DIY
Do-it-yourself projects and plans for anyone who can swing a hammer.

Download Plans and Save Money With a Router Table

If you’ve got home renovation or building plans, a router can do lots of useful things for you right out of the box. This tool is essentially just a high-speed electric motor that spins a sharp bit that shapes wood to different profiles. Making trim and molding is one of the best money-saving uses for a router, and a good router can easily pay for itself after the first trim job you tackle. But the thing is, without a router table to go with that router, you’re missing at least half of what the tool can do.   Practical value is why router tables have skyrocketed in popularity over the last 10 years, but great equipment alone is never enough. Your workshop success depends on know-how, too. Add a little bit of customized tweaking to your equipment, and your shop will really shine. The skills you need come in small pieces, and some of the basics are what you’ll find here.

Bolt a router upside down in a table and the combination becomes a working router table. It lets you slide wood over the spinning bit instead of pushing the tool over a stationary piece of wood with your hands. Safety and effectiveness are what router tables are all about, but there’s a little more involved here than meets the eye.

If you had to choose just one operation to do with your router table, milling your own moulding and decorative edges would have to be top of the list from a money-saving point of view. Door trim for your home, decorative profiles on projects, plus mouldings and doors for cabinets are a few of the things you can make with a good router table. More than half of all modern router bits are made for this kind of work, and many include guide bearings that also allow router bits to follow curved surfaces. But as useful as these bearings are, you’ll get better results if you mill straight pieces of wood along a router table fence, instead of relying on the bearing exclusively. There are three reasons why a router table and fence makes sense.

Router bit bearings often leave groove-shaped depressions in wood, while using a fence eliminates this problem by supporting work pieces more fully as they’re milled. Another reason to use a fence is safety. By enclosing most of the bit, a fence makes it easier to keep your fingers out of harm’s way. Then there’s dust. Good router table fences include a shroud that allows effective vacuum collection of dust and shavings.

A growing number of routers include a feature called “top-of-table bit height adjustment”. This allows you to raise or lower the router in the table without reaching underneath. Top-of-table designs mean you can insert a crank handle or knob into the table top from above, making both large and small adjustments fast and easy.

Ideally your router table should operate as a team player, and the best team mate you can find for your router table is a good fence. I have yet to see any manufactured fence that’s fully useful in all situations, though you can modify an existing fence so does much better. I’ve made and modified quite a few router table fences over the years, and the one I’m most happy with so far has extra width for a variety of operations, including milling your own crown moulding.

The three bits shown here work together to make it happen. Milling your own crown can save you a ton of money, and you can download your own copy of the plans and assembly instructions I’ve put together for making an extra-wide and extra-useful router table fence here: 

Wide Crown Router Table Fence download

Here are a few more router table tips:

1. Consider modifying your router table so it’s the same height as your tablesaw, allowing both machines function as outfeed tables for each other.

2. Add four lockable swiveling casters to the router table for easy portability around the shop.

3. Avoid burned edges on your routed profiles by making the last cut remove just a tiny bit of wood. This is especially useful with maple, oak, hickory and other burn-prone woods.

Getting good with tools that can make you more self reliant comes down to a simple starting point. Choose a tool that makes sense for your situation, get your hands on it, then learn by doing. And if you’ve got aspirations to make good things happen with wood, then a router, router table and fence are a great way to start.

Steve Maxwell and his family have homesteaded on Manitoulin Island, Canada since 1985. Connect with Steve at BaileyLineRoad.com. Read all of his MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


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Rescuing Wood from the World’s Fifth Oldest Tree

Rescuing historically significant wood and turning so-called “waste” wood into works of art are both passions of Florida sawyer and artisan Robert “Bob” Hughes. For 20 years, Bob and his son Tim have operated their wood salvaging and woodworking shop, The Ole General Store, with a portable sawmill and an eye for finding purpose in every fallen or damaged tree.

Bob and Tim Hughes

Today, the family-owned “wood-rescue” business specializes in reclaimed wood and custom milling of rescued Florida hardwoods, but the business has grown over the years to also offer lumber sales, kiln drying, slab wood cutting, river-recovered wood, exotic lumber and more. In recent times, Bob has raced the trash truck to recover hurricane destroyed Cuban Mahogany, rescue African Mahogany from the burn pile, uncover long sunken river logs, and more. However, Bob’s rescue of a lifetime has been the recovery of heritage wood after the destruction of one of the world’s oldest and largest living trees.

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When “The Senator Tree” began its life near what is now Longwood, Florida, about 3,500 years ago, King Tut was 50 years away from occupying the Egyptian throne. Throughout its storied history, the large cypress has been admired by people from all walks of life.

By the turn of the 21st Century, the majestic old giant had become recognized as the world’s fifth longest living tree and had been a local landmark for hundreds of years because of its massive size. All that history could have ended when someone lit a fire inside the tree.

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The Senator’s hollow trunk acted like a chimney and in a few short hours, the tree’s long and historic life was ended. In another sense however, The Senator lives on because the people of Seminole County and dozens of artisans like Bob Hughes refused to allow the tree’s story to die.

“I contacted Seminole County after the fire and helped them realize that something more could be done with the tree’s future, something other than the landfill,” Bob comments. “Our business is built around rescuing trees, saving what is left of them and turning them into something. Saving The Senator promised to be, and was, the most wonderful woodworking project I have ever been part of.”

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The Ole General Store, with their well-known community reputation and experience milling recovered wood, was one of only three companies chosen to rescue and commemorate The Senator Tree. In cooperation with Seminole County officials, Bob acquired half of the wood remaining after The Senator burned for use in creating works of art memorializing the majestic old tree. “This wood was too precious to lose to a big kerf [blade]. The Wood-Mizer sawmill’s thin kerf and clamping capabilities allowed for very precise cuts and minimal waste.”

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Ultimately, 100 pieces were created for Seminole County from that material that included tables, guitars, picture frames, commemorative pieces and more. “We worked with a total of 13 artists plus my son Tim and myself,” Bob says.

“Tim and I turned in 82 pieces of Senator art. Friends and fellow artisans created the rest.” The rescued pieces of The Senator Bob had to work with were natural with bark on one side and burned on other. The largest pieces were 8” to 10” thick, 48” wide and 10’ in lengths. “For all the pieces of art, we went with the natural shapes of the wood,” Robert explains. “In some cases we needed to mill up to three edges for some of our tables and picture frames.”

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With an expertise on the sawmill along with his creative and resourceful woodworking skills, Bob was able to save another piece of history. In addition to the art pieces, seedlings of The Senator Tree have been planted in order to preserve the majestic tree’s history through new living trees.

“How can I ever, in my lifetime, be able to top this project?” said Bob. “The Senator Tree was a very special tree for Seminole County. 3,500 years is a lot of history to lose. Today, The Senator lives on through art.”

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The Wood-Mizer Team includes a diverse group of woodworkers, farmers, homesteaders, arborists, entrepreneurs, and more who are excited to share their knowledge and experiences of working with wood from forest to final form. Since 1982, the team has brought portable, personal sawmills to people all over the world who want the freedom of sawing their own lumber. Find Wood-Mizer on their website, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest and Twitter. Read all of the team’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

6 Critical First Steps for Building a Hand-Built Home

There are many advantages to building your own home. It can be less expensive than buying an existing house. You have more control over the homebuilding process, which means you get the design, features and materials you really want. Plus there’s something incredibly fulfilling about showing people your home and saying, “I built that.”

But DIY homebuilding isn’t for everyone. It requires a big time commitment, plenty of upfront research, and some risk you don’t assume if you hire a professional builder.

I’ve been helping people build their own homes for over 10 years. Over that time I’ve gleaned several tips that can save DIY homebuilders time, money and heartache. Here are the first six steps everyone should take before building their own home.

Consider Your Goals

Think about what you want your home to look like, feel like and be like. Do you want a house that’s large or small? How many bedrooms and bathrooms do you need, and what other rooms do you need – maybe a sunroom, mudroom or playroom?

What architectural styles or interior finishes do you like? Are there certain materials you’re interested in using – for example, wood, straw bales or straw/clay slip, ICF wall forms, SIPs or something else? How much outdoor space needs to be reserved for a garden, outbuildings, vehicle storage or similar features?

It’s wise to consider the home’s performance during the early stages of planning. Most people want a house that will be inexpensive to maintain and easy to heat and cool. That often requires a larger upfront investment, but it will save you money over time.

Researching home performance may lead you to various building philosophies or techniques. Green building has been a buzz word for decades, but homebuilders might also investigate LEED certification, high performance building, building biology and similar systems for producing homes with certain characteristics. Building a home able to take advantage of passive solar gain or achieve net-zero energy usage is doable!

Define How Much DIY You Want to Do

To some people, being a DIY homebuilder means doing the vast majority of the work themselves. For others, it means being part of a team of builders. It’s important to figure out how much involvement you want early in your DIY homebuilding process.

If you’re flying solo on the project, you’re the general contractor. That means you’re responsible for everything that goes into building the home, from getting plans approved and buying materials to putting up walls and scheduling subcontractors.

If you only want to be involved in certain aspects of the building – for example, wall and roof installation and a little finish carpentry – you’ll want to hire a general contractor. That person will be responsible for keeping the project on track and ensuring your home is built according to plan.

One of the most important things to consider when thinking about your level of involvement is the time commitment. Building your own home can be a full-time job for several months or a part-time job that takes years. Are you retired, or can you take several months off from work? If not, can you block off several weeks at critical points throughout the year (for instance, a week in May for excavation and pouring footings, and a week in July to begin framing and installation)?

If the answer is no, you may be better off hiring a general contractor and plugging into your build-your-own-home adventure on weekends.

Involve Others in the Household

Building your own home can be a stressful process, and it’s never too early to begin a conversation about it with your spouse, children and other people who will live in the home. Make sure you consult them about their home design ideas, keep them abreast of plans and discuss ways to mitigate potential DIY homebuilding stresses.

Assess Your Assets

What do you already possess that can help you with your DIY homebuilding process? These can include things like tools and land, but think bigger.

What knowledge and skills from other parts of your life can you bring to the process? Maybe you’ve never built anything, but you have outstanding project management or budgeting skills. Do you have friends who are general contractors or architects who can offer early feedback on your homebuilding plans? Or family members willing to offer skilled or grunt labor in exchange for an occasional meal?

Once you know what assets you already have, you can think about the assets you still need to procure.

Do Your Research

A good general contractor will already know things like how to pull building permits and where to get good deals on materials. You have to figure that out on your own. Here are a few keys things to consider.

Where will you get your building plans? Do you want to hire an architect to draft something, buy a set of pre-designed plans, or even buy a kit home? Regardless of where your plans come from, how will they be approved? Does the local building department need to stamp them or otherwise give you the go-ahead?

What permits do you need from your city or county building department? Building permits can be extensive unless you’re off the grid or in rural parts of North America. Expect to pull permits for building, electrical, plumbing and septic work, among others. Use your local building department as a resource for good information on what’s required to build on your land.

Where can you hire skilled or unskilled labor? Start getting referrals from friends or talking to local union offices to locate people capable of providing services such as plumbing, electrical or heavy equipment operating. Finding good day laborers can be even more challenging; definitely get referrals for this. Manual tasks such as hanging drywall or landscaping can also be a good place for DIY-inclined family members or friends to pitch in.

How can you get insurance to cover any injuries that happen on your job site? Start by talking to the company that provides your homeowners or rental insurance. If you plan to hire a general contractor, but want to involve non-employees (such as yourself) in the work of building the home, the contractor ought to check with their insurance agent to make sure volunteers will be covered.

Set a Budget

As you’re doing your research, make sure you get cost estimates for everything. Then sit down and make a realistic budget for how much your DIY homebuilding project will cost.

Once that’s done, you can start thinking about how you’ll pay for your new home. Do you have enough savings to self-finance the project? Will you need to borrow money from friends and family, or go to a bank?

With these steps completed, you can move on to the fun part of DIY homebuilding – buying land, designing your home, and getting down and dirty in the mud that will support your future home.

Paul Wood is has more than 30 years experience in the construction industry. He spent over a decade with Habitat for Humanity International, building homes across Latin America, the Caribbean, and the United States. For the past 10 years, Paul has been the co-owner of ShelterWorks, maker of Faswall blocks, an insulated concrete form (ICF) that can be used to build extremely green homes. Connect with Paul on Facebook and Twitter.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Make Chicken Waterer From Old Bucket

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Above: simple DIY chicken waterer which saves us work and mess every day.

In the past we provided water for our flock of backyard chickens using all sorts of dishes, bowls, pans and buckets. These were stepped in, pooped in, upturned, and in general quickly resulted in a messy coop and thirsty chickens. The problem was exacerbated when we had to leave home for a couple of days – we could heap up the feed, but the water just wouldn’t last.

Then, after some experimenting, my husband made a simple, cheap, DIY waterer using an old paint bucket and a few waterer nipples. These can be bought very cheaply online if you look them up – just type “poultry waterer nipple” in a search engine.

To make this simple homemade waterer, you will need:

• A big, clean and empty bucket with a lid
• A drill
• Waterproof glue or silicone sealant
• 4-5 poultry waterer nipples
• A sturdy rope

Directions

1. Take your bucket and scrub it thoroughly. If you are using an old paint bucket, like we did, don’t worry if some dried paint remains on the inner walls.

2. Drill a few holes in the bucket, as seen in the picture.

3. Apply glue or sealant around the edges of the hole and screw waterer nipple into it.

4. Using the rope, hang the bucket in your chicken coop at desired height (depending on the age and size of your birds) and fill it.

5. Place the lid firmly on top to keep water clean. The rocks you see underneath our waterer in the picture were placed there to make it easier for young chicks to reach the nipples - they figured it out pretty quickly.

Using the same principle, a smaller waterer (for chicks or small birds such as quail) can be made out of an empty soda bottle.

Our bucket waterer, once filled, is enough to provide our small flock of eight chickens with fresh, clean water for nearly a week – so that weekend getaways are no longer a problem. That’s it! No bother, no mess, no dirt in the coop.

Anna Twittos academic background in nutrition made her care deeply about real food and seek ways to obtain it. Anna and her husband live on a plot of land in Israel. They aim to grow and raise a significant part of their food by maintaining a vegetable garden, keeping a flock of backyard chickens and foraging. Anna's books are on her Amazon.com Author Page. Connect with Anna on Facebook and read more about her current projects on her blog. Read all Anna's Mother Earth News posts here


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Building Rituals into Your Life

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My last blog post described one of my favorite rituals, an annual calling back of the sun at year’s end. There are many other rituals that I enjoy and have employed through the years. Whether it’s a regularly scheduled, often-practiced celebration or a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence, such as a wedding, ritual can help ground us in the absolute fullness of the present.

Create a small altar or special arrangement somewhere in your living space that offers you a place to pause and connect with life or work up a repeated time for reflection with others.

Components of Rituals

When designing a ritual, the main components for me are intention and purpose. What is the reason for the ceremony or meditation and what is the intention? Who will benefit from the work? Is this to be a simple act or more complex? Will the ritual be honored alone or will others be present? If in a group, will there be a solitary leader, several leaders, or will everyone attending have a role?

Below, I offer suggestions and pointers that may help you with ideas that you can put into practice. Your imagination is the only limitation. This is the roadmap I use to create a ritual. I know that many folks prefer a step-by-step method of learning to the wide open expanse of “just do it.” I offer options below that you can follow in order, choose from at random, or use as you see fit.

A qualifier: When sending energy, prayers, light, mojo, or whatever you want to call them toward others, make sure that the recipient has requested it and is open and receptive. We should always resolve to do no harm. There are many instances where our best intentions can feel like interference and would be unwelcome. There are also many times when they would be considered honorable offerings and accepted with gratitude. The one exception that I was taught is that sending love is always acceptable.

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Building Rituals

1. Define your purpose

2. Set the intention

3. Sit with the purpose and intention and listen for cues

4. Design your ritual

5. Gather materials and/or create altar or focal point

6. Perform the ritual

Below is an example of a very simple ritual that can be easily performed on a daily basis. I have chosen Standing Rock to illustrate how a current (or recent) tragedy can be used to direct our strongly emotional energies into focused activity. This is not meant to preclude larger, more tangibly helpful actions but to offer a more constant and positive interactivity.

Perhaps you have been following the Dakota Access Pipeline Saga and you’re frustrated by an inability to do anything more active than send money or donated goods. You decide a ritual is in order. Building one might look like this:

(Purpose) More active connection is needed.

(Intention) You say to yourself, “I want to send loving support to the Water Protectors at Sacred Stone Camp.”

(Sitting) You look around, observe, and think.

(Design) You see a favorite bowl sitting on the shelf. It feels prominent and holds your attention.

(Gathering) You fill the bowl with water and set it in the middle of your table.

(Performance) Each day as you refill the bowl you send positive energies to the Water Protectors. You may also use this bowl as a conduit to strengthen your connection throughout the day.

Consider what actions will add to the atmosphere of your ritual. Is there a specific type of music or even a single song that reflects the space you are creating? If you are practicing ritual in a group setting, can you give everyone a task to make it more interactive?

 

In my experience, the best rituals are those that combine planned elements with an ability to go with the flow. In group rituals, explain the roadmap and provide leadership but understand that others need to feel the ritual as well and that can cause breakaway moments—these moments can yield amazing occurrence or chaos, so be prepared to cherish them while guiding the group back to the desired space.

Along with listening quietly to my inner voices, when I’m creating ritual I often collaborate with others. In fact, the Out of the Darkness ritual began with an idea of my friend Bengt. He drafted my help and together we created the first service. Through the years the same basic structure has survived with small differences year-to-year as the present circumstances required. The MOOD (Manifesting Our Own Destiny) bowls were added this year due to the knowledge that our congregation will be yearning for stronger hope and deeper positivity.

However you build your ritual, remember: purpose, intention, and do no harm. Ritual can be a lovely way to honor ourselves, others, and the planet. It can also help us to bring more light and love into our lives. You may find inspiration on this page in some of the altar art I have created. 

Blythe Pelham is an artist that aims to enable others to find their grounding through energy work. She is in the midst of writing a cookbook and will occasionally share bits in her blogging here. She writes, gardens and cooks in Ohio. Find her online at Humings and Being Blythe, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

7 Things I Learned Installing an Off-Grid Woodstove

Snow. A fresh coat snow coated the ground at the homestead, as those familiar New Hampshire winds screeched through the trees. I took a sip from my French press — woodstove-made coffee in my tiny house — and took in a moment of reflection. “This is the most terrible coffee I have ever had,” I murmured to myself as I watch it fly out the door. It was time to finish the last of the details on the woodstove install. A project that should have gone smoothly, or so I thought.

With a recent run to the local big-box store, we came back with all the gadgets ones heart desires. Triple-wall chimney pipe, single-wall stovepipe, through-the-wall kit, and elbows galore. I quickly tore open the boxes like a child on Christmas morning. It was a fine day at the homestead, indeed.

Challenges Installing a Chimney Kit

I knew before we even picked up the chimney there were going to be some challenges. One of them being the large overhangs I put all around the cabin. The kits at the local stores only carry a chimney kit that is made to be mounted directly on the exterior wall. That would mean cutting a hole through the roof overhang — in mountain climbing lingo, we call that a “No-Go”. So I picked up a extra couple pieces of metal strapping and a pop rivet gun, which is totally my new favorite thing.

I began to install the stove pipe on the chimney before I cut the dreaded hole out through the wall. As I worked my way towards the wall, I placed the wall thimble in the appropriate spot and traced around it. I grabbed my trusty recip saw and began to cut the hole. As the sawdust flew, I thought to myself, “ damn I’m good.” Just as the saw finished it’s cut, the piece dropped out of the wall. There, staring me in the face, was my roof overhang. I spent the next 5 minutes or so throwing a hissy fit like a child in a toy store.

I regained my composure and cut out the section of wall, replaced it, and re-flashed it. Then, I cut the hole out in the right spot. One of the things about messing up a lot is you get good at fixing things. That’s the silver lining to that cloud folks.

The rest of the day went rather smoothly, I had made it all the way through the wall and began to go up for the last sections of vertical. After I put on one section of the four that were vertical, I realized that the last three sections of chimney were very dangerous at best. So I excepted my fate and called it for the weekend. I was a long-tailed cat in a room full of rockers.

Supply Rentals for Home Repairs

The next weekend came, but this time I was ready. I called a local staging-rental place and picked up 15 feet of staging, leveling jacks for the ground, all the connectors, and three planks to put on top. Amazingly, this rental only costs $150 for a 30-day rental. It sure would have been nice to know that a while back, but hey, live and learn.

I assembled the pieces quickly and throw up the planks. I grabbed the remaining pieces and connected them together with screws, even though it wasn’t necessary. I easily placed the tower of three sections of chimney pipe up and twisted it into place, chimney cap and all. A quick couple of screws and the chimney stood proud. 

The last step was to add the support brackets. With the brackets already pre-mounted when I put it up, I stretched them out onto the roof. With only a few “sporty” moves, I fastened down the brackets and the woodstove install was complete. Finally, we are going to be warm this winter.

7 Lessons Learned from a DIY Woodstove Install

1. Make sure you figure out where the hole you cut out on the outside too. Fortunately, my mistake was a quick fix this time.

2. Check multiple local stores. Our kit was slightly cheaper then other kits available, but part of it is galvanized and not stainless steal. It would have been $20 more but looked better and lasted longer.

3. Buy only one brand. When you pick your pipes, keep them all the same. Most manufacturers have there own connection systems.

4. Talk to the local fire department. Our local fire department wants us to install our woodstove to manufacturers specification. As I understand, that is fairly common but always check with the fire department and building inspector before buying your pipes. It can save you time, money, and hassle.

5. Know your chimney distances to obstructions. In my situation, I have to have my chimney 2 feet higher then anything within 10 feet or 3 feet over the peek if it is under 10 feet away. My chimney just meets the 2 feet over the 10 feet rule fortunately, but yours may not. One again, check with your local building inspector on this.

6. Think about how your going to get that chimney up there. I didn’t spend much time thinking about the outside part, which made it a 2 weekend job. If I had figured out I could rent staging cheaply, it would have been a day at best.

7. Inspect your woodstove. We got our woodstove free from our brother, and it’s perfect size for us. It did need a new door gasket and a couple of parts to make it new, not having a door gasket is dangerous if you were to use it. For a $80 investment, we got a sweet stove.

Wood-fired stoves are essential to a off-grid homestead. Rocket mass heaters are also a awesome option if building codes would ever allow them. Whether or not it is your primary source of heat, doesn’t really matter. Having one on the homestead is key. If you lose power for whatever reason, you still have heat, hot water, and a stove-top. Being off-grid is all about self-sufficiency, and with would heat you are just one step closer.

Jamie Leahy is founding mountaineer at North Ridge Mountain Guides. After a few years commuting to the White Mountains, Jamie and his girlfriend, Becky, decided it was time to move to New Hampshire’s White Mountains and follow their dream of building an off-grid, mini-homestead debt free. Follow him at White Mountains Off-Grid. Read all of his MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

7 DIY Yard and Garden Projects: Pergola, Porch Swing, Small Cabin, and More

With fewer plants to tend to during the long winter season, it can be difficult to remain as productive during this twilight time of year as you were in previous seasons. Even if your homestead garden no longer requires the type of attention and care that kept you bustling in the spring, winter can be a great opportunity to take on a truly gratifying endeavor. Get started on any of these amazing DIY ideas for a project that will have you beaming by last frost.

1. Build a Pergola

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Photo by A Beautiful Mess

This project is especially exciting if you have been interested in growing vines but as yet had no ideal spot for them. You may also prefer this option if you do not feel there is enough space for a full-sized gazebo. Your pergola can be free-standing in a basic square frame or mark an elaborate extension to an outdoor patio.

Pergola plans are available in a variety of possibilities and are suitable for amateurs or any skill level. You can stylishly divide up your outdoor scenery with some well-needed shade. Construct a comfortable spot to enjoy meals or just lounge. Accentuate your garden with picturesque accessories, or add shelving, hanging plants, even delightful planter boxes to suit your taste. The simplistic structure of a pergola enhances a garden without interfering with future planting seasons.

2. Build a Porch Swing

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Photo by Simply Designing

Porch swings are more than just iconic decor, this cozy addition creates and ideal spot for everyone in the family to read, rest, or watch the sunset. Adding a swing to your front porch brings a fun, personal touch to the home that can be creative and easily suits to any design style of your choosing.

Even without a front porch, you can build an attractively pleasant swing that hangs in its own freestanding A-frame, from the branches of your favorite tree, even in an indoor room. A fun trick is to bring familiar, personalized touches to what begins as a simple design. You can add cushions and cup holders for that particularly homey feel.

Because swings can be constructed from multiple materials- rope and wood, chain and metal -you can design and build using whatever supplies you find convenient.

3. Build A Playhouse (or Swing Set)

Swing set

Photo by Ryobi Tools

Why spend money on a tacky plastic eyesore when you can custom build for your children their very own playground and enjoy the years of outdoor play that will follow? Playhouse and swing set designs are fun because even a basic A frame or hanging tire can be included with a number of amusing creations.

This project is a perfect opportunity for the entire family to collaborate, and more additions can be continually added over the years. Add a slide, a jungle gym, a miniature fort, or a mock kitchen. The joy of this creation is all the imaginative possibilities. An outdoor playground will encourage your kids to spend more time unplugged and enjoy the beautiful outdoors.

4. Build A Treehouse

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Photo by The Classic Archives

Every kid dreams of playing in their own private treehouse. Why not reward and impress your family with an iconic delight of childhood fun? Use a treehouse as a unique chance to deliver the fun and zany ideas not practical enough for a standard adult project, like crawlspaces, ladders, and toys. Install a swinging rope and a pulley system, places for your children or grandchildren to crawl, climb, and play.

Even if no trees on your property seem adequate to support a large structure, a simple deck is still a great spot for camping and a fort for hiding. A treehouse can be as elaborate or as basic as you prefer, even if you are only an amateur builder. Give your children an opportunity to participate in the planning and building, and the work will be all the more meaningful.

5. Build A Gazebo

Build a gazebo

Photo by Melco

While pergolas are always an attractive addition, a gazebo brings in the added functionality of structure and design. Whether you have a small corner or a large space to fill, you can transform any area in need of additional splendor into a welcoming spot for lounging, grilling, or just appreciating nature. A well-constructed gazebo will feel like an additional room of the house, bringing the comfort of outdoor scenery within an impressive structure.

Like so many of the projects listed above, plans can vary in size, difficulty, and detail, so you can construct an attractive and suitable design regardless of the area. The rounded shape of a traditional gazebo creates an illusion of larger space, and strong roof will provide a usable outdoor seating area even in bad weather. A basic wood frame or an elaborate brick setting can bring a welcoming ambiance to your property. Try these plans from MOTHER EARTH NEWS.

6. Build An Outdoor Chair

Adirondack chair

Photo by Skip to My Lou

If you spend much time with carpentry work at all, the thought of a cozy chair has probably already crossed your mind. Traditional rocking chairs are a popular choice for any busy carpenter, but this particular design of outdoor chair allows for versatility and affordability. The Adirondack-style of chair design is ideal for quickly constructing a sturdy outdoor seat with minimal material costs. The unique shape has become quickly popularized due to the reliable strength and comfortable reclining posture.

By recycling pallets or leftover lumber from any of your previous work, you can enjoy the added benefit of productive work and practical resourcefulness. You can apply a chic finish for a more modern look or keep an organic and natural appeal to blend in with the garden environment. Every skill level enjoys building these chairs, and even a master can undertake the challenge of a unique matching outdoor set with multiple chairs.

7. Build a Small Cabin

Little cabin

Photo by Joalex Henry on Instructables

Building a simple cabin on your property is an exciting project and proud homage to early American builders. A wonderful feature of cabins is the surprising affordability as well as the option to build off supplies you may already have available. A small cabin on the property can suit a number of useful benefits, whether you begin with a simple A frame or an entire two story build.

Well-made designs actually produce a construction that is warmer and cozier than many people realize — try these plans and cabin-building resources from MOTHER EARTH NEWS. Your cabin can become a pleasant home away from home, suitable for housing guests or just enjoying a little privacy. Not only will this project produce ample opportunity for numerous features and amenities, but many cabin designs can be suited for multiple additions and alterations in later years.

You Have Some Work to Do!

Waiting through long winter months can be frustrating if your usual outdoor routine is stalled while you wait for planting season. No one wants to spend weeks at a time without productive hands-on work. Any of these do-it-yourself projects can yield satisfying results that benefit the look and function of your home for years to come. As always, be sure to carefully follow the instructions for the safety and accuracy that make your projects successful and durable. Leave a comment to ask questions or tell us about your own winter projects.

Jennifer Poindexter and her husband raise most of their food and a variety of animals in the foothills of North Carolina, where they built a small homestead on very little money. She writes about all of her adventures at Morning Chores, where she shares the knowledge she has gained with others that might want to take the full plunge into homesteading. Read all of Jennifer's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here. 


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