The Coop – Nesting boxes

It has been a very warm Fall here in Ohio and this week Gizmo, our silver lacewing, started laying in the new nesting boxes.  All the girls went through their molting process at the same time, and she is the first to start finally laying again.  This was exciting because the new nesting boxes had not been tested yet and we were not sure if the girls would use them or not.

The move to the new coop was abrupt, and for the first few months, the nesting boxes were just sitting on the floor of the coop.  This was a problem because it required going into the coop to collect the eggs.  The nesting boxes have had quite a few little tweaks since then, and it looks like are finally finished.

Box Bar

We mounted the nesting boxes to the outside of the coop, in the same way, we attached everything else to the new coop.  Using long bolts, large fender washers, and plywood.  The plywood acts as a backing and support for the bolts supporting the weight of the boxes.  We were afraid that something this size hanging on the outside of the plastic wall would bow and stress the plastic of the wall.  With the plywood strip along the top and bottom of the holes to enter the boxes, everything is very sturdy.

We used some scrap 2 X 4 wood and two rungs from an old playset ladder to create a perch to make it easier for the birds to get into the boxes.  The two verticle pieces of plywood are what we used to screw the hinges for the lid of the nesting box to.  The plywood gave us enough material to support the weight of the lid and enough height to create a slope so water would run away from the hinges.

The big issue we had with this design was water penetration.  There was no real good way to seal the hinge side of the nesting box roof.  Our first attempt was a small piece of wood running above the seam.  The thought was water would run down the wall and out away from the hinge side.  This did not work and the bedding kept getting wet in the boxes.  The final solution was to build a little roof over the entire thing.  This worked quite well water from the roof runs onto the overhang and the amount of water that makes it to the hinge side of the list is now very minimal.

We learned from our chicken tractors that cleaning the nesting boxes can be a royal pain.  With these boxed the back wall also folds down.  This way the contents can be scraped straight out of the boxes.  This is a vast improvement from the other design.  The back wall is held in place with three small hook and eye clasps.  One on each end and one on the inside in the center to keep the back from bowing.

The lid of the nesting box also works very well as a surface to sit the feed bucket when filling the feeder.  We are very pleased with how it turned out.


A Simple Chicken Door

For the past several weeks, we have had the older chickens living in the new coop. The coop consists of an eight foot by eight foot plastic shed that we bought from Home Depot. The shed has worked great. We have made many additions, but we will cover those later. This weekend we finally finished the chickens run, and that meant it was time to make a door in the back of the coop so they could access the run.

We decided to keep it as simple as possible, we have grand plans of installing an automatic chicken door opener later this year. From what we have researched it is important that the door be just big enough for the chickens to get in and out. In addition, the door needs to pass the bottom of the hole leading to the outside when it is closed or little-handed critters such as raccoons will pry it open.

Chicken Door  Chicken Door 2

We were lucky and as usual we were able to scrounge most of the materials from around the homestead. We started with a piece of plastic wall sheeting. It is the stuff they panel bathtub surrounds with. Our hope is that this will keep everything dry, and it will not require painting. The sheeting is nothing more than heavy plastic, so we backed it with a piece of half-inch plywood. We used some small brass nails that came out of a weather stripping kit, to attach the plastic to the plywood. As you can see from the pictures, the plastic is wider than the plywood. The idea behind this was to create a slide on each side of the door that can ride in a wooden track.

Door Rails  Door On Rails
Next we used the table saw to create a one-quarter inch deep by an inch and a half wide shelf along our side pieces. These will act as our rails for the door to slide up and down along. The rails are four inches longer than twice the height of the door. Our doors dimensions ended up being eighteen inches tall by ten inches wide. The plastic is very smooth.  With the pressure treated lumber on one side, and the plastic wall of the shed on the other the door slides very easily.

Door In PlaceAfter we had cut the hole in the back of the barn, we mounted our rails. To mount the rails, we simply used some exterior wood screws with some washers. We made sure the rails were plum and parallel and drove the screws in from the outside of the barn. This made a very easy and sturdy track system for the door to ride in. The last step to complete the door was to add an eye bolt to the top for our rope to attach to.

We were quite proud of the pulley setup. Using some small pulleys from the hardware store and some four inch by one-quarter inch bolts we were able to create a mounting point that is held far enough from the wall that nothing rubs. Next we simply had to run the rope up the wall across the ceiling and out a small hole in the front of the barn. Another pulley was set up to redirect the rope down to a height where one of the little helpers could operate the door. The door is very simple to operate. There are two loops in the rope. The loop at the end of the rope lowers the door to the closed position and the second loop up fully opens the door. It was convenient that the handle on the barn doubles as a place to loop the rope around.

Pully System Pully System 2 Pully System 3 Rope Handle
We have lots of plans for our little chicken house and would love to hear your thoughts and ideas. We hope you enjoyed reading about our little chicken house as much as we enjoyed working on it.

School House Table

20150531_152802We try to reuse things around the homestead as often as possible.  This past summer we acquired a new dining room table.  This was a blessing as the top of the old one was worn out, and the support for one end had broken.  The old table was a nice table it just needed a little TLC.  We tried to get rid of it on craigslist but had no luck.  This posed a problem.  How do you get rid of an old table?  It felt wasteful just to sit it out at the curb for the trash collector.  Like with many other things on the homestead this one problem turned into a solution for another.

Candie has wanted a long narrow table to put behind the couch for some time.  The table would serve two purposes.  She wants a space to do school work with Devin, and it would prevent kids from climbing over the back of the couch.  We have been working on a design, but the legs have been a design problem.  We had to disassemble the old dining room table to get it out of the house, and like most tables it broke down into a top and two sets of legs.  This was a borderline eureka moment.  We needed legs for the new table, and we had a perfectly serviceable pair available from the old table.

20150531_152917Once we had the leg issue resolved building the table was relatively easy.  We made a trip to Menards to look for wood for a table top.  We like Menards, and they have a lot of options when it comes to lumber.  I had originally envisioned having to glue up a large slab of boards to create the table top, but Menards caries 1’’ X 24’’ pre-glued and sanded table tops.  Menards even had one that was seven feet long!

The next step in building our table top is to create a frame for the top to attach to.  This will make it sturdy and give us something to attach the legs to.  For this, I took some 1’’ X 6’’ pine and ripped it down into 1’’ X 3’’ pieces.  We created a simple box that was 4’’ smaller than the table top was wide and long.  This gave us a nice 2’’ overhang all the way around the table.  We used my Kreg pocket hole jig to make pocket holes to attach the top of the table to the frame.  This made very fast work of this step.  My Kreg jig has gotten a lot of use over the past few years and is one of my favorite tools.

Now that the top was attached to the frame 20150808_120349it was time to mount the legs to the frame.  Each set of legs has a 1’’ X 8’’ piece of wood across the top of each pillar.  We were keeping it simple with this project and simply attached this piece directly to the frame from underneath with 3’’ wood screws.  The end result was a nice sturdy table that is perfect for behind the couch.

20150808_120238Once the table was assembled, I wanted to put a nice rounded edge on the top.  To do this, I used my plunge router with a round over bit and just ran the router along the edge of the table.  The final step before finishing was sanding.   This was the most time-consuming part of the project.  We used an orbital sander with 220 grit sandpaper to sand everything.  A good thing to remember when sanding wood is if you can feel a rough spot you will see it when it is stained.  So I have found it is better to feel for rough spots instead of just trying to look for them.

After everything had been sanded, we used an air gun and tack cloths to remove all the20150809_102220 dust from the surfaces.  We applied a Minwax stain that also seals the wood.  When applying stain, the goal is to keep the surface wet with stain.  The longer you let the stain sit on the wood, the darker the surface will be.  Once we reached the desired color, we wiped off all the excess stain.  After the stain had dried for eight hours, we applied one coat of satin sheen polyurethane.  We are very happy with our new table, and it works perfectly for what it was designed.

Apothecary Wall – How We Made Floating Shelves

Self-reliance is very important here at Woodhaven Place.  We believe in doing things for ourselves and learning as many skills as possible.  One of the skill sets that have come in handy over the past few years has been the ability to create things from scrap laying around the homestead.

When we moved from our last house, one of the things we left behind were all of Candie’s floating shelves in her kitchen.  They had become an important part of Candie’s workflow in the kitchen, and not having the storage was a problem in the new house.  When we started pricing suitable replacements, we were less than satisfied with our options, so we decided to make our own.

The idea behind a floating shelf appeared simple enough, all they are is a hollow narrow box that hangs on a cleat on the wall.  What is a cleat?  That is a 20140111_161405fancy word for a block of wood attached to the wall. With a simple understanding of how they were constructed, we started rummaging around in the garage for materials.  We were able to come up with a few 2” X 4” studs and a half sheet of 1/8” oak plywood.

With our scrounged materials, we were ready to get started.  Candie wanted the shelves above her six foot long baking table so we decided to make each shelf a little over three feet long and six inches deep.  Each shelf is made up of six separate pieces.  There is a top and a bottom that act as the shelf and a boarder with a front and two ends.  The sixth piece is the cleat that is mounted to the wall.

Step 1:  Mill the 2” X 4” boards down into something that we can use for a frame. First we ripped the board in half.  This gave us 2 pieces that were roughly 1.5” by 1.75”.  Lumber’s dimensions are not true, a 2” X 4” is actually 1.5” X 3.5”.

Step 2: Create a lip in the frame (using our Shelf Liptable saw) so that the shelf will sit flush after it is assembled.  First we set our blade to 1/8” deep and cut a groove 1/4” from the front edge and then raising the saw so that we can remove the rest of the wood, creating a flat surface that has a 1/8” tall by 1/4” wide lip.  The picture shows where we over cut by just a hair during this process ( No need to worry about that because it will all be hidden once we mount the plywood). We do this on both the top and the bottom of our frame.  Now we have a long piece of wood with a lip along the top and bottom front edges.

Shelf Corner

Step 3:  Create corners.   Set the miter saw to 45 degrees for cutting angles and creating the corners.  We tried a few different ways of putting the frames together.  We first started with biscuit joints in the corner, however that was a lot of work. We found the easiest way to assemble everything was to sandwich the top and bottom plywood together.  We used a brad nailer to hold it all together which worked great.  We laid all the parts out and put a good bead of glue along the frame.  Working together, we pushed the parts together and brad nailed along the edge to hold it until the glue set up.

It may appear to be a little backwards the way that we assembled everything however it worked out very well.  Once everything was tacked in place, we were able to sand all the rough edges and make 20140111_193425-editedeverything flush.  You could go back and fill all the cracks and holes with wood filler however we wanted a rustic look so we left everything as it was.  In this picture you can see what it looked like before and after a little surface sanding.

20140111_202959-editedStep 4:  Stain the shelves so that they matched the baking table they would be hung over.  We did not have the exact same stain however we had something that was close.  We used a Minwax stain that stains and seals at the same time.  Normally, I use a separate stain and finish however this was a quick single evening project.  All in all I think it turned out quite well.

Step 5:  Mount the shelves to the wall.  This, in my mind, was the tricky part.  I am really into symmetry so I tend to get really picky when mounting things on walls.  The20140112_151018-edited good thing about floating shelves is that the cleat does not fill the entire void of the shelf.  Our shelves were long enough to span multiple studs on the wall.  This gave us room to mount the cleat to the wall and then shift the shelf left to right on the cleat to get spacing correct. The shelves simply mount to the cleat with a few screws down through the plywood into the cleat along the back of each shelf.

Our Story – An Introduction to Woodhaven Place

Garde Progression

The evolution of our garden, we started out with four Square Foot Garden beds and ended up with a farm!

Welcome to Woodhaven Place Homestead and Gardens. Our journey began Christmas week 2012 after spending three years reading about homesteading, practicing in our small urban back yard, and learning everything possible before actually moving forward.  Our vision was a small farm out in the country that fit our budget and location needs however a very different path was in store for our little homestead.


I grew up in a metropolitan area that still has some undeveloped land. One weekend, we attended an open house for a farm that I had driven past most of my life and the house turned out to be very run down and kind of frightening. During the open house, we began talking to another person walking around who was not actually looking for a farm, just curious to see the inside of the old farm house. We told her what kind of property we were looking for and to our surprise, she told us to follow her home! Her neighbor was going to list their 5 ½ acre property in the next few weeks.

Clearing Garden

This was the falling down barn we started out with. This was after we had taken down 8 dead trees around it.

Woodhaven Place is 5 ½ acres in the middle of the suburbs. Driving up to our home you would never know a working homestead is in the back. The property backs up to farm land on one side, suburban homes on three sides, and is hidden by a thick perimeter woods all around. After much work clearing overgrown brush and dead trees, we have approximately 3 acres in the middle for a garden. With huge evergreen and hardwood trees protecting our little homestead on all sides, it feels like being out in the middle of the country, however we are only 5 minutes away from the theater, shopping malls, all the city conveniences. We are so blessed to have found our dream property right in the middle of our family and friends.

Pallet Fence

The start of our recycled pallet fence.

Because we really are “urban homesteaders” we have a fantastic opportunity to expose farming, bee keeping, food preservation, and many other homestead skills to the surrounding community. We believe that we have been placed in the perfect position to do what we have always wanted, live a more self reliant life and show others how to do the same. Woodhaven Place has two main goals: provide the surrounding area with healthily local products and teach people why knowing their “farmer” is important. Woodhaven Place strives to help preserve a very special food heritage and teach lost farming skills to urban people. The property we live on was once used as a hobby farm, apple trees, wild red and black berries, overgrown grape arbors, and mulberry trees have all been uncovered and are being nursed back to productive health. We will love and care for Woodhaven Place with the goal of making a productive homestead that future generations can be proud to call their own.