An Early Spring Greenhouse Raising


Greenhouse at dawn

The greenhouse raising began before dawn.  At this early hour, spring’s soft ground is still hard-frozen, and volunteers can both help, and make it to their day jobs.

The beauty of the hour was mere luck.

Preparations had begun long before of course–everything from standard project management (buy materials, recruit volunteers) to little details (chip away reluctant spring’s ice from the north side of the greenhouse).  Though this would be a smaller effort than building a greenhouse from scratch (we were re-covering an existing greenhouse whose roof had been torn apart over the winter), I was excited to watch a community of people come together to make something special a reality.  The location was Rare Earth Farm, a CSA, whose bountiful harvests help sustain local families in Southeastern Wisconsin (including mine!).

The process of re-covering a greenhouse is relatively straightforward, albeit a bit exacting and athletic (have you exercised your throwing arm lately?).  Ropes are tied to a giant sheet of plastic, then tossed over the greenhouse frame.  When the ropes reach the other side, they are pulled down to draw the plastic up over the roof, then the plastic is secured in place.

All of this benefits from a cadre of helpers–just like a barn raising of old.  Close to two dozen fellow farmers, family and friends were there to help.  Sound interesting?  Take a look at the pictures below!


Preparing plastic sheets

By the time I arrived, many of the volunteers were already gathered and a large sheet of plastic had been unfurled.


Tossing the guide ropes over the frame

Four ropes were tied along the length of the plastic.  Each rope was coiled up, then tossed (vigorously) over the frame.


A great toss!

Aim and power are important!


Waiting to begin

On the far side volunteers wait to pull the plastic over the top.


Pulling the plastic over the top

I didn’t try it, but it looks like real work!


Guiding the plastic over the roof

The crew on the first side “feeds” the plastic up along the frame.


Interior monitoring

Inside, the whole process is monitored…


and more work on the inside…

and coaxed…


Almost across!

…as the plastic stretches out over the roof.



When the plastic fully covers the greenhouse, the alignment is adjusted…



… and the plastic is secured.

Wait, not done…


Unrolling layer two

It all begins over again with a second layer of plastic.


Even the farm cat has come to help



Another good toss

Tossing is a bit different after the first layer is in place since a “miss” may slide back down the original side of the slippery plastic instead of falling through the open trusses.


Un-stucking the rope

A partly successful toss may be drawn down from the far side.


More aligning

Straightening and aligning is again performed.


More securing

And the second layer is secured in place.


An experienced eye

Farmer Steve keeps a close watch on the proceedings.


Waiting for the next step

There is some waiting time…


Re-rolling the rope

And cleanup time…



And time for conversation while holding down plastic


After working hard, any “chair” will do

or enjoying the dawn.


Who can resist a great rope?

And a chance to appreciate the farm cat who clearly believes in enjoying life to the fullest.



22 thoughts on “An Early Spring Greenhouse Raising

  1. Claire

    A fantastic subject for a post and what a great way to help out your CSA. Love the architecture of such a large greenhouse, and yes I love the shot of the farm cat playing with the rope!

  2. Karis

    You did such a great job documenting the process., what an interesting project to help with! Love how you even captured the cat playing with the rope 🙂

    1. Inger Post author

      Thanks Karis! The cat was having so much fun that day–he was really taking advantage of all the company!

    1. Inger Post author

      Oh you should Kathy! Getting that box really inspires eating healthy–and creativity in the kitchen. I never would have done a roasted root vegetable galette without the winter stored vegetables from them.

  3. Angela

    That is awesome! Your pictures are wonderful, I felt like I was there watching it. My husband is in North Dakota and he keeps saying that if we have to move North he wants a greenhouse. I am going to forward this to him!

    1. Inger Post author

      North Dakota is even colder than we are I believe… The farm does a lot with cold frames too–I think I may try one of these myself this winter.

    1. Inger Post author

      Thanks Beth! It was a great experience (though now I want my own greenhouse 😉 )

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