Saturday, April 25, 2015

Our Chicken Coop; A Fancy Birdhouse

Pinterest Inspiration
My wife and I wanted to have a chicken coop as part of our backyard renovation project. Our neighbor has chickens, and we enjoyed getting fresh eggs. It did not seem to be too much work for him, and having the chickens looked fun. Knowing the scale of our greenhouse, we didn’t want an ordinary coop just feet away. As a result, we looked through Pinterest to find the right design to go with our plan.

Looking through all the Pinterest pins, one pin stood out. It had what we were looking for, and was just too cute for words. Since we live in the Pacific Northwest and our chickens would not be free range, a covered run was important to us. Additionally, we loved the rustic aged look of the wood from the picture. Lastly, the historical window of the coop would tie in to our greenhouse theme we were trying to create.

Inside Chicken Coop
Neither my wife nor I had ever owned or been around chickens, so knowing what was needed in the coop needed to be researched. We looked up the internal coop needs like roosts, nests, poop deck, lighting, heating, and ventilation needs. From there, we laid out the inside of our coop ourselves because there wasn’t a corresponding Pinterest pin from the coop we found.

One of the creative solutions we made was to have both an egg door and a hinged 4’ x 4’ door for access to clean. The full access door is invaluable for us to maintain the chicken coop. The cleaning of the coop is simple, and when we have issues with our birds, we can easily get them out.

Cedar Aging
One of the touches we were looking to do was to have different colored cedar to accent our chicken coop. For the trim of the coop, we wanted an aged or grey cedar. While shopping for cedar, I was informed that cedar can be easily aged with steel wool and distilled white vinegar.

The process of using steel wool with distilled white vinegar is quite easy. Put tore up steel wool into a container with a gallon of vinegar, and let it sit for about a week. Then, paint the mixture on your cedar boards, and it will turn the wood grey. It will also turn your fingers grey, and it is almost impossible to get off, so I highly recommend using rubber gloves. Lastly, when you have construction cuts where the color doesn't match, use the mixture to touch up the project.

 Our Fancy Birdhouse
Our Fancy Birdhouse
During construction, one of our neighbors asked, “What kind of fancy birds are you putting in that house?” It reminded me of my wife and my first trip to New York City. We saw a very large dog, and we said it was a big city dog. Was it a BIG CITY dog? Or, a BIG city DOG? Our coop is definitely a fancy birdhouse. However, it fits in with our entire backyard plan, and anything less would have taken away from our vision. The chickens provide entertainment, eggs, and fertilizer for our garden. We couldn’t be happier with the way our coop turned out. 

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Finding Old Wooden Windows

Once the decision is made to build a greenhouse from wood windows, locating enough of them becomes the first challenge. The scavenger hunt for enough windows to build your dream is like looking for rare vinyl records or the perfect antique to finish decorating a room. You may get lucky, and find a bunch of perfect windows in one location. Or, you may spend time looking, and come home with nothing. As long as you are willing to spend the time or travel some distance, windows are actually easy to come by.

Considerations should be made prior to jumping in and picking up any wood window. Some of these considerations are appearance of your greenhouse, the size of the greenhouse, and do you want to restore the windows.

First, what look do you want for your greenhouse? Do you want a random appearance with varied sizes of windows? Do you want a clean look with windows of the same size? Each answer has pros and cons for construction and finding the required number of windows.

Pinterest Pin
For a random appearance greenhouse, locating windows is pretty easy. Almost any wood window will work ultimately. Additionally, your windows costs will be lower because you can bargain shop over time. The downside to building a greenhouse from varying sized windows is construction becomes more of a challenge. It will take time to fit each window in its place without compromising the integrity of the building. Additionally, you will need to make more construction adjustments to the window sashes to make the puzzle pieces fit.
Pinterest Pin
If you want to build a greenhouse from windows of the same size to give it a clean symmetrical look, finding the required amount of windows becomes more of a challenge. If you are picking them one at a time, it will take a substantial amount of time to locate each window of the same size. Additionally, if you want to try to purchase the windows in quantity, odds are you will need to do some driving to get them. Lastly, your costs will be slightly higher because of having to have the perfectly sized windows.

There are two benefits to building your greenhouse from similar sized windows. First, the aesthetics  are cleaner because of the symmetry of size. Second, your construction time, cost, and frustration will be all lower with the same size windows. It is much easier to frame your greenhouse if you have the same size vertical beams to hold your windows in place.

Next, you will need to determine the size of your greenhouse for the number of windows you will need to locate. Figuring the size will give you a rough number of windows to purchase. Most wood windows in quantity are approximately 28-34 inches wide. Therefore, for whatever size (length and width) greenhouse you determine, divide the feet number by 30 inches, and that will give you a good estimate for one row. Then for a typical 8 feet wall multiple the number by 3; the number of rows of windows on each side. For example, to build a 12 foot greenhouse wall, you would need (12 feet/30 inches*3) = 12 windows. Calculate each side for your ultimate number, and I would add 10% to your number for mishaps like construction breakage or an anomaly shaped window sash.

Lastly, you need to think about if you want to restore the historical windows or not. This is a decision that carries a lot of weight in the amount of time you will need to invest in building your greenhouse and the ultimate longevity of your greenhouse structure. If you can restore the windows yourself, the cost to do so is not appreciable in the overall cost of building your greenhouse. However, the time is a serious commitment in order to do the work. If you take the time to correctly restore the wood windows, your greenhouse should stand for 20 – 40 years.  I will have several upcoming blogs on the window restoration process.

One consideration for way you chose, restoring or not restoring, is the condition of the window glaze. If you are not going to restore the windows, the better condition the glaze is in the longer the windows will last. Additionally, finding windows that have no broken panes of glass is beneficial when not restoring. There is higher costs typically for windows in good condition. Conversely, if you have determined you are willing to put in the time to restore the windows, the condition of the glaze and broken or missing panes of glass are less important. In fact, it is much easier to remove old glaze if it is a poor brittle condition. Finally, your upfront window costs will be much lower. 

Now that you have determined the type, number, and if you want to restore your windows, searching for them becomes fairly easy. Your typical internet sources work very well; Craigslist and EBay. These sources are excellent for locating a large quantity of windows at once. The downside is you most likely have to pick up the windows yourself. Windows do not ship well, and the costs to ship are not feasible. The next source is garage sales. You can often find wood windows at garage sales inexpensively. However, you will be most likely picking them up a few at a time. Lastly, your local retail repurpose location often has wood windows. Additionally, if you are looking for a unique window to accent your greenhouse, they will usually have that too. The downside of finding windows this way is you will often be paying full retail; usually $5 per window pane.

The hunting for windows is one of the best parts of building a wood window greenhouse. It is a day out going to garage sales. It’s a late night searching on the internet to kill time. It is salvaging through second hand stores for the one window you need. You never know who you will meet, or where you might go in order to build your vision. For me, the hunt took me on a journey half way across the country to find the windows I wanted. I know it wasn't the easiest road or the most cost effective. However, for me and as Robert Frost’s poem states, “I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.”

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Beginning of the Inspiration; Damn you, Pinterest!

As little as two years ago, I had no idea I wanted to have a greenhouse or chicken coop. In fact, most would state I didn’t really have a passion for gardening at all let alone an urban garden to build and maintain. I had a few ideas I wanted to incorporate into our backyard. However, the scale was minimal along with the vision of what could be. Then I found Pinterest, and everything changed.

 Pinterest Greenhouse
Pinterest Greenhouse
In trying to refine my initial wants and needs for my backyard, I kept seeing little pictures of cute greenhouses made from old windows. Each one of these Pinterest pins planted seeds that this is something I might do someday. Each greenhouse had unique features, but all had old, or historic, glazed windows for roofing and siding. Additionally, most had comments like, “Absolutely love. Wish my husband would build one for me.” Or, “If I had the time or money, I’d have one.” Finally, “Someday, I will have one of my own.”

Over time, these seeds began to propagate by me asking questions of construction friends about the process, reality, and potential costs of building a greenhouse of this nature. Because I had little construction background, I would ask about the process of building a greenhouse from windows that are 50-100 years-old. I was encouraged by the responses, and started to want to build one of my own.

Pinterest Chicken Coop
As time went by and I became a little more serious about the possibilities of actually building a greenhouse, other Pinterest branches formed to complete the greenhouse (backyard) plan. Some of these branches included potting bench, chicken coops, compost bins, and interior greenhouse ideas. My wife started watering (pinning) ideas to make the greenhouse project idea grow faster. We would share our pins, discuss what we liked and disliked, and fine-tuned the idea of someday building one.

Backyard Map Winter 2013
The someday became a real possibility about 18 months ago. I started mapping out our backyard to where everything would fit in. I made a crude hand drawing on graph paper to scale that included the chicken coop, raised garden beds, compost bins, and greenhouse. Little did I know how much work it would take to make this vision come to fruition, and to believe 90% of the inspiration came from little cute Pinterest pins. Once the decision was made to make our vision become a reality, where to start became the next question. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Greenhouse - Thank You

Without the help of neighbors, friends, businesses, and family, my greenhouse project could not have come to fruition. The project took over ten months to complete, and I am forever grateful to those who assisted. Below is a list of those who assisted.

Clement, Willie, Jim, and Arron – The “Jones” helped throughout this project. There were best practices for both the chicken coop and raised garden beds shared, so each one was built correctly. Additionally, since Trina and I do not own a truck, we often borrowed one to haul building and landscape materials. Lastly, there was the constant supervision and affirmations from everyone coming over to see what was going on. Sorry guys, the first annual “Keeping up w/ the Jones” award is going to Trina and I. The rest of you are playing for second place J.

Kaitlin Cudaback – Without you this project would have been virtually impossible to complete.  Your window restoration skills were essential and exceptional. We restored over 70 historical windows including 250+ panes of glass. Through our good days and bad days we pushed on together, and I feel I have made a long-term friend. I am forever grateful and in debt to you for your assistance. :):

Nick Kirkham – Thank you for having a young back, and being willing to do the dirty digging during this project. You were saddled w/ all the manual labor that nobody else wanted to do. Also, often when I couldn’t count on anyone else, you came through.

Frankie Da Hammer (Hawk) – Thank you for encouraging me that this project could be done initially. We spent quality shop time working together, bouncing ideas off each other, and having a few adult beverages mulling over the possibilities. Additionally, I appreciate the assistance and time to run both water and power to the greenhouse site. I wish we could have found a way to build this together, but I am thankful for all your foresight prior to construction.

Long-Lost Friends
Scott Smith – Thank you for the hospitality coming and going from Warrensburg, MO. It has been a very long time, and it was good to catch up after so many years.

Shary Kellison – Thank you for the constant positive feedback through social media throughout this project. I am glad I went the extra miles, so we could catch up. You are absolutely one of the most positive people I have met during my lifetime.

Sound Glass– During the restoration of the historical windows, many windows were broken, and they needed to be replaced. Sound Glass provided quality work, and was patient with me coming in almost daily for several months.

Lakewood Hardware– The paint shop at Lakewood Hardware has been the best in town since I started painting at 15 years-old 30 years ago. Their expertise is unparalleled. Scott Shaw provided any assistance I needed, and was always genuinely interested in the progress of the project.

Mill Outlet – With all three, chicken coop, raised garden beds, and the greenhouse, cedar was used during the construction. The Mill Outlet of Tacoma was able to provide all the necessary building materials and an affordable price.

ACF Greenhouses – Their website has calculators for the required heating and ventilation for any type of greenhouse imaginable. Additionally, they stock quality products, fairly priced, and ship quickly. Lastly, I had a return to manufacture product that I underestimated my needs, and the exchange was processed hassle free and quickly.

AWI Architectural Woods (Alex)– Alex and I used to work at Lowes together. He was able to professionally provide all the necessary moldings for the trim work throughout the greenhouse product. I have used AWI before, and if you are looking for a hard to find and quality product, they are the only place to go.

DTS ConsThe Urban Gardener - The Urban Gardener provided assistance in creating a comprehensive landscape plan for our backyard. The plan incorporated existing features, our input for plant types, and other creative ideas to improve our current landscaping. Christy’s plan was complete, easy to follow, and provided a detailed material list for shopping. Christy’s enthusiasm for gardening is contagious, and my wife and I look forward to enjoying the execution her plan.

DTS Construction (Shane Davis) – I didn’t have the necessary construction skills or experience to pull off a project of this magnitude. As a result, I tried everything to contact Shane who built my garden shed in ’12. It took writing a snail mail letter to finally locate him, and I am glad I did.

Shane completed 100% of the construction of the chicken coop, raised garden beds, and greenhouse. Additionally, he assisted in moving landscape materials, and completing the remaining smaller construction and landscaping.

He has the rare ability to take a homeowner’s vision, and execute it without compromise. Additionally, his carpentry, concrete, landscaping, and you name it skills are exceptional. As proud as I am of this project, he should be too. He has as much of him invested as I do. I am grateful for all his expertise, and feel I have formed a friendship during this project. I highly recommend his work, and would not hesitate to hire him again.

Harold Spiedell (Deceased 1982) – Uncle Hal, my stepfather, had a seasoned yard that had many varieties of fruit trees and flowers. Additionally, the backyard had a well thought-out plan and garden shed. I know now how much time he must have invested to make it the way it was. In some way, I feel the time I spent there in my childhood was the inspiration for this project.

Ivern C. Spiedell (Deceased 1996) – Mom…All those times when you had to nag me to do any yardwork in order to maintain the property, and I did everything possible to not do it. I fondly remember all the canning you did, and look forward to being able to have Trina do the same. I wish you were here to see this more than anything because there is no way you would believe that this project was my idea. Thank you for what you tried to teach me.

Trina Wiswell – It is difficult for me to express the thanks, gratitude…love I have for you. Even though this project had ups and downs, you never wavered in your support of me. All the nights in the shop, all the days working too much, and all the money invested, you stood by me unconditionally. You are an amazing woman, and I am the luckiest man to spend my life with you. Forever, we will be able to enjoy what we have accomplished together. It’s time to sit back, have a cold beverage, and smell the flowers. 

Monday, April 6, 2015

Greenhouse Renovation Project

I am new to blogging. How new? This is my first blog. My wife and I have been completing a backyard renovation over the last 10 months. It is nearing completion, and should be done within the next several weeks. It has been a wonderful journey, and we look forward to enjoying the fruits of our labor for many years to come. From the photo below, you can see we built a chicken coop, raised garden beds, compost bins, and a greenhouse. The greenhouse is made of 63+ restored historical windows including 230+ panes of glass. Each window was meticulously restored prior to construction. I can and will go on about the greenhouse project, but I will save that for future blog posts. Thanks for taking the time to read, and I hope I can share my experiences to possibly inspire someone else to build his/her own.