Winter 2018 #BeADoer ~ Ramble Farm Subterranean Greenhouse Project

by Amber Rogers of Ramble Farm

Thank you for the opportunity to share our greenhouse with you. Allow me to introduce ourselves. We are Chris and Amber Rogers, we own and operate a small farm on the west side of Bend. Ramble Farm, established in 2014, is where we raise Katahdin sheep, Red Wattle cross pigs, Muscovy ducks, meat rabbits, a plethora of chickens, tons of fruits, herbs and veggies, and it is all fiercely protected by two wonderful livestock guardian dogs.

When Chris and I moved onto our property, it was a far cry from a dream property. The fencing was downed, crooked or there was none. The weeds and sage were waist high with juniper everywhere. Trees 30 feet high grew up through the asphalt in a defunct tennis court. The biggest eyesore of all was the nasty, smelly, bacteria-ridden in-ground swimming pool. This hole harbored a watery grave of all sorts of goodies; lawn chairs, rugs, floaty toys, garbage and a dead animal or two. What do you do with a 15 foot deep diving pool that’s been abandoned since 1994 was our biggest question. We started off with the obvious, restore it to its former glory! The $25,000 min price quote shot that idea straight outta the park. Idea two, a pond. Well, being in Central Oregon, water is a concern — we didn’t have enough. We decided to start filling it in while we came up with a solution. One dump truck after another. Ideas came and went, bowling/croquet lawn, BBQ pad, badminton court, dog runs etc…

Then a stroke of luck. I happened to be perusing YouTube one afternoon, looking for affordable ways to build a greenhouse in harsh climates, and came across a couple that also had a defunct swimming pool that was beyond repair — so they started using it to keep their garden from the damaging Arizona sun. Just like that, an idea started to form… A greenhouse! I proposed the idea to my husband and we were off and running.

Plastic tarps would not be an option for me though. I had to have a true greenhouse lid with a proper door. My husband, not a builder but never one to shy away from a challenge, started drawing up plans immediately. Our first concern was being able to build affordably. Trusses and plastic sheeting are very expensive. I started searching craigslist for trusses, needing a very specific width. In the meantime we had to remove a good portion of all the material we had dumped into the pool — that was probably the worst part.

It took me several months to find what I was looking for but happened to stumble upon a gentleman selling 22 trusses that were the exact width to expand across the area we needed for only $200! Now we could move forward with the project. It took my husband most of the summer to build this unique structure. A man-sized door, and a roof tall enough to walk in without bending over in the shallow end but not the same height in the deep end. Of course, I had lots of grand ideas. To this day I am still impressed with his ingenuity. The finished project went way beyond expectations. It will always be an ongoing project, but the main structure is impressive. This year, two raised beds, stairs, watering system and a deck were installed. Next year we hope to implement a small aquaponics system in the attached hot tub and new ventilation fans. The year after, lemon, orange, maybe avocado trees. The possibilities are endless.

My passion is gardening. I come by it honestly. My mom and great granny were/are fantastic gardeners. Being in Central Oregon — as we all know — it is difficult to eek out an existence as a sustainable grower. I tend to lean towards being a “messy gardener,” meaning let’s throw this here and there, see what comes up. I use the greenhouse as my personal Petrie dish.

We are constantly coming up with new ideas — some good, some not so good, some downright ridiculous. Like, wintering the chickens over in it…. what a mess. Bad idea. Fig trees and artichokes, good idea.

We hope you all will follow along on our journey as we build, grow and expand our greenhouse adventures.

photos courtesy of Ramble Farm

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