10 Dec 2014 @ 12:13 PM 

Mia has begun to talk more and identify objects in books and in the world. I figured if she can say the word for a picture of a cow, she should be able to see a picture of a letter and make the sound for it. She has some books and things that have letters and stuff for learning, but none that I was satisfied with. For example, one book has all the letters of the alphabet with a picture and word that uses that letter. However, the letter it shows is just the lower case. I felt like she was missing out on something by not also having the upper case letter there. So I decided to take matters into my own hands and make something that I wanted her to have for learning.

When I had made the playhouse for Mia, I put in a wooden floor using 1×4’s. They were a little bit too long to fit, so I had to cut off a little bit on each board. I was left with a pile of squarish 1×4’s. I used these to make the blocks. I went to the local craft store to buy a set of letters and numbers. Then I went to the local home improvement store to buy the spray paint for the colors I wanted for the blocks. I used a hot glue gun to attach the letters to the blocks. I planned this out by making a table so that I got a good mix of colors.

Color table for blocksAlphabet and Number Blocks

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Categories: Around the House, DIY Projects
Posted By: jason
Last Edit: 20 Dec 2014 @ 03 23 PM

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 01 Dec 2014 @ 11:59 AM 

This is Mia’s second Christmas, and we bought her a stocking this year. We have two fireplaces in our home. The one upstairs, where our Christmas tree is, does not have a mantel to hang our Christmas stockings on. Wendy found a photo on Pinterest of an idea someone had made for hanging their stockings. I told her I could build something like that, so we went off to the local home improvement store to get the supplies I needed for this. Supplies list:

  • Fence boards
  • 1×4
  • screws
  • stain
  • hooks

It was pretty simple to build. The stain we chose didn’t turn out exactly like I had wanted. When I applied the stain, I intentionally applied it very poorly as the goal was to have a distressed look. The color looked more green than I had expected, so I took some brown and white spray paint and lightly applied it to break up the color. Below is the finished product:

Christmas stocking display

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Categories: Around the House, DIY Projects
Posted By: jason
Last Edit: 20 Dec 2014 @ 03 31 PM

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 27 Oct 2014 @ 3:30 PM 

I wrote an earlier post about preparing to build a playhouse for my kids. This summer, I began construction on it.

During the cooler months earlier this year, I finished making some designs to use for planning and building. I already had an idea of what I wanted. I did some searching around on the Internet to find other ideas to get what I wanted. Since I live in an area that gets a fair amount of snow, I needed to make sure the roof was going to be able to hold a snow load. The roof pitch I found people suggesting for snow was a 3:12 pitch. I used this to help with the dimensions based on the area I had prepared in the backyard. I also looked up in our city’s building codes to make sure I wouldn’t need a building permit. According to their website, anything under 200 sq feet would not need a building permit. I had to make sure the design would fit within that number.

I took two semesters of an AutoCAD class when I was in college. I was able to find a free and open source computer aided design program (LibreCAD) so I could draw some building plans(treehouse-plans-PDF). Once I had some different views drawn, I was able to come up with a list of lumber that I would need. Since it was a decent amount of lumber that I was getting all at once, I had the lumber yard deliver it to my house. My little Nissan Versa couldn’t carry much at one time.

I called the utility location service to come an mark the underground utilities. It was not an encouraging layout as it had things running directly under where I planned to put the playhouse. I went ahead and layed out where I wanted my poles to go and began digging. As I got deeper, I used a hand trowel as I didn’t want to cut into something I would regret. I did not have a lot of experience with laying things out for digging and keeping them square. This showed once I got further along in the construction as not everything lined up as I had expected. If I were to do this again, I would have figured out how to do more to make sure my poles were measured more accurately.

I placed rebar in the ground to measure out where I wanted my poles. PVC pipe from previous irrigation projects was used to cover the sharp tips of the rebar.

I placed rebar in the ground to measure out where I wanted my poles. PVC pipe from previous irrigation projects was used to cover the sharp tips of the rebar.

Holes for poles have been dug

Holes for poles have been dug

By the time I had the lumber delivered, I had the holes dug for the poles. I decided to go with a two foot depth. Unfortunately, I wasn’t aware of how to place a pole without it being buried in the ground. Now I know about a bracket you can buy that lets you pour concrete and set the bracket in the concrete. The bracket sits on top of the poured concrete so that you can place the pole in the bracket to be secured. This gives the added advantage of keeping the pole out of the ground, preventing rotting of the wood. Since I wasn’t aware of this method, the poles I used are pressure treated 6×6’s. I bought some water proofing stuff used for the exterior walls for basements. It was a runny, black, tar type substance. I painted it on the bottom of the poles where they would be underground with the hope that this would keep the water out of the wood.

The bulk of the building materials I had delivered in my driveway. This was followed by countless trips to the local home improvement store.

The bulk of the building materials I had delivered in my driveway. This was followed by countless trips to the local home improvement store.

Since I wasn’t very good at squaring up the poles, I used the lumber I was going to be attaching to the poles to help with getting things square before I poured the concrete into the holes.

This was as I was preparing to pour concrete in the holes for the poles.

This was as I was preparing to pour concrete in the holes for the poles.

The angle iron shown on the front two poles was acquired by my father when he was working on a construction site. They were part of a tower for an antenna that was being dismantled. They are 1/4 in galvanized angle iron. These two pieces were sunk into the ground. Holes were drilled into the angle iron so I could attach them to the wooden poles with carriage bolts. I chose to do this as this part of the treehouse had the potential to bear a shock load. The wall here in the future is going to be a climbing wall with the potential of having a zipline attached to this side as well. Probably over engineered, but I was OK with it.

After the poles were set, I began construction of the frame for the platform base. I used pressure treated 2×8’s with the floor joists on 16 in centers. I used lag screws to attach the frame to the poles and joist hangers to secure the joists to the outer frame. I then placed more lag screws on the ends of the joists to further secure them to the frame.

Here the platform frame has been put together. The lag screws have not been put in on the end of the joists yet.

Here the platform frame has been put together. The lag screws have not been put in on the end of the joists yet.

More »

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Categories: Around the House, Family, Home Improvement Projects
Posted By: jason
Last Edit: 27 Oct 2014 @ 03 30 PM

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 21 Sep 2012 @ 8:02 AM 

Wendy has spent the last couple of summers planting a garden for vegetables for us to eat in our backyard. One of the things she has read about is the idea of using raised gardens. We had been planting a traditional garden at ground level that we tilled up each year and planted. Most of the garden gets populated with weeds during the summer. The idea with the raised garden is that it gets above the normal level of seeds that weeds put out and prevents the spread of weeds into your garden. It also raises the level of the garden making working in the garden easier.

There are kits you can buy to make raised gardens, but with my engineering thought process I decided I wanted to make my own instead. It wound up costing more than I had planned, but I believe that what we have to show for it is pretty good. Most of the kits are made of wood, which are fine, but I don’t believe they will be very durable. I chose to go withstackableblocks like I used to make the retaining wall earlier this summer. The plan was to make two raised gardens that would be wide enough to allow two rows of plants running down them.

We had a big pile of sandy type poor soil from where I cleared out the area for the future tree house. I had dumped that soil in the back corner of our garden. The soil in our garden was good for growing as we had been adding organic matter to it over the last few years. I decided that I wanted to use the poorer soil as filler and put the good soil on top. This turned out to be a lot of work moving all of this soil around.

I started by using our tiller to break up all the top soil in the garden. This let me move the top soil off to the side. After taking some measurements, I began making the path that would go down the middle. I first put down a sheet of weed block material, hoping this will reduce the weeds at ground level. I then put down some gravel to help support the base for the pathway to sit on. I put the paving stones on top of the gravel to create the walking path. Each stone I put a level on to try to keep it level. I used a rubber mallet to pound the paver stones to get them level and to help them settle into the dirt.

Once I got the pathway put down, I started with my foundation for the first garden. I used a square point shovel to get the dirt flattened out. I once again used gravel to help provide a stable base for my foundation. I started with 1 1/2 inch thick rectangular cinder block. I made sure to level each of these front to back. I once again used the rubber mallet to level the blocks and help them set into the soil. Once I had the cinder blocks leveled out I began stacking the blocks on top of it.

I stacked the blocks three high. Each block has a ridge on it that hooks on to the block below it to keep it from moving forward. Once I had the blocks stacked three high (not including the flat cinder block), I began putting more weed block fabric along the inside of the wall. There needs to be something behind the blocks to keep the soil from escaping once water starts getting in the dirt. Otherwise, all the soil will flow out the cracks in the wall.

Once I had secured the weed block fabric around the interior of the wall, I began moving filler soil and top soil into the box. Once this was filled, I put down more paver stones on the outside of the box to make a walking path that went round the side. There wasn’t much space so I had to use a skinny block and I didn’t do much for leveling or keeping out the weeds.

With the first box complete, I did the same process for making the second box

Thankfully we live close to Home Depot as I had to make several trips there to get all the blocks. I have no idea how many I used but I would estimate that it was about 200. The moving of blocks from store shelf, to cart, to car, to wheel barrow, to the garden site was a lot of work. I plan to hook up the soaker hoses to irrigation system in the spring time. Before I put down the paver stones for the middle pathway, I put down a small soaker hose down the length of it. We plan to put down some kind of a moss or ground cover between the cracks in the blocks.

Over all it took about 3 days or so to get it all done. I think it was worth the extra effort as this is a raised garden that isn’t going away any time soon. Now to wait for next spring to fill it with the vegetables that Wendy makes me eat.

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Categories: Around the House, Misc
Posted By: jason
Last Edit: 21 Sep 2012 @ 08 02 AM

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