So this morning I met a friend, Lance for coffee and then headed up to the Market Farm to test out my new Quick Tunnel bender from Johnny’s Seeds. Siting for the Uber Hoopty (30×96) is still underway, but in the mean time I have spinach and lettuce to get going so I opted to go small or go go home. There is a very strong economics argument for these little tunnels – they are between 5% and 10% of the cost of a typical High Tunnel of the same area with a trade off in significantly more work to harvest and maintain. Here is the price break down for the 3 beds I am planning on building (3 beds 6’x80′).
- Pipe Bender $70
- 3 rolls Tufflite Plastic ($70 each, $210)
- 51 1/2″ x 10′ conduit ($1.35 each, $70)
- 1 bundle sand bags 100 count ($50)
Grand total for almost 1500 sq ft under plastic? $400. The bender and the conduit essentially last forever, the sandbags and plastic will be good for 2-4 years – perhaps more as the plastic is only out 5 months of the year. The 20′ chunks left over will be used in the Small Hoopty, and at our home beds. I am hooked on these things.
Why? Well, for one the 80′ row went up in 3 hours of pick a little, talk a little paced work despite 5″ of frost that we had to pound through. The next one will go up in half that. Next there is the solar gain – interior temps on a 20 degree day were over 60 in 90 minutes and we were still futzing withe synching down the plastic tight. Damn. Finally there is the earning / produce potential. These will net me spinach and lettuce sales at least a month sooner – well over $100 a bed, and will then get me into baby potatoes over a month earlier – again at least $100 each. Those of you mathey types will have already determined that I am at positive cash flow without labor costs. These will then make growing sweet potatoes possible in our climate by protecting the slips for May planting.
Here are some pics of our adventures today:
We had 6″ of snow 2 days ago, but today was sunny and no wind at all – ideal conditions! 20 degrees, but thanks to the sun we worked in long sleeves all day. The plot above is about 25′ wide and the plot is 90′ long.
The first 15 pipes bent in under 15 minutes. Yep, under a minute each. It is simply not possible to overstate how well designed the bender is, nor how easy it is to use on 1/2″ conduit. Quick, easy to learn, and consistent: our first bend was as good as our 17th. It is so pleasant when a tool works BETTER than billed. So very impressed – can you tell? Next we needed to pound through the frost – I found a 3/4″ diameter steel stake laying around and, when slammed repeatedly with an 8lb sledge, made quick work of the job. Funny thing about BFH’s – they get shit done!
This went smoothly, but took longer than anything in the job except scrounging long heavy things to weight down the plastic. Having Lance help was great, allowing one to set the hoop while the other beat out a tempo with the sledge.
Laying the plastic was simple, but we had NO wind. Sandbags would make the final tightening much easier, but our scrounge boards and blocks worked alright for now. 2.5 hours in, but we were taking it easy and enjoying the awesome day – its not even noon and, look Ma! No Jacket!
3 hours front to back and the results are impressive. Will let this cook the frost out for a week or so and then plant with spinach. The other two will get lettuce and romaine. 4″ of snow and 5″ of frost out in a week?
This was just in the 45 minutes it took us to pull the plastic taut. After 90 minutes it was 62 degrees – laying on bare snow reflecting much of the heat. I see why the Tufflite is only used in the dead of winter!
Next week once the sand bags get here, I’ll put up the other two as well as one in the Small Hoopty, Though given these temps, that may only be to break germination and then I will need to switch to Agribon.