What a mess our back porch was! It is the only place we have to store firewood and gardening supplies (including tools, potting soil, soil amendments, and all things gardening). And it desperately needed a transformation to make it organized, accessible, and safe to navigate. Simply, we needed to learn to use space wisely. Yes, there were times when walking through this space was just downright dangerous. Sounds crazy, I know, but it had become a “catch-all.” You have a few of those, don’t you? A junk drawer, maybe or a closet or table where “stuff” just seems to breed while you are sleeping? Well, we had a whole room! After several years of dealing with it, we decided it simply HAD to be transformed into something usable, practical, and safe — not just for us but for our dogs too. So we started with a massive cleanup, knowing it would take an entire weekend of hard work. Then Eddie designed and built (mostly from repurposed materials) three perfect solutions: a Kindling Bin, a Potting Station, and a Garden Sink. The only thing left that we still need is a portable sawmill. (Yeah, right … I will get right on that, Eddie!)
Note that Eddie & I share this 24′ x 14′ space. The back half of the room (against the two interior walls) is where he does all the firewood management. This includes cutting, splitting, stacking and storing enough firewood to get us through the winter. The front half of the room (against the two exterior walls along the windows) is my home base for garden management. Before we go into detail, let me show you just how bad it really was before we got frustrated enough to tackle this mess. Am I a little embarrassed to let you see this? Yes, of course, I am. But this post is not about me. It is about showing how — no matter how out of control things might seem — you CAN fix it. It might take time, planning, hard decisions, and perhaps even a little money … but when you are homesteading, you make what you have work for you anyway that you can! That is what it is really about – sharing hope.
That said, I scarcely remember how awful it was to function in this workspace. And collectively, it took about a year to complete. However, in order to make it work, we had to start with a weekend long cleanup of the general area. We got rid of a lot stuff, moved some stuff out to the shed or garage, made floor space, and organized what was left.
Last spring when we finally said, “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!” this is what happened!
Now mind you, I had to make do for a while with the glass table for a potting station (which is a very bad height for my back) and the board over the top of the box for a seedling shelf, but I knew what was coming next. So I did not mind. I knew it was just a matter of time. What was important was that we had it under control and we had some floor space to use as a staging area for the construction of the Kindling Bin, a Potting Station, and a Garden Sink.
Anyway, after all the cleanup was done, we took measurements and inventoried our existing materials such as lumber, screws, netting, etc. We compared what we already had with what we still needed and set out to fill the gaps over time. Some things (2x4s in particular) we had to buy, but we got very lucky when Eddie’s parents remodeled their kitchen and offered us their old counter tops and kitchen sink. Total bill on all projects combined was around $100. Yes, we still need to tear this room down and remodel it properly and we will, in time. But this works for now.
Now that you see what we were dealing with and where we started, take a look at where it all went from there by clicking through the next three posts in this series.
- Kindling Bin – Extra large storage bin with netted sides, back & bottom for air flow. Designed for the storage and containment of kindling, the top doubles as a work surface and a spot to set seed trays in the spring. Find complete instructions here at How to Build a Kindling Bin.
- Potting Station – Work table dedicated to potting & repotting plants. Can be messy and dirty at any given time and located in a green house or enclosed or covered porch. Has shelving above and/or below to accommodate tools, pots, soil amendments, seeds, etc. Find complete instructions here at How to Build a Potting Station.
- Garden Sink – An outdoor sink (with or without counter space) designed for the preliminary (initial) washing of veggies — those that just came out of the garden and are likely caked with dirt, which is always worse with root veggies like carrots, potatoes, turnips, etc. Usually has a bucket or bin to catch the grey (dirty) water underneath to be reused on the garden. Intended also to prevent kitchen pipes from clogging as a result of washing the mud off of veggies indoors. This project did not help much with getting control of the back porch except that it DID provide me a place (besides the back porch or kitchen) to deal with what was “incoming” from the garden. Find complete instructions here at How to Build a Garden Sink.
Now … put those three things together and a little bitty space like this can actually work. Now that I have them, I have NO IDEA how I ever managed without a them. If you ever came to my house and tried to take them from me, you would have a fight on your hands! Would not be pretty. Don’t even think about it.
Now, think for a minute about the space you have available and ask yourself, “Am I using it wisely?’ If not, resolve to correct it, then reorganize, rejuvenate and reclaim that space. If it does not belong there, get it out and put it where it should be. Clean up the mess and create your own low cost storage & work solutions. Gather materials from craigslist, ebay, neighbors, friends, & family, or dumpster dive if you have to. Be patient. It might take time to gather all you that need. Only buy when there are no other options. Substitute where necessary so long as it will still work. For example, when Eddie built the kindling bin (as you will see) he did not have the right kind of screws, so he used nails. That is okay. Nothing wrong with that. You do not need to be an engineer or mechanic or a professional carpenter to make something work if you put your mind to it. Point is, once you have reclaimed a space and made it your own and it serves a purpose that makes your life easier then no matter how bad it might look … then you have made a great accomplishment!
Happy homesteading! And now go find some space that you can make work for you and use that space wisely! Be sure to write in and tell us what projects you tackled!