Archive for the ‘DIY Projects’ Category

They say that in Spring, a  young man’s thoughts naturally turn to romance. Well, it’s winter here and I’m no longer young by any rational metric, so my thoughts gravitate to…building stuff with wood!

The current project buzzing around my brain is a dedicated, stand-alone workshop for my woodworking. Currently, I have taken over half (well, let’s be honest: 3/4ths!) of our garage, and Melissa patiently endures tromping through sawdust and wood shavings on the way to do laundry or access our storage. Plus, I could use a bit more space to spread out, especially for my treadle lathe, shaving horse, sharpening station, wall space for storage, area for drying my milled lumber, etc.

Two design goals shape this project:

  • Hand-crafted. As much as feasibly possible, the shop and its contents will be built by my own hands, including much of the infrastructure needed to help me complete the actual construction.
  • Unhurried. Many of the rural properties in my neck of the woods have detached workshops but they’re usually a variation of a pole barn with metal siding. Those kind of buildings go up fast, but I have no deadline to meet or urgency to “get ‘er done,” so construction speed isn’t a priority. In fact, spreading out the costs over a longer time actually softens the financial blow.
  • Freely sourced. Most of the wood for the project will be harvested right from Barewood, and I’d prefer to get as much of the other construction materials from Craigslist or other free/recycled sources.

The old construction adage claims “we can build it good, fast, or cheap: pick any two.” Looking at my goals, I’ve clearly made my choice! I want a shop that reflects my style of hand-tool woodworking: a building that is equal parts functional and nostalgic. In later posts, I’ll talk about the structure I’m planning, show some design inspiration photos, and get into the details. But I hope you’ll join me on this next building adventure. If you’re not a follower now, you can sign up in the right column and be notified for further updates.

Stay tuned!


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The Greenhouse in its summer look.

My blogging attention always flags in July. I start out with the best of intentions, but when summer is in full bloom, I always vanish from the blogosphere for a good month. Perhaps things get too busy, or maybe I can’t imagine anyone caring how many heads or broccoli I picked or how many raspberries I harvested or how my carrots are coming along. Whatever the reason for my silence, it happens every year right on schedule.

This is the deer netting.

For those of you who have been following my greenhouse series, I have indeed completed the project and I present the pictures to prove it. The hoops were installed and painted and the perlin (ridge pole) lashed in place, and the whole structure is pretty solid. I used deer netting (a thin, black plastic mesh in about 3/4″ squares) to wrap around the hoops until October arrives and it’s time to put on the plastic. The best part is: the protection is working. Yesterday I watched a squirrel actively looking for a way in, even partially climbing the mesh, then giving up the exercise as fruitless and wandering away.
Malamutes, however, are another matter. Not once, but *twice* has Milady invaded the greenhouse. The first time, she slipped between the hoops and the neighbors chain link fence, pulling open a hole in the mesh. She proceeded to trample through a newly-seeded carrot bed, dig a bit in a lettuce seedling bed, and then apparently tried to exit through the yard side. Judging by the way the netting was ripped and the snap clamps were blown off (the clamps keep the netting attached to the hoops), I think she encountered the net, didn’t know what it was, and panicked. Let me tell you, a scared Malamute is *strong*.
I chalked this first transgression up to experimentation and innocence…but the SECOND time it happened, I could see where she had purposefully pulled the metting away from the hoops with her claws, forced her way in (again trampling the carrots) and dug down the lettuce seedlings bed until it could no longer be considered a “raised” bed any longer! My lettuce production then suffered a three-week hiatus because all of my intermediate plants were destroyed utterly. How did I feel about that? Angry wasn’t the half of it. Milady earned a quick confinement to her dog run until I figured out how to stop her.
I finally installed a stronger wire fence to prevent her from getting between the greenhouse and the neighbor’s chain link fence, and that seems to have done the trick because she hasn’t gotten in since. Anyway, the greenhouse is up, just waiting for plastic, and the things inside it like the broccoli and squarshes are going CRAZY. Of course, the greenhouse itself is not responsible for this growth, but soon it will be. I just planted a fall crop of endive, Winter Density Lettuce, and more carrots. Looking forward to adding leeks, mache and other goodness…

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Since we moved into this house in 2000, there’s been a little shed attached to the back of the house. Not quite tall enough to stand up in, not quite big enough to store the lawnmower in, and not terribly eye-appealing made of aging plywood, it’s been on our list to demolish for some time.

This weekend, I started on the project, mostly because I noticed there were at least six 2x4s that framed the shed, which I could subsequently use for finishing the edging around one of the raised beds in my garden. As I started to unmake the little structure from the roof down, I found that sandwiched between the peeling plywood outside and the pegboard inside, the shed was completely clad–on all four walls and the roof–with 1×6 planks.

And the planks are made of cedar.

Someone spent a pretty penny for this shed back in its day, and then they or subsequent owners went on to completely hide the best parts of it. Anyway, I got my 2x4s and finished my raised bed, and now I have piles of beautiful straight cedar planks that have been seasoned for decades but protected by the weather the whole time. A list of possible projects is scrolling through my brain…

I love finding buried treasure!

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http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=horto-20&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=1890132276&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifrFor my birthday this week, my family gave me a couple of books, including Four Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman. The basic premise of the book is that Coleman, a gardener who lives in Maine, grows a kitchen garden and harvests food throughout the year, even during the winter months–and he does it without an expensive, artificially-heated greenhouse! His success is due to a simple formula: plant cold-resistant vegetables, such as spinach, carrots, kale, and mache, and protect them by using simple technologies like a plastic-sheeted hoophouse and the time-honored cold frame. Coleman points out that he is not trying to grow plants during the winter, only to have them available to harvest. Think of it like a large-scale crisper drawer from your refrigerator!

The book has starting Melissa and I seriously thinking about covering our main garden plot with a “convertible” greenhouse. During the warm months, it would be covered with deer netting to keep out squirrels, dogs, rabbits, etc., and as fall and winter approach would be clad with clear plastic sheeting and stocked with cold frames inside to preserve the fall-planted crops for harvesting throughout the year. The price is far less than you might think (the PVC materials to make the ribs of the structure will cost less than $40 total!), and it seems simple to put together.

Stay tuned for more greenhouse information to follow, and hopefully more four-season harvesting, too!

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Those humble-looking additions to the souther wall of my house are my new strawberry beds. Like I mentioned in my last post, my old bed wasn’t being fully utilized by the plants, so I installed these. There are nothing more than a 10′ length of vinyl rain gutter cut into two 5′ pieces and secured to the wall. There are drainage holes drilled at intervals along the bottom, which completely wrecks them as actual rain gutters but makes them much better planters.

Now, 17 strawberry plants call these gutters home. We also hope they’ll be easier to protect from squirrels and birds, once we overlay them with deer netting. I think slugs or other creepy-crawlies might have a harder time scaling the wall to get at them, too! The best part is, now my strawberry take up absolutely zero “floor space” in my garden and are located in one of the sunniest places in my yard. Hopefully, I’ll take pictures of them in coming months, brimming with berries.

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This afternoon, in beautiful 80-degree weather, I installed my gravity-fed drip irrigation system. The “sample system” is shown above. It actually went much more smoothly than I expected. Because gravity-fed systems has such low PSI, there are limits to how far a mainline and dripline can run. In this picture, you can see me four primary bed driplines and a couple of my strawberry bed lines. In total, I have 7 lines, each with drip emitters every 12″. 
Here is where some of the driplines connect to the mainline:

Connecting them was so simple! Using the provided punch, you make a hole in the mainline where you want the dripline to come off, then use a two-way barb to connect the mainline to the dripline. Add a plug at the other end of the dripline, and you’re done. The system works perfectly, and gets equal flow on all seven lines. It’s magic.

Becausee the drip emitters are so small, clogging could be an issue, so there’s a filter between the rain barrel and the lines. Here’s a photo that shows the filter and shutoff valve hooked to the barrel:

So, the plan is to keep the rain barrel on the garden cart, above, and mostly keep it hooked to the downspout. When it’s time to water, I just pull the cart over to the garden, connect up the hose, and turn it on! This system waters about half of my garden. I have leftover mainline and driplines that I will probably set up for the other half, though I’ll probably have to buy a couple more pieces to make the second system operational. But, for a net cost of $35, this will save a lot of time!

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Sorry I took a break from posting for a while; I’ve been a bit out of sorts lately.

The first bit of news I have to share relates to–you guessed it–the community garden. No, i haven’t finally secured permission to grow there or anything momentous, but I did speak with the family that lives next door to the property. I have apparently been barking up the right tree, but there’s a lower branch I overlooked. The owners are indeed the C—– family, but there are two brothers who control the property, and the one who is directly involved in decisions regarding the land lives in Skokie (much closer than Wisconsin).

The guy who bought the north half of the property to build his home said that he had tried to also buy the southern (still vacant) half to develop another house on. His offer was turned down by Mr. C—–, who is reportedly very difficult to contact (or at least to get answers from). Mr. C——- does not appear to have any imminent plans for the property, but thought (I guess) that the offer wasn’t high enough. At any rate, the guy that lives next door promised to ask his lawyer this week to get contact information for Mr. C——- so that I could contact him directly. Additionally, the family on the north half seemed generally agreeable to the idea of a community vegetable garden next door, saying that the land should be used for something.

The second news item relates to my cold frame–which is now useless! Yes, friends, the lower pane of the window lid (a piece of glass about 10″ by 48″ was shattered in about three nights ago now. There were no rocks or tree branches or other implements of mayhem lying nearby, so I can only conclude that the damage was caused by a Malamute paw (or butt). When it’s cold and a 100-lb dog stands on a thin sheet of glass, bad things can happen. Milady does not appear to be hurt (other than by my very suggestion that she is in any way culpable), but 1 group of tender little seedlings inside were not so lucky. Besides having to pick splintered glass out of my lettuce (grr!) the impact had bruised or cut several of the plants. We’ll see if they survive. I went to Home Depot to find a replacement panel of acrylic or Lexan (don’t want to use glass again, right?) and found that the box store wanted $42 for a piece of that size…much more than I care to spend on a free cold frame. I am pondering what to do…

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