Tag Archives: greenhouse

The Greenhouse Project-Phase 1

We have never been a family to just do one thing at a time. We are always in the midst of several projects at once and as one gets completed we tend to add two more. So on top of our bee’s, chickens, rabbits, tilapia, & aquaponics, we are in the middle of completing our 21′ X 10′ Greenhouse attached to the side of our home.

Of course the original plan was to have this project completed before Thanksgiving 2013, but best laid plans………

We found that starting the project before pulling the permits was probably not the best idea we ever had. We got a little excited and started building,  thinking that we had the required set backs etc, so getting a permit should not be a big deal. After we started, I thought, I ought to go ahead and get the permit to be safe.

So down to Baltimore County Zoning I went, thinking I would have the permit in hand when I got home. Well, that did not happen. I found that because we sit on a corner lot that the setbacks are 25′ vs the 6′ I was expecting. So here we go again having to get a zoning variance to get our permit.

About the same time, one of our neighbors across the street from my backyard, decided that she would call in to see if we pulled the permit. This neighbor does not understand or want to understand our green, homesteader lifestyle, so complains about anything we do. Note: Also the neighbor that turned in our chickens to the county.

Ok, so we were issued a stop work order until we were able to

Greenhouse when stop work ordered issued

secure the proper permit. Fortunately, we were not issued a citation, so we were able to file for an administrative zoning variance, meaning we would not have to go in front of the judge.

We needed to file all the proper paperwork with site plans, and reasoning for our greenhouse in the location we had chosen. This seemed a lot better than compiling everything and going in front of the judge to plead our case. He either signed it or not. The only hold up would be if a neighbor complained and demanded a hearing in front of the judge.

So we were on pins and needles until the day that the judge was supposed to make a decision on our case. We contacted his office every few days to see if anyone had complained or demanded a hearing, although we knew there was only one that would.

And of course they did, the day before the judge was to make a decision. They were unwilling to pay the fee’s associated with demanding a hearing, so they simply lodged a complaint and let it go. But it was enough for the judge to go ahead and order a hearing so he could here both sides.

We were scheduled for a hearing on December 19, 2013.  So on top of our holiday preparations we needed to compile our case for our greenhouse.  We worked hard the few weeks leading up to the hearing date, including securing signatures of every other neighbor within 500 ft of our property.

To my amazement, when securing signatures, twelve of our closest neighbors offered to go to the hearing on our behalf. This just shows how good of a neighborhood that we live in, most neighbors watch out for their neighbors and help whenever they can.

The day had arrived and our caravan of neighbors journeyed toward the courthouse.  We felt there was no real reason we should be denied, we had all our ducks in a row, we thought. We were excited, yet apprehensive, since we had no idea of what our complaining neighbor would say. Whatever it would be we felt we had compiled plenty of counterpoints with supporting documentation, including neighborhood pictures.

We entered the courtroom about 15 minutes early and waited patiently for the judge and any others to arrive. About 10 minutes after scheduled start time the judge entered, saw the crowd, and asked if the complainant was in attendance-they were not. He allowed a few more minutes for them to arrive before starting the proceeding.

No arrival, so the judge began and asked us to state our project details and why we needed a variance to accomplish it. After laying out our case he asked the others in the group to speak, which were all in favor of our variance—–no opposition.

The judge was courteous and weighed the arguments vs county regulations and immediately approved our variance. He stated that the only reason he requested the hearing was to see how serious the complainant was and what arguments they could have against a greenhouse.

What a relief! Now we could move forward. Although we were already 3 months behind, maybe we could get a few nice days, get the tarp down and at least get the exterior done where I could work inside during cold days.

That was not to happen either, this winter has been very cold and very wet compared to our usual winter. Plus it just keeps hanging on and on and on. Maybe we can get done by this Thanksgiving.

Greenhouse facing side street

We did get a nice weekend last week-mid 50’s low 60’s but windy. We took the opportunity to get some work done, before the next snow storm that they were calling for the following Tuesday.

Front view GH
Front view GH
Front of GH
Front of GH
Rear of GH
Rear of GH





At least we were able to get the house siding put back on and make the house and greenhouse look a little more presentable. But it is now back under cover until we can get another break in the weather, which looks like it may happen in a couple of weeks.

GH re-covered
GH re-covered

Read On: GH Project Phase 1 Completion

Greenhouse Inside

Best Laid Plans-Our Venture into Aquaponics

Chickens, bees, rabbits, dogs, and cats; How much more can you add to a 1/5 acre lot in the suburbs of a major metropolitan area? Living on a corner lot in a major sub-division of our suburban town tends to make it a little more difficult to homestead the way I would like. Too many regulations and  a couple of neighbors with nothing better to do than worry about what anyone else is doing.!

Sheep, goats, pigs are not WP_001445allowed, but there is no regulation regarding fish! So I guess fish it is, tilapia fish to be exact. An African Cichlid that many believe is the fish that Jesus fed the multitudes just outside Capernaum.

Using Tilapia as our tank fish for the grow beds  for aquaponics just made sense. They proliferate quickly, they do their job very well in adding nutrients to the grow beds, and they taste great when they become too big for the tanks!

This part of getting the Aquaponics system together was probably the easiest choice, but there are drawbacks. These fish are from a very warm climate and cannot live in water below 60 degrees. Actually everyone I talk with says the water temp should be constant between 80 & 90 degrees. So no matter where we have our tanks in our area (Mid-Atlantic U.S.) the tanks will have to be heated. We will work around that hurdle as we need, but for now it is Tilapia.

We started the fish in our house in a standard 55WP_001439 gallon tank. We bought 25 fingerlings from a breeder and started our fish family about 9 months ago. We let these 25 grow to about 6 months of age and then allowed them to breed, then moving mama into a breeder tank to take care of the babies when they dropped from her mouth.

Our plan was to have our greenhouse built and 4-300 gallon tanks installed to handle the babies which were bred. We should have been done around Thanksgiving 2013 which would have been good timing for the fish to move to the larger tanks. Unfortunately, we hit a snag with local zoning and ended up in court until Christmas. Refer back to the last line of the first paragraph.

Anyway, we did get everything passed and gained approval for our permits. We hadWP_001412 about a week to work before this long drawn out winter hit the east coast hard and stopped our work. So the greenhouse has been under tarp for several months. As soon as the weather breaks, we will return to our work on it.

So back to the fish! When we had our plans and started getting material for greenhouse, we went ahead and an allowed some “breeding” to happen. Since Greenhouse construction would only take a few weeks, when we were done, we would have fish ready to go into the four 300 gallon tanks.  BUT……

I was not expecting that our first pairing would yield over 300 fish. Not that it really mattered at the time, but once we realized the greenhouse was going to be delayed until spring, we had to make other arrangements. We only had 2-55 gallon tanks inside, which was not near enough for 300 babies and 25 adults.

Thank God for craigslist and Amazon! We were able to quickly put together WP_001438another 30 Gallon and a 125 gallon tank, plus I quickly put together a 275 gallon aquaponics tank in our basement. All with heaters, filters, & pumps.

I had to cut the tank and grow bed from an IBC tank outside and then try to fit it through a 30″ door, so I hacked it up pretty bad. But for a quick makeshift tank, it works. I have 4 other IBC tanks to use when the greenhouse is finished and I will do a much better job on them!

Well hopefully soon the weather will break here and I can get back to work.  I will update on the greenhouse soon, but at least for now we have plenty of fish for the new tanks when it’s done!

Aquaponics-the adventure continues

Gutter Garden

Greenhouse-Completion Phase I