Category Archives: Things I have made

D.I.Y. Backyard Oasis Part 3

In the last two posts I covered the fireplace and the porch. To me the fence ties everything together so I wanted a design that had a bit of my pergola and the porch as well as the storage shed. Sounds easy right? I had a lot of ideas in my head but since I was building it all instead of buying pre made panels, I didn’t want it to be too difficult.

I decided on tin and lattice with 4”x4” posts stained to match the porch and the fence is actually the back wall of the porch.

Here is another angle.

And a closer shot of the fence.

My son got me some coffee bean bags where he works so I thought that would add to it.

There you have it. I’m very pleased with the way it turned out! I haven’t finished staining everything yet but we have been able to enjoy it several times. My whole family enjoys being outside by the fire when its cool or in the shade when its hot so this made perfect sense for us.

I hope this gave you some ideas for your own back yard. I just started with an idea and worked on it a little at a time.

Happy trails!


Wood Fired Oven

I’ve always been fascinated with cooking over hardwood. After tasting some pizza that was cooked on in a wood oven I was hooked! I looked online and researched plans and different companies ready made ovens and eventually decided to go with a kit.

I prepared a steel stand with a concrete top as they suggested and waited for my oven to arrive on a freight truck. The one I chose weighed about 1800 pounds!

Here it is in the crate before I unloaded it. We just rolled it off the semi onto my flatbed, then I used my tractor front end loader to move it off the truck. I you plan to build one of these you’ll need some equipment (or a bunch of weight lifters) to help maneuver it.

The first thing you do is put down a base of sand and level the floor insulation that sits beneath the floor.

Next you assemble the fire brick floor and level it over the insulation. This will be your actual cooking surface so you’ll want to spend extra time here to make sure all your seems line up.

The dome pieces fit around the floor and actually sit on the thick insulation. Positioning these pieces in place without moving the floor brick is quite a task! So far everything is just sitting in position not actually bonded together.

This kit came with hi temp mortar to mix and fill all the gaps in the joints. You apply this liberally and its fine for it to be rough and uneven because it won’t show.  After the mortar dries you wrap it with several layers of and insulating blanket. Wrap that with wire and apply stucco over the whole outside.

After several days of low temperature curing fires you are ready to cook something, so it had to be pizza.

Here it is all finished and painted.

Besides pizza we’ve made kabobs, cookies, breads, steaks, chicken, beans and BBQ. The pizza cooking temp is about 600 degrees Fahrenheit and the oven holds its temperature really well. My favorite thing to do is cook pizza one day, shut the oven up and let it sit until the next day, then put on a brisket to slow cook. The temp will usually start around 350 from the day before then cool through the afternoon to 220 or so. Man! That makes the most tender brisket I’ve ever eaten.

Happy trails!


Back Yard Chickens

We decided to get some broiler chicks this year so I wanted to make a new pen to raise them in. I wanted something I could move around to help control the squash bugs and grasshoppers that always feast on our garden and give the chickens fresh grass every few days. Between the coyotes, the dog and the cats I don’t thick we can let them out to be true “free range” birds so this is the next best thing.

I got some 2-7/8” pipe for the base and skids so I could drag it around with the tractor.

I welded 1-1/2” square tubing on top of that and put a floor in the house part.

I put plywood on the floor and used OSB on the walls. I just cut out a chicken door for access to the out yard.

I went ahead and built nests because we planned to get a few new laying hens as well. I learned from my old nests to slant the top or they will roost on it.

I used hardware cloth because I’ve had problems in the past with predators getting through chicken wire.

I ran a string through to the back side that opens and closes the chicken door. You definitely want to shut them up at night!

I went ahead and put a storm door on it so I could open the window and get air flow through the house.

You need a good quality paint on OSB because it won’t stand up to moisture on its own.
I’ll write a post about raising the chicks later but the most important lesson I’ve learned so far is to get your temperature regulated a few days before your chicks arrive. I didn’t and I had quite a time the first 24 hours. Luckily I bought good healthy chicks and they are quite resilient because it got cold and windy and I didn’t have enough heat to begin with.

Happy Trails!


Making A Western Buckle

I wanted to make a new buckle set a while back because I had never tried something like that before. I had seen a lot of buckles that I liked and I had a silver buckle on a thin belt that I really liked. The one thing I don’t care for is a buckle with a tongue that bends and pulls the leather out of shape in the belt.

I started with a sheared square of 10 gauge mild steel.

Next I traced the basic shape that I wanted and cut that out roughly on a band saw.

Then I cut and bent the keeper, I just clamped it in a vice and bent it with a hammer.

Next I picked an appropriate sized rod and welded the parts that hook to the belt on the back of the buckle. I actually braised these in place.

Then came the hard part, cutting the brass plate to overlay on the buckle. I printed the letters out on mailing labels and stuck them to the brass and the cut around them by hand with a jewelers saw. That is pretty tedious work. After they were rough cut I got a really small file and filed everything to size.

Next I soldered the brass to the steel plate trying to keep everything straight. After soldering I dipped it in acid to loosen all the slag from the flux and buffed it with a wire wheel.

I actually used a fabric buffer to get the wire marks out of the brass and smooth it up a bit.

Finally I applied an antique finish used for finishing out gun barrels called gun brown. You just apply as many coats as you like to get the color you want. Then buffed it all out with some really fine grit polish on my buffing wheel. Next time I’ll try silver but I wasn’t sure about how all this would go on the first try.


Memory Table

Have you ever had an animal that that you were extremely close to? A horse or a pet of some kind? If so chances are that you have lost one as well. I bought a horse over 20 years ago that really wasn’t much to look at but he was small and had a kind eye and I thought he would be good for my son to learn to ride on. It turns out he was a great horse! Not only did my son learn to ride on him but the whole family and nieces and nephews all had some time with this horse. His name was Dave although I can’t remember if that was his name when we got him or if we named him? You could gather cattle on Dave and sort them. You could ride trails and cross deep water. You could pack on him and he would stay put when you hobbled him. When the kids would ride him every now and then the saddle would get loose or they would be half asleep and start to lean to one side, Dave would walk his hind end over to get back underneath the saddle and keep the kid from falling.

After having the privilege to have Dave in our family for a number of years we lost him a while back. We weren’t certain exactly how old he was but somewhere around 25 which is a long life for a horse. This was really emotional for all of us and I wanted to do something to remember him by. You know how it is when you see someone after you know they have lost something close like Dave. It’s awkward, you are not sure if you should say anything or not. If you decide not to, then you always wonder if you should have? If you decide to your not sure exactly what to say?

I decided to build a table that is dedicated to Dave. I put a picture of him on it that is under the finish so it is a permanent part of the table. I used solid oak hardwood and made it old style with no nails or screws. It’s built like he was, not real fancy but solid and true. It turned out really nice.



The best thing about it is when someone comes over its a great conversation starter, even if they didn’t know Dave when they see the table its likely to spark a comment or a question and I get to share my story with them. If they did know him it will bring back a memory that they have and I might not even have known about which is really cool.


Big Bale Flaker

I started feeding big square bales of alfalfa for my winter protein instead of cubes or grain. I think the cows do better on it, and if you shop around it will cost you less than cubes for the protein. The problem with these bales is that they are 4x4x8 feet in size and they weigh about 2,000 pounds. When you cut the strings and drive over rough ground they tend to fall apart. The first year I would climb on the back of the truck and pry off one flake at a time. Then I’d pull up and repeat the process til all the cows were fed in that pasture, tie the strings back around the remainder of the bale, and go to the next pasture. This got old pretty quick. That summer I started thinking about how I could automate the process some, and I came up with a flaker that pulls the bale forward to the edge of the truck with an electric wench from a control inside the cab. Then I added an arm that is run by a cylinder powered by my Hydrabed that comes into the bale and flakes off whatever size blocks you need. This arm also acts as a stabilizer to hold the bale together while you are driving to and from the feeding areas. I had to tweak a few things about it as always, but it really works well. If you don’t have a hydraulic bale bed, I think the flaker could be made to run off a self contained unit fairly easily.