The One Where We Started to Compost

Jess and I have always done what we could to teach our kids about taking care of the environment and sustainability. Hence the chicken coop, rain barrel, garden, electric vehicle, etc.

We also included a compost bin. After a lot of reading we elected for a dual box configuration which will allow us to rotate the compost reducing the amount of time it takes to become usable. We also used slats with a small gap for the walls to allow oxygen to flow through.

Always one for minimizing waste and cost, I found these cedar fence boards. Cedar is naturally bug and rot resistant which is why I prefer it for outdoor applications like planters. They are 6 feet long so I cut them all in half giving me several 3′ pieces. I also used 2×2 boards for the posts. 8′ boards gave me 4 foot pieces so the bottoms are actually embedded into the ground 12″.

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Each “wall” is basically a 2×2 in the corner with 6 slats attached horizontally with outdoor wood screws. A few minutes and my screw gun was all it took. The idea with the 2 compartments is everything will initially go into the left bin. After a few months, I will rotate all of that over to the right bin which puts the newer stuff on bottom and older stuff on top.

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Lesson learned for this project: I cut the bottoms of the 2×2 posts with a 45 degree angle using my miter saw (my third most favorite tool I have. Can you name 1 and 2?). Initially I tried just driving the walls into the ground using a mallet, however the tough ground, rocks, etc. caused the boards to go in at an angle which started to pull the horizontal boards apart.

I stopped that plan, pulled everything out, dug holes, installed them again, then filled the holes. Worked great. Once I had all the walls in place I built lids by attaching 6 slats to some 2×2’s and installed them to the bins using hinges. I also decided to raise the back a couple of inches which will encourage any water to run off. Although I’m not concerned about water proofing on this project, I didn’t want it running back into the shop wall.

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Here is the best part of this project: The front slats are not permanently attached. They literally slide down between a couple of 2×2’s on each side. And each slat has two nails with the head’s extended a half an inch which forces the gap. What this means is that when I am ready to rotate or empty the bin, I can pull the slats in the front out and have easy shovel access.

This bin works really well. Although we don’t put nearly as much food scraps in as we should, I put a lot of grass clippings and “used” wood shavings from the coop in. Each spring I have almost a full cubic yard of amazing compost for our garden.

 


Here are some of the tools and supplies I used in this project. If you are interested in one, take a look. You get a fun product, I get a fun commission. Thanks!

The One About the Art Wall

One day, somehow, we found ourselves with both the time and energy for a project we had been thinking about for a while. In our hallway was a large section of blank wall. With kids entering school age we really wanted a place to display their artwork as well as act as an outlet for their artistic creativity.

There are three sections to this wall. The first was supposed to be easy. After marking off the area I wanted, I decided to sand the wall smooth to get rid of the texture. Who wants a bumpy chalkboard, right? So I jumped right in with some 100 grit sandpaper. Within seconds I had dust everywhere. My floor, my hair, my lungs. Lesson learned: either use a shot vac or some way to contain the dust, or find a way to enjoy a bumpy chalkboard.

Once smooth (and cleaned) I used several coats of chalkboard paint to cover it. I’m a fan of chalkboard paint. We have used it in several places throughout our house which makes us not worry so much about kids inevitable writing on the walls.

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The second section is all about magnets. We wanted to include a lot of random magnets as well as magnetic letters. From what I understand, the Earth’s iron core is rotating creating a magnetic field that shields the Earth in a…well, long story short, magnets stick to metal.

I knew I would need some help here so I called a local sheet metal manufacturer and for a surprisingly low cost, they made me this sheet of galvanized metal to my exact dimensions. I gave them a call, and next day picked it up. It was amazing.

I drilled holes in each corner and used some anchors to mount it to the wall next to the chalkboard.

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The third section is for displaying art. It mainly consists of a colored background so I had my wife choose some fabric, and along with some thin batting, wrapped it around a scrap piece of 1/8″ fiber board. An electric staple gun made this process go quickly.

Again, screws and anchors secured it to the wall.

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Next came the molding. I used some 3 1/2″ molding for the vertical pieces, 1 1/2″ molding between each section, and then constructed the top to match the rest of the molding throughout the house. I painted all the molding white to match as well.

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To complete the art section, we used some wire and clip sets we found at Ikea. I mounted them straight into the molding, securing them fairly tightly. And it came with a lot of clips, each capable of hanging a fabulous piece of artwork that I’m sure will be worth millions.

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The final product! We try to change out the artwork periodically but it is sure hard to get rid of those early family portraits.

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Here are some of the tools and supplies I used in this project. If you are interested in one, take a look. You get a fun product, I get a fun commission. Thanks!

 

The One With the Circle Blanket

Mixing it up a little, this project involves hooks. Of the crochet variety. I don’t meet a lot of men who like to crochet and who will admit it. But they way I see it, if what I make is just plain awesome, no one can make fun of me. Besides, it’s not only therapeutic, the patterns remind me of computer code so I find I can naturally comprehend the more complicated ones.

This project required some new tools. I got myself a cool set of bamboo handle hooks and ordered a custom made case off Etsy that rolls up when not in use.

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I made this blanket for my youngest daughter just before she was born. Every year my family vacations in the San Juan Islands which includes a lot of sitting on the beach. So every year I have a crochet/knitting project to keep my busy.

The first step in creating this circle blanket is, well, to create circles. A lot of circles. As is my custom, I researched several existing patterns online and ended up creating my own that was kind of a hybrid of three different ones to give me the look I wanted.

To get the overall size I wanted, I calculated I needed 9 rows and 7 columns which means 63 total circles. Relying on my wife’s excellent sense of color, I let her choose 9 different colors of yarn for the circles.

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Once the circles were completed (and all loose ends woven in, ug!) I went around each with a very light shade of grey, using various heights of stitches which effectively created a square around each circle.

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I went through several options for choosing the pattern of the circles. I ended with this one because it looks pretty random, but actually has a specific, repeating pattern.

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After that is was a simple matter of connecting all the rows, and then all the columns. The ending result is amazing and this blanket sits on my couch to this day.

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Here are some of the tools and supplies I used in this project. If you are interested in one, take a look. You get a fun product, I get a fun commission. Thanks!

The One Where a Friend Wanted a Kid’s Picnic Table

A family friend really wanted a picnic table for their kids and I had never built one so I thought it was a fun idea. Built out of exterior 2×6’s and 2×4’s plus a few nuts and bolts it was pretty easy to assemble.

For this one the design was the fun part. Again I scoured the net and found several ones I liked. I even considered a hexagon shaped table because I thought it looked cool but ended up going with the classic rectangle.

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The table top and benches were simply a matter of cutting the boards to length. I intentionally made this table 47 1/2″ long so I could get two pieces out of an 8′ board. For the table top I used 2×6’s to minimize the gaps, and for the benches and supports I used 2×4’s.

I used my Kreg pocket hole jig to attach the table support to the table pieces. I am a huge fan of my Kreg Jig. I never stop finding new uses for it and it makes joining two pieces of wood faster, easier, and stronger.

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Once the table supports were attached, I bolted the legs on. I’m sure I could have used screws, but my family curse forces me to over build. I prefer to not have to ever worry about stability. Plus it allows for tightening them over time as the joints inevitably become loose.

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Once the legs were attached I was able to turn the table right side up and attach the leg/bench supports. Once these were in place and tightened down the whole table was very solid.

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My quality assurance testers were happy to perform their duties once I installed the bench boards. I think they approve. Nice and strong, and a great size for kids.

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Finally I put a few coats of finish on to protect against the weather and sunshine as this is intended for the back yard. I can’t wait to deliver it!

 


Here are some of the tools and supplies I used in this project. If you are interested in one, take a look. You get a fun product, I get a fun commission. Thanks!

The One Where We Needed a Mailbox House

I finally got a little bit of free time to work on a project that was a long time coming. Ever since we bought our house our mail box looked like this. Meanwhile up the street were some really nice mailbox covers with roofing, shingles, etc. Abby and I decided to fix this.

The first thing we did was check with our mail carrier to make sure our plan was ok with the USPS. We then put letters in the other two boxes explaining what we were doing and inviting them, if they would like, to purchase new boxes that I would be happy to install into the new mailbox house.

We then visited the neighbor’s house to take a bunch of pictures of their existing box. There were already three of them on our street so we thought it would be cool to keep the existing theme.

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I had enough scrap wood from other projects to complete almost the whole project. That plus some extra roofing tiles left over from my Dad’s new roof and we were good to go.

We cut all the pieces until we had ourselves a mailbox house kit. This is my favorite part of any project: when we are ready to assemble.

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Once built, we use some white exterior spray paint to make it look nice and pretty. We will use the existing post, modifying the height to work with our new house, but also painted white to match.

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This was a very quick one-day project, even with a couple coats of paint, but makes a huge difference in the curb-appeal of our front yard.

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The One Where I built a Chicken Coop

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Chicken Coop Plans
“Honey, if we get chickens, you could build the coop.” Challenge accepted.

That was how it all began. For me this was initially just a fun project, but before long I realized the impact this would make on my kids, from organic food to sustainability and environmental impact.

As with all my projects, I began by planning. We researched all about coop styles, chicken runs and chicken care. Over the course of several days all our ideas merged into the final design for our coop. Although technically large enough for over 12 chickens, our little flock would live very comfortable in this “chicken condo”.

Chicken Coop Plans

Every good project begins with a good foundation, and a good helper. The floor of the coop will be raised about 20″ above the ground both to deter predators and to give the hens a shady place to hang out during warm weather.

As with most of my projects, I do tend to overbuild a little bit but I really don’t want to deal with structural issues so I used 4×4 legs that I will prop up on blocks to level and prevent rotting, and 2×4 framing.

Click on the menu above or go to Chicken Coop Plans to start your coop.

Chicken Coop Plans

The walls were a little tricky and took a lot of pre-planning to get the windows and door frames exactly how I wanted them. These two walls include two small windows on front with the chicken door, and a larger window and human sized door on the side.

I used 2×2’s to frame the walls. 2×4’s would have been more expense, a lot heavier, and sacrificed interior space. And I think 2×2’s will be plenty strong for this application.

Chicken Coop Plans

The framing went very quickly thanks to my air compressor and nail gun. A little geometry and I was able to design and construct the roof trusses myself. The peaked roof will not only look cute but allow for some perch room for the hens.

You can also see the initial stages of the “nests”. Generally nests can support 2-3 chickens each which is more than enough for our needs. These nests will have a hinged lid allowing us access from the outside for easy egg collection.

Chicken Coop Plans

I ended up choosing metallic roofing for this project. Not only was it relatively inexpensive, it was super easy to install, and very water proof.

I also used 3/8″ sheathing to wall in the framing. Again, trying to use 3/4″ sheathing would have been overkill and a lot more expensive. I designed the coop specifically to be 48″ wide, 72″ long, and 48″ inches high (not counting the attic). This made it super easy to use 4′ x 8′ sheets of sheathing with practically no waste.

I started by clamping a solid piece in place then using a pencil to trace all doors and windows from the inside. Then I took it down and installed 1/2″ hardware cloth over all windows. When I’m done, this will be a safer place to live than our house. Then I used my jig saw to cut out the doors and windows and permanently installed the wall sheathing.

It is super important that the coop remain ventilated but still dry on the inside for the chickens’ health. To that end I am wrapping the exterior in tar paper before installing any siding. All joints are covered so we should be good.

Click on the menu above or go to Chicken Coop Plans to start your coop.

Chicken Coop Plans

Here is the fun part because we get to start the finishing touches. I used cedar shingle to cover the exterior walls. Very quick and easy with my air compressor and stapler. My miter saw made quick work of shingles along the roof line. I also used some 1×2 furring strips and white paint to add some pretty nice looking molding around the base, windows, and doors.

Chicken Coop Plans

I lined the interior with marmoleum, a non-toxic, waterproof material that will allow me to wash out the coop periodically and protect the sub floor. The marmoleum extended along the floor and about 6″ up on all sides creating almost a bath tub which we then filled with pine shavings.

Periodically we will rake through the shavings which will keep it looking and smelling clean. Then twice a year we will replace all the old shavings. The cool thing is the old shavings go straight into my compost bin full of chicken droppings that are great for compost.

Chicken Coop Plans

Finally, we painted the shingles, added the doors and decorative window shutters including some cool black hardware.

I also used some 2/2’s and some old pallets to create my fun white picket fence chicken run. The run is also enclosed by hardware cloth making the only access points through locked doors. Nothing bigger than a lady bug is getting in here without permission.

Welcome home, chickens!

Click on the menu above or go to Chicken Coop Plans to start your coop.

Chicken Coop Plans

 


Here are some of the tools and supplies I used in this project. If you are interested in one, take a look. You get a fun product, I get a fun commission. Thanks!