25 Ideas to Inspire Your Country Christmas

Now that Thanksgiving is behind us, it’s officially time to start decorating for Christmas. Looking for inspiration? You’ve come to the right place. We’ve put together 25 ideas to help you get started planning your perfect country Christmas.

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These metal Christmas trees are a perfect addition for a little rustic look. From RustinRose

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A different take on the Christmas wreath from Smash Blog Trends

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Another unique Christmas wreath, and we love red trucks! From Crystals Cottage Home

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A regal country look. From Instagram.

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Love this Christmas lantern from The Country Farmhouse

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Don’t forget under the tree! This and lots more ideas from Life on Kaydeross Creek

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Looking for a classic way to dress up your mantle? By Liz Marie Blog

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Don’t forget the stockings! From Deavita

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Garland and wrapped boxes to dress up your fireplace.

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Use handmade signs and pillows for an extra splash.

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DIY wreath design by Blue Eyed Yonder

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Can’t have a country Christmas without mason jars. Designed by DebDebsCrafts

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Unique Christmas Trees by Lyckoslantern

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Decorating with appetizers. From Ciao!

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Simple beauty by Liz Marie Blog

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Fun with Mason jars from Mason Jar Crafts

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Elegant Christmas Tree from Celebrate Mag

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Decorating the table. From Rosemary & Thyme

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Love this hot chocolate station.

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Another hot cocoa station from Jennifer Carroll

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Snowflakes on the front door. From Small Measure

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Cheerful entrance from Comoorganizarlacasa

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Simple farmhouse living room by HomStuff.com

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Rustic snowman from Pinterest

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Now its your turn! Share with us your country Christmas designs and decorations and help us spread the cheer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DIY Hoop Frame For the Raised Beds

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I’ve been thinking about ways we can extend our growing season. Why wait to plant in May when we can plant lettuce and other cold weather crops in March? And what about harvesting kale and Brussel sprouts in December or January? So I started building these cold frames that fit over the raised beds. They can be removed in the summer and are sturdy enough to weather the spring winds or the winter snows we get here in Iowa. And they’re easy to build.

Here’s what you’ll need to build one frame:

  • 3 – Pressure Treated 2x4x8
  • 4 – 1/2in PVC in 10ft lengths
  • 1 – Roll of 6mil 10x25ft painter’s plastic
  • 1/2in brackets, outdoor treated screws and a staple gun
  • 2 hours of time

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First of all, its important to have good help when building these frames. I have a little boy who loves to work outside, and he was my shadow the whole time during this project.

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I built our frames to match the raised beds I built earlier last month. These measure 40in wide by 8ft long. Cut your 2x4s to match dimensions of whatever sized bed you’re using. The frame is built with simple butt joints and it should be independent from your raised bed box so that you can remove the cold frame when needed. After securing the joints with outdoor screws, I reinforced the corners with 90 degree steel angle bars to take out the flexibility in the frame and relieve the stress on the joints when moving it.

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After the wooden frame is secure, line out your PVC pipe. I wanted my frames to be tall enough to house anything we wanted to plant in the box, so I used 10ft pieces. This should give us enough room for kale or even late season tomatoes.

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Measure out where you want your PVC. For a basic hoop frame, 4 should be enough to support the plastic, but if you’re building a longer frame you might use more. Here I used 1/2 inch brackets to support the bottom of the PVC.

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I then used a second 1/2 bracket to keep the PVC from slipping. You can also screw the PVC directly in to the wood, but I found the two brackets worked nice when it was time to bend the PVC.

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Here’s where that extra hand comes in handy. Bend the PVC into a hoop and attach with a 1/2 bracket on the other side of the frame. After all four pipes are secured you’re hoop frame should look like the skeleton of a covered wagon.

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You have some flexibility on which kind of plastic you use to cover your frame. No need to spend a lot of money here. I used 6mil painter’s plastic because I wanted it to hold up against the elements. But you could easily use cheaper 3-4mil plastic as well. The thicker stuff isn’t going to create much more heat inside the frame compared to the lower grade. I just didn’t want to have to change the plastic every year.

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A good heavy-duty staple gun will shine here. You want to get the plastic centered and then staple to the frame. An added bonus of a hoop frame is that is doubles as a shelter that can potentially keep some of those bugs out. I staple along the outer frame, and then tucked the plastic underneath and staple again on the inside. After attaching both sides, tuck the flaps on the ends tightly over, like you would when wrapping Christmas presents, and then attach. Cut off any extra plastic so it doesn’t interfere with crops inside the frame.

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There are tremendous benefits to having a few raised hoop houses like this. They create a safe haven for those transplants you’ve started from seed indoors. They give you the ability to sow seeds directly outdoors earlier in the season, even when the ground temps are still well below 60 degrees. And they can allow you to extend your growing season into late fall or even through the winter months. And I like the flexibility of being able to take these hoop frame off and move them around based on our growing or rotation needs.

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So what did we plant?

We let the soil rest for a week underneath the hoop frame before planting this weekend. We’re experimenting with seeds strips, which are seeds placed in strips of biodegradable cloth (a very cool option for so many reasons!), and I thought the hoop frame was the perfect place to do that. The picture above shows lettuce and spinach placed in alternate strips. These will be harvested as a “baby” crop for a tender salad mix, so I’ve intentionally placed them close to each other to maximize space. I’ve also sown Siberian kale seeds in short rows at each end of the bed. These will all be harvested in about 25-30 days, and then followed by a successive crop of peas.

Wanna build a hoop frame? Let us know what you think. We’ll be posting more pics on how these hoop frames can be used on our Facebook page and on Instagram. Follow us if you aren’t already and share your own pics if you decide to build one.

Happy planting!

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A Little Story About a Bookcase

This post is really about a distressing technique I tried over the weekend and wanted to share with you. But it’s also a story about a tired old bookcase that’s almost 40 years old.

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When I was growing up, my parents were extremely poor. My dad worked for the Southern Pacific Railroad until he hurt his back and was forced to resign. There were several years of extreme uncertainty as my dad moved from job to job, while still wrestling with his back injury. It was a time of hand me down clothing and family members and friends giving us food. I was very young, but I could still sense the tension in the house as my parents struggled with paying the bills and making ends meet.

Through it all, and perhaps in spite of it all, some of my fondest memories during that time of my life are of my mom reading to me. She’d happily buy used Little Golden Books at garage sales and Goodwill and we’d sit on the edge of my bed reading every night. It was a kind of respite from the tragedy of hard living. And when my dad found steady work and life became a little less anxious, she would buy me new books of all kinds and we’d read them over an over until their spines were creased and the pages were bent. I still have most of those books. They still sing when I open them.

In order to shelf all these books, my dad made this bookcase for me out of two old crates he had brought home from the railroad. It was nothing glamorous, but it was functional. And I loved it. Back then it wasn’t painted It was raw and shaggy and I could only imagine the neat things the Railroad Men would store in such crates. I would sit and trace the wording stamped onto the sides of the rough wood, like they were hieroglyphics from some ancient world. This and my toy box (also made from some kind of larger shipping crate) were the only pieces of “furniture” that survived my childhood, and I’m lucky to have them both.

Sometime after my sister was born, she inherited the bookcase. My mom painted it white, and you can see in the pictures that it was well-loved and well used.

Eventually the bookcase was repurposed to my parent’s bathroom where it contributed to a beachy decor my mom had assembled. You can see that she never repainted. My mom was ever sentimental about things like this, and since my sister had written her name on the bookcase and doodled on it when she was 8, my mom chose to keep it like it was. I’m sure she remembered back to when we were kids every time she looked at this bookcase, like it was some kind of transport channeling back all those memories. That’s the way my mom was.

After my mom passed, I brought this old bookcase home. It held a piece of my childhood, and I knew how much my mom loved it. I wanted to clean it up, and I was uncertain how to do that without erasing the history of it.

Then I came across this cool distressing idea and I knew it was perfect for this bookcase.

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The technique I want to share is really easy. You take a dab of Vaseline or some other mineral oil based product (I used Aquaphor) and you simply apply it over the areas you want to “distress”. When you paint over those areas, the paint will simply wipe away after it’s dried, leaving you with a cool distressed look that doesn’t require sanding. Sanding in this case was out of the question, as I wanted to preserve the pencil writing my sister had left almost 23 years ago.

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I painted the case with a bluish-gray latex based paint by Valspar I bought off the discount rack at Lowes (it was a mis-tint and priced ridiculously cheap), applying the Aquaphor in the locations that I wanted. After the paint dried, I wiped away those spots with a paper towel. You can see in the pic above that the technique worked pretty well!

The Aquaphor preserved the original layer of paint (and my sister’s writing) while allowing me to add a new layer of paint to the bookcase, giving it a much-needed facelift. I chose to stick with the beachy theme my mom had been trying to pull off in her bathroom. The blueish gray paint reminds me of the Pacific Ocean, and I know my mom would like that.

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So the tale of the little bookcase will linger a little while longer. Not bad for two old railroad crates nailed together. And every time I look at it I’ll be reminded of my mom, and those many nights she would sit with me before bedtime to read me a story. I owe my passion for literature to her, I think. And maybe, in a way, to this little bookcase as well.

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DIY Early Century Bench

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I have an affection for benches. Especially old and worn benches from days gone by. And since we have some space to fill in our turn of the century farmhouse, I thought a turn of the century bench would be a good addition.

But I didn’t want to go out and buy one. I thought it would be fun to build my own. I used this one as inspiration:

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Dimensions: 19″ Tall, 48″ Long, 5″ Wide

What you’ll need: Wood of choice (I used Alder, but pine or poplar would be good choices as well), wood glue, 1 3/4″ wood screws, 1 1/2″ finish nails, choice of paint, table saw (or go old school and use a handsaw), miter saw, jig saw, orbital sander and drill. Since I used rough cut Alder, I also used my jointer and planer to square my wood.

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I started with three boards pulled from my lumber rack. I have a lot of Alder in the shop, which I bought from a local sawyer in Oregon before we moved. Most of it is 3/4″, but i did have a few boards that were over an inch thick. I wanted the seat and the legs of the bench to be sturdy, so I pulled two of the straightest boards from my thicker stock that I could find. The skirts on the bench didn’t need to be as thick, so for these I went to my thinner stock. Again, looking for the straightest boards eliminates the amount of material I have to remove to square up the wood and ensure tight joints.

At the jointer and planer, I milled the wood to 1″ for the seat and legs and 5/8″ for the skirts. At the table saw I ripped the seat and leg boards to 5″ wide and the skirt boards to 4″. At the miter saw, I cross-cut the legs to 18″and the seat and skirts to 48″. See below for details:

Seat: (1) 5″ x 48″ x 1″

Legs: (2) 5″ x 18″ x  1″

Skirt: (2) 4″ x 48″ x 5/8″

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Alder is a softer hard wood, which makes it easy to work with. But it will burn on the table saw. I always rip boards a little wider than final width (1/16″ will usually do). This allows me to clean up saw marks or discolorations along the edge on the jointer. You can sand this out pretty easily to if you don’t have a jointer.

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Once the boards were cut to final dimension, I started on the legs. The old colonial farm benches were all angles and straight lines. That’s part of their charm. And if you look back at the original inspiration picture, you’ll see these triangles cut out of the legs. This was pretty common on the old benches.

For mine, I measured 2″ from the outer edges and made my marks. Then I measured 4″ up from the bottom edge, directly in the center of the board. Using my squaring angle, I connected the points into a triangle. I used my jigsaw to cut these out on both legs.

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I used a 150 grit pad on the orbital sander and thoroughly sanded the legs and seat on both sides.

On the seat, I measured 5″ in from both edges and marked a line with my square. This is where you’ll screw the seat to the legs. Using three screws on both ends, I slowly tapped them down through the wood until the ends barely broke through the other side.

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I used these as my guides for setting the legs.

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Apply glue on the edge of the legs and line them up (my 7-year-old helped me here; having an extra set of hands helps with this step). And then, using a right angle to keep square, tap your screws.

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While the glue on the legs joints dries, you can prepare the skirts. Some of the old benches had square skirts, and some had ornate designs cut into them. There’s not really a wrong way to go here. The bench I used as inspiration had simple angles cut on the bottom of the skirt, and so that’s what I did.

3″ down from the top and 4″ in from the bottom, I made my marks and cut with the jig saw. You can see that my cut on the one in the picture wasn’t exactly true. I cleaned that up with the sander. Sanded both skirts on both sides, and they were ready to install. I simply laid the bench on its side and used a hammer and finish nails to attach the skirts. Make sure you apply glue!

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With the bench assembled, it was time to prep for painting. I didn’t want to see the screws on the top of the seat, so I backed them all the way out of their holes (I did this after the glue was fully cured over 24 hours) and drilled wider holes about a 1/4″ deep so that the screw heads could sit below the wood.

Then I reset all the screws and made sure all the finish nails were tapped below the surface.

I filled all holes with putty. The putty is purple when first applied, but it’ll turn a natural color when it’s fully dried and ready to sand. Sand the entire bench again with 150 grit and wipe down with mineral spirits.

From beginning, I knew I wanted an aged look on my bench. I wanted it to look like it had been used and well-loved for many years. I also, for whatever reason, knew I wanted it to be green. When I went to Lowes to pick paint, I struggled with what to used as a base layer. Originally I had though maybe just a white primer would work. But then I saw this muted yellow color and it clicked. What better than old school Oregon Duck colors for an old school bench?

The yellow I used was Satin Yellow by Valspar. I sprayed it on, three coats, to allow a thick base coast that wouldn’t be easily sanded through during the distressing process. I also made sure the grain in the wood was fully covered so it didn’t “show through” the top layer.

The green I chose was Valspar Northern Glen. I chose satin for its muted tone. This I applied with a brush. Since I painted in the wood shop when it was 35 degrees, it took forever to dry.

I’ll admit, after the bench was painted with a couple coats of the green, I wasn’t sure I really wanted to distress it. I liked the way it looked, and it could have been just fine painted entirely green.

But I wanted to see how that yellow looked underneath it, and so my curiosity eventually gave way.

Using my orbital sander with a 220 grit pad, I gently eased the edges and anywhere normal wear would occur, peeling back the green layer of paint to reveal the cool yellow beneath. You can be conservative here and show a light wear, or go crazy and make this thing look like its been through generations of use. I found somewhere in the middle and I’m pretty happy with the way it turned out.

As soon as I brought the bench into the house, my two-year old twins claimed it as theirs. Both of them grabbed their chairs and pulled them up to the bench like it was a table. It’s the perfect height for them and they thought that was pretty cool. I think the kids will get good usage out of it, and hopefully it will last through the ages, just like the one in the inspiration picture.

Ready to build your own bench? Share with me your pictures, either here or on Facebook.

What are you waiting for?

Happy building.

 

 

 

 

Easy Fall Centerpiece

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Crisp mornings. Falling leaves. Thanksgiving. Autumn is in the air and that means the outdoor activities will soon move indoors. Family and friends sitting around the table, sharing a meal and good conversation.

Why not make an eye-catching centerpiece that will serve as a focus point and bring it all together?

It Started With A Branch

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I dug through the branches I cut a while back and found a relatively straight piece that still had some character. Be careful cutting on the miter saw. Any kind of crook in the wood will bind the blade and potentially cause damage to the saw or yourself.

Gather Your Materials

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After you’ve sourced your branch wood and cut it to length (I cut mine a little under 19 inches long), its time to decide on candles. I used regular votive candles I had on hand.

Cut The Candle Holes

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Figure out where you want to position the candles and make a center mark for the drill. The candles I used were roughly 1 3/4 inches at the base, so I used a 2 inch forstner bit chucked into my Craftsman drill to make my holes.

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I went about 1 1/2 inches deep into the wood. Make sure you drill as straight as possible. Forstner bits are aggressive and will snag the wood if you’re not careful, resulting in a twisted wrist or a mangled work piece, especially if you’ve chosen a softer piece of wood like pine or fir (I’m using ash, which is what they make baseball bats from). Hold the piece firmly, or carefully put it in a vice.centerpiece13

Originally I had considered using four candles, but settled on 3. After drilling my holes, I cleaned the piece of sawdust and chips and then wiped it down with Mineral Spirits.

It’s All About Staging

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Here’s where you can let your creativity run free. You can choose to simply use the branch and candles as the entire center piece, or you can elaborate. I wanted something a little more, so I pulled out an old oak table top I’ve had for years. It has a nice weathered white wash on one side that is kind of beachy, and I thought it would work well with the rest of the centerpiece. I cut it down to size with my circular saw and then trimmed the edges on the table saw.

We had some small pumpkins our neighbor gave us that worked well. You could add some greenery or a few crab apples. Christmas is around the corner. Maybe add some pine cones and white candles to give it a wintry feel. A few cornflowers and seashells, especially with the beachy table base, would take this piece into spring or summer.

However you choose to be creative, this is an easy project that can be done in just a few hours. And its something different that you can feel good about showing off to you guests. Better than anything, it cost very little by repurposing most of the materials from your own yard. Simple.

 

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Cheers!

Country Flower Jar

Every year Christmas arrives on December 25th (duh!) Every year I tell myself I’m going to get a jump on gifts. Every year I’m scrambling and wishing I had taken more time to be prepared.

Well, I’m determined to do a better job this year, even though we’re already half way through October. There’s still enough evenings and weekend days available to spent some time in the shop making something unique for that special someone. After all, gifts are supposed to be meaningful, right? I can’t think of a better way to show another person you care than to make something for them with your own hands.

If you’re like me and want to do something a little more inspired this Christmas, you might like this country flower jar. It’s easy to make, and there’s no reason to spend money at the store for something you can put together in a weekend.

To get started, you’ll need just a few things: Your choice of wood, mason jars (I used pints), one hook for each piece, twine, a few 1 inch wood screws, paint and a alligator picture hangers. I used my planer, jointer, chop saw and table saw, but you can do this project with just a few basic tools.

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You can use any wood you like, but I chose to use some of the reclaimed siding I removed while renovating the wood shop. It’s yellow pine, easy to work with and I’m stoked to be able to put it back to use. I was going for a rugged, weathered look and the siding made that part easy too. I’ll show you how I took it from rough to renewed.

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You can see that this wood started out with a lot of character. That’s over 80 years worth of weather abuse you see here. Maybe not so good for siding anymore, but what’s underneath?

I started with the planer. This wood is certainly rough, but it hasn’t moved (warped) much over the years since it was originally shaped. So a couple passes through the planer to clean it up was good enough. If you don’t have a planer, no worries. An orbital sander and some elbow grease can accomplish the same thing.

Next, I took the wood to the jointer where I straightened up one edge on each piece to allow for a clean, straight cut on the table saw. I set my width at the table saw to 4 inches.

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After a few easy steps, I now have a small pile of cleaned up wood.The next step is to start putting the wood together to see how you want the final project to look. This is where your creativity comes in. The sky is the limit. Play with different designs to get the look you want to achieve and go for it.

Ultimately, I decided I liked the more narrow look. This would allow me to make a couple of these to hang side by side on the wall. You could go large or you could go small, its really up to you. At this point, you’ll want to make sure you have your hooks. I got mine at Costco, but you can find unique hooks in all shapes and colors almost anywhere.

At the chop saw, I cut my wood to the dimensions I chose (roughly 18 inch verticals and 7 1/4 inch horizontal slats). Again, I wanted a rugged look in the end, and so I chose to keep the misshaped ends where I could on my vertical pieces instead of cutting them all at ninety degrees. I allowed an 1/8th inch variance on each end of the horizontals so they didn’t quite come flush with the edges of the vertical pieces. Then I dry fit it all together to makes sure it looked good before putting it together.

Once I was happy with how it looked, I glued and screwed the vertical and horizontal pieces together. Only a little glue is needed. You don’t want it to squeeze out and weaken the joints. If you plan on hanging these outside, make sure you choose the appropriate wood glue (type 2). And if you do get a little squeeze-out, just clean it up with a scraper.

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After the glue dries its time to sand. It did all my sanding by hand with a 150 grit paper, knocking off the splinters from the chop saw and smoothing over the edges on all pieces. I didn’t do much sanding initially on the front or back of the piece because I wanted it relatively rough before painting.

You can choose whatever kind of paint you’d like. I wanted to experiment with chalk paint, which is mixed with plaster of paris to give a richly aged and textured look. But I didn’t want to spend the money on a quart of white paint ($30 at Lowes) for such a small project. So I opted for the spray can version, which was still $10, but convenient. I think next time, if I choose to spray paint a project, I’ll just use regular matted latex paint. I didn’t notice much of a difference with the chalk paint on this project.

I applied a couple thin, even coats to the wood and let it sit over night to dry.

Once the paint dried, I took a piece of 150 grit sand paper and began to distress the edges. You can do this to taste, being as aggressive or conservative as you want. There’s really no wrong way to do this. I made sure the edges were all nice and smoothed over, getting down through the paint to bare wood in some areas, to give it a nice aged appearance. I also took the time to lightly go over the face and the back of the wood, knocking down the rough grain and making everything smooth, but still being careful not to take too much of the paint off.

I used large alligator hangers (used for big picture frames) on the back. One was good enough. Then I flipped it over and added the hooks.

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Now its time to make the mason jar flower pots. I used pint sized mason jars and good old fashioned twine as a hanger.

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I started with one long piece of twine that I knotted around the lip of the jar. Then I cut another piece for the handle, looped one end through the piece already tied around the lip, and knotted it together. I went back to my hook and adjusted the length of the handle to taste, making sure the jar didn’t hang too low, then I cut it and knotted it on the other side. I then took the original piece of twine I had already knotted around the lip (you’ll want to make this piece long) and tightly wrapped it around the jar. I threaded the end piece underneath the others and knotted it to make everything snug.

I like the twine because it adds to the country (or beachy) look of the whole piece. But there are other ways to accomplish the same thing. You can actually buy a kit to hang mason jars, complete with lid and chain. They come in different colors and styles but can be a little spendy. Check out Michaels or Hobby Lobby or Amazon for ideas on what’s available.

Or make your own!

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This project was easy and fun and a great way to repurpose some old wood. Let me know what you think. And if you decide to make your own, share your results! I’d love to see how they turn out.

 

 

 

Wood Shop Makeover Part 2

Autumn has been knocking on the door. The midwest summer heat has been trying to linger, and with it the incredible thunderstorms, but there is a sudden coolness to each morning that is certainly welcome. This is my favorite time of year. But with autumn there also comes a certain awareness that soon the weather will completely turn and our opportunity to get things done outside with diminish.

We have a lot of projects happening right now at the Ealy mini farm. Weekends and evenings are certainly full. Progress is slowly being made, and its exciting to see things taking shape. We have a neighbor who tells me that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will our homestead.

The wood shop is slowly coming along. But I’ll tell you, its been one of those projects that keeps getting bigger. The more I pull back the layers of this building the more I find that requires attention. Sometimes maybe its better to just leave things alone. In the end, I’ll likely be replacing everything but the roof.

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Perhaps you’ll remember the bird nest I found hiding in the walls? Well there are three small hinged doors/windows on the back of the shop, one of which the birds had nested in. I decided these needed to go in order to keep other critters from coming in. Part of the shop has been covered with vinyl siding, but not back here. Everything has been bare to the extremities. It made the most sense to just remove the old lap siding (there is no substrate) and replace with OSB, properly seal it from weather and then put new siding on.

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But, like I said earlier, once I started peeling back the existing wood I discovered that much of the skeleton of this old building was rotten, including the bottom wall sill and several of the old studs.

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And something had clawed its way in (or out) where the old propane line was connected to the furnace.

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My goal was to salvage as much of the original wood as possible, but to make it structurally sound and water (as well as critter!) proof so that the shop remains standing for a long time. Once the OSB is up, the next step will be to wrap it with tarpaper. I’m also going to put down an aluminum mesh over the foundation to deter rodents from chewing through the wood. Then I’ll add a basic gutter system to move the water away from the building and figure out what kind of siding to put up. I’m not a big fan of vinyl siding. I think it looks tacky and it doesn’t do a good job of protecting the wood beneath it.

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So what to do with all the old wood? Much of the yellow pine siding I cut out was in decent shape. I salvaged several piles of it for later projects. Its got such need character to it. Just think of the stories caught up in that old, ancient grain.This wood is older than I am and it deserves a new home.

So now I’m at a pivotal point where I can’t decide if I want to start pulling down the other walls now, or if I want to wait until after winter. I’d like to refinish the inside of the shop and insulate, but obviously that can’t be done until the outside is addressed. That means new windows and probably a new door. I suppose we’ll see what October brings.