A greenhouse with a twist

Photo: Heidi Håvan Grosch The finished product: a sturdy industrial greenhouse built out of rebar and inspiration.

Photo: Heidi Håvan Grosch
The finished product: a sturdy industrial greenhouse built out of rebar and inspiration.

Heidi Håvan Grosch
Sparbu, Norway

I live in a Norwegian family where the motto is often “why should we buy something when we can make it ourselves?”; this makes the Håvan family the ultimate crafters. My husband and his father have built industrial lawnmowers out of old parts, custom-made trailers to haul wood out of the forest, and shelters out of hand-sawn lumber. This crafting mindset holds true when it comes to building a greenhouse. The one we had before was constructed with the old 1950s windows and wood scraps saved from house renovations, but time and elements necessitated that we tear it down last year before it caved in on itself (and possibly the people inside). The question then became, what to erect in its place? In true artist fashion, we didn’t want something that everyone else had, so we began our search for inspiration (often step one on a crafter’s journey).

As it so happens, Morten and I were on a driving trip last summer and came across a domed greenhouse made of rebar mats and plastic. “We can make that!” we said, making the memory that was to be our only pattern for the project one year later.

After removing the old greenhouse and adjusting the drainage around the area where the new one would stand, the first step was building the foundation. We chose not to put in a cement floor (okay, I use the term “we” loosely as it was my husband, Morten, who did the bulk of the work and planning; he is truly the visionary craftsman). Instead, we opted for dirt, with the possibility of gravel later. A rectangular foundation of green treated lumber was constructed into which was drilled holes … many holes … many small holes, enough that each individual prong of the rebar mat would have a place to land. Craftsmanship is often about precision, not just creativity.

Morten then soldered all the rebar mats together so they could create the desired dome shape. In a team of four (thank goodness for in-laws) we bent the mat and placed all the countless small metal ends into the wooden holes. The soldering of the two flat rebar sides followed. “Did you have a plan?” I asked Morten. “Only the one made on the computer on Google Sketch-up,” he replied, smiling, “and that was made from the memory I had of the greenhouse I saw.”

This was a project of pure joy, lacking the frustration “work” often provides and instead creating the “fun” that one deeply immersed in a craft often discovers. Inside that rebar arch, a framework of treated 2x4s was built to offer support. A door was cut out and framed in with treated wood, and a vent built from one saved from an old greenhouse, blown away in a hurricane many years back. Craftsmen often believe that saving things with potential is essential, as one will probably need it in the future.

The entire structure was covered in industrial plastic, that used to cover walls when building traditional structures, and taped to secure the seams. Morten, always the craftsman with attention to details, even sanded every joint and covered them in heavy burlap band so they wouldn’t puncture the plastic. Together we oiled every inch of that rebar so it would rust less quickly and this artistic greenhouse creation would stand the test of time.

Crafting can mean so many things. Merriam-Webster defines it as “an activity that involves making something in a skillful way by using your hands” and there can be no doubt that this greenhouse project has been just that. When one creates something, it often happens after being inspired. You see a sweater or a pattern and want to make it. You experience nature and want to paint a picture. You see a greenhouse made of rebar and plastic, and immediately the wheels of your brain start turning as you try to figure out how it can be done.

This article is a part of Heidi Håvan Grosch’s column Rønningen Ramblings, which appears a couple times a month in the Norwegian American Weekly.

This article originally appeared in the Oct. 23, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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