Dicromantispa interrupta

Dicromantispa interrupta

Friday, March 3, 2023

Pipsissewa Wilting

After building my house and moving into it, it seemed worthwhile to rent the adjacent pad where I lived in an RV travel trailer during the construction process. I signed up with hosting platforms Airbnb and Hipcamp, prepared site profiles, and then stood back, poured myself a cup of French roast, and waited for new friendships and income to roll in.

Both hosting platforms provide extensive and helpful instructions and advice to new hosts like myself. I was particularly impressed with the ability for prospective tenants to review host sites within standardized formats for ready comparisons. There also are provisions for hosts to provide additional information that does not fit into their standard forms’ boxes, and there are several ways that hosts can get further advice on setting up profile webpages; e.g., phone the platforms and talk to real humans, peruse competitor site profiles as examples, and join Facebook sites where hosts can advise each other.

One piece of advice that I took to heart was to put into my site profile how tenants could deal with any issues particular to my site. Consumers deserve fair warnings before plunking down their bucks. One fair warning I gave was about my driveway. I pointed out it was steep, and in the beginning surfaced with loose gravel that would make it difficult or impossible for small front-wheel-drive (FWD) cars to ascend.

There were two warnings that could have been added, but I was not experienced enough to know about them. One was that self-contained RVs or trailer towing vehicles must have strong engines due to the steep driveway, and the second was that self-contained and trailer-towed RVs both must be limited in length due to tight quarters. But I had no idea how powerful their engines needed to be or what maximum RV lengths can be accommodated on my site. So, what were my options in trying to determine these things? I could (1) get experience over time – good, bad, and ugly; (2) ask competitors for advice (right!); (3) seek guidance from RV consultants (but just try to find one in the yellow pages); and (4) ask the hosting platform companies (but they do not make site inspections). The last three took me back to alternative #1, so I hoped that experienced RV owners would know what their engines were capable of and how to shoehorn their RVs into tight slips. I knew those things when I lived in an RV.

The first tenants to arrive were able to drive their RV up to the site; however, they had to park their small FWD car down the hill a little way, still on the property but not adjacent to the RV. They were understanding about my newness to the business and gave me a good review, bless their hearts.

The second tenants never were able to make it up to the RV site. Their towing vehicle may or may not have had sufficient horsepower, but that did not matter as their trailer wallowed in the gravel and the towing vehicle’s rear wheels just spun ineffectually. I tried to refund their deposit, but my newness conspired to make me unable to figure out how to do so.

Friends and relatives also had trouble getting up my driveway, so I bit the bullet and paid $14,900 to have it paved with asphalt.

My third tenants (Evie & Harrison; via Airbnb) have now come and gone. They intended to stay for 28 days in a “skoolie” (refurbished retired school bus), accompanied by their minivan. I do not know how old the skoolie was or how well it had been maintained by previous owners, but it was long past “new.” These tenants drove here from Jacksonville, Florida. For the unaware, the Jacksonville School District is (was?) the only school district in the continental USA that does not own and operate its own school buses. Instead, the district’s buses are owned and operated by individuals, some driving their own buses and others hiring drivers, and the school board contracts with these owner-operators to ferry the kids around. Those buses are kept in service for many years, and their treatment and maintenance levels vary widely.

In the 1970s when I worked at a mountain summer camp for kids, Jacksonville school bus owner-operators were often hired to transport campers to local swimming holes, forest trails, and other attractions. I remember one owner-operators complaining to me that his bus had just blown its engine when being driven uphill on a mountain highway. He related that the bus was old, but thought it would have lasted another five years if it had been limited to flatlands.

When Evie & Harrison arrived, they were unable to back their skoolie into my RV site, so they opted to enter nose first. There were several reasons for that inability, IMO the most important being that their skoolie’s diesel engine was underpowered. It roared loudly as it inched slowly up the paved driveway and was loathe to move forward whenever the steering wheel was turned even slightly away from straight ahead. Another apparent issue was that the turnaround site had shrubby vegetation too close for easy radial steering, so I later used a chainsaw to cut the shrubs back another 6 to 8 ft. A third issue was that we were in the midst of a rainy spell, so the ungraveled ground at the edge of the site was soft. These three issues prevented the skoolie from maneuvering effectively during their 10-point turnings, and as a result the skoolie’s left front tire hit a soft spot and sank into the ground 6 to 8 inches. Because their skoolie had no way to be leveled as typical RVs do, this caused their floor to be slightly tilted in that position.

After being here a little over a week, they decided that the tilted floor was unacceptable. They tried to jockey the skoolie over to harder ground that was only about a yard away to the side, but the skoolie’s engine was unable to extricate the tire. Another issue with their skoolie, and presumably many other school buses, was that its rear axle had neither double-lockable wheels nor positraction, so gunning its engine when one rear tire was spinning on soft ground robbed power to the other wheel that was sitting (and unmoving) on solid ground. As a result, the bus went nowhere, so they gave up on this attempt and called a towing service.

Two days later, a mechanic driving a lifting-flatbed tow truck arrived to pull the skoolie out of the hole so that it could then be driven onto the firmer graveled ground. The mechanic had two ways he could do this. He could either use the truck’s power winch or pull the bus with a chain. He chose the latter. In his first attempt, he attached one end of his chain to the back of his tow truck and the other end to a steel hook welded to the back frame of the skoolie. This attempt ended suddenly when the chain’s end-hook popped off the bus hook. Harrison then re-hooked the chain and they gave it another go, slowly at first, and when that did not provide enough oomph, the mechanic powered up and suddenly soft-jerked the skoolie backward out of the tire-hole. Success! Or so we thought.

Harrison then drove the skoolie forward onto firm ground; however, the bus floor was still tilted. Evie told me the next day that the combination of the bus being tilted for the week and then winched out meant that the frame had been bent or other serious damage inflicted to the bus. They planned to have an insurance claim inspector diagnose it. There were two things wrong with Evie’s assertions: (1) vehicle frames as stoutly manufactured as school busses do not warp by sitting on uneven ground, and (2) the bus was "yanked" backward by the tow truck rather than being moved slowly by winching. Yanking a vehicle with a second vehicle is well-known to sometimes cause serious damage to one or both vehicles. Frankly, I am surprised the mechanic did not use the winch to pull the bus, as he confidently stated that the winch was capable of it. FWIW, I stood back and watched the operation; I did not lift an assisting hand due to red flags and liability concerns. The tenants elected to leave my site sooner than scheduled. I do not know if their plan was to move to a different RV site or to a garage to have the bus repaired.

Their effort to drive away three days later proved once again that their bus was underpowered for the mountains, as even on the asphalt driveway, the skoolie could not move forward even an inch when the front wheels were even slightly steered to the right or left. Also, with the shrubs now trimmed well away from the driveway, the skoolie still had turnaround issues, so they decided to back down the driveway to leave. Their original concern about being hemmed in by shrubbery was thus a third false claim.

As they prepared to leave, Evie informed me that the “damage” was to a shock absorber rather than to the bus frame. I do not know who made this determination, nor if it was even correct, as she had already made several false determinations. Relieved that their bus had not been seriously damaged, I agreed with her request for a pro rata refund, as they stayed for only 11 nights instead of the originally booked 28. Evie then said she would not give my site a review at all. I assumed she realized that their engine was underpowered for the mountains, their skoolie should have had leveling (and stabilizing) equipment, my shrubbery had nothing to do with their turnaround issues, flatlanders like themselves have a lot to learn about mountain living and driving, and they too wanted closure on this event. I therefore reciprocated the intention to give them no review either. We shook hands all around and they left.

However, any relief that I may have felt at that moment was dashed later that day upon learning that she had about-faced and submitted a review (her fourth false claim). I then learned that I cannot see her review until I give her one, kind of like buying a pig in a poke. At that point, my own angst rose to Code Orange. Evie’s unwarranted accusations that the soft ground had damaged their RV implied potentially thousands of dollars of liability, yet she offered no apology upon learning that she misspoke. Now she has given me a review that I cannot see, one that potentially adversely impacts my future income. This concern was aggravated by Airbnb rep “Jose,” who tried to get me to agree with something that Evie told Airbnb. Unfortunately, Jose’s Spanish accent was so strong that I had great difficulty understanding him, and had to ask him to repeat several things that he said. When I could not understand exactly what he was trying to get me to agree to that Evie claimed, I grew annoyed and instead put my own words into my mouth, after which he “agreed” with my wording.

Oh, by the way, Evie and Harrison released their pet cat to wander around outdoors unrestrained. My site profile states that all tenant pets must always be under positive control. I am a biologist who would rather have wildlife in my yard than someone else’ predatory pet.

I am now up in the air as to whether I want to continue to host an RV site at all. I am gestating on Evie’s misspeaking and failure to apologize, her telling me she was going to do one thing before asking for a partial refund and then doing something else after I agreed to the refund, they deliberately ignoring my pet control rule, Jose’s oft-incomprehensible English during communications regarding liability, Airbnb’s one-million-dollar “coverage” not actually being insurance, and my own uncertainty as to what requirements need to be placed on engine horsepower and RV and trailer maximum lengths. I think I will take my RV site off the market until I am back to Code Green and I know the maximum lengths of self-contained RVs and towing-towed combos for my site. In any case, NO MORE SKOOLIES!!!

Thursday, October 20, 2022

This 10cm sally was spotted on the exterior of a solar greenhouse at 3400ft msl in Henderson Co., NC, in mid-October this year. iNaturalist identified it as a Blue Ridge Two-lined Salamander (Eurycea wilderae). Note the dorsolateral lines fading into spots halfway along the tail for its specific id. Note the fabulous yellow of the belly for your admiration!

iNaturalist graphs it as most commonly sighted in early October. It is otherwise a shy creature (and my first ever sighting), yet was obvious against the GH wall. iNaturalist was short on reproductive habitats, but did say that it lays eggs in late winter to early spring. Therefore, my guess is that it had come out for mating, and positioned itself well above the ground where its belly would attract attention. Presumably, it is male, but I really dunno.

Monday, August 1, 2022

Need Engineering Trade Journals

I am a member of AAAS, and while that organization’s Science News articles written by its journalism staff are long on who did the research and where they work, their articles are sadly short on the nitty gritty. Fortunately, AAAS also publishes the journal Science, which minutely details cutting-edge research applicable to multiple research disciplines. Good mag, that.

I love to read about science and engineering. Science indeed feeds the former, but not the latter. A long-ago workplace’s engineers used to pass around engineering trade magazines, which discussed details of the latest applications in engineering research. I read them as avidly as my engineering colleagues (I am a wildlife biologist). I miss those mags.

One article in particular, I believe in a magazine entitled Civil Engineering, was written by an engineer who immersed a “hardware cloth” wire grid into saltwater and applied a small current to it. Over a month-long period, a hard solid that looked like cement subsequently “grew” on the grid. He initially suspected it was a marine salt precipitate, but after turning off the power, it did not redissolve. He didn’t want to pay for a chemical assessment, but opined that the material might have been some kind of hydrated compound. Because (I think) he used raw saltwater, I wonder if there might also have been a microbial component. Whatever, thinking that it had potential as a building material, he patented it and dedicated the patent to the public. The popular press would never, ever do articles like that.

More recently, there have been a series of vapid articles in the pop press about a Netherlands architectural firm designing a floating town for Mauritius. Its goal is to stay ahead of global warming’s sea rise. The new town’s buildings will be on rafting platforms joined together and anchored in place within an atoll. The architectural drawings are all pretty faces, of course, but neither pop press articles nor company PR detail such things as what materials comprise the floats, platforms, infrastructure, and buildings. Yawn. How are individual floating pods interconnected? With steel cables? With wooden beams? How will they deal with fouling organisms that glom onto and weigh down the floats? Seascaping projects like this one fascinate me, but all the articles I’ve read about it so far (and I’ve looked hard!) are empty calories to my analytical mind.

Or how about Elon Musk’s fantasy about a Mars colony? What EXACTLY does he plan to do about the physiological impacts to the human body from long-term exposure to low gravity? There’s not a peep about that issue in pop press articles. Hellooo! Earth calling Mars!

So, I plan to spend a little time over the next few weeks looking at engineering and architectural trade mags to see if they might take me where I want to go, and at what cost. Do any of you engineers and architects out there have any pointers? TIA


Monday, December 14, 2020

My Florida Torrey 2020 Status

I am a Torreya Guardian, one of a dozen or so people who work to prevent the extinction of one of the most endangered conifers in the world. The Florida torrey, Torreya taxifolia, has an extremely restricted range that is located at the triple point where Florida, Georgia, and Alabama meet. Although it has protected habitat in Florida, especially within Torreya State Park and nearby conservancy preserves, it is there infested by a fungus (Fusarium torreyae) that kills nearly all torreys before they are mature enough to set seed. Connie Barlow reasoned that the best way to save the species was to assist in its migration to cooler climes where the fungus may not be able to survive. She and others collect seed annually for distribution to the rest of us. Hence, my plantings in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina. So far, I have put 18 seedlings in the ground on my 2+ acres, 14 of which have survived to this day. The other four were killed by voles chewing through taproots blocking their way when digging their tunnels. This blog post documents the status of the remaining 14 as of today. The single torrey that was planted within the mature mixed forest here has grown the least, and now, nine years later, has grown to a height of only 13 inches:
The largest two were planted alongside my driveway where they get 4-5 hours of direct sunlight a day. Now, eight years later, they are 71 inches tall:
The others are intermediate in size according to the amount of insolation that they receive. Here's a couple of them:

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Solar Greenhouse Thermal Mass Hydroponics

Many greenhouses today use thermal mass water tanks. The 26 ft diameter Open Spaces Growing Dome solar greenhouse that I manage for a friend at 3400 ft elevation in western North Carolina has one that might hold about 600 gallons. Climate zone maps say it is within zone 7, but I believe it might as well be zone 6 at that elevation. Whatever.

I have asked around on Facebook's greenhouse and general gardening groups whether anyone is using their thermal mass water tanks for hydroponic or aquaponic cultures, and have received zero responses one way or the other. My suspicion is that people who do so are doing it on a commercial scale, which is fine as far as that goes. However, there are many greenhouse gardeners who grow for their own and friends’ tables, so I think this represents a currently wasted opportunity. If you have a thermal mass water tank in your greenhouse, or are thinking about putting one in, consider adding edibles to those tanks. I don’t think you will find very much directly applicable information out there (and I could be wrong about that), but perhaps if we who do eat what comes out of our tanks, we can share what we have learned in Facebook greenhouse and gardening groups.

I started out by researching crops to grow on a small scale in the GH I manage. It turns out that there are few such crops, and many of them are invasive pests that can be illegal to grow; e.g., watercress (Nasturtium officinale), which grows rampantly in some of America’s natural streams. Other native wild species like yellow water lily (Nuphar advena) and wild rice (Zizania, four species) are too large and difficult to harvest from small water tanks. I uncovered no suitable aquatic plants, so I looked for wetland plants that might be grown on floats.

One of the most promising candidates is Chinese water chestnut (Eleocharis edulis). This is a small wetland plant that can be raised in shallow water in a matrix of organic mud (I don’t call it soil, as there is no such thing as a true wetland “soil”). I obtained ten corms of it from a nursery in Florida, then punched five half-inch holes in the bottom of a closed-cell foam packing tray and placed five corms in the holes equally spaced around in the tray:

I then added the other five corms and filled the tray with about two inches of organic mud. They took their sweet time to sprout and then grew relatively slowly, averaging maybe 14 inches in height by early July 2020 (week 13):

As of last week (week 31), some of the leaves had grown to a height of about 16 inches and had started to die back for the winter. I do not know if the original corms have budded new ones, as this is not obvious. They may have stored enough energy during this past growing season to add more corm/shoot growth in the coming spring, and I don’t want to retard that possibility by disturbing them now just prior to winter. About half of the mud is gone, presumably by decomposition, but possibly also by percolating down into the tank through the watering holes. I plan to add more mud during early springtime. In the photo, note the plants’ white roots floating just under the water’s surface:

There are a few small fish (unknown species) in the tank to keep mosquito larvae at bay. I was afraid the fish might eat the roots, but that does not seem to be a problem. There is a thick layer of algae growing atop the mud, and I wonder if it will adversely affect the plants, but that remains to be seen.

Despite the water chestnut’s slow growth, I was encouraged by the successful proof of concept, wherein the floating wetland bed remained afloat, the water chestnuts flourished, the mud acted as a wetland substrate, and nothing bad happened over the five-month experiment. However, further internet searches turned up no other suitably promising floating wet mud crops, so I turned my attention to drier floating substrates, and it being autumn becoming winter, settled on peas - specifically snow and sugar snap peas. I had already successfully raised those in outside beds nearby, so I knew they would work with the potting soil that was available.

This time, I used Styrofoam packaging material, again punched half-inch holes in the bottom for irrigation, and placed 1- to 2-inch rocks above the holes to elevate the potting soil above the water level and hopefully to keep most of the dirt from dropping through the holes. This is what it looked like one week after planting (late September 2020):

The pea seeds fairly leapt up out of the ground! Over the following weeks, the plants (vines) grew eight inches up and over the edge of the tank, another four feet down to the greenhouse floor, and then back up another two feet. That’s almost seven feet over 11 weeks, which was easily twice the length of pea vines grown outside in the garden bed during the summer. I don’t know if they grew faster in the greenhouse because peas are a cool season crop, but I also must admit that they have yet to flower and set seed. There could be a nutrient deficiency in the water tank, but that is hard to determine because water nutrient analyses are expensive and the county extension agency is oriented toward determining fertilizer levels in dirt, not water.

I like the idea of raising vines rather than bushes in the tank, because vines can grow over and down the sides of the tank whereas bushes (e.g., beans and tomatoes) could easily topple over if their substrates have no side support. I may try strawberries this coming spring.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Red Wolves?

Kimo Brown’s story today on Facebook (http://tinyurl.com/y6rxenfs) of his encounter with mustangs and rez dogs during morning yoga reminded me of a similar experience I had at Padre Island National Seashore off Corpus Christi, Texas, I think in the 1980s. It happened when a client organized a workshop attended by several members of our environmental consulting company, another consulting company, local university scholars, and state and federal agency staff. The group was primarily composed of wildlife biologists.

We met daily at the university over a week, did our workshop thing, and then retired at the end of each day to a local pub for chips, Tex-Mex salsa, and beer. Problem was, there was one big round table that most of the group sat at, but it wasn’t big enough for us all, so I wound up at a smaller table with grad students. The Big Table continued to talk about the project, but the grad students only talked about school funding inadequacies. After a couple of days of barroom boredom, I decided to investigate the Padre Island wilderness.

I drove across the causeway and parked, walked the seaside trail to a fine Seton spot, and sat down in the atmosphere created by wind in the sea oats, Gulf of Mexico small surf, and colorful sunset. I was totally alone. Despite the thriving city only a few miles away, I was the only person in the coastal barrier landscape.

The first evening I was there, and almost as soon as I sat down, Eastern Meadowlarks began singing. Theirs is a relatively monotonous, strident and reedy song, but I grew up with it in North Florida and find it familiar and comforting. This lasted for about 15 minutes. Afterward, there was about a five-minute interval carrying only the sounds of the breeze and the sea, and then Western Meadowlarks began calling. Their songs were far and away more melodious than their Back East brethren. It was my first experience hearing this species, and I was enthralled. I listened to it until they ceased singing, finished watching the sun go down, and drove back to the motel.

The second evening, I again went to that sweet spot and waited for the meadowlark opera to begin. As I sat there, however, I got the strange feeling that someone was watching me despite mine being the only vehicle in the parking lot. Turning around to investigate, I saw three large canids about 20 feet away staring at me from the sand dune ridgeline above... three pairs of wild, yellow eyes evaluating this lone potential prey victim sitting in a most vulnerable position. Not daring to even gulp, much less budge, I stared back. Two of them then turned and nonchalantly trotted away, but the third continued to meet my gaze for a moment longer and then also slipped off.

These animals were the size of large German shepherds, but the grad students the next day concluded I had merely seen coyotes. However, I have seen coyotes Out West and in the Southeast, and individuals of both populations are significantly smaller than shepherds. Furthermore, there was a small population of red wolves on that island back then. Perhaps I did just see coyotes, but the coyote is descended from wolves and their hybrids are fertile, so I prefer to believe that I saw wolves. Whatever, after they left, I listened again to the meadowlarks. East meets West sometimes inscrutably.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

A Solar Greenhouse to Play In!

I have been helping a friend repair and put back into operation a 26 ft diameter geodesic dome solar greenhouse that was designed and sold by Colorado-based Growing Spaces.

She bought the greenhouse over ten years ago as a way to get her family to spend quality time together on a project. Her family scattered to the four winds over the years, and not having a green thumb she just ‘let it go.’ More recently, she decided to rehabilitate it as a way to grow her own organic veggies and provide a place for herself and her Buddhist group to meditate. I constructed a solar greenhouse in the late 1970s that followed the guidelines of the New Alchemy Institute (now called The Green Center), so now I get to play in a solar greenhouse again after all these years!

My friend flatly refuses to employ power from the local utility (Duke), instead relying on three small solar panels that came with the greenhouse: (1) a 12" x 24" panel powering a ventilation fan, (2) a 12" x 24" panel powering an under-soil heating system, and (3) a 12" x 12" panel powering a (bilge) pump intended to circulate water in the thermal storage tank. All three solar panels function fine and provide appx 12 vDC current, which obviously varies according to the amount of solar insolation available during the diel cycle as modified by weather.

The ventilation fan also works well; however, I am a bit confused about its thermostat. Currently, the fan turns on and blows outside air into the GH when inside air temperature drops to about 65 °F, and then turns off when greenhouse air rises to 80+ °F. That is obviously backwards from what it should do, and the manufacturer confirmed to me that the thermostat was probably wired backwards, but after reversing the thermostat’s internal wiring based on a diagram he sent me, it still turns on and off backwards. Maybe I only thought I rewired it correctly but actually didn’t? I’ll revisit this in the spring, but the fan is now disabled and shuttered for the winter.

The greenhouse’s two-foot-high internal raised beds are enclosed by concrete block walls, at the bases of which are layers of eighth-inch wire mesh (so-called ‘hardware cloth’) to ward off burrowing rodents. The beds encircle the greenhouse interior perimeter except at the door and water tank. The bottom halves of the beds are filled with native dirt, which is a rocky sandy clay that provides good enough drainage. The top halves of the beds are filled to an appx twelve-inch depth with potting soil (mostly pine bark with a little
humus and very little Perlite).

There are two four-inch diameter ribbed plastic pipes running the entire length of the perimeter beds at the interface between the native dirt and potting soil. The pipes lead from an air intake box near the center of the GH’s south side (the warmest place in the GH):

I replaced the seized-up original soil heater fan with a $10 computer cooling fan and hooked it up to the second 12” x 24” solar panel. When the sun is shining, the solar panel now powers the new fan, which sucks air into and pushes it through the two plastic pipes to heat the soils in the raised beds. Warm roots support veggies better than cold roots! This pic shows the exhaust end of one of the pipes emerging well above the raised bed to keep potting soil from falling into the pipe:

The water tank's bilge pump was seized up when I came on board, so it was discarded but not replaced. My friend said it never worked (!) and she didn’t miss it, so there are no plans to replace it. The electric wires from its solar panel are still in place but not connected to anything. I harbor thoughts of eventually installing a new bilge pump and using the water tank (pictured below) for more than just thermal storage, but that is a subject to write about on another day. In the spring of 2019, I plan to move the bilge pump’s solar panel to the southwest side of the roof and the soil heater solar panel to its southeast side. I will then wire the two solar panels in parallel to power the soil bed heating fan, which together should provide power for a longer diel period and heat the raised bed soils even better than originally designed.

The water supply for the greenhouse was originally a stop-and-waste valve spigot located outside the greenhouse about four feet away from the southwest ventilation panel. This had several undesirable results, including (1) having to run a hose from the spigot into the greenhouse through the SW ventilation panel, which was inconvenient and in the way of gardening operations, 
(2) the SW ventilation panel was never completely closed because the hose was kept there, causing warm greenhouse air to escape to the outdoor winter environment, and (3) the spigot was destroyed twice in freezing weather after being left on due to forgetfulness. I convinced her to let me and her handyman move the spigot to the inside of the greenhouse, which was done in December 2018, and I then attached a four-way brass water distributor (and a plastic wye) to it to provide five protected tap water sources inside the structure.

Next, I connected two soaker hoses to the distributor. For the short raised bed located along the greenhouse’s west side and beyond the door, I cut a short section from a garden hose, added male and female connectors to the severed hose ends, and ran the short hose to the short bed to connect into a 25 ft long soaker hose. This photo shows the hose running vertically along both lower sides of the door (the hose is also buried four inches under the floor sand).

The second soaker hose, 50 ft long, was attached to the water distributor and then run out and looped back to irrigate the long raised bed. Soaker hoses have small pores that deliberately leak water for irrigation, but some of the pores are large enough for water to squirt out several feet beyond the raised beds and be wasted. Therefore, I buried both soaker hoses 2-3 inches deep in the potting soil to capture all of the irrigation water. These two soakers irrigate nearly the entirety of the raised beds, excluding only the end of the long bed which is not yet completely filled with potting soil or contains any plants. That location will be topped up with potting soil and vegetated in the spring of 2019, at which time I will add another 25 ft long soaker hose to irrigate it.

The greenhouse has a lot of air leaks, allowing air to somewhat freely pass in and out of the structure. This undesirably cools the interior in winter, although probably also helps to beneficially reduce overheating in summer. Leaks are caused in several ways, and I have plugged some of them, but much more repair will be needed next year. As mentioned above, one leak was stopped by moving the water spigot inside the greenhouse, thus eliminating the need to run the irrigation hose through an always-open vent panel. A second leak was closed by replacing a rotted structural 2x4 that a vent panel was attached to. A third leak was fixed by reseating weather-stripping that had become loose and sagged away from a vent panel over time. A fourth leak was mostly closed by replacing two rotted structural 2x4 boards that were fitted horizontally to the outside Hardy-board wall. Finally, several vent panels did not close completely because the aluminum strips that cover and protect vent panel junctions were too long; these I cut shorter with tin snips.

The fourth leak mentioned above was difficult to repair, as the weight of the greenhouse’s transparent panels was upon the two rotted 2x4 boards. Furthermore, additional 2x4s atop the Hardy-boards are rotten and still need replacing, which will be a two-man operation that will be done during 2019. The greenhouse owner is somewhat sensitive to pressure-treated wood, so the original construction used untreated redwood or cedar 2x4s. While redwood, cedar, and some other woods are naturally rot-resistant, they certainly are not completely so, and we will be looking at alternatives come spring.

We have also had to learn a lesson in varmint control. The entire floor of the structure is underlain by eighth-inch wire mesh to prevent rodents from burrowing into the greenhouse. This includes under the raised beds, as mentioned above, and under the central floor’s four-inch-thick layer of coarse sand. However, today I spotted on the bottom of the water tank a drowned mouse that evidently fell in and could not climb out. We had been wondering what was eating the leaves of the parsley and red Russian kale, and were advised by neighbors that it was probably slugs, so we were planning to install beer traps. However, the mouse could also be the culprit, as a cursory search has yet to turn up a single slug and there are still many holes in the walls that need to be plugged. What do you think?

Lastly, the photo below of the center of the greenhouse should give you some idea of how much room there is inside. It is large enough to add a central raised bed, but we will probably not do so since she wants the space for meditation sessions. I hope to be able to show you more pics over time as we finish topping up and planting the existing raised beds, adding the additional soaker hose, adding hanging baskets, and allowing warmer weather over the upcoming spring and summer to create a lush indoor green space. I might even install some solenoid valves to completely automate the irrigation system.