MOTHER's column gives MOTHER EARTH NEWs readers a chance to ask our experts about a variety of homesteading problems that are in need of a good answer.
Installing a Roof
I was all ready to try my hand at installing a roof by replacing the deteriorating shingles on my house. Then it occurred to me: It's a long way down. I have to be able to stay on the dad-blamed roof while I'm shingling it.
If the pitch of your roof is greater than 8/12, safe scaffolding is essential when installing a roof. It needn't be elaborate or expensive, but a system that's both comfortable to work from and easy to move around will make the job less hair-raising. A method I recently used on the 12/12 roof of my two-story timber frame is to cradle platform brackets over 2 by 4 toeboards to provide a 10-inch horizontal working surface.
To start the system, shingle up the bottom couple of feet of the roof, then nail 24-inch lengths of galvanized hanger strap along the top edge of the upper row of shingles. Space the straps so you'll have three hangers for each 10- to 12-foot toeboard. Continue to shingle above the hangers as far as you can comfortably reach. Then attach the toeboards by nailing the first strap to the upper face and bottom edge of the board, and the second strap to the underside and bottom edge. (By alternating wrap directions, you'll reduce the chance of a very dangerous roll-out.)
The second part of the scaffold system provides the portable working platform. Homemade triangular brackets can be notched so that they slide over the top edge of a toeboard to cradle against the roof and create a flat surface large enough for a 2 by 10 plank. As you move up the roof, you can move the brackets and plank from toeboard to toeboard. When the job is complete, remove the boards by snipping off the exposed hanger straps.
Although this system may not meet OSHA standards, it's a relatively safe and inexpensive means of getting the job done.
— Don Osby When he's not clinging to his roof 35 feet off the ground, Don Osby is drawing MOTHER's technical illustrations.
Creating Prefabricated Root Cellars
We have a broken 15-cubic-foot chest freezer. Is there any way to use it as a root cellar to store fruits and vegetables this winter?
There sure is. If you bury the chest in soil up to its lid, the surrounding earth will insulate the contents and help keep your vegetables from freezing. Before lowering the chest into the hole, toss in a four- to six-inch layer of rocks for drainage. Cover the lid with boards or a sheet of metal roofing (or some other improvised protective device) extending several inches over the edges, to prevent ice build-up from sealing the lid shut. Then pile hay bales or bags of leaves on top to keep the cold air out. (A slab of foam insulation between the freezer lid and the roofing sheet would add even more protection.)
If it's not possible to bury the freezer and you want to leave it outside, either mound soil around all four sides, or build an insulating wall of hay bales or leaf-stuffed bags around it. A freezer stored in a shed or garage can be insulated with glued-on sheets of foam insulation.
One problem you might have is mold, which sometimes forms in closed, damp, unventilated places. To help keep your freezer mold-free, cut a hole high in one side, or even in the lid itself, and install a one-inch-diameter pipe, long enough to extend above the surrounding soil or insulation. Fasten a piece of screening over the open ("daylight") end so the mice don't consider it the door to a banquet hall. You can also line the bottom of the freezer with used furnace filters or racks of slatted wood or wire, to promote better air circulation.
Finally, take precautions to prevent children from getting trapped in the box; remove the lock from a freezer with a self-locking lid.
Root cellaring is an elegantly simple way to store the good food you've grown. And the price is right—especially when you can make creative use of an otherwise useless appliance.
— Mike and Nancy Bubel The Bubels are the authors of Root Cellaring: The Simple No-Processing Way to Store Fruits and Vegetables (Rodale Press, 1979, $12.95).