Tuesday, March 31, 2015

building a reclaimed wood potting bench

This is was going to be a post featuring a beautifully detailed and in-depth tutorial about how to build a sturdy, functional potting bench for nothing.

But then I realized that the potting bench I just built wasn't quite "nothing"... so far I've spend $2. on a piece of 2x2, and a few dollars more on hardware.

And I also realized that my in-depth tutorial might have some fairly significant gaps because I'm so terrible at taking pictures as I go along. (In other words I don't have a single picture of how it was built... I was having too much fun building it to take pictures!)

But anyway... for what it's worth... here's the slightly condensed version of how you can build a sturdy, functional potting bench for $10.

You start by making a quick sketch on the same envelope that holds your to-do list. (Yes, one of the tasks on my to-do list was super glue the car... don't ask... when your car is almost 20 years old it sometimes requires a little extra creativity when it comes to repairs.) Having the sketch on your to-do list guarantees you'll be looking at it often and inspired to start building.

Figure out a rough idea of the size of your potting bench (mine was determined by the space it would occupy on the back porch and the size of the scrap of plywood I found to use for the top.)

Then look in your stash of wood scraps saved from various projects... your carefully hoarded bits and pieces of wood that might-be-good-for-something-someday. When you don't find enough long pieces of wood there, check your barn and garage (and the neighbor's trash, if necessary) until you have enough for the main form of your potting bench.Then keep digging for more wood, measuring, cutting and assembling (no longer looking at the little picture you'd made because you've misplaced the envelope), making it up as you go along.... until have something that looks like it might be useful.

Don't forget to enjoy the amazing spring day as you work.

Run to Home Depot for hinges and hooks because even with the decades of stuff stored in the barn and garage you can't find any that will work and life is too short to waste time searching for a $2. set of hinges.

Add some sturdy hooks on one side to hold gardening tools.

Neglect your children (only slightly) while you finish building your creation...

Use a bit of exterior paint to paint the shelf boards if, like me, you used scraps of pre-primed 1x3's for the shelving. It will cover up the glaring white of the primer.

Stand back and admire your work...

.. and maybe re-pot a plant or two because it's so much easier now that everything is in one place, and you aren't getting dirt all over the kitchen counter each time you re-pot something.

A few more details:

The only piece of wood I had to buy is the 2x2 piece of redwood behind the top shelf, all the rest is reclaimed wood... leftovers from projects, bits and pieces salvaged from the old outhouse that used to be on our land, and even some wood side panels from a old stake side work truck.

Except for the new piece of redwood, it's all oak and pine.

It's 36" tall, counter top height to be easy to work at.

I started by building two rectangles from 2x4's (one is the frame of the shelf, the other holds the bins for potting soil) then added legs to hold them the height I wanted them. I left the back legs longer, sticking up behind the top, to hold the small top shelf.

The top... the hinged lids... of the potting bench are still unfinished, they may end up wrapped with galvanized sheet metal or tin, or maybe just painted... I can't decide what to do with them.

I used plain plastic dish tubs under the lids to hold potting soil, etc.

The painted shelf slats are coated with a good exterior polyurethane, but the rest of the wood remains untreated.

Monday, March 30, 2015

"squirrel-proof" bird feeder

I bought a new bird feeder a few months ago. I mainly bought it because it was advertised as being "squirrel-proof"... It's made so that too much weight on the perch lowers the perch and closes off access to the bird seed. I thought the idea was ingenious (and the bird feeder cute) and since I'm tired of the squirrels eating everything in sight (including the chicken feed!) I bought it.

 I looked outside the other day and had to laugh at the resourcefulness of our squirrels...

Who knew he could stretch that far?

I have since moved the feeder another foot or so away from the trunk of the tree, and the squirrel is back to hanging out with the chickens, eating their food!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Thrifting Thursday (small kitchen cupboard)

So... the ugly green cupboard I bought a week ago or so to fix up is finally finished.

And it has ended up being one of my all-time favorite projects. I can't believe how well it turned out... especially after all the trouble it gave me along the way!

 Here's a reminder of where it started (shudder, shudder)

And after the center panel of the door was removed and replaced with wire (hardware cloth)... it was still ugly but getting there...

And now, all finished... Better, yes?

I painted it with the same white I use for most of the woodwork in the house (it has no name, I have it mixed from an old color-match color), and then lightly distressed it.

I'd noticed as I'd sanded it before painting, that there were some nice colors hidden under that hideous green, like baby blue and buttercup yellow. I wanted them to show through a bit... to expose a little of the history of the cupboard, and I knew that as I sanded and exposed the green it would contrast with the white paint and highlight the lines of the cupboard.

So that's what I worked towards as I distressed it...

I carefully preserved and reused the original latch pieces... an interesting round headed screw...

...that fits into this:

I made new shelves for it, that part was easy... but was temporarily stumped about a what do to about a knob or handle. As I had worked on the door, I saw that the cupboard pull it came with was not original... that it had originally had a single knob on the door, not a pull. So I filled the holes left by the pull, and drilled out the hole (still visible on the inside) from the original knob. But what kind of knob to use? I knew it had to be simple to match the cupboard and after playing around with several ideas, I remembered a bunch of old wooden spools of thread I'd picked up at the thrift store. I went through my little collection and found one just the right size.

It may not be on the cupboard forever, but I do like it for now and it seems to fit...  I even searched through Joe's stash of nuts and screws to find a old slotted head screw long enough to hold the spool-knob on since all the other screws on the cupboard (hinges, latch) are slotted, not phillips, head.

The cupboard is just the right size to hold a basket with my mandolin music on the top shelf:

My favorite vintage cookbooks on the second shelf:

The antique canisters Joe got me for Christmas one year on the next shelf:

And my favorite Fischer-Price barn set (circa 1967) on the bottom shelf:

This project was tough... the wood is old and brittle and the door was soooo difficult to take apart so I could replace the center panel with wire...

But it was worth every splinter and frustration.

I'm seriously crazy about this little cupboard now...

... and it has a new lease on life. It's amazing what a little paint and wire can do, isn't it?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

It's a little early...

... to do much gardening here (our average date of last frost is about May 21st), but yesterday was just too pretty a day to stay inside, so I decided to clean out the front flower garden.

It was buried under a winter's worth of maple and cottonwood leaves, sticks, pine cones, and bits of bark from the firewood we've been burning all winter... all matted around the base of last year's flower stems (neatly deadheaded by the deer!)

It wasn't a pretty sight...

But in amongst the mess, I could see our lone little crocus... already blooming...

... and the columbines starting to grow.

So I started cleaning it out.

I was surprised to find that some of the echinacea were even showing some brand new tiny leaves...

... their trademark purple-green color easy to see against the mulch.

I even rediscovered a tiny volunteer blue spruce that somehow sprouted here... (If it survives a few more years, I'll transplant it somewhere else, of course... somewhere that actually makes sense to plant a tree that will reach 30' someday!)

I didn't quite finish the big clean out...

I worked until the sun started to go down... taking the warmth with it. I'll finish the last little bit another day.

The last thing I did was to give the whole garden a good spray with deer stopper, to keep the deer from nibbling my tender new plants...

... especially  my hollyhocks that I've been working to grow for two, or is it three, years now? (Yes, that is deer scat under the hollyhock... I can't decide if it was left as an opinion of my gardening skills, or to lend a helping... errr... hand with a little fertilizer.)

It was a lovely way to spend a warm early spring afternoon...

Monday, March 23, 2015

Happy Monday

Crazy Casa K

What makes me happy?

R's happiness and excitement about her volunteer job: one (full!) day a month at an equine clinic.

Here she is on her first day with "Doc", a horse skeleton that lives in the clinic lobby...

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

getting worse before it gets better...

Ever notice how, with many fix-up projects, things tend to look worse.... sometimes much worse... before they start looking better?

The ugly green cupboard I bought last week is a perfect example of that. On Friday, I shared pictures of me taking the saw to it... and that was only part of the "worse" this cupboard has gone through in the past week.

Here's where it started:

It had been painted very lightly with shiny green paint (I think they were trying for an antiqued look, but missed the boat) and had prints of old seed packets glued randomly on the front.

The seed packet prints came off before it even made it into the house... they were that ugly!

The inside wasn't much better... more bad paint, a couple of shelves and plenty of grime.

I loved the size and shape of the cabinet though, and could envision it sitting in my kitchen looking something like this...

 ... with at least one shelf filled with my vintage cookbooks.

But first it had to get worse.

It shouldn't have been a hard thing to take the center panel out of the door and replace it with wire. But the cupboard is well made, and it wasn't giving up the middle of it's door without a fight.

After trying to remove what looked like tiny molding pieces holding the panel in...

... and ending up with a splintered mess, I realized that they were part of the door (the door seemed to have been assembled around that center panel!)...

...and ended up taking the door apart as little as possible, then sawing the center panel in half so it could be lifted out in pieces.

Eventually leaving me with this:

Which I already liked so much better!

Next up was adding the chicken wire where the panel had been...

I bought some tiny strips of oak to fit in the newly created grooves in the door and hold the wire in, and got some chicken wire from E (who happened to have a whole roll in her barn... lucky me!) but once I got it cut to size I realized that it didn't look right for the little cupboard... the openings in the mesh seemed too large. But as I was wondering what to do, I found a piece of old hardware cloth out in my chicken shed and knew it was perfect. I liked the smaller rectangular spaces in the wire much better.

The hardware cloth is made from a heavier grade wire than the chicken wire so it was a little harder to wrestle into place, but in the end it saw things my way and I finally started thinking this project might actually come together!


I moved the cupboard upstairs to make sure I wanted it in the dining room, finished all the wood puttying and sanding I had left over from the battle to get the door panel out, and started painting yesterday.

I'm so excited to get it finished, hopefully by the end of the week...

Monday, March 16, 2015




March 16, 2015

Outside my window... the sun's gone down and the moon is such a tiny crescent that the night is very dark... the only lights I see are the reflections coming from inside the house.

I am thinking... that it's good Cody is eating his dinner, he didn't feel well last night and didn't eat.

I am thankful... for this quiet end-of-the-day time

In the kitchen...we had our St Patrick's Day dinner this evening: corned beef (turkey for M), potatoes colcannon and soda bread for dinner... yum

I am creating... (hopefully) a useful piece of furniture from that old cabinet I brought home last week. It's been a bit of a fight so far, but things seem to finally be coming together.

I am going... to bed shortly, I'm tired.

I am wondering... if M will be more settled tomorrow, he's had a rough couple of weeks... a good day would be lovely.

I am reading... Full Body Burden, by Kristen Iverson (again). Both Joe and I grew up in Arvada, during the same time she writes about, and her story of the cover-ups at Rocky Flats is both fascinating and frightening.  
I am looking forward to...dinner out with Joe tomorrow night while the kids are at a first aid class in town. 

Around the house... the mudroom is finished, and I should be painting the main bathroom (which has an interesting mix of sample paint colors on the walls right now) but instead I'm playing with the little cupboard... knowing the bathroom will still be there when I'm done playing.

In the garden... I raked the winter's worth of leaves and debris from the front and back yards over the weekend. I cleaned the leaves from the berry patch and the strawberry planters and have started cleaning out the flower beds. Everything looks so much better raked and cleaned out...

A favorite quote for today... "a glad heart is excellent medicine"

A few plans for the rest of the week... a busy week, especially for R. After the first aid class tomorrow, she has ukulele and karate lessons on Wednesday, Thursday is her volunteer day at the equine center, (and thrift store work for M) and Friday we're hoping to catch a movie with friends. 

A peek into my day...

We watched Waking Ned Devine this evening... the kids love the little naked man on the motorbike.


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