The Hoop House Arrives

At the most unexpected moments, small changes can initiate a cascade of life changing events. For me, a whole new cycle began with the decision to get a small used greenhouse.

My old greenhouse had been utterly destroyed by wind and my husband kept promising to build a new one in wood and glass. He hated the old one anyway as it was an unpleasant structure made of aluminum tubing and fiberglass. The fiberglass had aged to a yellowish color so he called it the giant Madison Valley maggot.

While I agreed it was not at all attractive, it meant I could grow tomatoes in a climate where it can snow any month of the year. Those deliciously ripened red orbs allowed me to overlook the surrounding aesthetic shortcomings. However, after the wind mangled the greenhouse into a depressing pretzel three years passed without those wonderful tomatoes, or a new greenhouse being built. Every time the weather was good, my husband instead went fishing, his great passion in life.

This pattern was interrupted when we opened our own art gallery, RiverStone Gallery. I found myself in Ennis most of the time rather than driving thirty to forty thousand miles a year working the high end juried art and craft shows. I decided I could properly tend tomatoes again and I announced it was time to build a new greenhouse.

Bern could tell I had reached my limit and said he would see to it that summer. Almost immediately he was in the hospital with heart rhythm problems, apparently from the stresses of getting the gallery space remodeled and open. I realized even if he really wanted to build a greenhouse (doubtful indeed) he was in no shape to do so.

I decided to find a temporary secondhand greenhouse I could somehow get onto the property without him having to do anything. I wanted at least half the size of my ruined 8 by 16 foot one. I looked and looked with no success.

Eventually I found an ad for a greenhouse framework and a greenhouse cover. It did not sound like an actual greenhouse. I called the number and they surprised me by saying it not only was complete, but it was standing and I could come look at it.

To my thrilled delight, it was a whopping 20′ by 40’ and in good shape. The original owners had lived in it 6 months while they built their cabin in Colorado. They sold it to this couple who thought the world was ending in 2000. Since it did not, and he was unemployed, they were selling all their survival stuff.

I promptly bought it. For $1500 he took it down, brought it to my place, and installed it while also building new wooden end walls with glass windows, doors, and 4×4s set in concrete. Every steel cross brace of the framework had big screw anchors at each end to hold it firmly in the ground. This structure was going to stand solidly in spite of our winds here.

My husband was quite dismayed at first. He objected that it was nearly as big as our house. I smiled widely and said, “Isn’t that wonderful? That is why we have the second lot!” I told him we could sell it again when he built the new one.

As it progressed he realized it did not look plug ugly like the old one and he ventured to ask if maybe I really liked it, he would not have to build one. I assured him I would be perfectly happy to keep it and thought it would be a good solution for both of us.

His only other question was how much it was going to cost per tomato for the crop I was going to grow in there. I told him I had no idea, but I would figure it out for him if he wanted. And while I was at it, I would figure out all the expenses per trout that he releases back in the river. The subject never came up again.

Once the hoop house was installed, I began to paint the end walls white. I only had about an hour at dawn each morning because the gallery was busy. One morning I was trotting happily out to the hoop house with my paint roller and I was stopped in my tracks by the garden. The poppies had just opened into bloom and the dawn light falling across them left me transfixed.

I abandoned painting the greenhouse for the time being and started painting poppies, huge paintings four feet by five feet. I had not planned to be painting flowers, but it quickly became the major focus of my art. Fortunately my husband does like it when I disconcert him with unexpected art explosions.

Since then I have redesigned the gardens and filled both lots with flowers, all laid out to catch the dawn light. These provide most of the inspiration for my paintings these days. And you would not believe how good the tomatoes taste!