windows of a) my father as a boy, b) my grandfather in middle-age, and then by c)  me throughout all of my teens!  So you can imagine how stark and strange all those windows (and no trees!) must have seemed to passers-by for the first 20 or 30 years of that house’s life.  I remember getting teased about it at school as well; kids suggested we were growing a lot of ‘pot’ in there, which idea could ONLY have come from their parents as they drove by!  So yes, I grew up in a greenhouse and got a lot of teasing – but “whose house is of glass must not throw stones at another”… (George Herbert)

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5 thoughts on “Greenhouses and Gables, Farmhouses and Fables

  1. Great blog & dandy greenhouse – excellent job of recycling. Thanks to both of you & so glad that you don’t have a broken back Richard. I think I’ll put a lawn chair in the greenhouse & on sunny days in Jan. I can sit there & pretend that I’m in MX.

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