Sunday, September 30, 2012

A Cheapskates Guide to Building OR the Pallet Shed

So much to do here on the not-so-urban farm. Juggling school, single parenting, and farming is never easy but it's a little more difficult with all the rebuilding to do after this summer's drought. Technically, we're still in drought as the soil moisture is dangerously depleted. We calculated yesterday that it will take 15 inches of rainfall to get the soil back in good shape to grow food.

I want to share with you a project that was long overdue. We've needed another shed to store hay and feed but the expense kept delaying building it. Then a friend told me about building with pallets. I googled the phrase and found a wealth of information that I modified for my particular site. I decided to build this one right next to the one I built last spring. The plan is to let the back wall of the sheds function as part of the fence. That way I don't have to pony up for more fence than absolutely necessary and I make the most use of my small lot because I'm not wasting space between the shed and the fence.

Locals call this area Swampeast Missouri. Although we're in a drought right now, next year we could be flooded (like last year when the Corps dynamited a levee to save the town of Cairo). So I wanted my shed up off the ground with a floor of pressure treated wood.

I used pressure treated 2 X 4 to create a 4' X 8' frame on 16" centers. The cinder blocks were leveled before placing the flooring on them.

Then I placed the first course of pallets. I used 31" X 31" and 53" X 31" pallets that I picked up for free at a local business. Free is good, we like free.

The floor is exterior grade plywood. The first course was screwed into the joists with long deck screws. It looks a little wonky, doesn't it? At this point the chickens decided I'd built them a jungle gym so I couldn't leave it like this overnight.

Here's the second course. This course is attached to the previous one with carriage bolts. I drilled a hole, placed the carriage bolt in it and tapped it in with a mallet. If I had made this a freestanding shed with four walls it would have been more stable as I was building it bit I was trying to maximize my space and my materials.

Next time, third course, hanging the rafters and the final result.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Grateful for Issac

Today is our second day of rain. I'm sorry our relief had to come at such a high price for the people of the Gulf States.

We so desperately needed this long rain. Last night there were tornado warnings all down the length of the state which then progressed eastward into Illinois and Kentucky. There were some reports of  damage, I'm sorry for those families too.

How strange it is, this ambivalence. The rain that is our blessing has been a curse for others.

This rain is a godsend for us as now we'll be able to put in a fall garden. When it lets up I'll go out and put a shovel to the ground just to see how far down the water percolated. My fruit trees look happier already.

The animals handle rain in very different ways. Goats hate it. Just a few drops will send them scurrying into their shelter. They don't even like wet soil so after the rain stops they come out just long enough to check for tasty pecan leaves that might have fallen and then they head back to their dry shelter.

Chickens have a complex social order and are positively OCD when it comes to where they sleep. The pullets refuse to sleep in the hen house with the old ladies. Instead they roost on top of the wood pile. Even when rain is coming down in buckets they won't stay in the coop with the geezers. They sit hunched on the wood pile, making pitiful squeaking noises. They can look absolutely drenched but the down feathers next to their skin remain dry.

Turkeys are the least civilized of critters. They're kind of like the cave men of the poultry world. It can be raining cats and dogs with thunder and lightning and the turkeys are walking around the yard, calmly getting a drink from the waterers. They'll sit on the ground or roost on top of the coop but they have no interest in getting out of the rain. I have purposely let some mulberry trees grow up next to the oak tree so there is a place in the yard that is always sheltered and dry. Do the turkeys go there? Nope. They'd rather sit in the rain.

It's important to remember that, no matter how excited I may be about a good rain, I have to stay out of the garden until the soil and the leaves have a chance to dry. We humans are the primary means of transmission for many plant diseases. Viruses, bacteria, and fungi spores stick to our hands and our clothes. So many fungal spores need a fine layer of water to germinate so now is the time to hang out in the house with the kid and the pets. I hope your Sunday is as enjoyable as mine is so far.

Thanks Isaac.