A Healthy Old Perspective To Chew On.

Many people wonder what can be done about pollution and waste disposal today.  After reading Nowtopia, by Chris Carlsson, I was inspired to attempt to help the environment and save money (and it gave me an excuse to build something new).  This essay will instruct and explain to you how to reduce waste, save money, and have better control of your health by growing your own food, using your own compost.  Woodworking, being a hobby of mine as well, helped in this process by giving me firsthand experience on how to build a raised bed planter, grow vegetables, and build a compost heap.

To say that growing your own vegetables is too hard to do is preposterous; I am going to show just how easy it is.  The hardest part is gathering materials without breaking the bank.  I can tell you that building a planter box costs little to nothing.  It was an inexpensive $51 for all the boxes materials, much lower than what I normally pay for wood in a project.  Compost piles and vegetables do not have to be extremely expensive either.  I have found that many places offer free compost or will charge very little for this natural nutrient substance.  In fact, all it actually takes to make your own garden is a little time and care.  With these things you will be making yourself healthier and more eco-conscious using naturally organic foods.

Some say that it is easier to just buy vegetables from the grocery store or local farmers’ market.  It may be easier to do this but do you really know how it was grown?  Do you really want to trust your health to a total stranger?  The grower could use pesticides or chemicals that are unrevealed to you or the vegetable could be a Genetically Modified Organism (GMO).  Grow your food with your own hands, that way you will know exactly how it was grown.  It is a much more rewarding feeling to see that you have succeeded in raising these plants and know the fruits of your labor are also healthy for you.


Wood Basics

As I have mentioned many times before, I am an avid woodworker.  Although not good enough to do classes on the subject I want to share the knowledge that I have gained from this outstanding hobby.

There are several basics that every woodworker should know.  The main one, before a saw is put to wood, is to know your wood.  This decreases the chance of accidents and will allow best selection for maximum beauty in the project.

There are two types of basic wood: hardwood and softwood.  Softwood comes from the evergreen trees (coniferous) that you see in the norther hemisphere.  Examples of softwood trees are pine, spruce, cedar, fir, larch, and douglas fir.  When it comes to working these woods they tend to be easy to cut and carve but tend to be weaker woods due to the lower density of the material.  These softwoods can make great furniture but most fine furniture makers will use the hardwoods.

Hardwoods are mostly from deciduous trees such as mahogany, teak, walnut, oak, ash, elm, aspen, poplar, birch, and maple.  These woods have a much more dense structure making it harder to work but the furniture you make from it will be ready to last for eons.

How are these measured and sold?  That is dependent on your choice of wood.  Most hardwoods are sold by the board foot (bft).  You will see it labeled as 2/4, 4/4, 6/4, or 8/4.  What does this mean?  It is a label in inches 4/4 equals 1 inch thick, 8/4 is 2 inches thick.  You will still have to select your width and length.  Other woods are measured in the common 2 x 4, 3/4 x 6, ext …, where the first number is the thickness and the second the width.  All you have to select is your length.

No matter the wood you choose, all woods can be beautiful if used in the right project.  I suggest going down to the local hardwood store or lumberyard and looking around, you will find that seeing the process is much more descriptive than just reading about it.

The Project Begins

Some of you may remember my DIY Combination post where I said I wanted to begin building a raised bed planter in order to experiment in gardening.  Well, I’m proud to say, the quest has begun.

My raised bed planter is complete; at a much cheaper cost than I first believed.  It came to be $51.00 for a 4×2 box.  Although this is a little small it should be enough to start.  The main purpose of this was to start a composting heap anyway, not so much growing veggies and fruit immediately.

This all started with, believe it or not, losing my wallet in my English class.  I went to pick it up from my instructor and she introduced me to a lumber yard that I had never heard of before.  I picked up 40 feet of rough 1×8 cedar cut to 4 foot lengths (since my vehicle couldn’t fit 8 foot pieces).  Getting home, I cut two of these into two 2 foot pieces and proceeded to plane them to 3/4 inch thickness.  I wanted a natural look to the planter but wanted to get some of the roughness out.  The planing did a fine job of this.  I ended up cutting the boards down to 3/4 x 6 so the box would be 12 inches deep after double stacking the “walls”.

Originally I was going to dovetail all the joints on this box, but due to time restrictions I ended up using Kreg pocket holes to fasten the boards together.  I do still intend on doing a planter like this with dovetails later, but for now this works nicely.  I Kreg Jigged all the boards with pocket holes in various strategic places and commenced to screwing the boards for the bottom “wall” together.

Laying the box on its edges, I lined the top “walls” with the lower ones and using 12 inch long 3/4 x 3/4 inch support strips I attached the walls together. When I completed that I put the box back on its base and attached the ends with these wonderful screws called SPAX screws.  I then flipped it over and cut my box “floor” with the remaining wood, cut to 2 foot x 7 inch x 3/4 inch boards, and proceeded to attach them with these same SPAX screws.

I finished the project off by routing the edges flush with the walls and giving it a thorough sanding with 60, 120, and 220 grit sand paper.  This may not seem like much of a job to an experienced wood worker but it was an experience for me.  Not being use to soft wood, the cedar was interesting to work with.  For one it did not sand like I was use too and it worried me that I may have been sanding too much.  It came out OK, though, and it looks really good.  I did not include any glues or wood preservatives or treatments on this; I wanted it as natural as I possibly could make it.  No stains will be applied or anything.  I will allow the cedars natural weathering to make the box look amazing.

Composting is the next project in this quest.  I have researched a few places to get compost.  Making it for this project is not feasible since I’m on a time crunch but I will be making it for the next planting season.  I also plan to have another box in the works that is larger so I can plant more veggies and fruit.  I will be experimenting, as well, with using my wood waste (sawdust) and grass clippings in the compost I make myself.  I’ll post more on that when the time comes.

And that’s how easy it was to make my own planter box.  It was simple and very affordable to do and with a little time and patience, you can make this to help put practically free food on your table.