When Escaping the Rat Race Becomes the Rat Race

We have been so busy lately on the farm that we feel like we are chasing our tails. I thought to myself “we bought this farm to escape the rat race of life” and now it is like the farm has become the rat race! We are under a deadline with the high tunnel construction. This project has been derailed so many times, I’m losing count. To give you a little history of this project, let me do a timeline for you:

In February of 2017 we started levelling our garden space because we had met with the Natural Resource Conservation Agency to find out the requirements for obtaining a high tunnel grant through their USDA program for beginning farmers. You had to have a 5% slope or less to be approved. For us, that involved renting a high lift excavator for 2 weeks and moving a lot of dirt! 

In March of 2018 we were pre-approved for our high tunnel grant. In May of 2018 we were officially approved. In July of 2018 we were approved for our building permit in Jefferson County. Once the proceeds were available from the grant, we ordered the materials for the high tunnel from Zimmerman Welding in Versailles, MO. We picked it up in September of 2018. In October of 2018, we started laying out all the holes – there would be 34 total. The high tunnel dimensions are 30’ x 96’. In February of 2019, we started putting together the boughs or trusses. There was 13 to put together. 

Because of how wet the winter and spring were, we were unable to get all of the side poles installed (concreted in) all at once. It was piecemeal. We would do 2 or 3 or 4 or 5 anytime there was a slight break in the weather. We got one entire side finished (17 poles) early on with our son’s help. The remaining side though would be most difficult. With all the rain and how long it was taking the holes would fill up with mud/water and we would have to dig them out again. I think some of those holes have been dug 3 or 4 times! 

During the last month, we have had the most success at getting the poles done. We had to get an extension on our building permit and the most they would give us is 90 days. So, the rush is on. We finished up the last 6 poles just this week. Next up is a lot of dirt work, installing the trusses onto the side poles, drilling more holes and setting the 4x4 lumber poles for the end walls. Install the hip board and baseboard lumber. Install all the hardware for the doors/bracing/channels for the wires that hold the plastic on, installing the plastic, etc. 

Just this week we started our dirt work and the used 2002 Bobcat we purchased started giving us problems. So now we are changing out the fuel filter and trying to get it running again. Apparently there is an obstruction in the fuel line somewhere. The 90 days is ticking down and this high tunnel isn’t all we have to do on the farm. There are animal chores and garden work and the list goes on and on. Hopefully, we can look beyond this in a few months and realize that some major has been accomplished on the farm that will add to our future success on the farm. But for now, it is a rat race! When you both work full time jobs and do the farm in the evenings and on weekends it becomes tricky. Oh yeah, our Saturdays are taken up with the farmer’s market. It’s complicated!

Paul Trusty