Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Summer Projects

Last summer was our first as owners of a real live house. So in addition to the many maintenance chores there were a few projects we were interested in doing. They were not big jobs, but it became fairly difficult to fit them in between unpacking, regular maintenance, and tending to a toddler and pregnant wife.

The first project was one that I really wanted to complete. I built a compost bin behind the tool shed as seen here. Nothing fancy with some 2x2's and wire mesh thrown together one afternoon. The labor intensive part was turning it over as often as possible and keeping it moist. There are ways of keeping up a compost heap that require less work, but I tend to like doing manual labor on the weekends. What you see is all the leaves from last winter. I turned it over earlier this spring and it was teaming with nightcrawlers and giving off a fair amount of steam. Hopefully this "batch" will be ready by mid-summer.

The second project was a sandbox for the little one. We wanted to locate it in a corner that has this odd shape. The wood for the project was some pieces of plywood and some wood found behind the tool shed. At some point they had replaced the windows, but instead of throwing out the 3" x 8" sills and jambs, they dumped them behind the shed. So I pulled them out, cleaned them up, and used them for the edges of the box. The great thing was that it had grooves in it for the windows that I used to support the plywood bottom. I had some elaborate schemes for the cover with mechanisms to raise and lower it, but none seemed feasible or childproof. So I took a thin sheet of masonite and tried to create a curved roof to shed water. It didn't work out that great and you can see that it has already warped after one winter.

This last project took the most time. At some point, our carport was split in two by a fence. Although this means that only the front of the car remains covered (which it really doesn't need to), the other half is now a nice partially covered outdoor space. The problem was that the fence was solid planking on both sides with no gate. They had an opening where they installed a shower curtain. The fence was also six feet tall. That's good if you like privacy, but we prefered that it was more open with a view to the street when standing up.
So I removed all the planks, cut them to about four and a half feet tall, and reinstalled them in a staggered configuration. By staggering them, I had extra boards that I used to cover the new gate. As for the section above the planks, we had planned to install a store-bought criss-cross lattice. Unfortunately the quality of the ones in the store was pretty poor. So we bought individual slats of wood and assembled it by hand. One weekend, I was only able to half finish it with all the horizontals and some of the verticals. We liked it so much, we decided to keep the design. For the latch, I wanted to something really special. Something that functions well and is easy to use with winter gloves. So I assembled this contraption. It works well, but how it works is not always evident to the first time user.

As for this summer, our plans are not too big. Well, at least they may be bigger in scope, but much less in complexity. We are going to extend a deck and add a guardrail that is missing. There is also an area with stepping stones and deteriorating concrete between them. We intend to remove the concrete and replace it with soil and something that grows. We're not sure what yet. All this while juggling the maintenance and two kids.


zura said...

Oh, excellent on the outdoor house work. I myself got around to doing my first stage of gardening on my balcony. I rigged up a thin wire trellis for this pretty yellow-flowered creeper I hope to train up a wall and am quite satisfied with it.

Next up: tomatoes.

Blork said...

Good work! I expecially like the compost bin. I've been wanting to buy or build one for a couple of years now. Maybe this summer I'll actually do it.