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Friday, December 7, 2012

Building A House On My Own

Journey back with me, if you will, to 1982 to when I was 22 years old and teaching high school vocational agriculture.  I had talked my advisory board and principal into letting me build a greenhouse.

Oh mother, what did I get myself into.  I'd never really built anything outside of a chicken coop or two and here I was in a small rural high school trying to show people that a vo-ag teacher who ovulated was just as good as a man.  Better even.

So my Advanced Ag class and I set out to raise the roof on our greenhouse.  And we did it.  But oh, the sleepless nights I had working out structural problems and trying to brainstorm our next step.  The steps to erect it were simple enough, but lacking the discipline of making things level and straight, the boys and I had quite a time of it.  Eventually one of the neighboring farmers sent his foreman over to help me correct some mistakes.  He was very kind about it.  "Geez Sheryl, I can't believe you haven't asked for help!  You have your hands full with those boys.  You've done a great job.  Let me send my man over to help you square it up and you'll be done!"  Bless you Perry.

We did it get erected.  And the door closed.  And the heater working.  And the lights on.  And the fan inflated the walls to make the whole thing rigid and tight as a drum.  Success.  "We did it Ms Williams!"  We all stood and gawked at it, silently amazed that each of us could do such a thing.  It was a great moment and one that still makes me smile.

We soon had that greenhouse humming and stuffed full of plants.  My boys would drop in on the Horticulture class I taught to tell everyone that THEY had built the greenhouse.  "Remember Ms Williams when we put those hoops up?  And had to screw them together?"  We would laugh.  Silly us should have done it in the shop instead of on top of a ladder.  "Remember when we almost dropped the heater?  You should have seen the look on Ms Williams' face!" they would say.

I miss them.  And why this recollection?  Well, I'm building another house, but by myself this time.  I'm building an insect hotel.  Hopefully it will be something between this more rustic abode.

Photo from
And this swanky chateau from the Jardin des Plantes.

Photo from

I don't have a set of plans, just a series of photos and descriptions (in French of course, thank you Google Translate!)  Plenty for me to obsess about as I toss and turn.  But this time it will be different.  I am making sure things are level, that they fit together properly, and that the engineering makes sense.  Those long ago fall days with my ag boys have taught me to be a better builder.  Even if it's just for bugs.

As I dig my post holes and drill into blocks of wood, my eye catches some nearby movement.  It's my mockingbird friends who are wondering what I'm up to.  Do you think I could teach them to hold a measuring tape?  Looks like I'm not alone after all.