LEWISTON — Schools are out for the summer and Rachel Rodrigue Nadeau knows where she will be until classes return in the fall: in the greenhouse she helped build.

“We wanted to build one for quite some time,” the special education teacher at Lewiston High School said.

“We” consists of Rodrigue Nadeau, her husband, Jim, her father, Bob Rodrigue, her mother-in-law, Monique Nadeau, and father-in-law, Fern Nadeau.

“Basically a crew of octogenarians,” Rodrigue Nadeau said. Three of the five builders are in their 80s.

“I’m getting older, Jim is getting older, they are getting older. It was now or never,” Rodrigue Nadeau said.

Rodrigue Nadeau said her extended family has always loved to garden, but the course of action changed once COVID hit and food shortages were on the line.


The building project was “born out of COVID,” Rodrigue Nadeau said. “We thought the summer of COVID (2021) would be a good time to do it.”

“When everyone was fighting over the last jar of spaghetti sauce, I had a pantry full of it,” she said.

Each person involved in building the greenhouse had their role, but in the end it was a “team effort.”

At 85 years old, Rodrigue Nadeau’s father, Bob, is a do-it-all kind of repair guy. He seldom sits still for long before finding something to fix. You could call Bob the general contractor.

Rodrigue Nadeau’s mother-in-law, Monique Nadeau, is still going strong at 80. She was the “chief safety officer and coffee barista.”

“My father-in-law is tall, so he helped put the roof on. He worked on places that I could not reach,” Rodrigue Nadeau said.


Rachel Rodrigue Nadeau fills her watering pail from the rain barrels behind the greenhouse she helped build in Lewiston. The barrels can hold 200 gallons of rainwater. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

“You know how some people complain about their in-laws,” Rodrigue Nadeau said. “I can’t. My in-laws are very good to us.”

Jim Nadeau was the “grunt” and the “spreadsheet guy.”

Nadeau works in finance so keeping track of progress comes natural to him. “Everyone needs a spreadsheet guy,” she said.

Rodrigue Nadeau’s role was to come up with the building materials while spending as little as possible. “Cheap or free,” she said.

A home renovation project was happening next door and Rodrigue Nadeau asked the builder what he had planned for the old windows. “The dump” was his response, so Rodrigue Nadeau had her windows — for free.

The greenhouse centerpiece, a church window, was given to Rodrigue Nadeau by her work colleague Deb Davis.


Most of the greenhouse lumber came from what Rodrigue Nadeau calls the “purple pile” at Home Depot. The builder’s supply store marks odd, unwanted lumber with a purple slash and sells it for a deep discount.

“Compared to what we saved, we did not spend that much,” Rodrigue Nadeau said about the final cost.

Just like everything that grows bigger inside the greenhouse, the outside grew bigger than the original plan as well. What started as a 4- by 5-foot greenhouse grew to an 8- by 10-foot building.

“We had a lot of fun doing it,” Jim Nadeau said. “It was a real family affair.”

“Nothing’s perfect. It’s not perfectly flat,” Monique Nadeau said. “But, it’s perfect for us.”

Rodrigue Nadeau said everything she has growing in her garden started as seeds in her greenhouse.

“There is nothing fresher than to walk 100 feet and pick the food you grew yourself,” she said.

“It’s fun. It’s so Zen when you are working in the greenhouse,” Rodrigue Nadeau said. “I had a long hard school year, so being in the greenhouse puts my mind in a different place.”

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