We have a 50 foot hoophouse on our farm that we use to extend the growing season. A hoophouse is a large structure made out of metal bows that are covered with transparent plastic.
The plastic cover traps solar heat during the day and increases the temperature inside the house. It effectively gives us an extra month in both spring and fall of no-frost weather. The biggest advantage, however, comes from what it allows us to grow in the winter. The protection and additional daytime heat that the hoophouse provides allows cool-weather crops such as lettuce, spinach, carrots, kale, and chard to grow (although very slowly) throughout winter. We had veggies all winter long last year thanks to free solar heating captured by our hoophouse.
The protection it provides from pounding rain and wind can also be a benefit in the summer. Tomatoes, peppers, and squash all grow 50% bigger in the hoophouse.
I have been putting off planting some lettuce in the hoophouse all week long. I kept telling myself that I’ll get in there next time it rained. This morning the sky opened up and it started to pour. Happy to get out of my morning chore of picking beans, I picked up my hoe and headed for the hoophouse. As I cleaned out the beds in the pouring rain, I was reveling in the new level of farm efficiency I had gained. A rain storm would drive most farmers back to the house. Not this farmer! I’m planting lettuce in a storm.
Lightning hit the hoophouse. The hoophouse glowed for an instance as crackling lightning followed the metal bows down to the ground. All this transpired just a micro-second before a loud thunder crack and I jumped.
My imagination may have got the best of me. Perhaps the lighting was just very close and didn’t really hit the hoophouse. Either way, I wasn’t going to stand around under a bunch of curved lightning rods in a thunderstorm any longer. I ran up to the shed to get out of the hoophouse. Our shed is made of metal. I ran to the house.
Inside, my wife was reading stories to my 3-year old and his friend. That seemed safe; at least safer than planting lettuce in a thunderstorm.