So how are we enjoying our “time off”? That’s probably the number one question we get asked in the dark, cold days of January. Our typical response is a little smile. Any business owner will tell you there is never really time off, which is so true. But this is also when we do the behind the scenes stuff that some people (myself included before I bought the greenhouse) don’t even think about.We’ve unloaded 16 pallets by hand in the last 2 days. There are more deliveries scheduled for next week, and the week after. We’ve also received giant rolls of tubing that will be new water lines for hanging baskets and containers in our farm greenhouse, and the back greenhouse in town.
My dear husband is the water line guy, although I and an employee or two will probably put in some time. There is a special little tool called a punch tool for poking holes in tubing for drip lines (those hanging lines that water all the hanging baskets). Your hands are never quite the same after punching 500+ holes in thick water line tubing, let me tell you! And standing on a table reaching over head to measure and put in lines is a great shoulder workout. Getting a greenhouse ready for spring is better than a gym membership.
I’m watching the snow fly out the window, thankful that this year’s soil delivery is in the books. It’s one of the single most stressful days of the year for me! Perhaps that’s because the first 2 years of soil delivery were ridiculous. I’ll give you the short versions…
The first year, we were total newbies, no idea how all of this worked. We were told to rent a bobcat, that the truck was never late, and it would take a couple hours. So when the delivery was scheduled for early morning on the same day our son’s kindergarten Christmas program at West Liberty-Salem, we didn’t think about it being a conflict (foreshadowing here). Fast forward a good 4 hours of sitting in a cold greenhouse with nothing to do, repeated calls to the trucking company promising the shipment was somewhere between Cincinnati and West Liberty, and finally the truck shows up. I try to block out the rest of that day, but I have one of those indelible pictures in my head, the kind that you can recall on a seconds notice no matter where you are, of my husband driving this tiny bobcat up to thesemi-truck full of what seemed like 20 ft. pallets of soil. He had experience driving bobcats and forklifts, and assured me it would be no problem. The picture in my head is when he got the first pallet on the forks, backed away, and the bobcat promptly tipped forward and 45 bags of soil spilled and broke. It only got better from there. Let’s just say there were a lot of busted bags of soil, leaving a strange truck driver with rental equipment while we went to a Christmas program we couldn’t miss, flashing police lights on 68 where the helpful truck driver had dumped another pallet of soil while we were gone, a broken bobcat, and maybe some tears.
The next year I was determined that it would be a better experience. I made arrangements for more help, and let the shipping company know the delivery had to be on time because I had rental equipment and the help for one day. This story includes the promised truck being a full day late, then using the wrong address, then attempting to turn around behind King’s Feed because the truck wouldn’t make it under the train tracks, the driver burying the semi-truck up to its front axle in the grass at King’s Feed (because why wouldn’t you go through the grass with tons of soil on your truck after a torrential rain the night before?). Luckily, the guys (and gal) at King’s are super nice and were willing to help us out. They ended up unloading everything there, and loading it back on our trucks to take to the greenhouses.
Last year I decided to reach out to our friends at West Liberty Building & Supply Ltd.. With their help, everything went much smoother, and this year, year 4 of soil delivery, we got the job done with no stories to tell, or too many aches and pains to deal with.
The moral of this story is that learning how to run a business takes patience, experience, and good friends and fellow businesses that will go out of their way to support you. Even when it seems like drudgery getting everything fixed and ready to go in January, the light is starting to appear at the end of the tunnel. Final orders are being placed, and plant shipments will be here in just about a month. I can hardly wait to get my hands in all that dirt!
Hillside Greenhouse is located at 302 Zanesfield Rd. in West Liberty, OH, directly across from Marie's Candies. Alycia and Matt Brehm purchased Hillside Greenhouse in 2016, and are proud to carry on a long tradition. There has been a greenhouse business at this location for over 100 years ! In 2015 Alycia made a career change from teaching high school biology to make her life growing and selling plants. They live near West Liberty where Matt and his father also have a fish farm that raises yellow perch. They have two growing boys, and are excited to be a part of the growing small business community in West Liberty!