Category: Power Tools

Counter and Storage and Herbs, Oh My!

The weather has turned cold quickly in the windy city, so I brought my speaker box planter in last weekend, hoping to continue enjoying the thyme, chives and basil that have been doing so well on the porch all summer. Just a few days in my kitchen though and the basil is looking pretty pathetic. I’m guessing he’s not getting nearly enough light.

So I picked up a grow light at the Home Depot and hung it on the wall above the plant. It was functional, but it looked pretty awful. Then Jake and I realized that without much effort or money, we could get a lot more usable space by making this:


We already had the 2-door cabinet on the right – I was able to get the other cabinet from Target and a 15“ melamine shelf cut to size (5.5’) at Home Depot.

I think the herbs will be MUCH happier with this set up.


It’s not the most elegant design, but for $45 we’re getting a ton of extra counter space including a prep station with easy access to a plug – something we had been sorely missing before. Plus, I think it really opens up the kitchen nicely!



Jake and I also got the cabinets for the master bedroom closet from Cabinet World this weekend (2 weeks late, but they look great!) Jake and I installed them in the framing Jake and my dad put up a couple weekends ago. We still need to frame, drywall and trim, but I feel pretty good about the progress we made this weekend!

We took off the cabinet doors to protect them, so this doesn’t look like much, but I swear, big progress has been made!


Zero-Spend Garden (ZSG): 40 sq. ft. for $7

It’s been a while since I’ve shared any progress with you, mostly because I’ve been rehearsing with the hilarious and talented ladies of Size Eight for our raucous performance at last Friday’s Milwaukee Comedy Festival. It was a great performance, but Saturday I was ready to jump back into working on the back yard!

So our latest ZSG project, which we’ve been working slowly but surely on for the last few weeks has been to:
1) Remove the dilapidated chain link fence from the alley side of the wood fence,
2) Remove the scraggly bush from the corner of the lot,
3) Replant the corner post and rearranging the fencing to maximize our yard space.

The red circle in the photo below shows the section of fence we wanted to move.

But the first step was to clean up the alley side of the fence…

Here are some “before” shots of the alley side taken prior to starting:

The ugly chain link fence…

It’s hard to tell from this picture, but the tree has actually grown through the fence…
We used our Sawzall to cut each of the 3 metal posts down as close to the dirt as possible and bought a chain cutter to clip the fence off of the tree. Before we were even half done with the project, some of the local metal collectors had hauled all the poles and chain-link away.

We then cut down, clipped up and bagged the bus​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​h from the corner of the lot…


Once the back was clear, it only took a moment to cut through the nails holding the fence to the posts with the Sawzall.

We set aside the fence pieces and got down to the hardest part of our project – digging up the pole.

Let me just say – that was not fun.

We hadn’t realized when we started the project that the pole was actually planted in cement. We thought we had dug down far enough to confirm it was only stuck in the ground. But we were wrong… so very wrong…

After about an hour of digging, grunting and expelling more than a few strings of expletives, we finally unearthed The Beast…

After some careful measuring, Jake and I took turns chiseling down the excess cement and digging the (significantly smaller) new hole for the corner post.



After we got the pole back in the ground, it was relatively easy to rehang the original fence pieces – though we did have to trim one down a bit.

So…. if you’ll remember here’s what it looked like BEFORE:

And now for the AFTER!

With this change we have gained approximately 40 sq. feet of additional yard space!

The back also looks much nicer:



Total investment: $7 for a chain cutter.
Total gain: 40 Sq. Ft. of yard & a chain cutter.
Summary: Best deal since the Louisiana Purchase.

Next steps: Kill the existing weeds, then till and regrade the yard, then… plant new grass seed!

We’re getting so close to actually having a real backyard, I can almost taste it!

Zero-Spend Garden (ZSG): Back Gate – Before and After


Man-oh-manzie! There is nothing like sore muscles and a sense of real satisfaction to let you know that a holiday weekend was well spent. Jake and I spent most of yesterday in the back yard fixing up our back gate area and adding a small retaining wall to the back planter bed.

Prior to Sunday, the gate had bent hinges and swung outward (when you could get it to swing), awkwardly covering the garbage can you were invariably trying to throw something into. Taking out the trash was a huge hassle – the gate was a pain to get open, you had to haul everything into the alley and get the gate closed before you could get access to the garbage cans and then the gate was a pain to get latched again.

No longer! The gate can now be opened with just one hand, it opens easily into the yard giving you quick access to the garbage cans and it swings smoothly shut, latching with the lightest touch.

You can see the excellent work Jake did adding those cement blocks to widen and even out the walk way at the gate.





We used only materials we found already in the yard including a 4“x6“ post buried in the garden, a 4”x4“ post that used to be part of the fence before it rotted at the base last fall, and bricks and pavers we found under the deck and around the property.

The gate area is in pretty good shape… we still have some work to do to finish up the rest of the planter, but I think we’re off to a really great start!