Building a Quarantine House

Building a Quarantine House

phase 1: test run

At some point, maybe half way through my apprenticeship or so, I realized that I would probably need to build a quarantine area. But how could I get that done? I didn’t have any land, I didn’t have any time. I didn’t know where to start. So I asked my in-laws, who live in the countryside if they knew of some land I could use for this adventure. They thought about my question and after a bit kindly offered the back corner of their yard for me to use, apologizing that it wasn’t very big, but maybe it would be suitable for what I wanted to do. Honestly, I really don’t think they knew what they were agreeing to at the time, but they offered and so I set to work designing what I needed.

I wasn’t exactly sure what kinds of trees to buy, or what quantity so in the end I bought 10 or 15 trees of a handful of species. Nothing too fantastic, a test run if you will, because, I thought, you have to start somewhere.

I wanted to be able to ship trees to Europe and the USA, but the laws for each of those countries are different so I would need to build something that would satisfy two different restrictions. I built a frame with three separated rooms one for the USA, and two for the EU, one of those rooms would be set up for deciduous trees, and the other for pines and junipers.

only slightly slanted

only slightly slanted

I knew this set-up wasn’t going to be permanent, but it would get this project up and running, and allow me to gain some experience building things in Japan, i.e. spending time looking around home supply stores, and more importantly establish a relationship with the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture. The laws regarding importing trees depend obviously on which country you are importing said trees into, but the general rule here is that trees need to be in quarantine pre-shipment for three years. And so in April 2017 my first official quarantine process began!

2017 quarantined trees

2017 quarantined trees

The goal when I first built this space was to get a head start on what is theoretically a three-year process.  I knew that once my wife and I found a house of our own we would need to build a permanent solution for this project. But this corner of yard, a three-hour car trip north in Fukushima, under the watchful eye of my wife’s mother, was a great place to start.

On a side note I should take a moment to give praise to said mother in-law.  Even though she had absolutely no idea what it meant to take care of bonsai, or what I meant when I explained how to water each different species, she did a stellar job tending to these tiny trees.


phase two: long term goals

After we moved into our new home it took quite a while to settle on the best place to build our proper quarantine space.  I couldn’t just chose any old spot I needed to experience the land, watch the sun and the shadows, and gain a better understanding of my options. Once the area was chosen we needed to bring in some professional help to level the ground.  In the mean time I set to work designing the layout of the houses.

After we moved into our new home it took quite a while to settle on the best place to build our proper quarantine space.  I couldn’t just chose any old spot I needed to experience the land, watch the sun and the shadows, and gain a better understanding of my options. Once the area was chosen we needed to bring in some professional help to level the ground.  In the mean time I set to work designing the layout of the houses.

The quarantine houses need to be completely sealed off from outside contaminants, meaning that even the layout of the weed guard had to be considered. In a country notorious for its lengthy operating manuals the building instructions that came with the hoop houses left a great deal to be desired.  It took me about two weeks of troubleshooting to build my way through the first house.

The unique requirements of quarantine laws and how to build them into a custom hoop house was quite a challenge, but the lessons learned from the practice run in Fukushima came in handy. And actually once I had the first one under my belt the second house went up in about two days.

The second House went a bit smoother.

The second House went a bit smoother.

We were on a deadline to get these houses built and inspected in order to have all the paperwork for the 2017 trees transferred to this new location in time for the initial inspection of the 2018 process.  It was close but we managed to get everything squared away. As I write this in mid October 2018, this years inspections are all finished and the trees have settled in nicely to their new location. The fall of 2019 will bring a new set of challenges for us here at Tree House Bonsai as at that time our first batch of trees, the ones that started the journey tucked away in a shady corner of my in-laws yard, will be certified for export, and I am very excited to be able to ship these out to waiting clients in Europe and back in the states.

The Quarantine space finished and filled with bonsai.

The Quarantine space finished and filled with bonsai.

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