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How to Make a Wooden Composting Fence

Wooden composting fence with espalier fruit trees

Ever heard of a composting fence?  If you want to know how to make a composting fence you can click the link below for our first design of a wire mesh composting fence or scroll right on past this intro for our tutorial on making a wooden composting fence.

I discovered the concept of a composting fence a few years back and Adam so kindly surprised me with the construction of a wire mesh composting fence at the previous house.  We could only find a quick reference in an article to what a composting fence’s purpose was and had to figure out how to build it on our own. The wire composting fence was cool, it worked, and we made some awesome instructions and a detailed tutorial on how to build your own composting fence (linked for your convenience).

Fast forward to now: Larger house, looootttttssss of yard waste: As in I have never seen so many sticks, I don’t even understand how the sticks keep appearing level of yard waste… Along side those sticks we have renters as neighbors. The current renters are nice, but they brought some um… interesting… items along with them. I’m not sure who moves an old pile of wood covered in a blue tarp and a large cable antenna hooked to nothing, but they did. I will admit I didn’t really want to see the stuff cause (I’m snotty like that and will pretend I don’t have hardware cloth scraps hanging out in the backyard at the moment). True story, the last renters were arrested in our front yard so I have other reasons than just aesthetics in wanting a bit of a border between the houses. The solution? Wooden Composting Fence 2.0 to the rescue.

Wooden composting fence with espalier fruit trees

Now to the meat for those of you that skipped the introduction:

How to Make a Wooden Composting Fence

There is one important piece you must understand about a composting fence before we continue:

It is meant to SLOWLY compost yard waste. Very dry, mostly carbon material. NOT your food scraps, wet items, etc.

Why? The items in the composting fence break down only at the ground level and never get hot like a nitrogen/carbon balanced compost pile. That being said, it is absolutely great for slowly feeding plantings around the base of the fence. It also takes care of a lot of things you might not put in your compost pile. Larger sticks, roots, lots of leaves, weeds, are all great to throw in there and those tend to take forever in the pile.

Tools and Supplies for a Composting Fence

Let’s just state this right up front: We use copper treated lumber. We have done a lot of research about the dangers and positives of using treated lumber. Not all treated lumber is created the same so we suggest reading the beginning of this article to decide if you want to use treated lumber. For untreated lumber applications I suggest finishing your fence waaaay higher off the ground so none of the boards come close to ground contact, coating your wood in some fashion, using locust or cedar wood, or using our previous design that utilized much less wood and more metal.  Otherwise be ready to replace your wood every few years.

Composting Fence Supplies

The supply list (may contain affiliate links) and directions cover how to make one panel of a wooden composting fence that is 5′ and 7′ wide. The pictured panels range from 5 to 6′ tall and 7′ wide. We built on a sloped lot and stepped them down accordingly over time. We have 7 panels shown in our photos. Why? Because that length covered the neighbors property and allows us to give a good wide spacing to espalier 4 apple trees, 2 peach trees, and 1 plum tree.

  • 2-bags Quikrete: (May not be ncessary to concrete each post if you have hard clay soil and/or you are attaching many posts. If you plan to espalier fruit trees you will need to be able to attach wire and the weight of the trees over time which is why we opted to concrete our posts in.
  • 2-4X6 posts (trust us, you do not want to pay for larger sizes
  • 4-2X4 boards
  • 22 – 8′ Dog Ear Fence Pickets I would suggest buying 2-3 extra in case you break or mis-cut one.
  • 24-3″ screws
  • 130-1.5″ screws
  • Water (Mix with Concrete)

Tools to Build Your Composting Fence

Step One: Post Assembly For Those Blessed with Upper Arm Strength

The first step is to get the posts assembled and in the ground. You are going to need upper arm strength all around, and if you don’t have it (I don’t) then there is equipment you can rent to dig post holes. I will also mention an alternative for post construction for those of us with T-Rex arms.

1. Dig a whole 2-3 feet down. Post holes are best dug wider at the bottom than the top. This keeps the concrete solid in freeze/thaw conditions. You can read more about elegant post holes here. Frankly, we just try to dig them down and level.
2. Assemble your massive post. Here is where I would diverge from the usual directions:

  • Adam, being the manly man, takes the 4X6 post and attaches the 2X4 boards to either side to make a massive with the 3″ screws (4 per board at least)  The final assembled ‘tree trunk’ like post is close to 8″ in width which allows space for pretty large sized yard waste. He could just pick up this giant honking post and position it in the hole.
  • I can barely move the 4×6. If I was doing this by myself (note: I wouldn’t), I would HAVE to place a 4 X 6 post in the dirt and concrete it in. Once it was set I would then add the 2X4’s to either side above the ground level.  So keep in mind how heavy the post gets!

Posts for composting fence

Step Two: Leveling and Setting The Tree Trunk Post

I’m not going to go into details about how to set and level a post because there are a ton of tutorials that already teach this technique better than us.  We pretty much follow this Quikrete tutorial (Written tutorial link here):

Couple things that make this job a bit easier are post levels because it makes getting both levels front to back a snap.  Trust me it is worth the extra money for the ease of leveling.  We also use 2-3 cinder blocks to hold the post in place while it sets.  We had them on hand and found it easier than using boards to hold them because you can make minor adjustments by nudging the blocks slightly.

Final tip:  If you plan on doing a whole long line of panels you will want to do the following.

  1. Dig a small post hole and set a temporary post in dirt only at the end of where you want one straight course of panels. (this could be the end of the fence, where it turns, etc)  You can even use a 2X4.
  2. Tie a string to the temporary post and bring it to the first post you plan to set.
  3. Attach it (we used a screw) around the post so that the string lightly lays along the face of the board on both ends.  This makes sure all your posts are facing the same angle and makes attaching the boards easy!
  4. Concrete your first post and continue down to your second post aligning it to the string as well.
  5. Once you have your Second post close to correct make sure to lay a board on top and make sure the height is level from post to post!

Step 3: Prepping Your Fence Face

If earlier you wondered why the fence pickets are 8′ but the fence panels are around 7′ well here is where you find out the mystery.  You have to cut the dog ear portion of each picket off first.  We used out miter saw to do 4-5 at a time.  After making a nice straight cut you will want to measure how long to make your boards. You have two options:

  • More than one panel: Measure from the end of the first post to the middle of the second post.  Measure in a few places.  If your post is truly straight and level the distance should be the same.  If not you can make micro adjustments on your cuts to get a nice straight line for the next panel.
  • One Panel: Measure edge to edge.  Again measure in a few places to make sure all the lengths are the same.

Cut your boards to the correct length. Each side will need the following:

  • 7- Full sized boards
  • 6- 2″ boards (3 full sized boards)

Total (20 boards! 10 for each side)

After that you will run three of the boards through a table saw to make 6- 2″ pieces. Note: try to find pickets with the least number of knots to run through the table saw.  Those tend to break or kick out.

We hate lumber waste!  We are using the extra 1.5″ to make garden stakes and markers and the extra foot or so to make native bee houses.

Step 4: Attaching the Fence Panels

The composting fence needs lots of light and air to flow through it so that the contents can dry and compact.  No one wants a wet-rotting mess for a fence.  In order to do so you will need space between each board.  There is an easy and hard way to get the space correct.  You can measure in between each board OR you can take some scrap wood and cut 2-3/4″ wide spacers.  Trust us, the spacers are easier!  Two people make this job sooooo much easier.

  1. Take one full sized board and line it up with the edge and top of your first post.  Your partner can do the same with the second post.  Check to see if the edges line up nicely (either at the edge or middle depending on your design)
  2. Use two 1.5″ screws to attached the board to post one
  3. Repeat on post two
  4. Yea!  Your first board is up.  Celebrate with a local brew!  (okay no, you have a bunch more to do)
  5. Take a two inch board and put a spacer underneath the first board to keep a nice 3/4″ space.
  6. Use a single screw to hook both ends
  7. Panic because the middle is sagging like crazy!

Alright don’t panic!  You will take and extra fence picket and attach it to the middle.  Measure down to the ground from the center and cut a picket.  Use two screws to attach it flat in the center of the first board.  Then use your spacer while a partner pushed the 2″ board into place and affix with a screw.

Repeat this process down the entire front of the fence, then continue these directions down the back

NOW: You can celebrate with a brew! And throw in some sticks!

Final Tips & Techniques

  • For more than one panel always measure your lengths front and back.  It can look level, be level, but a slight twist means a few boards might need a little extra or less cut off.
  • If you are stepping a fence down we found stepping down a full and 2″ board makes a nice attractive step down.
  • Don’t forget the boards at the top of the step down will be a lot longer than the ones below
  • When you are done don’t be afraid to add a small board along the bottom if the step down made the height off the ground look… wonky…

Now all you have to do is throw in all your leaves, sticks, and brush!  Our 7 panel composting fence will hold almost 150 cubic feet of yard waste!  Meaning we won’t need to have the city haul off  the brush and leaves our regular compost pile couldn’t handle anymore.

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Reaganskopp 2017 Christmas Tour

Details of candy colored glass ornaments and retro style tree topper for Christmas.

Let me start by saying I’ve done a lot of Christmas tours in the past, both virtual and real life. A lot of them have been more elaborate. But considering that this tour barely even happened, I think you will still find loads of holiday cheer.

I had truly planned on decorating a single tree and being done with it.  Especially, as we are doing some travel that will cut into decoration enjoyment time….  But then I thought about the kids and how this might be the last Christmas McClain believed in Santa Claus and decided to put up some decorations and stockings.  And then Adam found a really cool tinsel tree on special…  And then we decided to have a Christmas party next week…  So yeah, we ended up decorating the whole flipping house.  And since we went to all that trouble why not share a virtual tour?!

SO it all starts with getting a tree.  This year we got smart and planned ahead with a blanket and gloves.  No more resin on all the things!  And yes, for reference you can fit one giant, mother loving, live, tree and six people in a van.

Getting a Christmas Tree


Afterward it was just a case of bringing out the felt woodland Christmas decorations.  Notice how I left all the fiddly parts of Adam getting the live tree in the stand and in the house out?  Meh…  No one cares about that!

I was still in let’s pare down Christmas mode this year so I didn’t go crazy on the garland. But might have gone crazy with the lights.


Traditional red, green, gold, and white decorations complement felt woodland animals Christmas decorations

Over 900 lights to be exact.  I maaaaayyyy also have added another felt Christmas bird (or two) this year.

Felt Christmas bird with felt snow village and rustic glass ornaments

I did get all the stockings up.  So far they have only been knocked off the mantel say… 10,000 times by the kids.

Traditional red and green stockings hung with felt woodland Christmas decorations

We did felt Christmas last year with probably a little more umph, but I think they held up well.  The kids love the little vignettes I set up with the animals; because everyone needs to have felt birds playing chess on their bookcase.

After the felt Christmas tree was up in the main living room it was time to set up the amazing new tinsel tree.  Since it was a skinny tree we thought it would fit perfect in the sitting area in the master bedroom.  Frankly, it kinda became my ‘tacky’ tree.  I don’t actually think it is tacky, I think it spec’tack’ular in all of its retro glory!

We decorated our skinny tinsel tree in bright tinsel with lots of shiny candy colored ornaments.

The boys helped me find that amaze-balls Christmas tree topper in bright retro colors!

Retro tinsel tree topper in bright candy colors

I started by trying to google how to decorate a tinsel tree so I do something classy but it was like once I got started throwing on shiny stuff I couldn’t help myself.  Classy has never been my forte.  There are layers of  tinsel on the tinsel!  Because one can never have too much tinsel.  Then there are glass birds and ornaments in bright candy colors.

Details of candy colored glass ornaments and retro style tree topper for Christmas.

It literally GLOWS at night.

Colorful decorated tinsel tree at night

And because that wasn’t enough I thought why not add more color and set up my favorite colored bottle brush tree collection.

Bottle Brush Tree Collection in bright colors

At that point EVERYONE in the household was in thrall to the flurry of Christmas appearing throughout the house.  There are table runners, and snow globes, my Mother’s fabulous hand made stockings.  These stockings are a labor of L.O.V.E.

Hand embroidered felt stockings with snowman and woodland creatures

Each boy has their own handmade felt Christmas stocking.  All of them are hand pieced, hand beaded, and even hand fringed.  I’ll be honest I wouldn’t have the patience to achieve these, but ‘Granny’ sure did.  Check out the tiny details.

Details of hand embroidered and beaded felt stockings

Since we had gotten this far in the decorating it seemed only fitting to finish it up with out favorite geek-fest: Our Star Wars Christmas Tree.

Last year we created all the ornaments (with how to make handmade Star Wars Ornament tutorial) and this year we added a new R2D2 stocking and some Star Wars inspired apothecary jar.

Our star wars Christmas Tree with BB-8 tree topper

Yep, that is a BB-8 tree topper.  But we try to give props to both sides of the force.

Apothecary jar decorated for Star Wars Christmas with snow and tie fighters.

Oh and lest I forget, we added some more lights!

Details of our Star Wars Christmas trees with handmade ornaments

As you can see we are a big fan of lights at the Reganskopp household or at least I am and Adam seems happy enough to oblige. We hope you enjoyed the virtual Christmas tour and got some inspiration for your own shiny, felted, nerd Christmas.  Merry Christmas from Craft Thyme!

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Upcycling to Make an Adjustable DIY Pulley Light Fixture

Boat cleat used as an anchor for an adjustable pulley light.

When we first moved into our 1927 home in Asheville, one of the first things we noticed was the severe lack of electricity.  Not that electricity was entirely absent, but by today’s standards, there wasn’t much for us to work with.  There were no outlets in any of the bathrooms, bedrooms had two outlets placed in what seemed like after-thought locations, and all rooms (regardless of size) were only wired for a single ceiling or wall light fixture.

Our new master bedroom was easily twice the size of the one we had just moved out of, but the outlet placement and lighting left a little to be desired.  The new master contained what we thought of as a reading/sitting area that sat inside of one of the home’s two front dormers.  The space was roughly 8′ x 8′, and we thought it would make a perfect reading nook with two chairs and a low bookcase.  There was only one problem with the reading nook plan… there was no lighting in the space.  There was however an outlet, and that opened up some possibilities!  We could have put a lamp in the space, but that would have dictated a layout different that what we had envisioned.  Ceiling lighting in that space would have been ideal, but with nothing available, we were forced to get creative. DIY Pulley Light to the rescue.

Our reading niche was dark before we installed a pulley light.

Bring on Craigslist

Always looking for something to upcycle, we immediately turned to Craigslist to see what was being offered up to the masses.  It just so happened that we found someone selling lights from a factory they helped salvage a few months back.  At $20 a pop, they seemed like a good deal, so we made the trip across town to check these babies out.  Suffice to say, after a coat of satin nickel spray paint, they were a perfect fit for the space.

Cream colored bleh lights we found on craigslist before we transformed them into fresh, modern pulley lights.

BUT!  We still had to make them work as ceiling lights….

That’s when we had the brilliant idea to use fancy black/white cloth lamp wire, a nautical rope cleat, and galvanized pulleys to 1) hang the light from the ceiling, 2) make a functional DIY pulley light that could be raised or lowered based on lighting preference.

Painted Craigslist light before finishing the pulley light


Installing a DIY Pulley Light Fixture

The first step to this process is to install your pulleys:

  1. Mark the location on the ceiling from where you want your light to hang.  For us, this was the center of the space.  Make a small, tiny, erasable mark – you won’t be covering it up.
  2. Envisioning what it would be like for your lamp to hang from your pulley, place your pulley to one side of the mark you just made.
  3. If using the model of pulley we used for this project (see above), mark the four holes that you’ll use to mount your pulley to the ceiling.
  4. Install your center pulley!
    1. If mounting into a stud/rafter, go ahead and install your pulley directly.
    2. If mounting into ceiling drywall, we recommend using heavyweight anchors installed as per the manufacturer’s instructions.  (Something like these should do you just fine).   After your anchors are in place, go ahead and install your pulley
  5. Repeat steps 1-4 for Pulley #2, but this time, the pulley should fall near the corner of the ceiling/wall where your outlet lies.

Ceiling mounted pulleys to create an adjustable light.

When your pulleys are in place, go ahead and install your boat cleat:

  1. Mark the location on the wall where you want to be able to access the lamp wire wrapped around the cleat.
  2. Mark the two holes that you’ll use to mount your boat cleat to the wall.
  3. Install your boat cleat!
    1. If mounting into a stud, go ahead and install your cleat directly.
    2. If mounting into drywall, we recommend using drywall anchors installed as per the manufacturer’s instructions.   With your anchors in place, go ahead and install your cleat.

Boat cleat used as an anchor for an adjustable pulley light.

Next, wire/re-wire your light to ensure you have enough length to get you where you need to go:

Our light came with only 3 feet of old, dingy, and yellowed wire still attached.  Needless to say, that wasn’t going to do the job or give us an awesome design for our finished product.  This is where the 20′ of cloth lamp wire comes into play.

  1. Disconnect the the old lamp wire from your light.  This is often easier said than done, but you should be able to access where the wires actually connects to the light socket.  Once removed,
  2. Attach the new lamp wire.
  3. Do NOT install the plug at the other end of the lamp wire.  We’re not ready for that quite yet.

Finally, run your lamp wire through the pulleys, around the cleat, and prepare for awesomeness:

  1. Run the open end of the wire through pulley #1, over to and through pulley #2, and down the wall towards your cleat.
  2. When your light is at the right height, start wrapping the extra length of your cloth lamp wire around the wall cleat.
  3. When you feel that you have enough line around the cleat to raise and lower the light (assuming that you want this functionality), measure out enough slack on the bottom end of the cleat so that you can reach your outlet.
  4. Either cut your lamp wire here or neatly organize the remaining slack.
  5. Install the plug onto the end of your wire.  We find that there is always a wide variety of plugs available at your local big-box home improvement store, and a lot of them have an awesome retro feel!

With the circuit complete, you can now test out your new light creation!

Completed diy pulley light and reading niche

DIY pulley light makes an adujustable light for our reading niche.

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How To Make Galvanized Pipe Curtain Rods

Tee ceiling mount pipe curtain rod

In our previous house we used black iron pipe for almost every single fixture. From pipe curtain rods to toilet paper holders we made them all.  Black iron pipe curtain rods were economical, easy to install, and fit the industrial decor of the previous home.  Once we moved down the street to a 1927 fixer upper we just didn’t feel the black iron was doing it for us.  Still it is hard to beat the price of a pipe curtain rod… Especially when you are looking at putting curtains and blinds over 54 windows (le sigh).  In comes our fancy take on pipe curtain rods with a couple of fresh designs in galvanized (silver) pipe.

Details of galvanized ceiling mount pipe curtain rods

Using galvanized pipe for curtain rods is not quite as economical as black iron, but still a shit-ton better than pre-made curtains rods, especially in the 8+ ft lengths needed.  We originally made replicas of the former pipe curtain rods that you can read about here.  However, it just wasn’t working for the installation and new space.  We needed something more ‘interesting’.  I came up with the random idea to install them from the ceiling.  Adam took that idea and ran with it!  He even came up with a few new end joints.

As typical for us we got most of the fittings from Zoro (affiliate links to follow) and got the actual lengths of pipe custom cut at our local home improvement store.

Supplies T- Connected Ceiling Mount Pipe Curtain Rod

Tee ceiling mount pipe curtain rod

Supplies Curved Ceiling Mount Pipe Curtain Rod

T – Connected Galvanized Pipe Curtain Rod

Step 1

Usually Adam writes these instructions since these pipe curtain rod styles are his creations, but I thought I would take a stab at it.  Plus how often do I get to write about nipples, rods, and elbows?  Ah yeah!

You’ll need to make two brackets to hold your rod.

  1. Connect a nipple to a flange.
  2. Connect a tee to the other side of the nipple.
  3. Hand-tighten everything

Step 2

Install one of the brackets in position from the ceiling.  Use appropriate fasteners.  We were able to hook into the lathe behind the plaster, but I highly suggest at least one or two drywall anchors meant to hold a lot of weight.  Maybe that is because we have small kids and I just picture them hanging on the curtains regularly…

If you are working solo then mount both brackets, measure, and try to line everything up so you can simply slide your rod into place when done. There is a little wiggle room on the brackets but you need to try to get them the same distance away from the wall and left/right from the window.

If you have two people it can be easier to mount one bracket where you want it and slide the rod with second bracket into place, then have your helper mount the second bracket.  It is a lot easier to measure the distance from your window in multiple places when the rod is already in.  (Insert giggles about rods)

Step 3

Slide the rod in to make sure you mounted everything correctly then back out one side and put your curtains on.  Then cap both ends.  Before you ask, yes, they will shift a bit in the bracket.  It has never bothered me.  When I open the right side it shifts right, then it goes right back to center when I open the left.  If you really hate the shifting aspect you could glue them in place (Use some construction adhesive meant for metal) or follow design option #2.

Galvanized pipe curtain rod

Ceiling Mounted Curved Pipe Curtain Rod

Step 1

Just like previously, you’ll need to make two brackets to hold your rod.

  1. Connect a nipple to a flange.
  2. Connect an elbow to the other side of the nipple.
  3. Hand-tighten everything

Step 2

This is where the assembly differs, step 2 & 3 get combined into one arm weakening installation.  Frankly although it adds a bit in installation time we highly suggest giving your galvanized pipe curtain rod a test fit.  This entails assembling the whole rod, sans curtain. To assemble simply put your elbows brackets on both ends of your rod.

You will likely need a helper at this point to help hold the curtain rod to the ceiling.  We checked to make sure we were centered with the windows and marked our mounting holes.  You can just go balls out if you like and do the next steps without a dry run, but I think you’ll be happier with the outcome if you test the assembly out first.

Then the fun begins! You will need to take one elbow bracket off put and put your curtains on the rod.  Then screw the bracket back in place assembling the whole thing completely.  Yes, now you will need to lift the whole mother-trucker into place, while not yelling at your spouse helper, and mount it.  While not horrifically heavy, you are still going to want to get that portion over quickly.

Galvanized pipe curtain rods and pulley light

After that you can stand back and admire your handiwork!  Oh yeah, that really is a fabulous DIY pulley light we will be showing you soon!

How to Make Ceiling Mount Pipe Curtain Rods


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Replacement Windows, The Finished Project Before and After

1927 house after replacing 52 windows

If you have been following along with our vinyl replacement window saga than you are probably more than ready to see the final product.  Here are some shots of what it looks like to have 52 original single hung windows replaced with new vinyl casement windows.  If you are interested in the process of having replacement windows installed you can read all about the process in the below pages.  Hopefully, all the information provided will allow you to circumvent some of the issues we had with installation of our replacement windows.

Oh and for full disclosure.  We paid for all of this work ourselves.  I am solely providing this information to help others out.  Home renovation is scary and costly at the best of times.  I wish I had some of this knowledge before going in on a major renovation like replacement windows for the first time in one unbiased place.

Everything You Need to Know About Replacement Windows: An Intro Primer

What to Expect When Installing Replacement Windows

Replacement Window Installation: The Actual Process

Capping A Metal Alternative to Finishing your Windows: Got Lead? Got Ugly? Capping Can Help

So now that you have heard all about the process of replacement windows it is time to actually see them in action!

Bam! Before & After

Before and after of vinyl replacement windowsYes, that is two of the 52 replacement windows in all of its finished glory.

And here is a nice set on the front porch

Replacement windows with metal capping for looks and lead safety.

Oh and it looks good from the interior too!

Follow our guide to have smooth vinyl replacement window installation.
I think it modernizes the house!  Which was great but also increased out tax value :(.  This picture is from our local paper by Maddy Jones.  You can see the article at the Citizen Times Website. While the increased taxes made us sad the lack of drafts and the crisp modern look was worth all the effort!