This weekend was unexpectedly productive. Despite staying put in DC on Friday night – just allowing ourselves some downtime – and leaving for Camp Davis way later than we hoped to on Saturday morning, we managed to pack a lot into just a few short days. We cooked *real* meals, cleaned the gutters, did some gardening, tinkered, relaxed, read, talked – it was wonderful.
For a while now we’ve wanted to build some sort of fence/planter arrangement to help prevent the kiddies from tumbling down the pretty steep hill that separates the courtyard from the Hytte:
There’s nothing quite like a relaxing afternoon sitting around the courtyard, admiring mother nature, enjoying some conversation and then getting up and grabbing Loren just before he goes head over heels down the hill, then hanging out and enjoying cocktails, putting your feet up and then sprinting to grab him yet again before he attempts the same. You get the idea: you can’t fully relax when you’re constantly chasing your kid away from danger.
And while we aren’t anywhere close to reaching the goal of fencing it in, we did take a substantial step toward making it a reality.
We originally wanted a somewhat narrow, thigh-high planter that ran the length of the courtyard. Lately, however, we’ve been thinking more of using intermittent box planters with some sort of horizontal fence railings running in between each for securing the kiddies.
I’ve been using Pinterest to gather inspiration for a while now (you can follow my “pins” here). Taking a page from the Pinterest Challenge I joined last month hosted by Bower Power and Young House Love, we sought out to actually get out and DO something we pinned, rather than just using the website to dream without action.
We didn’t intend to follow any one design to a “T.” Rather, the plan was to get inspired and see if we could make something work – especially if we could avoid going to the hardware store. Nat and I stayed up late Friday talking ideas, trying to figure out how we wanted them to look. We came up with a really rough sketch, then decided we’d need to just see what we had and work if from there.
So Saturday I went under the porch and grabbed as much spare lumber as seemed reasonable. I specifically went after the one-inch thick material for the sides (or walls) of the planter (mostly furring strips and some assorted reclaimed 1x4s and 1x3s, and the four-by-four posts I knew we had leftover from building the raised garden beds last summer. When I emerged the courtyard looked more like a lumber yard.
After seeing what we had on hand we laid out a few ideas, but almost immediately began gravitating toward something with horizontal planks for the sides. With that in mind we picked a width (in this case 20″) and started cutting until everything we had was that length.
From there we tinkered some more, and ultimately decided that we’d want the horizontal planks to “wrap” around the box, meaning that they would all over-lap the next side by just enough to give the impression that the planter had been wrapped in the planks. In order to make lining these up easier I just took a piece of furring strip and temporarily screwed it in place running adjacent to the post. Sorry if this is a little confusing. It will become clearer a little later.
This let me know exactly how much overhang to leave, as you can see here as I attached my first horizontal plank:
[A note to my father and to competent builders everywhere: Yes, I am aware I split my furring strips from jump street. Yes, I realize I did this many times (as you'll see), and yes I know pre-drilling would have helped me to avoid this. I know, I know, I know. The truth is I pre-drilled the first couple and a few split when I went to countersink the screw anyway. Yes, I know, that's what a countersink bit is for. I skipped that step. But! I'm ok with this, and I actually kinda like the way it looks. We were aiming for a "rustic" look (which is true, even if it plays conveniently into acting as an excuse for my own pre-drilling laziness). So there.]
Again, we picked a random height (also 20″) and attached the first and last boards, squaring it up as we went.
From there we dry-fit the in-between boards:
And in no time we had side number one complete:
We did the same for the opposite side, then carefully connected the two just the same as we’d attached the previous furring strips:
That last picture gives you a glimpse of the “wrapping” concept I mentioned earlier. Each side has just enough over-hanging the right-hand post to cover the end-grain of the next side’s planks, thus sort of wrapping itself around.
Once I added all the planks I stood back and admired the ol’ handiwork.
Then I grabbed a shovel and buried the post nubs into the courtyard to help keep it from sliding around. I even pounded some rebar into the ground to help it stay put.
And that was that. Naturally I ran out of the right kind of scrap wood after just one planter. I’m hoping to make three or four of these guys, spaced around six feet from one another, and then connecting them with 1×6″ fence rails, hopefully bringing us one step closer to not having to jump up every time Loren decides he wants to put himself in random peril. I’m sure he’ll find other ways – he always does – but hey, one less danger is one less danger. We’ll fill these with large rocks and a lot of soil (before planting something nice up top), turning them into sturdy pillars.
We’re also considering the addition of a 2×6″ cap running around the top rim of the planter (always gotta have a drink surface handy). They’ll probably come after we have all the boxes built and fencing up since that part isn’t exactly mission-critical (we have other places to sit drinks in the meantime).
This was just step one, but it was a big step one – and it didn’t cost a penny. Now that we have the design and measurements down it should be easy to replicate a few more times.
Stay tuned for more progress.by