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Since we got a late start last year, we purchased our garden plants from the local garden center.

This year we’re starting from seeds, and to do this we needed a place to grow sprouts.  Our previous attempts to spout seeds in an outdoor greenhouse at the old Cherry Plum house were not very successful due to poor temperature control.  (too cold, too hot, dead plants!)

This time we’re sprouting them indoors.  Although our current temperatures this week are in the high 70’s F during the day.  Seriously, what is with this weather?  Jan / Feb are becoming part of our growing season!  Still, it gets cold enough at night to halt the sprouting process, so keeping them inside and on a heated grow mat is a good idea.

So I made a wooden stand to support a 4 foot long fluorescent grow light, and put it on a table in our guest bedroom.  (Also known as “Wendy’s Crafting Room”.)  We then started planting.

Next we added plastic greenhouse tops to the flats, and a heated grow mat under them.  I added a simple timer to the light so that it gave a solid 18 hours of light per day to the seeds.

We had everything planted and set up on Saturday, the 31st.  As of today, February 3rd, we’ve already seen germination and sprouts.  The Squash are in the biggest hurry to sprout, but even the beans are showing signs of germination.

Next up is getting the garden ready to accept the new inhabitants.

Last year we grew a LOT of tomatoes.  They did well, but the trellis I built for them wasn’t strong enough to keep them supported.

Unfortunately, I’m not good with fresh tomatoes.  I have an allergy to them until after they’ve been cooked or dried enough for their proteins to unravel a bit.  And Wendy found to her disgust that she can’t eat them due to an ulcer.  So this year, no tomatoes.  (Well, maybe one).

If you check out the map of our house, this year instead of tomatoes on the tomato trellis, I’ll be planting other climbing vegetables.  Beans and squash maybe.  Although this spot only gets morning Sun.  Hmm… I’m actually not sure what I’ll be planting here as yet.

The garden area to the South of the house is going to become “Pepper City”.  It turns out that the Argentine Ant doesn’t like pepper plants, and stays off of them.  So this year I’ll be planting quite a lot of them along this area.  Our canning went so well last year that we’ve already eaten all the results!  We want more!  So we are planning on planting several of the very “meaty” types of peppers, along with some of the “hot” types that I love.

But I still want to grow a lot of other types of plants, and wasn’t sure how to keep them pest free.

I’ve still got plans to (eventually) build an aquaponics greenhouse, (once my woodshop is complete), so there’s space on the map where my “future greenhouse” will be placed.  It’s just a dirt yard at the moment.  And I really don’t want to create a garden on it.  So I’ve come up with a more seasonal solution.  I’ve decided to use that area to do some container planting.

My plan is to use 2x4s to build a raised platform that is 4 feet wide by 8 feet long.  It will be raised off of the ground at least 6 inches by 2×4 uprights at the corners.  The uprights will be a full 8 feet tall, and will allow me to cover the garden with shade cloth during the hottest parts of the summer.  The uprights will also allow me to build trellis supports for the plants.

I’ll plant the young plants into sub-irrigation planters, using a mix of compost, potting soil and vermiculite.  The problem is the buckets.  Both Lowes and Home Depot sell their buckets pretty cheap, just under $3.00 each.  It takes two buckets per planter, and if the stand can hold 32 planters, that’s 64 buckets, or 190 dollars!

I think I’ll see if I can get some for free!  And I’ll definitely recycle my planters!  I may also use some other forms of planter – plastic boxes maybe.

The idea of using a raised planting surface is that I’ll be able to tanglefoot the feet of the platform, and therefore keep the ants from moving in!  

If you’ll recall from the Backyard Plan, we have an orange tree in the front of the house.  We moved in May of 2013, and the 2013/2014 winter harvest of the orange tree was terrible.  There were oranges on the tree from 2012 (and earlier!) and the newest oranges were flavorless at best, and downright disgusting at worst!

So starting in spring of 2014, I completely removed all the oranges from our orange tree.  Then I bought a package of Jobe’s Fertilizer Spikes for Fruit and Citrus.  I followed the directions and spiked the soil with fertilizer spikes just outside of the orange tree’s drip line.  I used 9 spikes, equidistant, in a circle around the tree in the root zone.

I watered the tree through the summer as part of my lawn’s automatic sprinkler system.  During extremely hot and dry periods I would soak the tree’s an extra time or two a week.

And it really paid off!

Oranges here are ready to harvest in December / January.  We got medium to large oranges with moderately thin-ish skins that peel easily and taste sweet.  They are not as sweet as some oranges I’ve had, but not sour either.  They are very tasty, and I love being able to snip one off the tree and eat it with lunch while sitting on my front porch.

But now we have a problem.  What do you do with two hundred pounds of oranges?

Well, you can freeze them (it’s recommended that you peel and divide up the slices first).  Or you can juice them and freeze the juice.  You can dry the orange peels themselves and use them for cooking later.

You could can the oranges.  They go well when canned together with grapefruit.

You can turn them into jams, jellies, conserves, or marmalade.

Frankly, we were not interested in any of this.  What we wanted was a way to preserve the calories and taste, and a way to preserve the snacking quality of the oranges.  And we didn’t want to add excess sugar to our diet.

What if we dried them?

I did a little research, and ran into Marillyn Beard’s blog, “Just Making Noise”.  She described just drying the orange slices thin, and then eating the entire slice, peel and all!  Another blogger, Amanda Rose, tried this with good results.

So Santa was very good to us this year, and he left us an Excalibur 3926TB Food Dehydrator!  This was perfect.

I made a trip to Bed Bath and Beyond and picked up a mandolin food slicer, then started picking oranges.  I picked about 40 pounds of oranges at a time, and washed them thoroughly in our sink.  Then I sliced them thin on the slicer.  1/4 inch is good, maybe a little thinner than that.  Don’t make them too thick or else they will never dry.  You don’t want to store these unless they are completely dry!

I made the mistake of slicing the oranges too thick, and storing them when they were not completely dry.

Here I am slicing them up.

I’d slice an orange onto a plate, then transfer the slices to a bowl.  I discarded the ends of the orange since they were all rind, and no flesh.  Next year I think I’ll dry those separately and turn them into a powder for flavoring.  I may try to do other things with them since there will be so many.

When I had sliced a bowl-full of oranges, I’d lay them out on the dryer trays.

As you can see here, my orange slices are nice and thick.  This has doomed them!

Still they were tasty the next day when we turned the dehydrator off.  Tasty and juicy, with orange peel that wasn’t very pleasant to eat.  I ate one anyway.

Then I put the slices into a vacuum bag and used our FoodSaver Vacuum Sealer to seal and store them.

And this is where it all went wrong.

Forty pounds of oranges made about 4 of these bags of dried oranges.  I put them into a storage bucket to see how they would do.  A week later I checked on them, and they were terrible!  They had already started to go bad.  They turned an unfortunate brownish black color.  When I opened them they smelled like oranges, with a hint of something else.  Yeast?  Alcohol?  Rot?

They didn’t smell good.

Take two.

This time I sliced them thin.  Maybe 1/8 of an inch or a bit larger.  I put them in the dryer for about 8 hours at 135 degrees F, and dried them until they became leathery.  After they had cooled, I again vacuum sealed them into bags for storage, and dropped them into a resealable 5-gallon bucket for storage.

The results this time were much better.  Each package of oranges feels light – like it was filled with packing plastic.  Individually, each slice tastes like a fruit-rollup, but tougher, maybe chewier.  The rind has a very citrus taste to it, but it is rather pleasant.  The flesh of the dried orange is full of sunshine and happiness.

These orange chips by themselves make a great quick snack.  They would be wonderful sliced up into a stir fry.

Vacuum sealing them together prevents them from being separate “chips”, and instead makes a large block of solid orange slices.  You can eat this as a snack by tearing off a chunk, or by cutting them into blocks.

I’ve harvested most of the orange tree.  I left some on the tree because they stay good while on the tree as long as I don’t let them wait more than a month or two, and as long as we don’t get a hard freeze.

But it occurs to me that I can slice the oranges, then remove the peel and place just the orange fruits on the dehydrator.  It has got to be easier than peeling the oranges THEN slicing them.  I’ll give that a try and let you know what I find.

Until then, thinly dried oranges seems to be a good way of preserving those calories.  Not as sweet as jam or marmalade, but sweet enough. 

Now that the new wall is installed in the shop, it was time to take care of the other three interior walls.

But first, a little history.

Back in 1989 when my late wife and I were stationed at Kadena Air Force Base, Okinawa, we decided to purchase some very nice Rosewood furniture.  Part of that purchase was this beautiful, hand-made Rosewood entertainment center.  My late wife loved this piece.  I kept our TV in the center console, and our stereo equipment along the right hand side.  She kept several beautiful knick-knacks in the left hand side and in the top shelf, behind the glass.

We also purchased a Rosewood curio cabinet, Japanese-style dining room table, and two nightstands.  I still use the nightstands, and I have the curio cabinet in my computer office.

But the old style television is out, and now HDTV, with 1080i and 4k and 8k resolution are the new thing.  The entertainment center was designed for a 4:3 aspect ratio television.  The new televisions are all 16:9 aspect ratio, and just won’t fit in a slot designed for a 32 inch television – which was considered to be “big” back in the ’80’s.

So when I moved into my new Harvest House, the entertainment center was banished to the garage.  Which is now my woodshop.  And it was there holding up a wall that I wanted to use for wood storage.  What to do?

I really tried selling this piece.  We paid over $3,000 for it new and delivered to our home on Kadena.  If I could have received half of that, I would have sold it.  But there were zero takers.  I advertised it for over a year back in 2005, and again in 2010.

But I wouldn’t sell it for less than $1,000.  Why?  Because there’s more than $1,000 worth of Rosewood there!  And as a woodworker, I have a use for interesting and expensive hardwood!

So with apologies to my late wife, I disassembed the entertainment center.

It was sitting against the wall of my shop that I wanted to use for wood storage.  Apologies, I didn’t take a photo of that wall beforehand.

That wall had a long shelf installed over the top of it by the previous tenant.  Since the tenant couldn’t find any studs behind the stucco walls, he chipped out the stucco, leaving several large holes to which he attached shelf brackets to the studs.

Here’s an image of those brackets, and a large selection of disassembled entertainment center.

How much wood?  I have about 300 pounds of wood, ALL ROSEWOOD, from my entertainment center.  I’m already planning projects for it.

But first I had to fix this wall.

The first thing I did was remove the brackets, and the weird wood plugs that the previous owner installed for some reason I don’t understand.

The studs behind the bracket are fine, and are true 3×4 inch studs – not the 1.5 x 3.5 inch studs that are sold at Lowe’s or Home Depot today.

But the previous owner had broken through the stucco, the wire, and the lath behind the wire, leaving a gaping space between the walls to expose these studs.  To fix this, I added a sheet of drywall with stucco wire stapled to it, then a layer of ready-mix stucco on top.  The hole was somewhat deep, so I had to put the stucco on in layers over several days time to allow for drying.

Finally, there was some cracking, but I used Dap DryDex spackle to fill those in and sanded it all smooth before painting it.

After the paint dried, I installed two courses of studs horizontally to the rafters.  These were to offer support to the five 4×4 posts that I installed from floor to ceiling.

These 4×4’s offer the structural strength to my wood storage rack.  According to my math (thanks college physics!) most of the weight will be directly down the 4×4’s to the ground – and these posts can each support tens of thousands of pounds.  The storage rack arms will act as a lever arm to the structure, and try to twist it out of shape.  But fastening the tops of these posts to the building structure will prevent that from happening.  Since my rack will never have more than 1,500 pounds of wood on it, this twisting force is only a portion of that.  The building is well capable of handling a sideways force of a couple hundred pounds.

On each 4×4 post, I’ve placed two or three shelf brackets.  The row along the top is using a standard metal shelf bracket capable of supporting 80 pounds each.  This supports a 2×4 that is butted to the post.  I’ve fastened the top side of the 2×4 to the post using hardened steel angles.  This creates a 24 inch-long bracket for long wood planks.  Each bracket easily supports 100 pounds off of its end without bending, and I can chin myself from each of these brackets near the post.  (And I’m not light!)

Under that I use two 2×6 boards, 30 inches long, to create the second bracket.  Each set of boards is connected to each other by 2×4 standoffs, and is connected to the post with 4 inch lag screws with a sheer strength of over 600 pounds.  There are 4 lag screws per bracket.

The final row of brackets is the same as above, but only 24 inches long.  And it doesn’t cover the whole distance because I want to use the space where the wall power socket currently is.  (I’ll put a shelf and my grinder there.)  I can comfortably walk under the middle range of shelf brackets.  And my rolling sheet wood storage assembly parks under the lowest brackets, so that I’m not tempted to walk under those and brain myself on them.  

In the space between the 4×4 posts, I’ve created an area to store sheet goods off the floor.  I use a bungie cord hooked into eyelets between the posts to keep the sheet goods from falling over.  This area is good for sheet goods that are 30 inches by 60 inches max.

As you can see, I’ve got a lot of wood on the rack already.  I use the top rack for long, one-inch thick pieces that I use for my bookshelves.  The middle area is holding about 200 pounds of Rosewood, and the bottom bracket is being used for 2x4s and 2x6s, and a couple of 4x4s.

The whole thing stores an amazing amount of wood!

I mentioned in my last posting that I was adding a potted tree.  

This is an “Ultra Dwarf Compact Stella Sweet Cherry” from Pacific Groves.  According to the tag, it is good for eating and preserving, and it grows to be between 5 and 8 feet tall.

The Pacific Groves website suggests that I use potting soil for the tree.  But I’m not sure that potting soil has enough nutrients, and I’m VERY sure that Fresno is a hot place during the summer and this tree is going to need a way to keep water in the soil.

So I used 1/3 potting soil, 1/3 compost, and 1/3 vermiculite.  This is somewhat reminiscent of the Square Foot method.  The result is something that I hope to be nutritionally sufficient, and good at keeping and holding moisture in the pot.

And, about that pot.  Although it has the look of concrete or clay, it is actually a double-walled resin pot.  The problem with clay pots is that they sweat moisture, and dry out very quickly.  Concrete pots heat up in the sun and transfer that heat to the soil.  My hope is that with a light-colored double-walled pot, heat transfer won’t be as much of a problem.

The pot was sealed on the bottom, so I drilled out four 1/4 inch holes to allow the water to run through.

The pot looks a little small.  However the tree is already 3 feet tall.  The pot should be sufficient for a 5-6 foot tall tree.  If, after a few years, the tree is 8 feet tall, I’ll consider repotting it.  But I don’t really think that will be necessary.

This is the first time I’ve tried planting a potted plant without first putting gravel in the bottom of the pot.  In the past I’ve added gravel or pot-shards in the bottom to promote good drainage, but some people say that this is a myth, and that it is better to just use a tray under the pot where water can accumulate and keep things humid.   

So that’s what I’ve done here.  The soil is full of compost, so I’m not worried about it washing out of the draining holes in the bottom.  The roll-around tray that the pot sits in allows water to collect, but it also has spacers to allow the pot to sit on the tray without sitting in this water and rotting the bottom of the soil.  This should result in a high humidity area that isn’t actually soaked all the time.

Last, I put Tanglefoot around the edge of the mobile tray to keep the Argentine Ants out of my cherry tree!  I’ll need to make sure that the tree doesn’t actually touch any structure (like a fence or pole) which might allow the ants access.

Before the summer heat really gets bad, I’ll add a sheet of plastic to the top of the soil to keep water from evaporating quickly in that direction.  I’ll add some mulch to the top of that to keep the heat down.  But right now in winter, it doesn’t really matter.

The cherry tree is sleeping now.  The buds seem a little greener, so perhaps it is getting ready to bloom in the spring.  I plan on removing any fruit this year, and allowing it to spend its energy on growth.  We will see if we get any fruit next year or the year after.

Next up, creating an automatic drip to the tree!

We got two new fruit trees to replace the tree that died last year.

Late 2013, we ordered three trees through the mail, and two of those trees are doing fine.  I wondered if there was a problem with the delivery.  We could have got our money back, but it was only $30, and didn’t seem worth it to me.

This January Lowe’s got in a LOT of fruit trees, and among them were the dwarf varieties that we like.  We still want to train trees in espallier style along the North fence in our front yard, and dwarf trees would be good for this crowded area.

So I picked up another White Nectarine to replace the one that died.  I also picked up a dwarf cherry tree, to try something that Wendy is excited about – potted trees.

Unfortunately I didn’t take photos of me planting the cherry tree in a pot.  In another post, I’ll show the results, and what I plan for that.

I followed the instructions for planting the White Nectarine.  So far, so good.

A week after planting, the buds on the tree seem different.  The tree is still wintering along with my other fruit trees, but they seem otherwise healthy.  I’ll need to wait for warmer weather for their budding.  I expect the two other trees will be fine, and I hope for good things from this little guy too.

Next, while I was taking care of the trees, I took the time to put Tanglefoot on all of their bases.

I’ve mentioned before that we have problems with the Argentine Ant.  These pests are the downfall of my garden.  They do more damage than all the other bugs combined, because they farm aphids and scale insects, actually increasing their populations past what it would be normally.  They also tend to sort of “nest” in my plants, where masses of ants will rest in the shady side of the plant until it is time to move again.

Spring of 2014 I noticed that the ants had a superhighway into my orange tree.  They were raising aphids and scale insects like crazy.  So I put a Tanglefoot barrier around the base of my orange tree to stop this behavior.

Ooops.  I made the mistake of doing this during the day, trapping about a dozen million Argentine Ants in the tree.

The ants ran down the trunk of the tree, came to the Tanglefoot barrier, and couldn’t go any farther.  They stayed on the shady side of the trunk. (And who wouldn’t?  It was hot!)  They just sort of massed there.

After several days, about half of the ants had grown tired and fallen off the tree.  They never tried to bridge the barrier.  So I dusted the rest of them with Diatomaceous Earth and in a day or two the remaining ants sliced themselves apart on sharp little pieces of silica.

If you decide to do this when the weather is warm, during the daylight when the Argentine ant is active, you’ll get similar results.  It is better to do this in the winter, or in the summer at night.  Winter is better when the colony is reduced and sleeping.  Summer night is better because fewer ants will be, “tending the herd”.

So I tanglefooted all of the trees.  Let the ants go hungry.

Okay, this came out very good.  It was VERY tender!  Below I describe what I did, but the instructions and recipe is mostly Wendy’s.  My additions are celery and garlic.

Ingredients:

  • Deboned Leg of Goat
  • Potatoes
  • Onions
  • Baby Carrots
  • Anaheim Chilies
  • Celery
  • Mushrooms
  • Beef Broth
  • Red Wine
  • Italian Seasoning
  • Diced Garlic
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Olive Oil

Directions

1)  Prepare the veggies

I cut the potatoes into cubes, cut the onions into halves and then cut each half into thirds, then sliced them across the grain into 1/4 inch slices.  I used a large box of pre-sliced mushrooms, and I used a full bunch of celery, cut and chopped into 1/4 inch slices.  The Anaheim Chilies were cut into quarters, and had their seeds removed, then were cut into 1/2 inch slices.

I used a lot of veggies.  We have a 5-quart crockpot, and the roast took up a third of it, at best.  So I used 7 or 8 medium potatoes, 5 or 6 medium to small-ish yellow onions, a full bunch of celery, and two boxes of sliced mushrooms.  Also a 16 ounce bag of baby carrots.

2)  Brown the meat

The goat roast is the deboned leg of the goat.  After deboning the butcher wraps the haunch in a net of butcher’s string to keep it from falling apart during the cooking process.  We cooked the haunch with the string on, and only removed it when we were ready to serve it.  This worked out very well, because the meat just fell apart after we removed the string.

To brown the meat, season the meat with salt and pepper first.  Add olive oil to the pan and let it get hot on the stove.  I added a little diced garlic to the oil too.  Then I browned the meat on all sides.  Then I put it aside.

4)  Sauté the vegetables

Into this oil I tossed all onions, mushrooms and chilies.  I sautéed them until the mushrooms were starting to get limp, but not glassy.

5)  Add to crockpot

I placed the sautéed veggies into the bottom of the 5-quart crockpot, and then placed the roast onto the top of those veggies.  I had to wiggle the roast a little, so that it sat lowing in the crockpot, and some of the veggies came up around its sides a little.

Next I added the Italian seasoning – I used a fair amount of it since the crockpot would be full.  I also added 4 heaping tablespoons of diced garlic.

Then I added the potatoes and celery around the roast.

Finally I added a half cup of red wine, and added enough beef broth to cover everything.

6)  Cooking

I started the crockpot on HIGH for 30 minutes.  That brought it to the edge of simmering.  I then turned the crockpot to LOW, and allowed it to cook for 5 hours.

Results:  (click on the image to see it full size)

Served with an Asian salad – this turned out pretty good.  Goat is said to be tough meat, but this roast was so tender that it fell apart at a touch.  Everything went together very well!

If I were to do it over, I would double the use of Italian seasoning.  The Anaheim Chilies gave it a little touch of zing, but stewing tends to reduce the heat of the peppers by literally reducing the amount of capsaicin.  Conversely, grilling a pepper makes it hotter by dramatically increasing the amount of capsaicin!  You can read a study about  this in the “Food Chemistry” journal.  (Link)

Also, I would double the amount of meat and halve the amount of veggies.  We got way more veggies than meat out of this – which is fine, but the leftovers needed more meat to balance everything out.

Woodshop wallOkay, as I said in my last post, my next steps in the woodshop was to hang shelves on the new wall, and move my bench and toolboxes against it.  I did that, and here is what that looks like.  (If you click on any of these photos you can see a bigger image).

As you can see, my shop is a mess.  I have way too much stuff, and not enough storage room.  That’s what this is all about – creating space for my things and my ongoing projects.

I tend to use plastic storage containers for ongoing projects and for specialized parts.  Right now I’m using transparent plastic shoe box containers for a lot of my small stuff.  I have much larger bins for other projects and materials, and I currently have temporary shelving for them.

The hanging cabinets are from Lowe’s, and are advertised for the laundry.  They are perfect for my shop.  I added some shelving to the left, between the cabinets and the window, and another shelf under that I’ve found to be quite handy for my multiple boxes of screws and fasteners.

Next up – I needed a place to store my garden equipment and bicycles.  I didn’t want them in my woodshop, so I decided I needed a garden shed.  At Lowe’s I found a nice 7 x 7 foot shed with a 12 foot ceiling, made by Rubbermaid.  To put that together I first needed a 7 x 7 foot floor.  Here’s the front of my woodshop and the beginning of the frame,  My laundry is to the right of the woodshop door.

The wood floor is framed with pressure-treated 2×4 lumber, onto which I placed Oriented Strand Board (OSB) flooring.  Since the floor is 7 x 7 foot, and the OSB is 4 x 8 foot, it took two sheets of OSB, which I trimmed flush with my plunge router.

Then I added lots of screws to attach it to the frame.  I built the frame with my framing nailer.  I use star-drive deck screws for most of my builds.

The Rubbermaid shed came in a large cardboard box.  Even though it is made of plastic, the whole thing was still almost 200 pounds!  I had Lowe’s load it onto my truck, and John and I dragged it about 12 feet from the back of my truck to my backyard.  That was almost too much for us!  I unpacked it where we dropped it.

I dragged the shed floor to its final position near the fence, and out of the way of the woodshop window.  I left enough room to get behind the shed, and behind the shop if necessary.  Since the concrete is uneven here, and slopes toward the dirt near the fence, I’m not worried about enough drainage.  I was worried about keeping the flooring level, so I used several smaller pieces of composite decking along the back of the shed, under the floor frame to make it all level.  The composite won’t rot or deform under the load of the shed.

Then I screwed the Rubbermaid floor to my framed floor.

Next up was assembling the shed.  It’s pretty easy to do – the instructions were detailed, and following them felt like I was step-by-step assembling a LEGO brick building for adults.  There are a couple of spots that required two people to lift and hold assemblies, but I’m a resourceful guy, and I was able to assemble everything on my own.  It took two nights to complete the assembly, or about 6 hours total.  I’m sure two people could do it in 4 hours, or faster.

The results were very good.  It’s a handsome little shed.

The shed has places on the inside walls that allow the hanging of shelves, but I’m distrustful of how much weight the plastic walls could support.  So I cut 2×4 studs to length and hung shelf brackets on those.  The 2x4s rest on the floor of the shed, so all the weight on the shelves is transferred to the floor, and not to the walls of the shed.  The 2x4s are kept upright with the shed wall brackets – but the installed shelves also supply tension to keep everything in place.

As you can see, there is enough room inside for our garden tools, our bicycles, the lawn mower, the garden wagon, and a lot of 5 gallon buckets of paint.  On the right side, above the bikes, and not pictured here, I’ve added a shelf for several small toolboxes filled with tools for the yard and for the house.  I’ve also added a second plastic bin for sprinkler system parts.

The shelves in the shed are very heavy duty, and could easily double as my bunk bed.  I used OSB for the shelves.  The shelf brackets are each rated for 100 pounds, and each shelf has 6 of them.  Each 5-gallon bucket of paint is about 50 – 60 pounds when full.

Okay, what’s next?

After I installed the insulation, I installed the interior walls.

Interior trimThe rest of the garage is lathe and plaster over the wall frame – this is the way my entire house was constructed way back when.  The original garage burned down and was rebuilt in the early 1960’s, and lath and plaster construction was used then too.  It is difficult to fasten things to a lath and plaster wall.  Stud finders are confused about where the studs are actually located, and the laths can be pretty solid at times making it difficult to tell if you are putting a lag bolt into a stud or into a lath.  I’m used to using nylon drywall anchors, which are much easier to install for shelves that will carry 10 to 50 pounds.  And with drywall, it is easier to tell where the studs are too.

But this is a woodshop, so instead of drywall I just installed more OSB as the interior wall.  I installed the OSB with the smooth side presented to the shop, but even so the OSB texture stands out.  Still, it’s a woodshop, and I really didn’t want to spend time taping and mudding a drywall.

I then used standard pine 3/4-inch primed trim boards to frame my window and the interior frame of my doors.  I held them in place with 18-gauge brads from my nail gun.

Interior paintI trimmed the exterior using primed pine molding boards, framing the window, doors, and the entire new wall to hide the transition from stucco to the new wall.  I used my nail gun to fasten the exterior trim.  The brads held very well in the stucco and the concrete fiber board.

Next up I spackled in all the holes and gaps that I cared about.  I used the “pink stuff” spackle.  Then I called it a night.

The next day I spent an hour sanding the spackle smooth, and cleaning up the resulting dust.  Then I prepped for painting – mostly by cleaning up dust and dirt so I wouldn’t kick it up while painting.  Again, I called it a day – I waited to start painting so the dust would settle.

The next day I started using an interior / exterior latex paint for my new wall and trim.  I used a white eggshell sheen.  The white matches the exterior stucco, and the sheen allows for good light reflection inside the shop.

It took 3 coats of paint to cover the OSB.  Parts of the OSB seemed to “seep through” the latex paint – probably due to the glue used to hold the plywood together.  If I did it over again, I would either first seal the OSB, or use Kilz primer over it first. Something resistant to the materials used in the OSB.  But still, 3 coats on the interior OSB seemed to do the trick.

The exterior concrete fiber board was already primed an ugly yellow-brown color.  It took the paint willingly, and it only took two coats to give it a very acceptable appearance.

exterior paintThe primed pine trim started out white – and painting it white hardly seemed to make a difference except to change the sheen a little, and to hide imperfections.

Then finally I painted the wooden door sill a battleship grey, using paint that is designed to be walked on.  After that paint dried, I sealed the door sill using a pure silicone grey-colored calk.

Tonight I’ve started the process of moving my bench up against the new wall, under the window.  I’ll put my tool chests up there too, and sometime this week I’ll add some overhead cabinets.

Also, I’ve planned to add an outdoor garden shed for my lawn mower and other garden tools.  It will go up against the new exterior wall, between my new window and the property fence.  Then I’ll be able to evict the lawn mower and other outside tools from my woodshop!  I’m looking forward to that!  I’ll post images of that when I do it.

I’ve created a photo album of images that I have taken during this project.  You can see this album here.

Once I got the fiber-cement siding installed, my next step was to install my double doors.

Doors - seen from insideThe first thing I did to start this was to install a 10-inch wide, 80-inch long, 1/2-inch thick piece of redwood across the door sill.  This sits on top of some Dow Sill Seal, and is bolted to the concrete.  The framed double doors sit on top of this door sill, so there is about a 1.5-inch tall door sill barrier between the inside and the outside, which should keep water sprayed on the driveway from running into the shop.

Let me detour here for a minute to talk about my fear of water getting under the wall, and what I’m doing about it.

The bottom of my wooden sill doesn’t sit on concrete.  It sits on a closed cell foam sill barrier made by Dow.  This barrier sits under the house wrap, and protects the bottom of the sheathing plywood.  Aluminum flashing sits on top of this, and the fiber board sandwiches that too.

As a final measure, I lay a thick bead of pure silicone calking along the bottom of the wall, sealing the bottom of the aluminum flashing to the concrete.  Hopefully this will also prevent splashing water from invading under the new wall.  I’ll be on the lookout for leaks and moisture!

Doors seen from outsideInstalling the double doors was a chore.  If you get the frame out of true, the doors will jam.  If you get the frame out of level, the doors will not be balanced, and will swing open or closed.  The best thing to do is to follow the instructions and work slowly.  Wendy helped me set the doors in place, and then I spent the next 2 hours making sure they were perfectly level and true before I screwed them into place with 4-inch screws.

I then bolted the bottom of the doors sill plate through the wooden sill plate and into the concrete underneath, using countersunk flat-head concrete screws.

The doors swing open and closed easily, and a light push causes the doors to completely shut.  I’m pretty proud of that!

I then started installing exterior trim around the doors, the window, and completely around the edge of the new wall, hiding the intersection of the old stucco wall and the new fiber cement siding.

Interior framingBack inside, I used Dow “Great Stuff” gaps & cracks expanding foam between the new wall and the old wall, and in the gaps around the windows and doors.  This stuff is pretty amazing.  It sprays like a viscous fluid and immediately begins to expand, filling in any sort of gap.  Dow recommend that you use protective clothing and gloves when using their product – this is because if the product gets on your skin and hardens, it is NOT COMING OFF without taking a layer of skin too.  I… uh… learned this through experience.

I also learned that this stuff will find its way through cracks that you didn’t know were there.  I’ve had to spend some time cleaning up due to this.  Luckily, when dry this foam is a lot like Styrofoam.  It is hard, easily cut with a blade, or scraped away with a scraper or chisel.  It can also be sanded.

InsulationAfter taking care of the gaps, it was time to add insulation to the walls.  I took some time thinking about this – the garage heats up quickly in the winter, even when the garage door was just a big hunk of aluminum.  During the summer I plan to use a swamp cooler to keep my woodshop comfortable, so the R-rating is not super-critical to me.  What I’m more concerned about is noise.  I don’t want to bother my neighbors if I decide to use the table saw after 9pm.  Add this together with the fact that I hate working with fiberglass, and the solution I came up with was recycled denim insulation.  This material comes in 15-inch wide panels, and a single bale of it was more than enough to insulate my entire shop.  It is soft and fluffy, and easy to use.  It is easy to tear into the sizes that you need to use too.  While installing it, I wondered where they got the denim that they recycled.  Did they haunt second-hand stores?  Was any of the material once used by Daisy Mae Duke?

To be continued…

It was still Thanksgiving weekend, a 6-day vacation for me, and the day after I framed the woodshop wall, I started sheathing it.

Adding weather barrierI used OSB plywood with an APA rating of 24/16 to sheath the external wall.  As I added plywood sheathing, I didn’t completely cover the window or door openings, and used a router with a straight bit and guide bearing to cut out the windows and doors.  That worked very well, and it also covered me with sawdust!

After the plywood wall was installed, I took the front edge of the Dow Sill Seal (I mentioned this in my last post), and folded it up – over the bottom edge of the plywood – and stapled it in place.  The idea here is to keep splashed water from hitting the bottom of the plywood and wicking up into the plywood and causing rot to occur.

I then used two layers of weather barrier from Jumbo Tex on top of the plywood, and folded the edges over the window and door openings.  The weather barrier also went completely down the wall, over the sill seal, to the ground.

And then I was ready to install the window.

Did you know it is possible to install a window upside-down?  I had no idea that could be done!  Learn from my mistake!

There is no “Up” or “Down” or “Install this side up” on the window, or on the window packaging.  I looked hard for them!  Finally I shrugged, and figured that it didn’t matter, and installed it.  And then finished installing the fiber-cement siding on top – so that’s the way the window is going to stay now!

As a hint for you, OPEN the window.  When open, you should be able to lift the window up and out of its track.  If it is upside down, it will tend to FALL out of its track.  I’ve added a strip of wood to the track so it won’t fall out when I open the window – but it is most definitely upside down, and if anyone asks me where my blunders are in this project, I will happily point this out!

sidingSo… when I installed the window, I next added the adhesive-backed, 6-inch wide aluminum flashing around the window.  Water flowing down the wall will not go between the window and the weather barrier now… instead the flashing will divert the water around the window and down.

I also installed the aluminum flashing along the base of the new wall.  The idea is for water and moisture to run down the wall, over the flashing, and to the pavement below.

After that was finished, I started installing the exterior siding.

When I first started this project, I wanted to make a stucco wall that blended into the existing stucco, making the whole thing look like it had always been there – like one unbroken wall.  I quickly realized that stucco is a difficult project, and that people who do stucco well are artists of their profession!  If you do stucco for a living then I’ve got to hand it to you.  It looks very difficult!

But stucco works very well in direct sunlight in the Central Valley weather here in California.  The summer conditions are brutal here.  Plastic disintegrates, asphalt melts, wood warps and dry rots.  It’s terrible.  So instead of anything that just wouldn’t last, I chose fiber cement panel siding. This stuff is great!  It’s basically concrete walls that you lift into place and screw to your underlying wall.  It is hard, and impervious to the Sun.  And yet you can still drill it, cut it, or even use a router bit on it!

Make sure you wear a mask or respirator when cutting fiber cement panels.  Cutting the panels generates a lot of silica dust.  If this dust gets in your lungs it is seriously bad news.

I cut panels to shape using a 4.5-inch grinder with a masonry blade attached to it, and I fit them to the door using a router and straight bit with guide bearing.  There was a section over the eve of the door that didn’t get covered by a major panel, so I cut a piece to fit that gap.

The panels are held in place with standard interior / exterior wood screws.

To be continued…

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