It has been an incredibly busy time here on our survival retreat. We got more done over the weekend than we normally do in an entire week. Our tribe rocks! Ok, well, rocked before getting a brand new excavator (that only had 17 hours on it) stuck in the mud.
In addition to building new roads into the woods to reach more downed trees to cut up for firewood, we also dug out around the pole barn to prevent the hillside from collapsing the back wall.
I split my time between supervising them for safety purposes – even intelligent preppers can still act like little boys when they have big toys to play with, and completing a project of my own.
As I have noted in some previous weekly posts, we are finally starting to work on the inside of our home. The walls were painted and flooring installed over the concrete floors months ago, but that was about it. There were simply too many home and property repairs that needed done in addition to making our 56-acre fixer upper dreamland fully functional, to mess with home decor.
Y’all saw my cool new cabinets for prep storage and general storage last week. This week we made great use of materials we already had in our junque piles. I am now a firm believer (partially thanks to Pinterest) that plywood is a vastly underrated project material.
I not only wanted, but needed new countertops. The ones that came with this house were junky fake butcher block laminate that were circa 1986. They were not longer attached well around the sink, and deteriorating.
Instead of spending money that could be better spent elsewhere (like for preps) on new store bought countertops, I decided to make my own. They turned out great and only cost me $11 total – for wood stain. If I had needed to purchase the plywood it would have been $17 for a half-inch sheet at the local Jerry’s Do It Hardware. The poly clear coat would have cost me $12, but I had a nearly full can and a spare.
This photo above shows one of the plywood countertops that has been cut to fit and has the exposed edge rounded to prevent little ones from poking an eye out and adults from knocking a hip on it going around the corner to the bathroom.
One of the guys cut and rounded the plywood, but I sanded it by hand, applied the stain, and then several layers of clear coat to seal it. Even though the plywood is going to be used inside, I still used the pressure treated version since it would be put in use around water.
The plywood still had multiple ink stamp markings on it from the manufacturer, but even with the need to sand that off, it still only took my about half an hour to hand sand the entire board to make it smooth and attractive.
This is what the ink stamps on the board looked like when they had been sanded on for about five minutes. If you do not get the stamps or any other permanent marker number notations removed, they will show through the stain, even if you use a dark version.
This is why it is so important to sand down the plywood. You can see the difference between the partially sanded side and the raw board:
After sanding the board, I used Bobby’s air compressor to blow off all of the sawdust. Next, I tilted the plywood board up off of the sawhorses into a slant and used a broom to sweep away anymore sawdust. If you do not get all of the sawdust removed, it will show in the clear coat and look just plain awful. If I possessed any patience, I could have gone a step further and hosed the board down and let it dry overnight, but I wanted to have the project completed over the weekend so the countertops could be installed on Monday.
Even cheap plywood will look beautiful when stain is added to bring out the grain in the wood. The prettiest side of this board was the side that had never been sanded upon at all and have five sets of ink markings. I stained the other side of the board to see if I would like it better than I thought, but the knots were far too uniform and it just did not suit – so the sanding continued.
I could not have been happier with the look of my upcycled countertops. Making sure to apply the clear coat evenly and forcing yourself to wait overnight for it to dry completely and not be tacky before the second application, was the only hard part of the entire project:
We use 1x4x8 boards to make a backsplash for the countertops. Except for two pen markings, they did not need to be sanded at all.
We were able to pull more fence boards off of the old corral and the barn that were by and large, still in great shape. Except for a few rotted boards, they can all be re-used to help fence in a hay field to use if for pasture after the last hay cut of the season – which just passed. Putting in a wood post instead of simply pounding a metal T post will be more work, but the metal posts cost about $3 to $4 each and the old boards were completely free.
I wanted a baby gate for the playroom to keep our youngest grandkiddo and others of the one to three year old sect actually in there. Instead of buying a cheaply made gate from Walmart, I dug in the lumber yard and found something that not only is free and will work perfectly, but will look really rustic and cool:
I am a firm believer any time you can save money on one project, there is more money in our prepping budget to buy more long-term survival food, tools, ammo, livestock feed, etc.
My nephew Conner, who is now home from the Marines, truly adapted and overcame an issue in my barn. The mini donkeys have not liked losing their sleeping stall to Pearl and her kids. I had a stall divider put up in the adjacent area, but that was not guide enough to suit. So, we added some more boards to the divider and took it a little taller – but nope, the horses could still stick their heads through or over and the minis were not going to go in there.
So, I told Conner to find whatever scrap he could and closer up all of the opening and take the divider yet another board high. Conner used a combination of chicken wire, high tensile fencing, and hardware cloth – along with some plastic ties. He said in the Marines they never got anything new and learned to make due with what they had. I love free project that function at least as well in reality as they did in theory.
My beloved Bobby surprised me with six ducklings. I just love ducks and their eggs are simply delicious and great for baking. I dehydrate my own eggs instead of buying long-term storage eggs, so the more layers the better.
They are Peking ducks – great layers horrible sitters. Come spring when I am ready to expand the duck flock again I will most likely need to pull out my incubator to get any to hatch. I will share picks of the newest additions next week, we are back in a days of relentless rain cycle at the moment and running down to the coop to snap a picture I can’t believe I hadn’t taken already of my surprise barnyard gift, just isn’t going to happen during the current downpour.
Auddie has become an expert at helping me pick nuts to save. Before my upcycled barnwood cabinets were hung up, she made one of them her little nut cupboard and stacked the nuts neatly inside while counting them and arranging them in small, medium, and large “families” – a great little homeschool preschool lesson that little miss came up with all on her own:
I never knew I had an affinity for knives and axes until a couple of years ago when Bobby bought a bag of goodies from a relative and I spotted this incredibly beautiful, sharp multi-purpose knife.
I am now enamored with Bobby’s Klax Multi-Tool Axe. You can never have enough axes when you live rural or are a prepper, in my opinion. It is far lighter than a regular axe (or hatchet as we like to call them around here) yet not nearly as heavy as a standard axe.
The KLAX has a multi-tool head with seven different tools. It has a clamping system, a stainless steel axe blade, a gut hook, knife blade, Ulu knife blade, hex wrench set, lanyard hole, bottle opener, hammer head, ruler, and a carabiner. The handle is 15 inches long and incredibly sturdy despite the light weight.
After only about 15 minutes of trying out all of the features on this hatchet that belonged to a tribe member, I had to get online and order one for myself. See how handy all the money I saved on the farm and home projects just became?!
Photo courtesy of FarmandCabin – Tools For Real Life.
This week’s questions:
1. What non-typical applications have you found or might be inspired to try using common plywood?
2. Do you (or would you like to) keep ducks for eggs and meat?
3. What ways do you find to live frugally to save money for preps?
4. What type of axe do you own, want, or how many are stockpiled in your preps?
And…how did you prep this week?