Cool Blog

Just a quick post today, as it’s a full-torque sewing day for me. If I get my projects done, I’ll post photos later.
I stumbled across this great blog yesterday, if you’re a DIY type like me. Yeah, it’s not from a little home blogger, but from the king (He prefers “Dean”) of DIY himself, Bob Vila.

A Riddle

Q:What’s made out of scrap wood, sorts dirt from debris, and is an incredibly useful addition to your toolshed? Answer: A riddle.
Yup. That’s all folks. Ba-dam-ching!
It’s pretty simple to make: 4 pieces of scrap 2 x 3 or 2 x 4 stood on edge, eight screws to hold the two-bys together at the corners, a piece of rat wire sufficient to cover the bottom of the resulting square or rectangle, and a bunch of staples (the kind you drive in with a hammer) to hold the wire to the frame. You can make it whatever size you like: big enough to cover your wheelbarrow, small enough to use over a plant starting tray.

Greenhouse, Phase I

Future greenhouse.

Future greenhouse.

Well, we decided to build a greenhouse. Priced out kits and DIY components and found that it was out of our reach. Went on Freecycle, looking for used windows. Hit the jackpot with a gentleman who had planned to make a greenhouse from windows discarded by someone who’s just done a window upgrade. He ended up buying a kit. He wasn’t happy with the kit–the roof leaked–but he’d just thrown another sheet of plastic over it and abandoned the glass house idea.

So right now I have ten 35 x 28 double glazed sash windows in the trunk of my car, and five 18 x 28s and one 18 x 35 in the garage. Ralph has another half dozen or so from a different window replacement job sitting in the back yard. My benefactor has more of the 35 x 28s, which I will go back to pick up, once I have trunk space again.

We’ll keep you posted as the project progresses.

If you’ve never heard of Freecycle, they really are the greatest thing since sliced bread, maybe even since the invention of chocolate. Whether you are into DYI from recycled goods or looking to clean out your garage or basement, go to their website, and join. There are local chapters in every state. You sign on with an offer or a need. You look at other people’s postings, and those with the excess stuff connect with those who need same stuff, or vice versa, and you work out an agreement as to pick-up.

It’s simple, it works, and it keeps things out of the landfill. It’s not to be confused with Craigslist, where you can sell things or offer services. It’s about giving stuff you don’t want to people who want and can use it.

In addition, you get to meet great people. LIke Tony, the guy who decided not to build a greenhouse out of windows, after all. Thanks, Tony!

Containing Compost

Finished Bin
We’ve always composted, and continued to do so after our recent move. We continued our conserving ways for several months before a neighbor showed up, glanced at the back yard, and cheerfully informed us that the city has fines for people with unsightly properties. Given that everyone else had been complimenting us on how much better the yard looked since we’d moved in, we pretty quickly narrowed down the object of our neighbor’s concern to the pile of dead leaves and grass clippings concealing the potato peels and egg shells.

On a trip to the local hardware palace for yet more perennials, I noticed a plastic compost bin for sale. “51 gallon capacity,” the sign said. That sounds a lot more impressive than “six point eight cubic feet” which also happens to be true. While it might be enough to hold kitchen waste, that’s nowhere near enough capacity for a lawn’s-worth of grass clippings plus  two shade trees worth of leaves. Plus, it looked like Dark Helmet’s hat from Spaceballs. We can do better, I thought.

In a few minutes of wandering the aisles, we located 2” x 4” x 8’ landscape timbers at $3.54 each for the corner posts and 6-foot cedar dog-eared fence planks at $1.17 each that would serve as rot-resistant sides. That, plus a bunch of deck screws and a few metal fence stakes, gave us a two-bin, 3’ x 3’ x 4’ compost heap for $55.05. We used scrap lumber for the boards to hold the front slats in place, and recycled the inner cores from dog poop bag rolls for spacers. Buying a 1” x 6” x 12’ and a foot of aquarium hose to replace the recycled items would bring the cost up to just a little over that of the pint-sized commercial model.

However we get a lot more bang for our buck: 36 cubic-foot capacity in each of the two compartments, to be precise, enough for grass clippings and leaves as well as kitchen waste. That works out to 11 cents per gallon of storage capacity, and, other than the recycled plastic spacers, it uses no petroleum products. Compare that to the $1.14/gallon of Mr. Helmet’s hat. May the Schwartz be with you!

Materials list:

3 – 2” x 4” x 8’ landscape timbers

28 – 6-foot cedar fence planks

9 – ¾” length pieces of plastic or metal tubing, ¼” to ½” diameter

144—2” decking screws, 9 – 3 ½” decking screws

4 – 5’ metal fence stakes


Saw, measuring tape, marker, drill, screwdriver, level, sledge hammer


Cut the landscape timbers into 4-foot lengths.

Cut 12 of the cedar planks into 3-foot lengths for the sides of the bins.

The planks may split if you run screws directly into them, so it’s a good idea to pre-drill 2 holes on the end of each plank plus two more 2” from the centers of the 6-foot planks.  You can expedite this by stacking the planks and drilling them 4 or 5 at a time. Carefully measure the first plank and put it on top of each carefully stacked pile of planks as a template.

Lay three of the posts on the ground, spaced so that they line up with the holes in the 6-foot planks. Space the planks a finger’s-width apart for better air circulation.  Screw the planks to the posts using the 2” decking screws. The top piece will extend above the end of the post. You now have the back of your bin.

Stand the back up in the place you want the finished bin to stand and attach the bottom plank to the end, using one screw. Attach the front post to the plank with one screw. Use the level to insure that the posts are vertical and screw the front and back ends of the plank to the uprights. Attach the remaining planks the same way, again, a fingers-width apart. Repeat this procedure for the opposite wall and the middle wall.

You have a bin! Reinforce the walls by driving a metal fence post on the outside of each side wall and on both sides of the center wall, near the front posts. (Rooftop gardeners might want to place a cinderblock on either side of the front posts for support, instead.)


Attach a 4’ length of board to the center post at top, middle, and bottom, running the 3 1/2” screws through the spacers. Leave a little play between the spacers and the post, rather than running the risk of splitting them by screwing them on too tightly. They’re just there as guidelines. Do the same with the side posts.

Measure the distance between the spacers, subtract ½”, and cut the front planks to that length. Slide the boards into the slots as needed as your bin fills. Remove them when it’s time to move the compost out.

If you have the space and wish to double your capacity, you’ll need to get 12 more cedar slats and four additional fence stakes. Leave your side and center pieces 6 feet long and reinforce the middle of the side and center walls with the stakes.