Woodhaven Place

Your Neighborhood Farm

Month: September 2015

Apothecary Wall – How We Made Floating Shelves

Self-reliance is very important here at Woodhaven Place.  We believe in doing things for ourselves and learning as many skills as possible.  One of the skill sets that have come in handy over the past few years has been the ability to create things from scrap laying around the homestead.

When we moved from our last house, one of the things we left behind were all of Candie’s floating shelves in her kitchen.  They had become an important part of Candie’s workflow in the kitchen, and not having the storage was a problem in the new house.  When we started pricing suitable replacements, we were less than satisfied with our options, so we decided to make our own.

The idea behind a floating shelf appeared simple enough, all they are is a hollow narrow box that hangs on a cleat on the wall.  What is a cleat?  That is a 20140111_161405fancy word for a block of wood attached to the wall. With a simple understanding of how they were constructed, we started rummaging around in the garage for materials.  We were able to come up with a few 2” X 4” studs and a half sheet of 1/8” oak plywood.

With our scrounged materials, we were ready to get started.  Candie wanted the shelves above her six foot long baking table so we decided to make each shelf a little over three feet long and six inches deep.  Each shelf is made up of six separate pieces.  There is a top and a bottom that act as the shelf and a boarder with a front and two ends.  The sixth piece is the cleat that is mounted to the wall.

Step 1:  Mill the 2” X 4” boards down into something that we can use for a frame. First we ripped the board in half.  This gave us 2 pieces that were roughly 1.5” by 1.75”.  Lumber’s dimensions are not true, a 2” X 4” is actually 1.5” X 3.5”.

Step 2: Create a lip in the frame (using our Shelf Liptable saw) so that the shelf will sit flush after it is assembled.  First we set our blade to 1/8” deep and cut a groove 1/4” from the front edge and then raising the saw so that we can remove the rest of the wood, creating a flat surface that has a 1/8” tall by 1/4” wide lip.  The picture shows where we over cut by just a hair during this process ( No need to worry about that because it will all be hidden once we mount the plywood). We do this on both the top and the bottom of our frame.  Now we have a long piece of wood with a lip along the top and bottom front edges.

Shelf Corner

Step 3:  Create corners.   Set the miter saw to 45 degrees for cutting angles and creating the corners.  We tried a few different ways of putting the frames together.  We first started with biscuit joints in the corner, however that was a lot of work. We found the easiest way to assemble everything was to sandwich the top and bottom plywood together.  We used a brad nailer to hold it all together which worked great.  We laid all the parts out and put a good bead of glue along the frame.  Working together, we pushed the parts together and brad nailed along the edge to hold it until the glue set up.

It may appear to be a little backwards the way that we assembled everything however it worked out very well.  Once everything was tacked in place, we were able to sand all the rough edges and make 20140111_193425-editedeverything flush.  You could go back and fill all the cracks and holes with wood filler however we wanted a rustic look so we left everything as it was.  In this picture you can see what it looked like before and after a little surface sanding.

20140111_202959-editedStep 4:  Stain the shelves so that they matched the baking table they would be hung over.  We did not have the exact same stain however we had something that was close.  We used a Minwax stain that stains and seals at the same time.  Normally, I use a separate stain and finish however this was a quick single evening project.  All in all I think it turned out quite well.

Step 5:  Mount the shelves to the wall.  This, in my mind, was the tricky part.  I am really into symmetry so I tend to get really picky when mounting things on walls.  The20140112_151018-edited good thing about floating shelves is that the cleat does not fill the entire void of the shelf.  Our shelves were long enough to span multiple studs on the wall.  This gave us room to mount the cleat to the wall and then shift the shelf left to right on the cleat to get spacing correct. The shelves simply mount to the cleat with a few screws down through the plywood into the cleat along the back of each shelf.

Square Foot Garden Layout

Here is the breakdown of what was in each bed. This was quite a few years ago however I thought it might help someone visualize lay out options. Each bed is divided into 12” squares. Running strings to set-up a grid makes the process easy. Some beds will not add up to 16, I had some blank squares to add herbs in later.
Bed 1 (4’x4’x6″)
• Four squares of peas – 6 plants per square (started from seeds, these did well)
• Three squares of broccoli – 1 plant per square (bought plants from garden store, all of these bolted before they got big enough to pick)
• Nine squares of cabbage – 1 plant per square (bought plants from garden store, I got 2 good cabbages however had some issues with slugs)

Bed 1

Bed 2 (4’x4’x12″)[This bed is deeper because root vegetables need deeper soil]
• Four squares of white onion starts – 16 per square (the kind that have green tops and bundled together, these did well)
• Four squares of white onion bulb starts – 16 per square (come in a bag of 84 bulbs, these did well)
• Three squares of sweet mini carrots – 16 per square (started from seeds, these tasted good however did not grow straight)
• Three squares of heirloom touchon carrots – 16 per square (started from seeds, these grew well and tasted great)
• Two squares of brussel sprouts (bought plants from garden store, these grew really well however I needed to harvest them more often)Bed 2
Bed 3 (4’x4’x6″)
• Three squares of cucumbers – 2 per square (started from seeds, these did fantastic I had a lot of cucumbers to pickle)
• One square of green beans – 6 per square (started from seeds, these grew well however I needed to plant more of them)
• Four squares of cabbage – 1 per square (bought plants from garden store, these bolted and never really did much)
• Eight emptyBed 3

Bed 4 (4’x4’x6″)
• Two squares of Roma tomatoes 1 per square (started from seeds, did now grow well)
• One square of super sweet cherry tomatoes – 1 per square (bought plants from garden store, grew very well)
• Four squares of Rutgers tomatoes – 1 per square (bought plants from garden store, grew well)
• Four squares of green bell peppers – 1 per square (bought plants from garden store, grew well)
• One square of red bell peppers – 1 per square (bought plant from garden store, never turned red)
• One square of hot peppers – 1 per square (started from seeds, never turned red)
• One square of jalapeno peppers – 1 per square (bought plants from garden store, grew very well)Bed 4
Most things grew well however I did have some issues. Broccoli and Cabbage are hard to grow in our area. I did not have luck with them my first year and I have not had much luck since then. They also take up quite a bit of room with not much return. If you have a small space to work with, I suggest passing on these two. The Brussel sprouts were fun to grow and did yield quite a bit however they take a long time to produce so if you want a fast return, skip this one. Two of the peppers I picked did not ripen, I am in zone 5 (some say 6 however it is a cold 6). I have learned to plant northern varieties and have had better luck however some years peppers still do not make it. If this is your first garden, plant a lot of different things; even if they do not grow well for you they will still teach you something!

Our First Garden a Square Foot Garden

When I first started gardening, we had a small yard and I had no idea what I was doing. I had very little experience with growing anything and I had just become a mom for the first time. I needed a method of gardening that was easy to understand and relatively low maintenance. Because we had a small yard and I wanted to try and grow a lot in a small space, I went with the Square Foot Method. The first thing I did was read “All New Square Foot Gardening” by Mel Bartholomew. SquareFootGardeningKitWithBookThis book is fantastic! It gives very easy instructions for building the boxes, mixing the soil, building cages to keep the critters out, and what to plant when.

Clint helped me (he did a lot of the work…) build four boxes 4’x4′. Three of the boxes were 6 inches deep and one box was 12 inches deep. Most plants can grow in 6 inches of soil however I wanted to grow carrots and onions which need a bit more room. We built cages to sit on top of the boxs until the plants were big enough to keep out evil squirrels(our squirrels were possessed!!). They would do things just to mess with me, like dig up my plants and lay them next to the bed, hide things in my pots, and then they would sit on my deck looking in the windows to see my frustration.

I started by planting cabbage, broccoli, peas, and onions. Hindsight being 20/20 those might not have been the best first plants for me to choose but they did teach me a lot. Then later in the season, I planted carrots, brussel sprouts, peppers,P3110027
tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, more cabbage, and herbs. The Square foot method was perfect for me because of the grid it uses. Each 4 x 4 box is broken up into 1 foot squares and each square could be planted with something different. Mel’s book does a great job of explaining how much of each thing to plant in the square and if you are new to gardening I recommend you read his full book. This is a basic explanation of how much can go in each 1’ x 1’ block.

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cleversurvivalist made this image

By using raised beds, there was very little weeding and the soil was just right because we filled each box with a special mix called Mel’s Mix. I will do another blog that talks about mixing the soil for the boxes. I think this really is the perfect growing method to use for a first time gardener and it gave me a lot of confidence my first year. Many first time gardeners can get very discouraged by weeds and hard-to-work-with soil. Raised beds and a simple grid can fix many of those problems! This is also a way for someone who has no usable soil to grow their own food. Raised beds can be set on a deck, made to fit right next to a driveway, worked into a corner of a tiny yard or placed in a front yard if that’s where the sun is. I still use some aspects of square foot gardening in our huge market garden.

The Woodhaven Place Honey Bee Saga

I have always found honey bees interesting, and about four years ago I built our first hive.  Little did I know what I was getting myself into with bee keeping.

Have you ever wondered why it is called bee keeping and not bee farming?  I finally have the answer.  If you keep bees you are always trying to keep them happy, keep them fed, keep them alive, and keep them from leaving.  Unlike having farm animals like chickens, cattle, or goats, controlling bees is nearly impossible.  If a bee colony wants to swarm, chances are it is going to swarm.  I have learned bee keeping the
hard way over the past four years and I finally feel like I know what I am doing.

20130514_155231

First things first, you need to know some bee keeping terms to keep from being confused.  A ‘bee hive’ is the place bees live.  A ‘bee colony’ is a group of bees that live together with a queen and drones/workers.  A ‘swarm’ is what happens when the entire group of bees decides to leave the hive.

When I first started out, I decided that we should keep bees in the most bee friendly way possible.  Through much research, I determined that using a Top Bar Hive (TBH) was the easiest to build and most natural way to keep bees.  Most people 20130514_161740think of a tall stack of white boxes when they think of bee keeping.  That type of hive is the traditional langstroth hive.  In a langstroth hive, bees live on man made frames, normally with a wax foundation embossed with a honeycomb pattern.  This is not really the best environment for bees because bees grow to fill the cell they pupate in.  If bees make their own comb the colony decides what size bees they need.  Smaller cells create smaller bees, and larger cells create larger bees.  By forcing bees to use the pre-pressed foundation, the size they become is being limited.  Small bees are not always in the best interest of the colony.

With a TBH, the bees do all the work.  The Bee Removal 3hive consists of a manger looking box
with bars that rest along the top edges.  The bees naturally build comb-down from the bars and through this process create their own comb.  In my opinion, bees know what they need to survive.  As long as they have what they need, they will act accordingly.

After my many learning experiences and some failures, we have successfully11667404_1101785143169011_8353323096017631652_n
managed a TBH for two full seasons.  This is something not many bee keepers in our area of Ohio can say.  During 2015, our one surviving TBH has produced four splits and we removed a hive of bees from a local barn.  We are going into winter with six beehives, three in standard langstroth hives and three in top bar hives.  I am excited to have a side by side comparison of these two different types of hives for next spring.  At this point the TBH colonies all look much better than their langstroth counterparts.

Our Story – An Introduction to Woodhaven Place

Welcome to Woodhaven Place Homestead and Gardens. Our journey began Christmas week 2012 after spending three years reading about homesteading, practicing in our small urban back yard, and learning everything possible before actually moving forward.  Our vision was a small farm out in the country that fit our budget and location needs however a very different path was in store for our little homestead.

Capture

I grew up in a metropolitan area that still has some undeveloped land. One weekend, we attended an open house for a farm that I had driven past most of my life and the house turned out to be very run down and kind of frightening. During the open house, we began talking to another person walking around who was not actually looking for a farm, just curious to see the inside of the old farm house. We told her what kind of property we were looking for and to our surprise, she told us to follow her home! Her neighbor was going to list their 5 ½ acre property in the next few weeks.

Clearing Garden

This was the falling down barn we started out with. This was after we had taken down 8 dead trees around it.

Woodhaven Place is 5 ½ acres in the middle of the suburbs. Driving up to our home you would never know a working homestead is in the back. The property backs up to farm land on one side, suburban homes on three sides, and is hidden by a thick perimeter woods all around. After much work clearing overgrown brush and dead trees, we have approximately 3 acres in the middle for a garden. With huge evergreen and hardwood trees protecting our little homestead on all sides, it feels like being out in the middle of the country, however we are only 5 minutes away from the theater, shopping malls, all the city conveniences. We are so blessed to have found our dream property right in the middle of our family and friends.

Pallet Fence

The start of our recycled pallet fence.

Because we really are “urban homesteaders” we have a fantastic opportunity to expose farming, bee keeping, food preservation, and many other homestead skills to the surrounding community. We believe that we have been placed in the perfect position to do what we have always wanted, live a more self reliant life and show others how to do the same. Woodhaven Place has two main goals: provide the surrounding area with healthily local products and teach people why knowing their “farmer” is important. Woodhaven Place strives to help preserve a very special food heritage and teach lost farming skills to urban people. The property we live on was once used as a hobby farm, apple trees, wild red and black berries, overgrown grape arbors, and mulberry trees have all been uncovered and are being nursed back to productive health. We will love and care for Woodhaven Place with the goal of making a productive homestead that future generations can be proud to call their own.

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