Bean Barn Build

Over the past few months, er, ok, years, I've acquired quite a stack of salvaged lumber and I've just recently grown tired of looking at it so it's time to use it or lose it. I've been on a project kick so I'm just checking stuff off my list in rapid succession. Unfortunately we've been breaking records for number of rainy days as well as how many inches of rain has fallen so working outside has been a challenge. I woke up Sunday morning fed up with the weather and determined to build a new structure for my beans to grow on. I've loved having a bean tunnel but have never really loved the structure I built a few years ago and it's straight up ugly when there aren't beans growing on it.

This is mostly just going to be a show and tell post because, once again, using recycled lumber means I didn't set out with much of a plan and just made stuff up as I went along.

The Bean Barn by Julie at Build, Sew, Reap

I'm so incredibly happy about this project. Back when I put in the first bean tunnel, I knew it wasn't very attractive as a structure but it was what I could afford at the time and when the beans covered it, it was beautiful. I even had some solar string lights under there so at night, they glowed under the heavy foliage.

Old Bean Tunnel by Julie at Build, Sew, Reap
2014: The year of the jungle garden

Sadly, this is what it looked like for 10 months of the year:

The Bean Barn by Julie at Build, Sew, Reap
Well, that's ugly

I've befriended a local landscaper who has been kind enough to offer fence parts to those of us willing to show up at job sites to haul them away. It's a win-win since he can save some time and money hauling stuff away and I get free 4x4s. Even better, often times they're pressure treated 4x4s that have already leached out all their chemicals so they're sturdy AND garden-safe. I've read that 5+ years in our rainy environment will render pressure treated wood safe for organic vegetable gardens.

On Sunday, I set out to build a structure. I did my research on Pinterest but ultimately, I knew my design would be highly dependent upon what was out in my lumber pile so I had ideas but no set plan. First things first though, I had to clear the area and trim back those trees.

The Bean Barn by Julie at Build, Sew, Reap

Ahhh, much better. A blank slate with so much potential!

I started laying out the 2x4 pieces to determine what I had to work with and decided to go with a pretty basic house-shape building and I started to cut and screw stuff together. I have a bad back that doesn't allow me to lift heavy stuff so this was a bit of a challenge with the 4x4s. I had to figure out how to align, hold, screw, and balance each piece because building flat then raising it up wasn't really an option. I only had a couple of setbacks when I dropped stuff but ultimately, my structure is stronger for those mishaps since I had to reattach in a way that was sturdier.

I've gotta say, I picked a terrible day to get a building bug because it was GUSHING rain for most of the day. Seriously ridiculous amounts of rain dumping from the sky. I set up my handy 10' shelter to keep my tools dry but it wasn't super fun working in those conditions.

The Bean Barn by Julie at Build, Sew, Reap

Instead of securing the 4x4s inside the raised bed, I put them on the outside edges and left room to plant the beans INSIDE the structure. I used to always struggle to get the seeds in beyond the wire fencing they were growing up before.
Bean Barn by Julie at Build, Sew, Reap

Bean Barn - 2

After about 4 hours of work, I was done done done with the crummy weather so I packed up my tools and headed inside. My rain coat is still hanging on the front porch today, on Tuesday, because it's still a bit damp. I was absolutely soaked to the bone and my hands were numb from being stuck in wet work gloves all day.

On Monday morning, after dropping the kids off at school, I headed to Home Depot to pick up some furring strips to make a slatted roof. I used 20 of them for my 43" long roof structure. I want the bean vines to be able to climb across them but to drop their beans through whenever possible but I also wanted it to look more like a shelter in the off season than it would with just a wire fence stapled from one side up and over the top and down the other side. I did use the wire fencing from the old trellis along the vertical sides though and I love how it turned out.

The Bean Barn by Julie at Build, Sew, Reap

The Bean Barn by Julie at Build, Sew, Reap

The structure barely wiggles when I give it a good shake and I think it'll hold a lot of bean vines. The nice thing with it being this tall is I can plant more than I have in the past. The variety I grow, Cherokee Trail of Tears, is a variety that will get up to 10' tall and provides both string beans to enjoy raw or steamed in the summer, then whatever is left can be left to dry on the vine and harvested to enjoy as black beans (hello Instant Pot bean rehydration!).

Bean Barn by Julie at Build, Sew, Reap

I can hardly wait to get growing!


Thank you for reading,
Julie



Strawberry Obelisk Build

You may have seen my last blog entry about the Strawberry Post. Well, I have been trying to move my strawberries out of the retaining wall and I thought building something that would hold 60 strawberries would help me clear out most of the wall but I wasn't even close. It was time to find a way to build something to hold even more plants. I headed back to Pinterest for inspiration and found several pictures of obelisks that I really liked. I knew it would look nice to have something tall at the start of the garden so as soon as the sick 5 year old's ibuprofen kicked in and he wanted to head out for some sunshine and gardening on Friday morning, we busted out the power tools and got to work.

Strawberry Obelisk by Julie at Build, Sew, Reap

Now, here's the embarrassing part. This was a MAJOR blogger fail. Between the rush to finish the project while there was still sunshine (at least a week of rain is predicted after this one sunny day) and the sick kiddo, I just hit the ground running and failed to take a lot of pictures along the way.  I knew the base needed to be square so I dragged out some scrap cedar 4x4s and cut them all to the length of the shortest one which was 22". I then arranged them in a square and screwed them together with 3 1/2 inch screws. Those things aren't coming apart any time soon.

Then I started monkeying around with the height. I opted to use some 2x4s in my stash. While pine isn't ideal for an outdoor structure, I think it'll outlast the strawberry plants so in the interest of saving money, I stuck with basic stud 2x4s. I cut them in half, 48" long then I angled the ends. I forget what angle I used but the scrap triangle was about 1" by 3.5" by 3.64". The ends are parallel with one another so that I could put a flat top on it. I hope to put something interesting up top eventually.

BUILD BREAK ALERT: The sick little dude was losing interest in my build but I wanted him to stay outside with me to get some sunshine and fresh air so I took a break from the obelisk and he and I busted out a work bench.

Mini Tool Bench - 1

Sadly, he didn't stick around long enough to use it as he got tired and wanted to snuggle with the dog and ended up falling asleep on the couch.

So, back to the obelisk (work fast Julie, he won't sleep all day).

I then marked out where I'd want the "shelves" (for lack of a better word) and measured the front edge. The first one had a front edge of 6" and the back edge was around 3". I determined that a 15 degree cut would get the piece in properly. I cut 4 of these at a time then used my nailer to shoot brads through the edges of the shelves into the 2x4s. I put three in each side.

Strawberry Obelisk by Julie at Build, Sew, Reap

I realized I might someday want to move this beast but I didn't want a piece of wood to rot underneath so I tipped it over and stapled some hardware cloth to the bottom.

Strawberry Obelisk by Julie at Build, Sew, Reap

This will also keep moles or other burrowing rodents from making a home in my strawberry plants.

Then I started the tedious process of filling this thing with dirt.

Note to you: If you build one of these, go ahead and do the base, hardware cloth, and maybe 2 levels at the bottom and then start filling with soil. Fill it up, add another layer or two of 'shelves' then fill some more.

I had to try to squeeze about 4 cubic feet of soil in between the shelves. That was just silly and annoying but I got through it then I soaked it with water to prep it for planting.

Finally, I plucked out a ton of strawberry plants from the wall and stuffed them in the pockets. I think I got more than 100 strawberry plants into this planter. Sadly, the wall still isn't emptied.

Strawberry Obelisk by Julie at Build, Sew, Reap

So, that's strawberry grower number 2. There may be a number 3, we'll just have to see what I can think up.

Thank you for reading,
Julie



Strawberry Post Build

As I wait for the PNW weather to shape up this year, I've been keeping busy tending to seeds and setting up the garden beds so everything is ready once it warms up a bit. I noticed my wall of strawberries was looking a bit ragged and the morning glory (ack, boo, hiss) was already starting to strangle my little pants so I decided I'd had enough and it was time to move the strawberry plants. Having already moved lots of runners to other beds throughout the property, I've run out of space so I knew I had to think vertically. I came up with 2 solutions, the first of which is the strawberry post:

Strawberry Post

Here's how I made it.

I collected 4 fence boards and cut them to equal length (about 4' give or take, I just cut them all to the length of the shortest board). I then used a 2" forstner bit to drill out the holes.

Strawberry Post by Julie at Build, Sew, Reap


Strawberry Post by Julie at Build, Sew, Reap

My tips for you on this part:

1) Don't try any other kind of drill bit. Trust me, the forstner bit is your friend.
2) Wear long pants that hang OVER rain boots. If you wear skinny jeans that tuck inside your rain boots, you'll be fishing sawdust and shavings out of your boots for days.
3) Use a guide to establish the center vertical line.
4) Mark that line every 3" and then drill the holes in a zig-zag pattern down the length of the board leaving some room at the top and bottom for installation.

Next, I screwed the 4 boards together to form a box. I made sure they were all aligned the same so that there weren't two holes directly adjacent to one another.

Strawberry Post by Julie at Build, Sew, Reap

Then I went in for the night because it was getting dark. That's what happens when you don't start your project until after dinner.

The next morning, I screwed a hunk of 4x4 with some shims into the bottom to create a nice heavy base. Hmmm, I failed to take a picture of this step and now it's buried. Picture this ... the 4x4 is shoved up to just about an inch below the lowest holes then a screw is secured in from each side. It's not perfectly centered and I don't care.

I stood around in my garage wondering how I'd make this neat tower strong enough to stand upright in one of my big blue tubs when I remembered I had about 1/4 of a bag of quickcrete left from setting a fence post recently. It wasn't as much as I would have liked but I think it'll do the trick. To avoid a dumb mess, I lined a nursery pot with a plastic garbage bag and dumped in the powdered cement mix.

Strawberry Post by Julie at Build, Sew, Reap

Next, I positioned the post inside then poured in the right amount of water and stirred/poked the cement with a paint stir stick.

Strawberry Post by Julie at Build, Sew, Reap

Now, this next step is optional but it kept me from rushing the cement setting process. I ran to the store to buy bananas. When I got home, the cement was hard. Yay.

I moved the whole nursery pot, cement, post, garbage bag setup into one of my big blue tubs in the garden.

Strawberry Post by Julie at Build, Sew, Reap

Then I back filled with potting soil all the way to just below the top of the tub.

I returned to my mess work area and grabbed a 1" pvc pipe that was longer than my post. I drilled tiny holes in it along the length then fed it down the center of my post. This will serve as a way to water this in the summer, hopefully without washing out too much soil. It'll keep it moist from the inside.

Filling the post was a bit of a trick. I figured out pretty quickly that it worked MUCH better if I got the potting soil good and wet before loading it in the top. Once I figured that out, it went pretty quickly. I filled the whole thing then started pulling up strawberry plants from the old location to transplant into the post.

I found it was easiest to shove my finger in and down at a pretty steep angle to make room for the strawberry plant roots.
Strawberry Post by Julie at Build, Sew, Reap

I loaded up the post from the bottom up and worked my way around the post in a spiral pattern. It worked out great because as I poked the soil in the next hole up, it shoved soil down to back-fill the hole below where I'd just planted.

When I finished filling the post, I gave it a good rinse with my watering can as well as tested out the center watering post. Then I just happened to find a solar light I wasn't using and I popped it over the watering pipe.

Strawberry Post by Julie at Build, Sew, Reap

I was able to plant 12 strawberry plants on each side plus a few more around the base and several up top so I have at least 60 plants in this small space. I love the way it looks too. Now, let's hope my strawberry plants stop being so angry that I transplanted them. Hopefully I'll be able to update with pictures of thriving strawberry plants in a few weeks or at least by the end of the summer.

Thank you for reading,
Julie



Bike Garage Build

Our garage isn't very big, definitely not big enough for all my tools and the family bikes, scooters, skate boards, inline skates, soccer balls .... you get the picture. I find that when everything is piled in there, I'll grab the tool I need for a task but I won't put it away because I hate tripping over stuff. As a result, the bikes were often being left on the front porch or next to the driveway. In our rainy weather, that's a quick way to turn a great bike into a rusty pile of useless metal. I'd been planning to build a bike garage for at least a year but just hadn't gotten around to it until this past week. Last Monday, our sweet neighbor kindly asked me if I'd move the pile of recycled fence boards that I had acquired because they were leaning on the fence between our properties and were a bit of an eyesore. I felt terrible for putting her in the position of having to ask us to clean up our space so I got right to dealing with the lumber. A week later, we have a bike garage:

The Bike Garage Build by Julie at Build, Sew, Reap

I'm so excited about this build but I can't really give you any sort of blueprint or plans for how I did it. I followed the same steps I usually do with a scrap/recycled materials build:

1) I use pinterest to gather ideas and inspiration on a board.
2) I stare at the piles of materials I have to chose from.

Bike Garage by Julie at Build Sew Reap
This is just one of several wood piles

3) I jump into the project with both feet.
4) I start cutting stuff up and attaching it to other cut up stuff.
5) I change my mind a lot. With each new decision comes the process of deciding if my new idea is good enough to bother undoing what work I've done to that point.
6) I take a break and let the progress to that point sink in and I consciously and subconsciously think through the next stages of the project.
7) I cut more stuff and attach more stuff to other stuff.
8) At some point I declare the project complete.
9) I enjoy the feeling of creating something out of recycled materials.

So, let's get started with the pictures I took along the way.

The size of the structure was based on the 8' garage door window panel I had found on the side of the road last summer as well and the shortest length of fence board I had to use.

Bike Garage by Julie at Build Sew Reap
My 5 year old decided to test out how well the bike garage would contain his wheels. 

Once I realized I could use the red cedar decking for the floor, I replaced the header beam with an unpainted 2x6 from my scrap pile. If I remember correctly, that was part of our old carport that we removed to put in the garden.

Bike Garage by Julie at Build Sew Reap


I knew I was getting to the point where I'd be needing a roof before too long but I was struggling with the materials I had on hand. I didn't have enough plywood to make a proper base for a shingled roof, nor did I even have tar paper and shingles. I messaged a friend who tends to have some pretty great building materials in her garage and asked if they had anything I could use to make a roof. Boy did they ever come through for me!!

Bike Garage by Julie at Build Sew Reap

They gave me 4 aluminum panels for the roof. The best part is since the panels have a 1 inch edge all around, they are super sturdy so I didn't have to build a frame for them to sit on. I merely notched out the horizontal supports of the existing structure and slid them into place.

Bike Garage by Julie at Build Sew Reap

I did reinforce with a few screws across the top but they were really easy to install and look great. I also caulked along the seams to keep rain from pouring down between the 4 panels.

I took some time to test out the waterproofing job I had done. It was nice to sit in the shed while it rained on the aluminum panels above me.

Bike Garage by Julie at Build Sew Reap

I wasn't sure what kind of a door I wanted to put on the structure but after the 5 year old struggled to get his bike from the driveway, across the gravel space, and up into the shed, I knew it needed a ramp. Mr. BSR and I talked over lots of different ideas and in the end, I opted for one of my favorite looks - the dutch door but instead of both sections opening to the side, I attached the bottom section to the floor with a piano hinge and it became a fold out ramp.

I had an old fence gate in my pile of scraps (pictured above) so I opted to disassemble that and use it for the door. Knowing this, I put the front walls on leaving enough space on the left for shelves and then made the door opening as wide as the gate I had.

Bike Garage by Julie at Build Sew Reap

Taking apart the gate wasn't easy but I took it one galvanized nail at a time and pulled them all out.

Bike Garage Build by Julie at Build Sew Reap

First I built the bottom part of the door and got it installed. Then I built the top part. Working with reclaimed wood isn't easy because it's often warped, missing chunks, or presents other challenges along the way. Despite lots of measuring twice, checking plumb and level, and trying to remain consistent with measurements, the doorway was not actually perfectly rectangular. Apparently the original gate wasn't either. I adapted though, and created just the right door for the job.

Bike Garage Build by Julie at Build Sew Reap

The ramp portion is lightweight enough that the 5 year old can open it himself. The top portion holds the bottom portion in place too so when it's all closed up, even a hefty wind won't blow it back open. I need to find a latch to put on the top part so we can also lock the shed when we aren't around. Late last night, long after I'd taken all the pictures, I remembered where I might find just the lock I need (hint: it's stuck to a post in my remaining scrap pile).

This is what the shed looks like as you round the corner of our private road and approach our driveway. I think it's nice enough looking to be a front yard shed. The neighbors' bushes should continue to grow up behind it too which will provide a nice backdrop. I'm also considering mulching around it to give it a homier look. The other neighbor has a pile of mulch she wants off her driveway so I think I can procure the materials for free yet again. Woo hoo!

Bike Garage Build by Julie at Build Sew Reap

It features shelves for helmets, balls, and other small equipment (boy oh boy I'm so excited to dig stuff out of the back of the garage and load it in).

Bike Garage Build by Julie at Build Sew Reap

And it looks like it's been there for years despite being a fully custom build that just happened over the past week.

Bike Garage Build by Julie at Build Sew Reap

Now the kids can easily get to their equipment and I can reclaim the garage for my tools. I think I'll make a cool sign for the build. At the suggestion of one of my most favorite friends, this will be called "The Wheelhouse." I think a pyrography project is in order!

The Wheelhouse Sign

Thank you for reading,
Julie



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