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      Posting these cat-cartoons-without-the-cartoon was a long journey that I don’t know if I’ll repeat soon again. A daily blog is tough … even when you have your material handed to you! But, I couldn’t have done it without the artwork … Continue reading →
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2015 Projects–a year in review

Posted by joeabbott on January 3, 2016

In 2015 I committed to completing one project a month. The idea was intended to be a “shop project”, something to get me into my shop and using my tools. Because of early-year needs and late year busy-ness, I considered just about any handyman or woodworking project as qualifying. It showed me that I do a lot of work with my hands and I can be proud of those accomplishments … but also that I don’t spend a lot of committed time in the garage; my work takes me all over the property!

I do what needs doing.

But I did a lot. Let’s take a look at some of the projects here in a year-in-review tally!

January – Compost area and planting strip

Let’s just consider a before-after picture here. In the first picture, Suzy had already done a good bit of work clearing away some of the topsoil and weeds; still, it’s an area that could use some work. Compare that with the second picture: retaining wall in place, deep gravel underlay held off with concrete blocks, and a nice little planting strip against the fence.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         P1080466 Stitch

Since this picture we completed the February project (below) but also installed a trellis behind the planting area for some of Suzy’s climbing plants. Unfortunately, our chickens have voraciously gnawed on just about everything that grows on their side of the fence and we’ve had to install a small fence around this area to give the plants a chance to use the trellis.

That said, this wasn’t a shop or woodworking project, but definitely used a lot of tools and muscle to make happen. Great project.

February – Storage bin for chicken supplies

Awesome project by a couple measures: came together well, looks great, and super-helpful in keeping our chicken food and supplies near the coop but not accessible to scavengers. The design was mine and I really liked it, but I absolutely should have done more to create a stronger bottom. I’d used chipboard for most of it and it doesn’t have the same strength as plywood … and, as a result, the bottom sags a bit. Yes, we’re storing many bags of sand and feed … each weighing 50# or so … but I knew we’d do that when I built it. No excuse for not having a stronger support. As a result, I have had to retrofit an ad hoc support underneath in the middle (it’s not in this picture).


When I get more time, I’ll empty the unit, tip it forward, and install a proper support leg, but February’s project stands out as one that’s holding up to daily use and working great.

March – Outdoor brooder and 5 little boxes

The brooder is a work of art: when I’m storing it the parts break down to look like the first picture … just a flat pile of lumber; when I need it to house our chickens outside before integrating them into the flock, it looks like the middle picture. I should sell this design to IKEA!!

The picture on the far right are the small boxes, each holding a $1 coin that I sent to my family in honor of my Uncle Joe on his birthday. He’d passed away the prior year and, when we were kids, he’d always give us a dollar or so when he’d visit. Combining my time in the shop with a project recognizing this great man seemed appropriate.


March was busy with projects, big and small. I liked the variety but really would have liked more time in the month to get it all done!

April – Potato bin

The pace to crank out a project a month appears to have gotten to me as I considered building a potato bin as my April project. I wasn’t even proud enough to take a snap of the bin in action! You can read about it in my project article (the section title is a link) but this one appears to have been so simple I didn’t even photograph it!

May – Rebuilt stairway

We built a path across our yard a few years ago for almost zero reason. It’s not needed but sometimes practical to get to all parts of the yard in a hurry. A small stairway leading up to the gate in was falling into disrepair: weeds were growing up, the original construction was shoddy, and we’d used pea gravel and not crushed, making it a slipping hazard.

The picture to the left shows a close-up of a few of the steps; and the left is the rebuilt, freshly graveled stairway. Nice.


While it’s started to revert just a bit (damned moles are undermining my project!!), we have better bones to work with now.

It’s a bit odd that I didn’t count extending the chicken coop as a project-of-them-month. As I recall, that took a bit of time and effort to pull off … I went lame for a couple days from all the walking back and forth between the coop area and the garage!

June – Small temp coop

We’ve setup a temp coop a few times before but this time we did a few things differently … differently enough that I’m calling this it’s own project.


In addition to using a few of the panels from our normal temp coop, I built a handy suspended shelter, a stairway that doubles back on itself, and used some spare junk plywood on the bottom. In all, this worked like a charm.

July – Bedside table

This … this cute little bedside table for our guest room.


You could argue this was the first real bit of woodworking I’d done and I wouldn’t put up a fight. That said, I like it a lot and am happy to have pulled it off in a month.

August – Second nest box

With all our added chickens, we needed more space for them to lay in. And, thank goodness … a few times this fall a couple of our hens have gone broody and only two nest boxes would not have sufficed. As it was, it took our new chicks a long time before they became established enough in the flock to be allowed to lay in the nest boxes.


I just ripped out the hardware cloth wall below the original nest boxes and installed this new one between the legs. I then reattached a smaller section of hardware cloth below that and Suzy completed the area by creating a cobblestone set of pavers and river rock we’d dug up from the backyard in all our projects.

September – Living room table

I just wrote about this one a few post ago so I’ll just leave you with a picture of the table in action.


October – Storage shelf and stove holder

Both of these projects were immediately loaded up with gear, so hard to appreciate how they helped me control some of the chaos my ever-expanding hiking and climbing stuff. But they did. I didn’t include the stove holder in my original project-a-month write up, but it was small and went so hand-in-hand with the storage shelf that I’m adding it now.

image image

The reason the shelf wasn’t just something I did … that is, why it merits status as a “project” … is because I had to spend time thinking about the problem, designing something up, and time building it. All qualities that make it more (not much, but a bit) than just resting plywood on the ledge under the house and supporting it on one side. I especially like the “umbrella stand” on the end that I’m using to hold my poles and long items.

As for the stove shelf … it’s just neat! I like the stepped design to use space both above and below the step and to have a unit that I can pull down and know that I have all my stove items in my hands. This holds my MSR WhisperLight, my Coleman stove, my JetBoil, and assorted fuels, pots, and other “stove items”. Neat shelf.


I got nothing. The grind of a project a month, my knee issues getting worse, and getting ready for the holidays all contributed to being too busy to set time aside for a project. I’m OK with that as long as it’s a minor hiccup and not a habit.

December – Turned bat and knife

These two extended my skillset to include turning (my first real project) and putting together a kit. Fun projects that were successful … the best kind of project!



That’s a lot of projects over a good amount of time and it certainly doesn’t include many of the small projects that came my way … just the ones I counted as part of the monthly commitment.

I’ve found that, like any commitment on my time, I start to get annoyed by the constant demands and become a bit resentful of the obligation; it’s true for gaming and woodworking, and I like both of those things a lot. So, I’m going to try to keep the spirit of this commitment going in 2016 but just not the “gotta get something done in the next 3 weeks” sorta feeling. Meaning, I’ll keep tabs on what I got going but won’t have any pressure to complete something in a given month. Let’s see how it goes.

Thanks for dropping in and I hope your shop time and 2015 commitments went as well as mine. While I didn’t nail it 100%, I’m really happy with were this one landed.


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