Wicked winds blew hard from the north and ripped apart my dad’s greenhouse. The plastic cover tore from the sides, the end walls buckled, and the new heating system froze solid. John, Colleen, and Patrick Wieck worked into the night to rescue whatever potted plants could be moved, but the early season crops all froze dead in the ground after a blustery night in the teens. It was a big blow to the farm, to my dad.
Seeing him uninspired to pick up and move on, I knew the problem was more serious than a collapsed greenhouse without funds to rebuild; it was one of indifference, perhaps even resignation, and that just isn’t him. So I reached out for help—posting online that he needed cash. Asking for $3,000 for supplies and repairs, I felt uneasy and a bit like my message and goal came a generation late because people just don’t do that sort of thing anymore, at least not around here. I was perfectly wrong.
Within minutes people rallied around the cause. They offered their money, their words of encouragement, and times when they could lend a hand. Donations came in from my readers across the country and around the world. Local businesses heard of the cause and helped out with cash and thoughtful notes of support. Friends old and new, fellow Freemasons from St. Mark’s, and locals whom I’ve never met all reached out with kindness and funds. I finally had to turn off donations to the website because contributions had more than doubled my hopeful goal; it just didn’t feel right asking for more.
But the kindness kept coming. People dropped checks in the mail and offered repeatedly to help in any way they could. And so we organized a work party of sorts, to rebuild the greenhouse in a single weekend.
Starting first thing Saturday morning, we all stood in the mud and laughed at the miserable weather before digging in and working together. With Patrick leading the day, we followed his direction and started ripping apart old wood and knocking down both ends of the house. Giant wet flakes of slushy, sloppy snow fell all around while just enough wind blew in from the east to make the cool feel cold and to make easy jobs tough. But people smiled and worked hard.
With each piece of wood we carried, and with each new blade we put into our saws, we spoke of donations and the support that made it all possible. It was heartening, really, to see all the supplies and tools all ready to go.
We rebuilt the south wall, framed in the new door, and braced it for high wind. We ran a new hip board from one end to the other and bolted it on with shiny new hardware. And then we made it to the north wall—the one that got really beat up by the wind. We knocked it down and started from scratch, building it new from the ground up. With a sturdy new sill, rough-cut studs, and 5/8 plywood, we built it up to better than new.
With the worst of March falling down on our heads, and with ankle-deep mud wherever we stepped, we worked together and readied the house for its new plastic cover—one that my dad and a small army of volunteers put on the next day.
Now the house sits rebuilt and ready for the next round of spring planting. Soon it will be filled with fresh and yummy veggies to be picked, pulled, and cut for spring markets. In the end it was a modern-day barn raising that brought a community together in support of its historic family farm. Amazing. Thank you to everyone who helped in every way possible; I will forever be grateful for your kindness. Evidently people still do that sort of thing, especially around here.
The above article was originally written for my bi-weekly column, Outdoorsing the North Shore, for The Daily News of Newburyport.