permaculture, the garden project

From pallets to shed

I spent much of February slowly constructing a shed (more of a tool cupboard, really; our garden is very small) from deconstructed pallets.

The first step was to measure up (my shed was 80cm x 60cm in footprint, and spade-height-plus-a-bit in height) and cut the pallet planks to size. I think I used about 2.5 pallets, and a hand-held circular saw (very very useful to speed things up).

I also needed four lengths of 2×2, one per corner, to attach the planks to. My design called for a sloping roof (so the rain runs off), so required two shorter lengths for the back, and two longer for the front. I nailed the back planks to the shorter lengths, and each set of side planks to one of the longer lengths (so at this point the side planks were braced only at one end).



The back wall, screwed into its 2×2 bracing at both ends of the planks.



One of the sides, with only one end braced. Note that its 2×2 rises above the planks; this is because it needed a triangular piece of planking attached later to allow for the slope of the roof.

The next step was to screw the loose ends of each side piece to the 2×2 bracing of the back piece.



Shed with three sides. Note again the space at the top of each side for a triangular piece. (Apologies for the sun flare in the photo!)



Shed corners screwed together.

I measured, cut, and attached triangular pieces for the top of each side (no photos, sorry). For the roof, I cut a piece of plywood which overlapped the sides by about 4-5cm in each direction. I intended to cover this with some thick black plastic left behind by our kitchen fitters, but my Dad came up instead with a roll of roof felt from in his garage, so I was able to do a more professional-looking (and longer-lasting!) job with that, roofing glue, and some roofing nails. Before covering the roof, I screwed in a batten at the back to keep it from sliding off.



The batten on the underside of the roof, and the roofing nails keeping the felt down. The felt was glued down on the topside of the roof.

Since installation, I’ve added a couple of battens at the front to keep it square and to brace the roof.

It still lacks a door (I’m on the look out for some large enough plywood), and at some point I will use a couple of L-shaped metal bits to attach the roof, rather than using bricks to hold it down. But as of now, it does the required job, and, given the high percentage of reused materials, for minimal financial or environmental cost. I’m also kind of proud that I built it at 38 weeks pregnant!

food

Experiments in free(ish) jelly

It’s been a fantastic year for berries, so I decided the time had come to experiment with rosehip and hawthorn jellies.

Finding a sufficiency of rosehips and haws to cook up was straightforward; half an hour in the local park with a shopping-bag produced enough for a small jar’s worth each of rosehip and hawthorn jelly. I took maybe a third, and left the rest for the birds. There’s plenty I can’t reach, anyway.

My first attempt at rosehip jelly turned out more like a cross between jelly and syrup. Rosehips don’t have much pectin, but I didn’t have any to hand, so I threw some lemon juice in, and relied on boiling it down to get it to setting-point. This was probably the root of the problem. It was also a little too sweet (at 1 lb sugar to 1 pt juice).

My first attempt at hawthorn jelly turned into hawthorn toffee instead, and had to be boiled back out of the jar. Haws do have plenty of pectin, but more importantly, there was a small quantity to start with (so easier to make mistakes), and I got involved with something else and went slightly too long without checking on it. It was very tasty, though (at 0.75 lb sugar to 1 pt juice).

Last weekend, I had another go at rosehip jelly, but with a double-handful of haws in to provide the pectin. Initial tastings indicate that it’s done fairly well, although I thought I might have detected a slight underlying bitterness. I’ll see what happens when I finish the test-jellies and open one of the jars.

Basic recipe:
– Pick over the hips or haws. In theory you should pick off all the twig parts, but I only took out the worst of them, on the grounds that it gets sieved anyway.
– Put into a pan, and cover generously with water. Boil for a while, mashing with a potato masher after 10 min or so.
– Strain through a jelly bag (or a muslin cloth) after about 30 min. If you leave the bag to drip, the jelly will be clear, but you’ll have less of it. I always squeeze, myself. If you haven’t got time to finish the job today, you can put the juice in the fridge overnight at this point.
– Put the juice into a pan with 0.8 lb sugar to 1 pt juice (this is my current ratio; experiment according to the sweetness of your tooth). Rosehips need either added pectin, or pectin-containing sugar.
– Bring to a boil and simmer until it sets. Test for setting by spooning a dab onto a plate and leaving it for a minute. Pull your finger across the dab, and if it wrinkles, it’s good to go.
– Put into sterilised jars (sterilise by washing with hot water and putting in a 100deg oven until dry, after which you must REMEMBER THAT THEY ARE HOT), put a jam paper circle over the top, and screw on the lid.
– Label once cool.

(It’s only free-ish because the sugar costs money.)