The Shed: from the Bottom Up

Although there was a minor planning/execution screw up at the beginning of the Shed Expansion, the rest of the original shed remained mostly in place.

Before any structure was added onto the shed, the front had to come off. I had vague  schemes of re-purposing the lumber and paneling from the front, but I knew the doors definitely needed to be saved and reused on the final building. Therefore, they were the first thing to come off.

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Like a happy, screaming mouth.

The door was held on by a pair of long piano hinges that spanned the height of the doorway. There was also a metal strip along the bottom of the doorway to protect the wood. I unfastened a few dozen half-inch screws, which all ended up getting thrown away due to rust. Throughout this project, I’ve tried to save and reuse as much material as possible, but in instances like this, it just wasn’t feasible.

As you’ll see in progress photos a bit, the rest of the front will come down and leave a huge gaping hole. This was not a delicate process. Initially, I tried to delicately pry away the nails with the claw end of my hammer, but that wasn’t doing much. I resorted to whacking the crap out of the panels and 2x3s until they shook loose.

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The ladies dancing on the fallen body of the front.

After the existing shed was ready, the next step was to lay the “foundation” for the new addition. The original structure sits on a skid foundation, so I decided to continue that. A skid foundation is basically posts – usually 4x4s – laying across concrete blocks. Then, on top of the posts, you lay your floor frame (aka the subfloor). Skid foundations tend to work best with small- to medium-structures sitting on relatively flat ground.

Because concrete blocks are a pain in the ‘tocks to level, I procrastinated on that part and set about building the frame for my floor. Although the original shed uses 2x4s, most of the guidance I read leaned more towards 2x6s. I probably would’ve been alright with the 2x4s, but better sturdy than sorry.

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The spacing between my joists varied from 12 to 20 inches because I was trying to make sure the plywood flooring seams would land on a joist. I secured everything together with 3-inch ring shank decking nails. I normally overbuild and used monstrous screws, so I was worried about the lasting power of nails. However, after having a few go in wonky and being unable to pry them out, I’m convinced the frame is very solid. (particularly when the plywood is secured to the top) Yay!

Then I couldn’t avoid setting the dang blocks. In order for the addition to sit level, I had to account for the extra height of the 2x6s (since the old shed’s floor frame uses 2x4s). I dug and redug holes for the blocks and added or removed buckets of pea gravel until they sat as even as possible. Then the 4x4s went on top, stretching across 10 feet across blocks.

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I ended up used about 5bags of pea gravel for the 6 blocks. The new addition will be 6-feet deep, so the poles are evenly spaced to support that. Now here comes the frame!

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I should get tiny hardhats for the ladies, since they’re always supervising my work.

With everything in place, I screw the new floor frame onto the original frame. Here, you can also see the front of the shed has been ripped off. I was also slow to put the roof sheet back on that I removed during my false start.

Before the moving on, make sure everything’s nice and square! If not, a few whacks of the hammer should help adjust things.

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The frame is secured to the skids through a technique known as “toenailing,” in which you drive a nail a little steeper than 45 degrees into 2 pieces of wood. This project was the first time I tried to toenail anything, so it took some practice to get the technique. It helps to start by driving the nail straight into the wood and then angling it downwards.

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The last thing I worked on that day was installing the plywood floor.

I was working with 4’x8′ sheets of 3/4″ severe weather plywood. Side note:  get someone to help you carry these sheets. I was able to sort of drag them across the yard, but one ended up falling on my leg and gave me a nasty bruise.

Anyways, in my plan, I figured out how to puzzle-piece these together. The first sheet went on whole, then I laid the next sheet right beside it, put a few nails in to hold it down, and cut off the excess. That excess formed the final piece of the floor. I used subfloor adhesive as well as those 3-inch decking nails to hold everything together.

Well, guys and gals, that was it for the day. If I can make a suggestion, don’t take on a huge, labor-intensive, outdoor project like this in June and July in a subtropical climate. I was so happy to have some spotty shade from the old oak tree, but the heat still knocked me on my butt everyday. Take care of yourself.

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Step 2: And the Walls Rise >

 

The Project Just Started and I Already Screwed Up

Ya know, I guess it’s nice to get mistakes over with in the beginning. At that stage, work can be undone – or at the very least – it can be easier to revamp the rest of the plan.

Before the Great Shed Revamp really began – as in, before I started the fun building stage – some prep work was required. Part of this entailed setting up a temporary shed for equipment like my lawnmower that needs protection from the elements. The other big – huge – MASSIVE part involved moving the shed.

A few years ago, an ex-boyfriend and I used a jack, 2x4s, and poles leftover from a chain link fence to roll my shed back about ten feet. My initial plan involved moving it forward, thanks to an oak branch that had so delightfully decided to prop itself on the back corner of the shed.

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Ya jerk!

I was a little worried about the stability of the shed after moving it and then however long the branch was propped up there. Also, just moving a shed is definitely a two-person job (not to mention, I couldn’t jack it up like last time, thanks to Mr. Branchenstein up there). Therefore, I decided to dissemble the shed and rebuild it. Bigger. Faster. STRONGER.

Or at least more stable and scooted forward about four feet.

Step one of disassembly involved removing the roof and OH MY GOODNESS Y’ALL, that was not easy. I mean, it’s great that the roof was on there so securely, since south Louisiana is prone to hurricanes and storms, but not so great when I was trying to pry the plywood away from the rafters. But I finally popped piece free!

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Yaaay! Don’t look at the hastily propped up window! Stop looking at it! Stop!

Before I got too much further, I realized I should go ahead and trim some of the smaller branches above the shed so that I didn’t have a future of leaning branches ahead of me, no matter the shed’s location. Previously, on smaller limbs, I’ve tortured myself by using a handsaw. Not this time.

A few years ago, my dad got me a circular saw and a drill from Ryobi’s ONE+ line. They’ve held up well and are my go-to tools. On his advice, I bought several batteries, so I never run out of juice. I was all too happy to see that the ONE+ also had a pole saw, and it was cheaper than most I’d looked at, so yay for that.

Once I got back to my house and set up the pole saw, I…well, I went a little wild. Slicing through all the irritating, half-dead limbs that had bugged me for months was exhilarating. Within half an hour, I’d created a small mountain of detritus.

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Destruuuctioooon.

Then an idea occurred to me, and the icy flames of excitement and dread licked my neck.

I walked around to the back of the shed to check out that branch, that core reason for shed disassembly and pain…

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Sweet Sally May.

Sure enough, my enthusiasm with the saw removed enough weight for the branch to lift off the shed.

Overall, this is fantastic. I no longer plan on moving the shed (one of the downsides of the move was that the new shed would eat up some of my precious, tiny yard). However, groan, I have to scrabble all around the roof and nail it back down.

At some point, I will probably tackle the rest of the branch and trim it back down to the main trunk, but oh man, do I wish the idea of the trimming the tree would’ve occurred to me earlier. Oh well. Better now than after I’ve taken the whole shed apart.

I still plan to reinforce the inside of the existing shed, just in case there is hidden structural damage. I’m also replacing the roofing. My plans have changed slightly (more on that coming soon), and shingles aren’t really viable for my long-term plans. Also, I hate shingles. I used them on my first chicken coop – never again.

Alright, I have a roof to nail back on…

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Preparing for the Shed Expansion

Coming off of the giant project that reformed my front yard, I thought to myself, “I can’t stand not being worn out everyday! I need to sweat until my eyeballs slide out!” Enter:  Shed Expansion.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with my little 10’x10′ shed. It’s perfectly find for storing a small amount of lawn equipment, tools, and old paint. But I’d really love a workspace. And, if at all possible, a little greenhouse would be nice too.

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Peekaboo, I see you hiding back in those branches.

My backyard isn’t huge, so I can’t go too wild. I’m planning on lengthening the shed by a moderate 6 feet for a final footprint of 10’x16′.

There are some issues to take care before I go construction-crazy, though. First of all, some equipment like my lawn mower really can’t afford to sit outside in summer thunderstorms, so I installed a little resin shed behind the existing shed.

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Sad, empty, wasted space!
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Building a level surface out of pea gravel and pavers.
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Happy little resin shed (with bonus chicken)!

After everything moves back into the main shed, I plan on keeping my chicken and duck supplies in the resin shed. Currently, the wood shavings, feed, etc. live in that trash can to the left of the resin shed. YUM.

The littlest shed had performed beautifully so far. Do you want to see how much stuff fits inside that lil 5’x6′ box?

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Such a shameful mess!

Okay, every single piece of this did not end up in the resin shed. I’m getting rid of the bicycle, and a lot of the wood and tubing will live outside for a bit. But that little resin shed is packed to the gills now.

On the next post, I’ll share how things have gone . . . not so well in the next stages. Until that point, though, I have time to recover those mistakes so I can present something a bit more hopeful and wizened!

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Update: The Birds

You guys, I know it’s more than halfway through June and I haven’t really peeped about my June project goals.

Eh, well, things have not gone quite as Snow White as I was hoping. Fresh off my trip to my parents’ houses, where each has created an avian paradise with feeders and a delightful variety of songbirds, I resolved to add some feeders to my front yard garden and create my own chirpy paradise.

My wise mother advised that the key to a variety of birds was a variety of food, so I added this sweet but sturdy shepherd’s hook and two feeders.

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Every few days, I stock one feeder with a songbird blend and the other with pure black oil sunflower seed. I haven’t yet decided what to put on the lowest hook yet, because the birds are like little piggies on the existing feeders. They fling food everywhere. That stuff that looks like grass in front of the bird bath? Sprouted birdseed. Lovely. Fortunately, it’s super easy to pull. I only fill the feeders once or twice a week, which forces the birds to dig around on the ground for scraps and (hopefully) minimize what’s left behind to sprout.

My mom’s significant other always sings the praises of suet. I always reckoned suet as a cold-weather food, but apparently you just have to make sure you get the no-melt kind in summer. I got a cheap little suet holder and hung it from a tiny shepherd’s hook below my crepe myrtle. Inside the branches of that tree, I also have a little nesting ball to encourage some birdies to take up residence in my yard.

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The blue circle is the suet feeder; the orange is the nesting ball.

Most recently, I’ve also added a little hummingbird feeder to my kitchen window. I’ve never successfully attracted hummingbirds, though apparently they’re prolific in my area. I’m also terrible at remember to switch out the nectar, which may be the problem.

So what has this bounty attracted to my yard?

Like 5,000 house sparrows.

For a while, I also has numerous crow visitors, but they seem to be taking a break.

Briefly, I thought I saw a chickadee or two. I love chickadees because they tend to look chubby and cheerful. A few grackles have also visited. I’ve also seen several brown birds with red heads. The internet suggests these are house finches, but elsewhere, it doesn’t look like those little guys are supposed to be in my region this time of year.

But I really wanted some variety – some robins and bluebirds and goldfinches. Some color.

Ask and ye shall receive.

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Pigeons.

Last weekend, the pigeons found my feeders. Oh boy, did they find them. They told all their pigeon friends and they had a pigeon party at Chez Robyn.

Ugh.

But maybe word will eventually get around to the other songbirds and I’ll see a bit more variety in breeds. I might eventually add a peanut feeder and see if that attracts anyone else. On the plus side, unlike my mom, I don’t have to battle a horde of squirrels. I really just have one stubborn little monster who digs up my bulbs. I think the armies of birds around my feeders intimidate the squirrel, as I haven’t really seen it go for the feeder. So yay for the small victories!

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Things I Made Last Weekend

My life isn’t all digging in the dirt (but it mostly is)! I like to make things inside too, particularly as we move into hotter weather.

This past weekend, I made a few things:

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First, I sewed a simple wrap dress using Butterick See & Sew pattern B6543.

It hassss pocketssss.

It was easy to sew, as advertised. However, I’m not super happy with the sizing. Typically, you’ll want to make a muslin (mock-up) of a garment before using your final fabric, but that’s tough to do with a stretchy knit (old sheets work great for non-stretchy clothes, though). Plus, I figured a stretch knit would be more forgiving of mistakes. In terms of the Butterick size chart, I should be close to a 14. Looking at the pattern lines, that seemed a bit large, so I cut between the lines for a 10 and a 12.

Y’all, that size chart is way off.

I should’ve made an 8. The shoulders are falling off. Fortunately, I’ve played around with some tucks here and there, and it should be easy to sew in some neat little folds that will both add visual interest and help keep my chest from being fully exposed.

Last weekend held a second sewing project (whooaaaa), this one on a whim. I buy quite of bit of fruit and veggies, and I hate the plastic bags the grocery store has. I found some netting, cord, and toggles in my craft stash and whipped up some reusable produce bags. bags.jpg

Unlike the dress, there is no sizing issue with these. I’ve also moved them into my car, since I tend to stop by the grocery on my way home from work. The sides are sewn with French seams for durability, and the tops are folded down approximately 1 inch and secured with a zigzag stitch as the mesh has a little bit of stretch. They aren’t perfect, but they should work beautifully.

Now onto another domestic art:  cooking!

I kept reading about how gaga people were over Instant Pots, so back in January, I ordered . . . not one of those. I actually ended up going for the Crockpot version because it was cheaper and everything I’ve owned by Crockpot has held up well. Anyway, I definitely understand why people love these things. They make amazing rice. I regularly use mine to cook around six pounds of chicken thighs to shred and freeze for lunches and dinners.

They also turn dried beans into cooked deliciousness in 22 minutes!

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Bonus:  McCoy creeping across the background.

For these, I cooked 1 lb of dried black beans and 1 lb of dried kidney beans in chicken broth. I don’t know exactly how many cups of broth because I just stopped at the “Max Fill” line on the pot. Add some diced onions, set the timer, and voila! Beans for weeks. They freeze well, and they’re good.

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