Hoonah man building floating greenhouse

Posted: Tuesday, October 01, 2002

JUNEAU (AP) -- A Hoonah man is building a floating greenhouse to feed himself in his retirement and in case violent world events cut off Alaska from its food supply.

''There are going to be some really strange times these 10 to 20 years,'' said Greg Garrison. ''Our government is putting us in a world of hurt.''

Garrison, who grew up in Juneau, has spent the last month and a half on a scrubby patch of land at the rock dump south of downtown, living out of a converted 1964 bread delivery truck that normally serves as a mobile shop for his Hoonah marine-repair business.

Now he's done welding I-beams as keels onto the bottom of two 50,000-pound, 60-foot-long steel tanks, and he's ready to have them towed to Hoonah, where they and a third tank will be the platform for his greenhouse. He worked on his own, using a small crane to maneuver the steel beams into place.

''That's what I do for a living, and it's kind of fun,'' he said.

Garrison -- his hands, his denim jacket and his rubber boots equally speckled with paint and worn by use -- looked out from his truck on a recent rainy morning on the two big tubes, laughed, and called them his ''pipe dream.''

''It's going to be my retirement,'' he said. ''Some people buy it. I build it.''

Garrison, 52, said he will soon give his business, Harbor Marine, to his 23-year-old son, Geramie. Greg will live in his 65-foot sailboat, the Reliance, tied up to the greenhouse, which will be covered by double-walled plastic stretched over metal tubes. Warm air will circulate between the walls as insulation. Generators will provide 12 hours of light in the winter.

''There'll be an entire ecosystem,'' Garrison said. ''I'm vegetarian, and I figure between going in there and catching a fish over the side, I'll be set.''

To create a floor of earth, Garrison plans to pack dirt and sand in the space between the rounded tubes and among metal poles crossing the platform. He'll dangle plastic strips from the ceiling to separate the 25-foot-high, 50-by-60-foot growing space into a 72-degree tropical zone and a milder temperate zone, with the bounty ranging from fruit trees to carrots.

The interior of the floating tubes will hold generators and a shop, because Garrison is the sort of handy person who always has a shop.

''I just gotta have a shop,'' he said. ''Just (for) maintenance on everything, a place to go and to put tools.''

The barge's floor space will be extended 20 feet fore and aft with platforms, one of which will hold a two-story apartment, the other a back deck.

Garrison is motivated to build the greenhouse partly because of his concern that a world war or terrorism could cut off Alaska from its supply of food from the Lower 48.

A pre-emptive strike by the United States against Iraq, for example, could kill many innocent people and draw the hatred of the rest of the Moslem world, he said. Islamic countries could turn to China or Russia for help in fighting the United States, he said.

''Juneauites should be stocking up on rice and staples,'' Garrison said. ''This isn't a skirmish we're getting into. This is going to turn into a full-scale war.''



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