Monday, June 15, 2015

Standing Cedar Planter with Corrigated Steel

After moving earlier this year Kim and I had been going back and forth over where to plant a garden at our new house.  The problem was that there was literally nowhere in our new yard that seemed to get enough sun.  We are living in a Duplex and our side of the duplex is shaded by the house or the many towering trees in/around the property.  The only place we found that got a decent amount of sun was in the driveway in the back of the house.  The other thing we ran into was that since we are renting we couldn't just go around pulling up grass and putting in a garden.  The best solution we could come up with was to build a planter on legs that can support a garden.  We could put it out on the driveway with no problem and the best part is that the next time we move we can take it with us!  Problem solved, now all we had to do was build it.

Here is how we did it, these instructions will build you one planter but you can (and probably will) end up building more once you finish the first one. 

First, here is a list of tools you will need:
  • Chop Saw/Miter Saw
  • Cordless Drill
  • Pocket hole Jig (I use one made by Kreg)
  • Staple Gun
  • Tin snips
  • utility knife or scissors
  • One or two clamps
Next here is the shopping list, you can get everything you need at any big box home improvement store:
  • 6 pcs 1x4x8 Cedar
  • 1 pc scrap 2X4 about 6' long
  • 1 sheet 8'X26" galvanized corrugated steel
  • 1 roll landscape fabric
  • 1 roll wire mesh (36" wide)
  • 1 box 1 1/4" exterior screws
  • 1 box 3/4" galvanized screws
  • Staples
The total build time for an experienced woodworker will be about 3-4 hours.  Probably double that if you are doing this for the first time, but it is a very simple project if you have the right tools.
    Step 1:  Cut out all of your cedar pieces to build the frames.

    Cut list:
         8x 32" -these will be your legs you should be able to cut 3 each   out of your 8' pieces
         4x24"  -these will be your sides you should be able to cut all four out of the same 8' piece
         4x41"  - these will be the rails in the front and back

    Once you cut all of these pieces out you will be left with only one peice of 32" scrap (which you can use to make tomato stakes)

     Step 2:  Assemble the frames

    The way this is put together is essentially just building four frames which we then screw together.  Each frame is made exactly the same so I will show one and then the other three are done the same way.

    First take all of your 24" long pieces and all of your 41" long pieces you will be pre-drilling all of these.  It is easiest to set up an assembly line and to drill them all at the same time.

    Using your Pocket Hole Jig, set the pocket jig to the depth of your material and pre drill two holes on each end.  I wanted to have a "rustic look" so I drilled my holes on the flatter side of the board, that way the rustic side will be facing out.

    Once all of the holes are drilled, clamp the rails to the one of the legs and run an 1 1/4" exterior screw into each hole to hold the frame together.  The first rail will be held flush to the top of the leg and the second will be held 16" down from the top, this will give you your 16" depth for your soil.  Attach your second leg to the other side the same way and repeat to build all four frames.

    When you are finished you will have four frames that look like this.  Since you used a pocket hole jig all of your connections will be hidden on the inside of the planter so it will give a nice seamless look.

    Step 3:  Assemble the planter.

    First you will need to drill some more pocket holes.  Take the two smaller frames (the ones that will be the sides) and bring them back over to the bench.  You will drill three pocket holes about equally spaced through the length of each leg for a total of 6 pocket holes in each leg.  These will hold the two side frames to the front.  When the holes are drilled it will look like this:

    Once all of the holes are drilled you will need to clamp the side frames to the front frames.  I found this to be much easier if I had a second set of hands.  It is also much easier if you do this part with the frames flipped upside down.  Once the frames are clamped together just simply run screws through the holes again just like when you were building the frames.

    Step 4:  Adding supports:

    For my supports I am using two pieces of scrap 2X4, now I realize that this wood is not rot resistant, you can use cedar if you want to, or pressure treated wood but I wanted something that would hold a little better than cedar and I didn't want any pressure treated wood to leach into my food.  I figure if it rots I will replace this piece ever couple of years.

    Simply cut two pieces to fit the short way across the planter,  run your pocket hole jig one more time and screw the two supports to the bottom of the frame.

    Step 5: Add the wire mesh:

    At this point you can unroll your wire mesh and cut to size using your tin snips to fit the bottom of the planter.  You are going to want to leave approx 2-3" of extra material that you can roll up the sides of the walls to hold it in place.  The easiest way to do this is to roll out the material on the top of the frame and then cut to size.  Once you have it the right size do all of the bending to make a sort of "tub" with the wire mesh.  Bending ahead of time will save you a lot of heartache.  I also notched the corners so that they would make a nice corner.  Here is how I did that:

     Once in place use your galvanized screws to screw the mesh in place.  I used approx 4-5 screws on each side and then also screwed it down to the supports in the middle.

    Step 6:  Add the corrugated steel. 

    Using your tin snips cut down the corrugated steel into four pieces.  Simply measure the right distance to cover your holes for the length, and for the height cut the piece directly in half.  This will give you 13" of material which will be just right.

     There are probably better ways to cut this steel but I used my tin Snips.  It will be easy to cut the pieces down to length but it is a pain to cut in the other direction.  If your cuts are not pretty don't worry about it, all of the cut sides will be hidden under the dirt.

    Once cut to size, drop the steel in place.  Use care the make sure it is put in so that it sits "flush" along the top end.  This will give it a cleaner look.  You will probably need to drill a pilot hole through the steel first and then run your galvanized screws in to hold it in place.  I used two on each end and then another three or so down across the bottom of each piece.

    Step 7:  Add the landscape fabric.

    Once the wire mesh is in place roll out the landscape fabric and cut to size to fit the bottom of the planter.  This fabric will ensure that your dirt stays in place but that water can drain.   You are again going to want to leave 2-3" of extra fabric on each side to allow the fabric to ride up the sides.  Attach the fabric using staples.

    Step 8: Fill with dirt and Plant away!

    Now, that wasn't so bad was it?  The only problem with building these beauties is that once you build one you are going to want more... that might be why I ended up with the second one.  Overall I am very happy with the result.  I hope you have as much fun building these as I did.  Enjoy!

    Tuesday, April 21, 2015

    Meal Plan 4/18-4/24

    This is my last week before I start my new job. It's bitter sweet. On one hand, I'm really excited about my new job, it's all the best parts from my old job without the worst parts. But on the other, it's been really nice spending so much time with my Tiny Boy (who isn't so tiny anymore).

    Change is always hard. At least there is always the constant of great food!

    Here's my plan for this week:

    Saturday: Roasted salmon, sweet potatoes and a veg

    Sunday: Greek Meatloaves and salad

    Monday: Grilled flank steak, veg and cheese scrolls (freezer)

    Tuesday: Ricotta spinach pasta (Cooking light April 2012)

    Wednesday: Pepperoni and veg pizza (using this dough)

    Thursday: Hummus cheesesteak hoagies

    Friday: Out

    For the Freezer:
    Slow cooker pork tenderloin x 2
    Honey mustard chicken x 2
    Chicken parm x 2

    After we went shopping our plans changed a little and we ended up going out to eat Saturday night so the salmon got pushed to Sunday night and I'm saving the Greek meatloaves for another time. As much as I love to stay with our meal plan sometimes you need to be flexible and adapt to life.

    Wednesday, April 15, 2015

    Cooking Dried Beans in the Crockpot

    This past year from my CSA (Community Shared Agriculture) I got a lot of dried, local, organic beans towards the end of the year. In theory, dried beans are great but only if you take the time to cook them. Cooking beans on the stove just takes so long especially when you take into account the overnight soak ahead of time. I knew there had to be an easier way which is why I was pumped to see a crockpot soup recipe that actually starts with dried beans.

    This soup was great. The beans were cooked perfectly and the broth had a really nice thickness to it. Plus, it made the house smell amazing. Even though the weather is starting to warm up I think this soup will still have a place in our meal planning rotation

    Slow Cooker Tuscan White Bean Soup, slightly adapted from Cooking Light, March 2015

    6 cups unsalted/low sodium chicken stock (I used homemade)
    1 large chopped onion
    1 cup diced carrot
    1 cup diced celery
    2 minced cloves of garlic
    4 fresh thyme sprigs
    1 bay leaf (I left this out when we made it the first time and the soup was still yummy)
    12 ounces dried white beans (any bean would be great in this soup BUT kidney beans need to be boiled for 10 minutes before being used in a crockpot due to toxins)
    3 cups greens (I used baby spinach but chopped kale or swiss chard would be great too)
    2 T tomato paste
    1lb Italian sausage (I used sweet but any variety would be great)
    2 T fresh lemon juice (I totally forgot to add this at the end)
    Salt and pepper to taste
    Grated Parmesan cheese to serve

    I swear it's tastier than this picture makes it seem!
    1.) Add the chicken stock through beans to the crockpot and cook on low for 8 hours. Throw out thyme stems and bay leaf.
    2.) Stir in greens, tomato paste, salt and pepper into soup.
    3.) Remove sausage from the casing and form into little meatballs (I made about 30). Add to the soup, cover and cook on high for 30 minutes until meat is cooked)
    4.) Stir in juice (if you don't forget) and serve with cheese on top.


    Do you use dried beans?

    How to: Grill a Whole Chicken with Indirect Heat

    I know I've mentioned it before but I love grilling. Growing up, my dad always had at least 1 grill and a couple (or more) smokers and we used them pretty regularly. I haven't bought a smoker (yet) so I have to make due with my grill. A few summers ago, I started cooking whole chickens on the grill using indirect heat and they are so yummy. They have a slightly smoky flavor to them even though they are not smoked. It's also really easy. Think of it as the crockpot of summer.

    How to: Grill a Whole Chicken with Indirect Heat
    1.) Bring your chicken (4-5lb) to room temperature by taking it out of the refrigerator for about 30 minutes. This will help the chicken cook evenly.
    2.) Each grill is different so get to know yours! While the chicken is warming up, turn on all the burners on your grill. You want it to get to be about 500F. I have three burners on the grill.
    3.) Dry your chicken well with paper towels (dry chicken=crispy, brown skin). Seasoning is really up to you. I've used a mixture of fresh or dried herbs mixed in butter under the skin; lemon zest with herbs and butter under the skin; or just salt and pepper on top of the bird. Try different things and see what your family likes.

    4.) Line a 1/4 sheet pan with foil and fit a small rack or broiler grate on top of the pan. Although the foil is optional, it really helps with clean up.
    5.) Place your seasoned chicken on the rack and tuck it's wings behind it's body. This helps the wings not get dried out.
    6.) Turn off on of the burners on your grill. Put the chicken on this side. After about 45 minutes rotate the pan so the other breast is towards the heat.
    7.) After another 30-45 minutes, check your birds temperature. I take the chicken off the grill when a thermometer reads 165F. If you don't have a thermometer wiggle the legs, if they seem really loose your chicken is probably done. Another way to tell without a thermometer is to poke a small hole near where the leg joins the body, if the fluids are clear the chicken is probably done.
    8.) Carefully (it will be really hot) take your chicken off the grill and tent with foil for about 10 minutes. This helps the juices soak back into the chicken so it won't be dry.
    9.) Slice up your chicken and enjoy!

    Do you grill with indirect heat?