Garden Shed Foundation

I took all of last week off work. All of the Veteran’s I serve have been asking me where I went and if I had a great time. Well, it was not a sit by the pool and sip on drinks kind of vacation. I had a to-do list about as long as my arm! I got the vast majority of it done, at least the back breaking part of it anyway.

My main goal during this “Workcation” was pour the cement foundation for my garden shed. We have an adorable 10′ x 10′ building on our property that the previous owners used as their milk house when they had a dairy cow, so precious! Since we moved in I have been using it to store random yard/garden supplies. For this new purpose it sits in a rather random spot of the property. We are very much about keeping old buildings that have so much charm and giving them a new purpose that suits our needs.

Getting Started

I honestly didn’t think this was going to be much of a project. I poured cement to fill in a patch of our sidewalk (Read that article here: https://pearlsponiesandpacifiers.com/2020/03/24/pouring-a-sidewalk-patch/ ) and that went really well so I thought this was going be just as simple. My Dad came out Wednesday to help me with the forms. We are on a bit of a hill but I didn’t realize how much our property slopes until I was out there with a level!

I bought out the lumberyard of 2″ x 6″ boards to use for the forms. We placed one along the fence which is what I was using as a guide to where the building would go. I dug it out to make the 2″ x 6″ even with the ground on the high side, remember, our property slopes quite a bit. From there we started pounding in stakes along the board and screwed the 2″ x 6″ to those, pounding in the stakes until the level read even. We basically repeated this process on all sides until the whole thing was even. There was quite a bit of back and forth until ALL sides were level. Please note that while completing this step ensure that you do NOT use the forms to help brace yourself as you stand up. I learned that one the hard way and we may have had to do some more leveling.

Digging to fit the first form.

The Really Hard Part

I don’t know if it was the fact that the temperature was pushing 90 degrees or if I just wasn’t mentally prepped for this step to take all day long but after the first step I thought we were pretty much home free, WRONG! Because our property has such a slope I had to go back to the lumberyard and get additional 2″ x 6″ to place under the first ones to totally fill in the forms. No big deal, I got those put in and then started placing waler brackets. For ours we just used a 1″ x 2″ cut in 2’ish sections and screwed them into the stakes at an angle with another stake behind them to ensure they didn’t move. These help brace the forms against the weight of the wet cement.

The walers on the tall side of the forms where they were needed most.

Again, that part wasn’t so bad either, the next step was prepping the ground inside of the form. Granted, I think the reason this step was extra difficult is because our property slopes so much but dang was it difficult! I used the flat-edged shovel to skim off the dirt until it was a level 4″. My Dad also suggested that we do a rat footing. Bascially, it’s adding extra cement down along the inner side of the foundation. I dug down about a shovels width in from the form and down an extra 4″. This helps so rain water doesn’t run under the building. I used the soil that I removed for the rat footing and to even the low sides of the inside of the form. We even had to bring in some outside dirt to make it even. After the soil was put in place I used the metal tamper to pack down the dirt so it was ready for cement. My Dad also wanted me to brace the forms with dirt so they would have more support against the wet cement but I’ll be honest, by this point of the day I was done and calling it good!

Pouring Cement

I scheduled the cement truck for Friday morning, it was quite exciting having a whole truck come. I had never had a big enough job to warrant a whole truck! The truck couldn’t quite reach the forms so we had to use the bucket on the tractor to haul the cement from the truck to the forms. Coby would pour the cement into the form and I then used a concrete come-along tool to rake the cement into the corners and tamp it down to get out any air bubbles.

Once we got the form filled in it was time to screed. We used a 2″ x 4″ for this. With a person on either side of the form they would drag the board pushing the bulk of the cement out of the way. Then they would take it back to the starting point and quickly see-saw it back and forth to level the cement. If cracks were needing to be filled in I would scoop a shovel full of cement in the area and they would do the process over again until it was nice and smooth.

Once this rough leveling was done my Dad showed me how to use the magnesium float and really smooth out the floor. Coby used the edging trowel to put a smooth edge on the cement so there aren’t any ridges. My Dad then used the broom to put a slight texture to the floor. He loves to add swirls to the cement instead of a straight line, I let him have free range and go for it! We then had to add the ever popular hand prints and Dad insisted we put the date in it as well, if only I could write in a straight line!

Final Thoughts

This step of the project was definitely more then I bargained for BUT it is done and done well. It really gave shape to my garden and I can’t wait to move the building and keep adding raised beds to make it my dream garden!

View of the foundation from the low side of the hill that needed a LOT of cement to even out with the high side of the hill.

Veggie Garden Design and Construction

I love a prolific, organized garden, who doesn’t?! I want a garden that is pleasing to the palatte as well as to the eye. Now that we have our own place my goal this summer was to start my dream garden. I have always wanted raised beds as they are beautiful and offer numerous planting benefits, i.e. longer growing season and complete control over the soil used.

This post is just covering the first phase of my garden plan. My total garden is going to be 61’1″ x 43’7″ and it just wasn’t feasible in both time and money to do that all at once.

Plan Before You Plant

The first step was measuring the space where I wanted the garden to go, and re-measuring it just to make sure. After that I broke out my architects scale and started designing. For me designing and drawing is relaxing, it’s my way of dreaming on paper. I have recently been obsessed with the YouTube channel called, “Garden Answer.” Laura is an extremely knowledgeable gardener who has given me a lot of inspiration and the confidence to try something new in my garden. I grew up with a vegetable garden being a plot of tilled up soil with rows and rows of veggies in it. There is nothing wrong with that but I wanted mine to have an almost architectural beauty to it as well. Laura made me realize I can have both, practical and eye catching. I have always heard of the idea of “rooms” in a garden but again, didn’t think that was for a vegetable garden but Laura made me realize, “Why not?”

My extravagant garden plan in my new “Plans” notebook with all of my current project ideas!

I really examined what we were wanting out of our garden. We would love to start canning and be able to have enough home-grown food that we can “grocery” shop from our own pantry. Therefore, we have to have a lot of garden space and we got it!

The design for my garden is very symmetrical, I am using the garden shed as the main focal point to break up the two main areas in the garden. After that I decided 4′ x 8′ beds are what I want for the bulk of my beds but didn’t want them just lined up in rows. I decided that along the center axis, aligned with the garden shed, I would do smaller, 3′ x 3′ beds for smaller crops and to help break up the area and really draw you into the garden from the main entry.

Breaking Ground

After the hours I spent designing and tweaking the plan it was time to break ground! My Dad has a 2 bottom plow that he tries to use any opportunity he gets. I had him come over and he and Coby plowed under the entire area where I was going to put the garden. We then tilled and tilled and tilled the area to break up the large clumps.

Building the Beds

It was time to make those beautiful raised beds. My research suggested using either Redwood or Cedar for beds due to their durability when exposed to the weather. In my area Redwood hasn’t been available for years so I went with Cedar. There were cheaper options of course but that included treated lumber which is something I wan’t comfortable with seeings how I am growing food in these. One lumberyard I called suggested that some people go with the treated lumber and then line it before putting the soil down to create a barrier.

I got my lumber and soil and started making six of the 3′ x 3′ beds. I mitered the corners because again, I wanted it to be pretty, and that’s what Laura did too! My Dad warned me that they would pull apart easier that way but I didn’t care. After I made these beds Laura did a follow up video on her channel stating that she would not do mitered edges again because of the aforementioned problem so, lesson learned, I won’t do it to the rest. Once I had all of the pieces cut to size I took them to the barn to screw together. Our barn is the only cemented floor we have and I wanted to make sure that they were flush. I screwed all of the beds together and then sanded the edges as they did get a little rough and splintery while cutting.

Putting Everything in the Garden

The next step was measuring the placement of everything in the garden. I measured the outsides and the center. I used fiberglass electric fence poles to mark these points. I then ran a string line in between the poles to measure from. Once I was sure it was centered I started placing the beds down where they should go based on my plans. I used a large rake to even out the soil where I was placing them to ensure that it was flat.

Scarlett helped me plant the finished beds. We may have a few extra Jack be Little pumpkins because of her assistance but I’m not mad. It’s so fun having her help and learn!

There is still a long way to go until my dream garden is complete but the first phase is done and let’s be honest, getting started is always the hardest part!

Building Fence

Thankfully when we moved to this property in the December a little over a year ago it hadn’t turned bitter cold yet and the ground was not froze. My husband and I constructed a make shift holding pen for the horses until we could build proper fence when the weather turned.

There’s something oddly peaceful about looking at a pretty fence!

The previous owners hadn’t had any livestock for years which meant that all of the fence around the property had to come out and be rebuilt. My husband was a farm hand growing up so he is quite a good fence ripper outer! EVERY Saturday last summer was devoted to fencing. I would take our daughter to my mom’s in the morning and linger there a little longer then I should knowing that Coby was starting fence work while I was there. Once I got back it was time to put up some fence. We would complete a single line of fencing each day. Now, some might envision a couple arguing with each other and bickering incessantly while building fence but oddly Coby and I seem to be at our best as a couple under usually trying times so it was actually fun.

Some people feel close to God when they are sitting in a church pew. I felt alive and blessed working on our fence. Maybe it’s because it took us four years to find our acreage but God blessed us with a piece of his earth that he created and entrusted it in our care, that honestly blows my mind. I’m not saying it wasn’t hard work and was exhausting but in the same sense it was exhilarating. We have looked back on it and both felt a sense that someone was there with us. For me it was surprisingly a spiritual task.

Happy boys enjoying their new pasture!

The Steps to Building a Fence

Coby did an insane amount of research into building fence. He watched YouTube videos from the pros because we were going to do this once, and do it right!

  1. Set the corner posts. We just followed the existing fence line so we would take out the old corner posts, use the fence post digger attachment on the tractor to clean out the hole and throw the new creosote post in there. We would use a level to ensure it was straight on all sides before filling the hole in.
    • Creosote is a tar like substance that is used to coat fence posts and soaks into the post leaving it a very dark brown/black color. Creosote helps slow the wood post from rotting and can also deter harmful insects from damaging the posts. Definitely wear gloves and full sleeves when working with these posts. Coby would develop a slight rash whenever the posts made contact with his skin and it would burn for a few hours afterward.
  2. The next step was to place the brace posts on either side of the corner posts. We placed these a metal brace post length away from the corner post.
  3. We used 9 Gage Wire and looped it around the corner post and the brace post at a diagonal, attaching it together with a Wire Tightener. For this project we did have to buy quite a few specific tools but we wanted to ensure this fence was going to withstand the test of time, and my mom’s fence stretching horse.
  4. The last step in bracing the posts was to use a metal brace in-between the posts. I grew up seeing these metal posts placed diagonally between the posts but my Dad said to put them horizontally because the diagonal would start to lift the post where the diagonal was lowest to the ground.
  5. We would then run our bottom line of barbed wire to use as a guide for the metal “T”-Posts. We would wind the barb wire around the wood posts, put fencing staples in it and then put a metal rod through the spool of barbed wire and we would walk it to the other post. Once there we gave ourselves about 3′ extra to work with and cut the wire.
  6. Coby bought a Come-Along Tool or winch that we hooked to the hitch of his pickup. Coby also got an adapter to be used with the winch that can hold the barbed wire. We then tightened the wire and would wrap it around the post and attach it with fencing staples.
  7. The next step was placing the “T”-Posts. We placed ours every 8′ along the outside of the fence. We loaded them in the tractor bucket and Coby would drive the tractor slowly alongside me and I would throw them out at estimated 8′ intervals. I would then measure 8′ and pound the post in with a post pounder with the flat part of the “T”-Post facing inward so electric fencing insulators could be attached later.
  8. Once these were all in we started running the rest of the barbed wire strands. We chose to do 5 strands. My Dad ran 6 because when he built his fence we had sheep and since they’re smaller he wanted smaller openings between the strands. We only intend on having horses and steers so we decided we could make them slightly farther apart. We placed our barbed wire 2″ down from the top, then 12″, 22″, 32″ and 42″ on the 4′ post.
  9. We would run the bottom 3 strands and would then have to adhere them to the post using fence clips. Any more strands then this and they started getting caught in one another while on the ground before we attached them to the post. We would leap frog each other, each doing the next post in line and would attach the wire. We used both regular pliers and fencing pliers for this, both worked but the rounded head of the fencing pliers made it easier for me.

We divided our pasture area into three fairly equal parts so we can rotate the critters to give the grass a chance to catch up growing. We placed gates in-between the pastures to make it easier to move livestock and get the tractor in and out for maintenance. There’s nothing worse then needing to get into a pasture with the tractor and having to worry about the critters running out!

When we had an over tiring day I would make Coby look at the horses and remind him of how happy they are going to be in that beautiful pasture. I don’t think he quite shared my enthusiasm on that but as he always tells me, “If it makes you smile, I’ll do it.”

Finally the day came to let the boys into the completed pasture. I honestly think I was more excited then they were. We each took a horse and walked the perimeter of the fence so they knew where it was and then we let them go. They were so excited to have beautiful green grass they didn’t even do their typical run around like idiots when they get someplace new. They just dropped their heads and started munching, it was a wonderful site!

It was hard work and honestly I’m exhausted even reminiscing to that time but we have gotten numerous comments from people about how nice our fence is. Coby says if we ever have to do it again we will hire it out but we both puff up with pride whenever someone comments on our fence!

For this section we just had to put up the new gate and replace the post next to Coby. Once we make some other changes to the property this will be replaced with vinyl fencing!

DIY Chicken Tractor

How I upcycled vintage screen doors into a cute and functional chicken tractor.

Where we used to live was surrounded by cornfields and was close to the river, a mecca for wild critters that liked to feast on chickens. I decided I needed a chicken tractor but didn’t really want to spend the money on a ready made one or a bunch of lumber to make my own more “traditional” chicken tractor. The place we rented at that time has had people in and out of there, many of whom left collectables behind. There was a set of gorgeous vintage, screen doors. I am not sure what they went to as the house was not set up for something like those but I was going to put them to use!

I love that this chicken tractor gets the girls used to being outside in a safe, and easy to catch environment before I let them free range.

Designing and building

Chicken tractors in their most rudimental form is just a triangle and seeings how we don’t have many girls I didn’t need a big space. I was simply going to make a triangle out of the screen doors connecting them at the bottom with some lumber I had on hand.

First and foremost I did have to do some minor repairs, the bottom of one of the doors was rotten so I removed that piece and used some scrap lumber and pieced it together, it isn’t pretty but it works and is sturdy so the girls are safe. I then spray painted the wood white to protect it and make it pretty! As you can see it’s been a few years since I constructed this and need to do it again, maybe with roll on paint this time.

Here’s the corner I patched together with some spare wood lyng around.

I bought a roll of chicken wire that fit perfectly on my doors and rolled it out on the inside of the door and attached it with a staple gun.

It was then time to put it together! To connect the top of the doors at the peak I just butted them together and had Coby screw them together, he was my driller for this project as I was wearing a cute baby at the time! To connect the bottom of the doors to the wood brace posts I just used the hinges that were still attached to the doors! I did have to move the hinges to the end of the board and put them on the other side but they worked great!

Now that the frame was built I finished enclosing the space with the chicken wire by rolling the wire on the end triangle pieces, stapling with the staple gun and cut the excess with wire cutters. This did leave some sharp edges exposed but I have not had any problem.

The final step was adding handles to the ends, I just found some cheap, yet sturdy handles at the hardware store and attached them to either end using the hardware that came with it.

It may not be perfect but it’s sturdy.

Final Tips

I had originally intended on adding wheels but decided against it as it would raise the tractor too high and I was afraid smaller/younger chickens would escape. It is a little heavy but once you get it in the general area it is easy to move one end at a time a few feet over to fresh grass.

The other night I had my “teenage” sized Buck Bucks in the tractor a little later then normal and they escaped! I think they were nesting down for the night and realized that they could slip out the side because the brace board raises the entire piece 2″. I had them in it yesterday and there were no escapees so I think we are OK but something to think about.

I also intend on adding some sort of shading element. I had a tarp strapped over one end but the puppy dismantled that! I have thought of using leftover corrugated metal but am afraid they would get too hot. I want it to provide shade/shelter from rain but also let a breeze go through easily so I am still working on that. For now I don’t put them out if it is going to rain and keep them between two trees that provide shade both in the morning and afternoon.

It was fun using stuff I found around the place, not only does it work well but it gives an ordinary, functional object some fun whimsy, plus, it’s cost effective!

Building a Wood Gate

We moved to our new homestead on a snowy day a year and a half ago during a winter that my Dad referred to as “This is what I remember winter’s being like when I was a kid.” i.e. I think he was going for that, “We had it so bad we had to walk up hill both ways to get to school” kind of vibe! So once we got everything here we hunkered down and just tried to make it until spring!

Once the weather turned last year we focused on fencing ALL SUMMER LONG (a post on how we did our fencing to come soon!) Now we are looking into some smaller projects that just make our lives easier. The owners that lived here previously used the hog shed for of course, hogs! We are using it as a barn for the horses and chickens and therefore need to do some adjustments to make it more suitable for us. The main thing I wanted to change was getting from inside the barn to the pasture. The previous owners had a very heavy, large piece of wood that slid into slats blocking the doorway in-between the horses shelter and the rest of the barn where we store feed and hay. This large and heavy piece of wood was great for hogs but very difficult for me to give the boys their feed each night. It was easiest for me to go outside and access their pasture via the outside gate. This meant I had to leave Scarlett in the barn by herself and a 2 year old in the barn without visibility made me nervous! I couldn’t wait to make a swinging gate for this doorway!

This board doesn’t look like much but it is a beast!

Like I have mentioned before, my Dad has done construction for longer then I have been alive so I know the basics but I have always had him there to help guide me through projects so this was the first I have really done on my own from start to finish.

The first step I did was measure. I measured about 20 times and then cut once because I tend to get excited and get ahead of myself and have been known to cut things without accurately measuring. I liked the height of the heavy board they had because it blocked the giraffe necked horses from reaching around the corner and grabbing hay that was stacked there for winter. I did want to leave some room on the bottom for clearance of apples that accumulate from the horses during the winter because it was so dang cold that first winter there was no way we were going to get them cleaned out regularly. In total the height of the gate was mounted at 48″ tall but the gate itself was only 44″ in height, leaving a 4″ gap at the bottom for the apples.

I locked the boys out of the barn while working on the inside gate. They were quite intrigued as to what I was doing with their house!

I used 2″ x 6″ lumber. The lumberyard I got it from cut it to length for me which was 44″. I had to cut the width of the final piece so it would fit in the opening. I used a battery operated circular saw for all of the cutting I did. Next I lined up the pieces on saw horses and worked on the brace pieces. I wanted a classic and simple “Z” pattern. I again measured the top and bottom pieces very carefully and cut the boards to length. I screwed these in place using deck screws, that is what my local hardware store suggested for this project. For the diagonal piece of the “Z” I just laid a board across the gate at the angle I wanted and marked where they met the top and bottom brace pieces. I then used my square to take that measurement across the width of the board so I would have an accurate guide to follow and cut those as well. Once I cut it I screwed this into place.

I used one of the other boards as a straight edge to draw a line to follow as a guide to cut the length of the board.

The next step was to take out the slats that held the heavy board into place, they were nailed to the 2″ x 4″ stud that outlined the doorway so it took a little elbow grease and a few choice words and those were out!

I then went onto installing the hardware for the gate, starting with the hinges. I was nervous about this step because I didn’t want to mess anything up. I got large hinges because this isn’t a lightweight gate! I screwed the hinges to the gate and then found various items to put under the gate to hold it in place 4″ above the floor to give me the clearance for any excrement that would accumulate from the horses. I then screwed the other side of the hinges to the 2″ x 4″ stud.

I just started attaching screws at random to get it in place and then filled in the holes.

The next step was attaching the latch, I found a heavy duty latch at Home Depot, one that the horses could not manipulate with their mouths because they can be stinkers like that. I attached the latch to the gate using the accompanying hardware and then slid the latch out like I was locking the gate and fitted the accompanying latch piece and screwed it into place to the stud.

Attaching the latch. I had to use a screwdriver, my drill was too big to fit against the latch itself.

I ensured that my gate would swing into where the horses are because horses can be stinkers and lean on gates, especially my mom’s horse that lives with us, he is a total nuisance and loves this trick. To help with this I made a simple ‘stop’ with the piece of 2″ x 6″ I shaved off for the gate itself. I simply latched the gate into place where it would stop naturally and screwed this extra piece of wood to the stud behind it to offer more protection from naughty ponies leaning against the gate.

My handy dandy “Gate Stop.”

This simple project took a few hours one rainy Sunday afternoon, including beer breaks to let the battery charge for my power tools and it has made doing chores so much easier and safer because I don’t have to leave Scarlett in the barn for very long if she chooses not to come into the pasture to help me. Even Coby and my mom have commented how nice it is to simply walk through the gate and not have to traipse around outside and open the outside gate.

Isn’t that the most beautiful thing you have ever seen?!

I hope this gives you some encouragement to tackle a project that will make your life easier as well. Please let me know what DIY projects you are wanting to tackle in the comments and we can offer each other motivation!