Tag Archives: diy

Fat Cats and Thwarted Raccoons- The Petsafe Automatic Pet Feeder

My cats like to eat. It’s actually their favorite thing in life. These are outdoor cats so when we are out of town (say, at our Beach House) they still like to eat. The prevalence of critters in this so-called-suburb makes it impractical to leave large amounts of food out (as one might if one were leaving food for indoor cats). So I needed an automatic food dispenser that was reliable enough that I wouldn’t worry about my cats missing a meal (at 15 & 17 pounds it WOULD NOT HURT THEM, but still…they would be rather put out) and that was smarter than the equally hungry raccoons.

After much research I purchased the Petsafe Healthy Pet Simply Feed Automatic Cat Feeder. Which is a really long product name. But it’s a fantastic product. The Petsafe is both battery and a/c powered. It does not come with an a/c adapter but you can order that online at your favorite yellow smile store. It requires (4) D-cell batteries. The battery life seems to be rather long. The unit has been in use for about two and half months battery status still reads full.

It’s fairly easy to set up the feeding schedule using the little key pad and screen. The instructions walk you through it. There are 12 programmable meals available and increments of 1/8 cup to 4 cups. For example, my cats share 1 1/2 cups at 7am (3/4 cup each) and then 3/4 cup at 4pm.

The Petsafe has a nice pause feature if you want to suspend the feeding schedule temporarily. It also has a “feed now” feature if you want to deliver a scheduled meal right now.

The lid is secured with a “pet proof” latch that is somewhat difficult to open (even for a biped with thumbs), however raccoons are quite crafty with their (albeit thumb-less) raccoon-y fingers, I thought I should add a second line of defense.


Petproof latch and signs of raccoon vandalism

So I slapped some Gorilla Tape across the top and it has worked like a charm, the raccoons were unable to penetrate it or peel it. The first time I left the Petsafe feeder out I had secured it to the deck rail with some bungee cords. This kept the raccoons from absconding with it but it got wet at the edge of the covered deck, and the cats prefer their dry food not-soggy.


Raccoons have not  yet figured this out…

Then next time I just left it out next to the sliding door against the back of the house, it was rather heavy (had several pounds of food in it) and didn’t think the raccoons would knock it over.

Imagine my surprise when I found the unit 10 feet away out in the yard. They had apparently rolled it (like a barrel??) HOWEVER, they did not get it open AND it still worked perfectly even after the raccoons savaged it.

So my latest innovation is a steel towel bar, which I screwed into the house siding. The unit is secured with a ratcheting tie down. And instead of using the bowl and bowl holder that come with the unit (which a) the raccoons can easily knock loose, and b) I broke while trying to remove it) I used an aluminum pie pan which I screwed to the deck with 1/2″ wood screws.


The whole cat-traption


Towel bar screwed into the siding

I left town with the new tie down in place and came back to a completely undisturbed feeder and two happy cats. Add in the Petsafe Water Station and the scenario is complete.

Cats 1, Raccoons 0.

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Beach House Laundry Makeover Pt. 2

Wow, I can’t believe it’s been 10 months since the last Beach post, specifically Beach House Laundry Makeover- Pt. 1. The laundry is of course finished (as much as can be for now) and has been amazingly functional. Here it is, in service long enough to have become crapped up.


Ikea Algot

The conspicuously missing shelf on the right side is due to my inaccurate calculations regarding the number of brackets needed for the number of shelves. This happens when you try to do math after you’ve been at Ikea for 3 hours. If you are interested in this shelving unit, and believe me you SHOULD BE– it is completely modular and easy to install and probably half the price of most closet systems– be sure to use the online design tool at the Ikea website.


Tiny laundry machines

We purchased these small Amana units from the Eugene Home Depot as they were a sweet deal at $299 each. Delivery was interesting – the installers did not get the order for our dryer power cord which we felt would be an important accessory. Fortunately, there is a Sears Hometown store down on 101 and they had my 40amp cord in the correct configuration.

Turns out, you cannot purchase an expensive washer with many features in a small size– in other words the better, the bigger. And I clearly needed smallish appliances. But these guys get the job done. They are fairly quiet and efficient. I had a bit of a panic when I first heard the motor on the washer (I have a front loader at my main home and the last top loader I used was from the 90’s). So whine-grind noise of the new-fangled tiny agitator was a bit of a surprise to me. However Amana has a nice troubleshooting guide where they accurately describe various noises that might be coming out of your laundry unit, then calms you with their assurances that YES, THIS IS A PROPER NOISE.


Stuff on the walls

Fortunately this room is wide enough to have 20″ deep shelves on one side and wall storage on the other. My favorite thing here is the Unger broom holder  (this link is to the five-hanger unit, which I also own). This tool hanger features rubber grabby grippers that hold handled brooms/mops/etc at any place on the handle without slipping. This three-hanger unit nicely holds my broom, mop and hard floor vac.


Surf board hook unit for wet towels

Since we’re at the beach I thought this little surf board hook guy would be a nice touch for the laundry room, a place to hang wet towels or swim suits (for anyone bold enough or with few enough nerve endings to enter the Pacific Ocean on the Oregon Coast). I picked him up at Fred Meyer at an off-season sale. You’ll note in the top right of the above picture that there is a bit of insulation foam showing. I filled the many crevices in this un-insulated room with the expanding foam and it has made a huge difference in temperature. Now I just need to crawl into the 6″ space beside the washing machine and trim the foam. Looking forward to it.


View from laundry room

And here’s the view from the laundry room, in case we are tempted to hang out in there.

All in all, this laundry has turned into a usable and highly functional space. When we first bought the house it was smelly, dirty, funky, and rather scary. A bit of clean up, paint, flooring, shelving, and imagination and it is now a nice place to wash some socks.

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Beach House Laundry Makeover- Pt. 1

Even though we’re at the beach, we still need to do laundry. So this weekend we did a laundry room makeover at our beach house in Florence.


Laundry is behind this door…

Aaaand, here it is – this is the after-before picture. The actual before picture would have shown horrible stinky 1960’s tile and “kustom kabinets”. WOULD HAVE, but we didn’t take one before we scraped the tile bashed the cabinets off the walls.


Horrible cabinets were on the left over laundry area…


Painted with odor blocking primer- including the floor



Large ugly cabinet was to the left of the door. We bashed it off with a sledge hammer. It was most satisfying.

The laundry room had either been abused by pets, or possibly uninvited pets (ie: rodents, evidence of which I found in various areas) and it was super smelly. So, a few weeks ago,  after the tiles were popped up (we used a scraper but they gave us no resistance) we coated the entire room in odor and stain blocking primer- specifically Zinsser B-I-N which is a shellac-based primer. This primer requires either denatured alcohol or ammonia for clean up, so I decided to limit my paint brush use and sacrificed a paint roller (rather than clean it with ammonia.) Once the primer dried the smell was gone. Yay!

So that brings us to THIS weekend which was latex paint and new floors. I decided to spray the room with my paint sprayer, so first we mask.


And we prepare our person for paint spraying.


Ready for paint spraying and also uranium handling.

Yes. This is a haz-mat suit. Actually, it’s just a cover-all I bought at Home Depot, but it works great for spraying or any painting. The first time I used the paint sprayer I just wore my “paint clothes” and a baseball hat and my regular prescription glasses. But I soon realized that I couldn’t breath and my entire body was covered in light blue mist. So I sprung for the goggles (which will fit over my glasses) and the respirator mask which filters out paint particles. It’s super uncomfortable, but my eyes and lungs are worth it. SO ARE YOURS.

Here we are post paint:

I was able to spray about 70% of the room then my sprayer malfunctioned. Which is annoying because I had to roll the remaining wall AND I had plans to write a paint sprayer review (which would just be angry right now). At any rate, paint is completed, color is Urban Raincoat, Behr Ultra.

Paint is dry the next day and we start laying the floor. We have Allure vinyl planks in Country Pine. This is a floating floor that connects with sticky pads rather than tongue and groove.

We start at one corner and use paint sticks for spacers since we did not think about buying actual spacers.


Note the 1950’s fold-up yard stick (a gem found in laundry room cabinets before they were destroyed) that we used for a straight edge.

The fact that this is a floating floor is important because the subfloor is slightly uneven.


When we get the end of the first row, we trim the plank the fit. Then the remaining piece of plank starts the next row. This ensures that the planks will be staggered more or less randomly, as opposed to a grid. They are easily trimmed with a razor and straight edge. If you don’t have a straight edge (or say, forgot to bring one from your suburban garage that’s just swollen with tools) you could simply use the 1950’s fold-up yard stick that we found hiding in the skanky old cabinets (pictured above).

Floor is down!




Allure Vinyl Plank in County Pine – very wood-like.

Final touch is MDF 1″ x 3″ trim molding.


At this point, my husband retires to the couch and I begin the Ikea shelving project. We’re installing the Algot series of shelving, consisting of permanently affixed wall rails and movable shelves and other accessories.


Ikea Algot with 15″ shelves and a drying rack


So we’re done until next time when the washer and dryer arrive and we install the remaining shelving unit. Check back in a few weeks for an update!!


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Jazzing Up A Kitchen Corner- Wherein I Install More Ikea Backlog



The Ikea backlog is almost depleted. I purchased the kit for this kitchen wall rail about 3 months ago, prior to kitchen wall painting.


Fintorp kitchen rail comes with two brackets and one 22.5″ rail

The system is expandable if you want to install a longer rail. My rail is going to be placed on the wall to the right of my stove which is just barely wider than a standard counter top depth, so one rail will work for me.

First we mark the location of the back plates (which will connect to the brackets) on the wall. I’m using a level to make the marks. It’s not easy to photograph yourself using a level.

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Me and my gigantic level



You will need your own wall fasteners for this project as Ikea does not provide any type of screw or anchor with their hardware. I like the Ikea Fixa fastener kit for this purpose. It contains 6 different types and sizes of wood screws and 3 sizes of wall anchor.


This is the Ikea Fixa hardware kit, sold separately.


It is unlikely that you will be able to locate two wall studs spaced 22 inches from each other so you if you have common drywall/gypsum board you’ll want to use a drywall anchor.


Medium size anchor and 7/16 drill bit


Choose a drill bit that’s slightly smaller than the diameter of your anchor. You’ll want to be able to insert the anchor, but you want it to be very snug.


Anchor partially inserted into hole

Once the anchor is partially inserted, use a small hammer to tap it all the way in so it’s almost flush with the wall (but don’t squish it AND/OR damage your wall).


As the instructions below indicate (more or less) when you insert the screw into the anchor you’ll leave just a bit of space. Which allows you to slide the wall plate in snugly.


Ikea instructions featuring “ghost screw”, my screw is 1 1/2″. Note the head is domed and not flat.


We dry-fit the plate to make sure we’ve placed our anchors at the correct distance apart. Flat side out, beveled side in. Plate will slide in between the anchor and the screw.


Then we install the brackets, removing them a few times and adjusting the screws to make sure the fit is snug.



Tested for snug


Next we install the rail. Once the end of it is inside the far bracket (towards the back) I contort myself over the oven and place the end-cap on with my left hand. This will be easier to do if you are installing it on a portion of a wall that doesn’t terminate in a corner.


We leave one end off to add hooks.

Rather than the Cirque du Soleil-like moves I performed, you could also assemble the unit then attach it to the wall. But I like a challenge.

Now we insert rail into the other bracket and add the end-cap to the other side.


Voila! Relatively level.

Last step is to take your tiny hex-driver (allen wrench) and tighten the rails so they don’t slide (insert into hole at the bottom of each bracket).

And here it is with useful kitchen stuff on it.


Cute Ikea bucket and 10 hooks. The hooks are sold in packs of 5.

One more Ikea project done! But I’m on a roll, so please stand by for my next Ikea kitchen project —tiny spice shelves–coming this week!

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I Prepare For The Fruitless Winter- Canning 100 Lbs of Tomatoes

For the last two years I have felt compelled to can tomatoes. I actually want to can a lot of things- peaches, blackberries, strawberries. But the U-pick seasons are so short I always miss them. Tomatoes I can manage easily. They aren’t even ready until the end of the summer (like me). And they are super cheap to pick (I get them locally for .60/lb) which makes canning a break even compared to buying commercially canned tomatoes in the grocery store.

I picked these tomatoes in September, probably the 2nd week.


This is about 60 pounds of tomatoes

I don’t know what this tomato variety is called, but they are a basic globe and I picked them two years in a row. The year before last I also picked some heirloom tomatoes which look gorgeous, and taste delicious but are difficult to process for canning (thick skins and very tough and pulpy.)

Canning Equipment

Now then, I own a large pressure canner but so far I’ve only used it for water bath canning because I am essentially afraid of it. Because I canned tomatoes, which are an acidic fruit (and I also add lemon juice), I do not need to use the pressure function. However, were I to can a less acidic vegetable- like green beans or corn, or any type of meat, I would need pressure can to be sure my food was heated and sealed properly and safely.

The canning pot fits 7 quart jars or 12 pint jars. Mine is a Presto 23 Quart Pressure Canner. It comes with a bottom rack to keep your jars from touching the heated bottom. I also recommend a canning utensil kit- I bought this one: Norpro 6-Pc Canning Kit.


Regarding jars, I buy what’s cheap. I discovered that I prefer wide mouth jars for ease of packing and for stacking in the pantry. Canning jars are available everywhere, they are about $8-$10 per dozen and can be re-used year after year. I also use canning jars for wet and dry storage.

Coring, Peeling and Seeding

You could can tomatoes without seeding or peeling them but you will regret it. The peels turn into little red stems and the seeds, well, they’re seeds. Tomatoes grown by commercial growers and sold in grocery stores tend to have smaller, softer seeds that you may not really notice while cooking with fresh tomatoes. However, farm grown varieties tend to have tougher thicker skins ans larger seeds, so you’ll want to remove them.

First, core the tomatoes using a corer or a melon baller. You can use a paring knife too if you’re talented and it’s sharp. This is also a good time to check for any units with rot on them that you will want to reject for canning (but use fresh after cutting out the bad spot).


Tomatoes washed and cored, waiting patiently in bin

Next, you’ll need to submerge the tomatoes in boiling water followed by a quick shock in ice water to remove the skins, which should then slide right off. On my third batch, I discovered the magic of making an “x” on the bottom of the tomato with a sharp knife which helps the skins separate.


Tomatoes in boiling water, takes about 30-60 seconds for skins to loosen up. Also lids being boiled on back burner. 


Ice water pops the skins right off

So you’ll wind up with several containers of naked tomatoes.


Naked tomatoes…they needed the money

Now they need to be sliced, diced, crushed, or chopped, or made into sauce (depending on how you want to can them). I spent a lot of time chopping tomatoes last year only to find that step unnecessary when I actually used them. So I quarter mine. Quartering them makes them fairly to easy to seed as well. Actually they may be in eighths…so I guess I eight’ed them.


Tomato eighths still need to be seeded

Once they’re chopped I use my fingers to scrape out the seeds. You can waggle them around in their own liquid and that will swoosh many of the seeds out.


They are now ready to be canned. I pack them in quart and pint jars and add 1/4 tsp canning salt and 1 TBSP lemon juice (bottled) for each pint. I fill the jars with juice and salt first then cram in the tomatoes leaving about 1/2 inch of head room in top of jar. I prepare the jars in the dishwasher on sanitize and boil the lids in a pot, however since I don’t add hot liquid to these my jars are not hot. Opinions vary on this, apparently.


First batch- 12 1/2 quarts from about 40 lbs of fresh picked tomatoes

My recipe says to process quart jars for 40 minutes and pint jars for 30 at boiling. The jars are then removed with the jar grabber and placed on a towel on the counter where they will sit, unmoved, for 24 hours.

You will know they are sealed when the lids suck down and do not flex when you press on them. You can hear the pinging of the jars as they seal! Some jars will take several hours to seal as they cool so don’t worry. If your jar doesn’t seal, you can reprocess it.

Altogether, my 100 lbs made 28 quarts of both sliced tomatoes and sauce. Sauce cooks down considerably and the 30 lbs of tomatoes I processed for sauce only made about 7 quarts. I found the best way to cook my tomato sauce was in my turkey roaster, just dropped the sliced, peeled, seeded tomatoes in and let them cook on 350 for a few a hours. You can add all of your seasonings while it’s cooking, however it’s not recommended to add cheese or oil before you can.

I use my canned tomatoes throughout the winter and spring to make spaghetti sauce, chili, taco soup, other sauces and soups. When you open the lid you can smell the difference- it’s like the smell of summer!! I only canned about half as much last year and ran out in the spring, so I’m hoping my 100 lbs will take me into next summer.

My next canning adventure will involve actually using the pressure canner feature, and hopefully not exploding myself.

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A Little Slice Of Sweden In My Basement: The Ikea Billy Bookcases Come To Fruition

The Billys are up! Yes, the same Ikea Billy bookcases that have been lurking in their little flat-pack boxes in my basement since 2013 when I insisted that we purchase them RIGHT NOW.

Ikea Billys have been manufactured continuously for 36 years, and for the last 20 years their price is apparently unchanged. Google “Ikea Billy reviews” and you will find people who have kept their Billys for many many years.

My Billys are clear birch. Yes, they are essentially particleboard but they are covered in a veneer of real wood. The components are substantial and sturdy. The fastening hardware is magical.

Billy units come in four sizes: tall units are 79.5″ by 31.5″ or 15.75″, shorter units are 41.5″ high by 31.5″ or 15.75″. All units are 11 inches deep. Extensions add 13″ to the height. Units can be mixed and matched to fit your space and create a custom look.

Billy Series

We begin: there is nothing like the fresh promise of Ikea parts when you first lay them out on the carpet…


Billy Bookcase Sides

It is also extremely important to employ your local burly-man, particularly one who loves a mallet.


Burly-Man with mallet



Initial Billy building: this is the quintessential 31.5″ Billy.


31.5″ Billy- The Flagship

We add the second bookcase, a 15.75″ Billy. The idea is to create a corner bookcase. We try a few different configurations:

The Ikea corner solution (they sell a corner bracket for this set up. I bought the brackets. I cannot find them in the garage.)


Ikea-Style Corner with 45 degree angle

And here is option two- a basic L-shaped book nook.


Corner with 90 degree angle

We choose option two, it seems to fit the small area better. Now do this 2 more times. Then build the extensions. 80 million pegs later…


Built Billys with extensions on top

It is done.


Billy area with desk (also Ikea) and lamp (also Ikea)

The Billys are fastened to the wall with included L-brackets. Ikea gives you screws and washers but not wall anchors. We used 1″ drywall anchors because that’s what we have. Obviously use the correct anchor for your wall.

We leveled the first unit on the far left, then fastened it to the wall. The next unit was leveled and placed flush with the first. The third unit was placed at a right angle and overlaps the second one slightly and the fourth is level and flush with the 3rd.


Billy Bookcase Sides, butted and slightly overlapped

The extensions are connected to the top of the bookcases with cam locks.


Extension on top of bookcase- cam locks visible on either side

The sides of the bookcases contain a cutaway in the back to fit easily over your baseboard trim (we thought we were going to have to remove the trim– yay!!).

You may have noticed in one of the earlier pictures that one of the bookcases covered up an outlet. We installed a low-profile flat plug extension cord and snaked it under the bookcase via the cutout channel.


Cut-out for baseboard trim, extension cord is routed through

Next project entails installing trim pieces around the edges (between the Billys and the walls) and on the top (between the Billys and the ceiling) to make them look like a built-in unit.






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Home Brew- Home Made Ginger Beverages: Ginger Beer, Part 2

Hello! Welcome to Part Two of my ginger beer experiment. If you missed Part 1 (preparation), click here.

I removed the bottle from the cabinet, opened the lid and poured myself a small glass to taste.


OMG. It’s completely repulsive. There is not nearly enough sugar or citrus or ginger in it and it tastes extremely alcoholic-y, even though I know it can’t be because it hasn’t fermented long enough. It resembles a $2 well vodka drink at the scuzziest bar in town (I would not know ANYTHING about where that might be.) And I think the bread yeast is what’s doing that. It’s definitely not what I was going for. That being said, I think twice the amount of ginger, sugar and citrus may have made it somewhat palatable (over ice, mixed with juice, holding my nose… maybe.) Maybe not.

I am on the fence about trying the yeast method again, so I think I’ll try the ginger ale soda method next and see if I can get a beverage that meets my needs.

So check back in for Part Three, Ginger Ale- soda style.

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Home Brew – Home Made Ginger Beverages: Ginger Beer, Part 1

I’m obsessed with ginger ale and ginger beer. Can’t get enough. I like the super gingery craft beer with the bite, I like the store brand ginger ale with it’s cloying sweetness. Ginger ale/beer is the perfect base for non-alcoholic beverages that are interesting.

So I decided to make my own. There are two ways to make ginger beer:

  • Yeast method: uses fresh ginger, fresh lemon juice, sugar, water and yeast. Place ingredients in a plastic bottle (two liter seems to be the preferred vessel) and allow the yeast to ferment the sugar and create carbonation. Takes about 2 days.
  • Starter method: this method is similar to brewing of kombucha, fermented black tea. You create a starter (a ginger bug) using ginger sugar and lemon, then “feed it” over the course of a few weeks, then mix your starter with more prepared ginger liquid which then ferments and creates carbonation.

Ginger Ale is an easier affair- it’s basically ginger soda and is made by mixing ginger syrup with carbonated water (ala Canada Dry).

I decided to try the yeast method first and make ginger beer. I am going to a dinner party on Saturday and I wanted to bring a little “somethin'” .

I am using Alton Brown’s (Food Network) recipe which is entiled Ginger Ale but is in fact Ginger Beer (because it’s fermented).


1 1/2 ounces finely grated fresh ginger
6 ounces sugar
7 1/2 cups filtered water
1/8 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice


Place the ginger, sugar, and 1/2 cup of the water into a 2-quart saucepan and set over medium-high heat. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat, cover and allow to steep for 1 hour.

Pour the syrup through a fine mesh strainer set over a bowl, pressing down to get all of the juice out of the mixture. Chill quickly by placing over and ice bath and stirring or set in the refrigerator, uncovered, until at least room temperature, 68 to 72 degrees F.

Using a funnel, pour the syrup into a clean 2-liter plastic bottle and add the yeast, lemon juice and remaining 7 cups of water. Place the cap on the bottle, gently shake to combine and leave the bottle at room temperature for 48 hours. Open and check for desired amount of carbonation. It is important that once you achieve your desired amount of carbonation that you refrigerate the ginger ale. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, opening the bottle at least once a day to let out excess carbonation.

Okay. So the first thing I did is NOT READ THE INSTRUCTIONS CORRECTLY, even though I read them about 50 times. So of course I added the lemon to the syrup. Big woo.

I started grating the ginger with the fine side of my cheese grater which became very tedious almost immediately. So I chopped the rest of the ginger up and threw it in my mini food processer. I put it in a pan with my lemon juice (NO!!) sugar and some lemon zest (because I thought “Why not??”)


The mixture simmered accordingly as I washed out a two-liter bottle.


After the sugar dissolved I removed it from the heat. Then I went to Office Depot to buy ink. Then I went out for dinner. So by the time I returned my syrup was gooood and gingery. I strained the mixture using this:


And also this (although I think the cheesecloth may be overkill). But it was easy to squeeze all the liquid out.


Then added the syrup to the bottle. I used filtered water from my fridge for the remaining 7 cups and also poured it into the bottle (and more lemon juice).


Now it was time to add the yeast: I had an bit of an issue, however. The recipe calls for 1/8 tsp and the smallest measuring spoon I possess is 1/4. So I had to wing it. Many of the recipes you will find online call for brewer’s yeast or champagne yeast. Apparently, if baking yeast is used, the final product can taste..well, yeasty. I’ll be finding out how much of an issue that is.


Okay! So now it’s lurking in my bottom cupboard (too cold in the garage) and should be carbonated in about two days. I will return in two days with results!

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Get Off The Shed!! Keeping Garden Tools and Kitties Warm and Dry With a Backyard Shed

One of my favorite SNL sketches is the one where Will Farrell is yelling at his kids to GET OFF THE SHED!!

So we’re building a shed. I don’t think my kids will be on it, but you never know.

The shed is mainly for gardening storage: lawn mower, blower, weed wacker, tools, etc. We will also be able to store bins of outdoor stuff like camping supplies (in bins), stacked lawn chairs, etc.

The other purpose of the shed is to create a “barn” for my outdoor cats. The climate in the Pacific Northwest for most of the year is very mild, so they are fine on the covered patio on their own kitty cushions, in their cat tree or inside their “kitty hut” (small cedar dog house furnished with a cushion, blanket and outdoor pet heating pad.) But I wanted to give them more of a loft where they can escape winter weather and feel safe being high up.

So we are going with this little number:

It’s the Heartland Belmont, 8’x8′ gabled two-door shed.  Base price at our local Lowes is $538 for the kit which includes everything but the flooring, foundation materials, and roof shingles. There is also an option to have the shed professionally installed (which includes the omitted materials in the DIY kit) but it’s about $1200. So even with the additional materials I’ll need (masonary blocks, 4×4 posts for the skids, OSB sheets for floor, roofing material) I’m still up about $400. Plus it gives me something to write about!!

The Heartland website offers fairly good Youtube tutorials about how to level, build and roof your shed. We’ve built decks in the past, so the leveling and squaring is not much different. We also had a Better Built Barns shed installed at a previous home (for use as a music studio), 10×20 with windows, and we watched them install it just like these videos show. That shed was actually finished like a tiny house, since it was meant for occupancy: insulation, sound board, pine tounge-and-groove paneling, electrical and lighting. I’ll go through that on another post.

Our local building codes allow for a structure that is unattached and under 200 ftsq to be built without a permit. It must nut be considered living space. Since our shed did not contain environmental mechanics such as HVAC nor plumbing it qualified. So I will not need a permit for this one. Your local codes may vary so check it out before you build as it may become a problem if you sell your home and have an unpermitted structure.

We are considering installing metal roofing rather than asphalt shingles. Metal roofing will be easier to maintain as we are located in a “tree bowl” which causes moss to grow on our shingle roof, whereas metal roofing just needs to be hosed off. Installation also looks easier than the 3-tab shingle affair, but I guess “easy” is probably just a relative term in this case.

For the cat house: critters are a problem in our woodsy area, there are many large trees and run off creeks to attract raccoons, opossums, and skunks. So the object of the kitty entrance is to make it unavailable for marauding ‘coons. So I am going to design an entry this is combination of this:

Kitty stairs

And this

Raccoon-proof cat feeder platform

The theory is, raccoons can climb and they can leap horizontally but they can’t jump straight up like a cat. So as long as the initial platform (or perhaps cat-form) is located at height that is inaccessible to them, we should be able to keep them out. Having said this, I did a search and there is some video footage of raccoons jumping up onto a feeding platform like the one shown above, about 4 feet. However my cat can jump onto the top of a 6′ fence easily and my roof, so I think 4 1/2′ for the initial pad should be sufficient. We’ll see!

I actually purchased one of those RFID cat doors where a special tag is necessary to get the door to open, but this requires that the cat wear a collar. Mine won’t. If all else fails, I can purchase a newer pet door with a reader that will sense an implanted microchip. I think we’ll try this first.

The actual entry will be in the gable end opposite the doors, where a small loft will be built for a cozy kitty nest. I suspects the cats will also be “on the shed”, particularly when it’s first built as they will need to closely inspect “the new thing”. Kitty steps projecting from the end wall will lead up to the entry door (in theory!!)

So! Project kickoff date is TBD, likely in September when it’s cooler but not yet raining.

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Let The Sun Shine In..or NOT- Installing A Patio Sun Shade

Our bedroom slider (out to balcony) faces nearly due east. Which is great if you are a “get up with the sun” type, and not really a problem on work days when I get up early. But on a weekend, I need the sun to LEAVE ME ALONE until I’m ready for it. It’s not too much of a problem in Northwest Oregon where a lot of our mornings start with clouds, but the clear summer days and heat waves have been causing our bedroom to heat up significantly during the morning hours, making it at least 5 degrees warmer than the rest of the house.

So we purchased a Cooleroo outdoor sunshade:

Coolaroo Cordless Shade

Ours is 96″x96″. The balcony is actually 15 feet, but the sun only comes in right in the middle so we thought this would work.

We started by marking 96″ approximately in the middle of the laminate beam on the patio cover. Then we held up the shade with brackets attached and marked where the brackets would go. Held up brackets and drilled pilot holes for the screws, then installed brackets, leaving screws slightly loose on one side for adjustment.



You can see the brackets have a long hole for adjustment. Personally, I prefer the keyhole style holes, where you can install the screw first (with a drill) and then attach and adjust the bracket. This particular set up made it difficult to fit the drill around the mounting hardware. So as usual, we had to wing it (and use man-power, literally, my husband had to tighten screws with a hand screw driver. Hooray for burly-men!!)

We mounted the shade and then adjusted the left bracket and tightened the screws. You could check for level, but we measured 1″ from the bottom of the beam.



Here’s what it looks like from inside the room


It took us about 20 minutes to put up, including the tie downs to keep the shade from moving in the wind.


The length is adjusted by rotating a rod which hook onto a loop on the right side (so there is no inner spring involved).

I’m not sure how much wind this shade can take, even while fastened to the deck rail, but we will probably be rolling it up and tying it if there are going to be gusty winds.

But it should keep us cooler on the next hot sunny day:)

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