Terrific Broth

Beijinger in Denver | 北京人在丹佛

Tag: Backyard (Page 1 of 4)

Setting Up Our Compost


Composting is now in full force at our ranch! We had composted when living in North Carolina and it was pretty easy. We mostly did the trench bury method, with a bit of help from a tumbling composter. It reduced our food waste so much and we were so hooked. As soon as we moved in our ranch, I asked Slav to keep the grass clippings for composting.

Decide the location of our compost bins

We kept our compost bins in mind while working on our shed (here, here, here, and here). Slav got rid of all the bushes around the shed and leveled the ground at the back, leaving plenty of room for wheel barrel to go around and compost bins.


We want the compost bins to be tucked away from our views. From our back patio and most of the yard, we cannot see the back and the right side of the shed, making them ideal locations.



You can probably tell by the way we painted the shed where the compost bins would go. Yes, they will be set up at the back of the shed. We need some covered firewood storage. The rake (part of the roof overhanging at gable end) of the shed is longer than the eaves (part of the roof overhanging the back walls). The back is also longer for us to set up multiple compost bins.

Our compost bins

We got this Rubbermaid bin from one of our many trips to Habitat for Humanity.


This compost bin has an awesome design. It is 3′ long, 2’8″ wide and about 2′ tall on the sides. It is made with hollow plastic walls that are 2″ thick,  making the inside ~18 Cu Ft capacity. There are six plastic pieces: two on the top and four sides. It has holes all around near the bottom for drainage and ventilation, but these holes are not big enough for rodent to get inside. One side panel has a small detachable piece at the bottom to make removing the finished compost easier.


I loved the design but unfortunately, this compost bin has been discontinued. Luckily, I spotted another one on Craigslist soon after and snapped it right away. Now I have two of them! The new one has lost its color on the top pieces, but it is still strong and fully functional.


You can see our old window well there too. I plan to use it as a temporary storage for yard waste so I can add them in layers.

What to compost – C/N ratio is the key

As you might already know, composting needs both carbon-rich materials, such as paper and dry leaves, and nitrogen-rich materials, such as coffee ground and kitchen scrapes. The image below is an easy reference for what you can compost:


What lots of us do not know, is how to balance the ratio of the carbon vs nitrogen. Too much nitrogen rich material leads to rotten compost piles and terrible smell, while too much carbon makes a dry and inactive pile which takes forever to break down. The right ratio is about 30:1 of carbon to nitrogen (C/N), and all the stuff we usually put in the compost bins already have an internal C/N ratio that we need to factor in. Here is a handy list for estimated C/N ratio for commonly composted items. You can see that fresh glass clippings already have a 20:1 C/N ratio, so does food scraps. Since we have mostly glass clippings and kitchen waste, my compost bins need more “brown” materials.

We have lots of cardboard boxes and egg cartons in hand. So they will be stored in the trash can we place in the shed until they are layered in the bins. This is also where the “window well” container comes in handy – we can dry fresh glass clippings before putting them into the bins to increases their C/N ratio.


Setting up the bins

I assembled both bins and put them along the back of the shed. I made sure that the detachable piece at the bottom of each shed faces outside (the right compost bin has it on the right side and the left bin has it on the left side), so I can remove finished compost without working in between the bins.


The window wells are pieced together in the middle for extra glass clippings:


It is recommended to build “layers” when composting, like this:


Our compost bins do not have a bottom and sit directly on dirt. At my first layer, I put down some cardboard boxes. They do compost, but I mainly put them there to prevent rodents from getting into the bins:




Then I started layering in the compost bins on the left. First came dried grass clippings:


Then a layer of food waste. Since my glass clippings was not as dry as I would like it to be, I did not add too much food waste:


I then covered the food waste with more grass clippings and kept building my pile, until it was about 2 ft tall:


Then watered it down:


Putting the lid on and the left bin is set! This bin consumed all of our food waste and half glass clippings. The next step is to keep it wet and turn it a couple times a month. I am not gonna add anything new into this bin, since adding new material will make the breaking done process waaaay longer. Since I have two bins, I will add new material slowly into the right one while this one is cooking. Hopefully this one will be done by the time I fill up the right bin!

Stacking our firewood

Once the compost set up is finished, I turned my attention to the firewood piling up among the fence. Denver is sunny most of the time but still rains occasionally. We would like to protect our firewood from rain by stacking them under the gable of the shed.


Remember the right side of the shed we reserved for these firewood?


This is how it looks like now:


With the shed painted and organized, the compost bins set, and the firewood stacked, my internal OCD is 100% satisfied – I now have the most organized shed, the coolest compost operation, and the prettiest firewood stash in the Highlands! Now we just need the compost to work!

The Shed Revolution Vlog – Adding Bottom Trims and Finishing the Shed

Hey you! Happy hump day! This post is about the finial product of our finished shed and I cannot help but loading this post with videos and pictures. The Shed renovation started shortly after we moved in, in the beginning of July! It feels great to finally wrap it up.

Yesterday I left you with an almost-painted shed (stenciled on three sides) and an almost-organized interior (need to hang some tools):



With the back of our shed primed but not painted:


We almost ran out of brown paint after stenciled the front and the two sides of the shed. So Slav suggested to paint the back with whatever exterior paint we had on hand since the back of the shed is hidden (you cannot see the back side of the shed unless you walk behind it). We happen to have some green paint, With the view from the back of the shed being our green backyard, it actually works better from this angle.

Being on the home stretch,  we were so pumped to get the shed finished. We got up super early on Saturday and got to work TOGETHER. I was very excited to finally work with Slav – we usually work in turns on any given project to take care of different stages of work.  For example, with this shed, Slav did the demo, I power-washed. Slav put up the sidings and trims, I painted. Somehow working together makes this Saturday feel special. 🙂

Here is the start of our day:

We got the same cedar wood used for other trims, as well as one 8-ft long 2×4 for hanging tools inside the shed – all explained in this video.

The trims needed to be sandwiched in between vertical trims, so I marked all of them to remember where to cut, while Slav went out for new blades for our miter saw:

As a newbie, I marked all the trims without considering the 1/8″ loss due to the use of the miter saw. Oops! Thankfully Slav double checked and I quickly remarked all the pieces.

Since this is our first time using miter saw, we started by cutting the 2×4 to warm up. Slav installed them in between the vertical studs; and I put some nails to hold up the gardening tools. It turned out nicely and really saved some floor space.


See the finished interior (!) in this video:

The small stripe of wood next to the door will be used to hold seed packages:


It was installed on the left side of the door, next to the white shelving unit:


And the black unit neighbors the garden tools:


I broke out my paint roller again and half an hour later, our shed had its bottom trim primed and installed:


I followed with my paint brush and the last bit of brown paint on the bottom trims, and at the last minute, we decided to paint the exposed roof rafters as well. I think it made the shed look more coherent.


This is Shed Sloniowski, in its glory:


We painted the entire back of the shed green:


In person the green looks a lot darker, more like the forest green and very grounded. This side of the shed is always in shade so my camera insisted on over-exposing it.


Here you have it, our new shed! After seeing it half-way done for weeks, it felt sooo good to have a finished product. Now it is complete, we already started thinking about adding compost bins and firewood storage. This corner will soon become the most productive site of our whole yard!


The Shed Revolution Vlog – Painting the Shed and Adding Storage

Happy Labor Day, Everyone! With open arms, I welcomed my first long weekend since working full-time again. Slav has some work to do and it is hot outside (98F during the day), so I decided to completely hibernate in our air-conditioned rooms and take lots of naps. I love doing renovation projects and seeing things improve in my hands, but in a hot day like this, blogging about the work we did from air-conditioned room is waaaay more preferable. 🙂

Refreshing our garden shed is tedious work – all the materials are oversized and heavy, lots of surfaces make everything take longer, and Colorado sun does not make outdoor work more pleasant. However, what had stopped us from finishing the shed renovation during the past two weeks was not too much sun, but too little. It has been raining everyday in the afternoon, just enough to make the bottom of the shed a bit damp. We did not want to paint the shed in such condition that the paint seals the moisture inside the siding. So we waited while trying to complete as much as possible indoors.

One thing we did during these two weeks was to figure out paint colors for the shed. Initially Slav wanted a red shed with white trims – a standard farm-ish color combo. So I went to Lowe’s and got a few dozen of red color swatches. We both sank into the terrible “design decision paralysis” and neither of us dared to pick the final color, not to mention that there were still a few dozens of white color choices for the trim…

The major dilemma was that we wanted the shed to look good, but we did not want it to stand out. The shed was sitting at a far corner of our yard, neighboring some trees and the brown back fencing. Painting it bright red will inevitably bring too much attention to it. The current pressure-treated plywood (without paint) actually blends very well with the oil-treated cedar fencing. But we did not want to spend $100 on paint only to cover the entire shed the same brown as the color of the plywood.


Then I had an idea – why not do a brown stencil? We have a birch tree stencil that we used in our NC apartment and loved it. This stencil highlights the tree stems opposed to foliage,which should help the shed to blend in vertical fencing and tree branches.


This is the wall we painted with the birch tree stencil in our NC apartment. We picked a lighter shade than our sofa and it made the room so vibrant. Coming up with this idea was like a light bulb went on. It made us excited about painting the shed for the first time and just gave us such enthusiasm that we did not have before with other colors.

We decided to use a brown-cream color combination with the stencil on the shed, with a brown that is close to the fence color. So Lowe’s I went again. I have been visiting the paint desk in our local Lowe’s on average once a week. The staff there asked me “did you decided on which red” when she saw me. LOL. We both laughed when I told her that I needed brown paint – Ha! I wanted the brown to be more chocolaty, opposed the ones that are too earthy and too red. What I brought home in the end: “universal lumber” brown for the tree stems, and “cream in my coffee” for the background.


This is how they look like overlapping:


I was not 100% sure about the color. So staffs in Lowe’s put a drop of darker brown on top of the cream color when they mixed my paint order, so I can see how the two colors interact when they are on top of each other. It is this kind of detail makes me going back to Lowe’s over and over again.


Since the stencil covers the background and has openings shaped like the tree stems, I needed more “cream in my coffee” than “universal lumber”. The way it works is to paint the entire surface “cream in my coffee” (background) first, then stencil it over using “universal lumber” to get the tree stems. I also wanted to seal the shed really well with two coats of outdoor primer/sealer, so I got half gallons of “universal lumber”, one gallons of “cream in my coffee”, and two gallons of outdoor primer/sealer.


Attacked by vicious dogs while taking the photo – I was pushed down on the ground and my face was violently licked:


As soon as we had three sunny days in row, I got to work with my new paint sprayer. The two coats of primes were up lighting fast! The Wagner 590 has a 50 oz paint can attached to it. For our 8’x 11′ x 9′ shed, I only reloaded once (100 oz total) for a complete coat. So it went relatively fast.


It was an arm exercise though: 50 oz of paint is not light and I had to hold the sprayer up and move slowly and steadily across my path. It was just manageable for me with this amount of surface. For a garage of a few rooms, I would choose an air-pressure feed sprayer.

I used up rest of the primer on the trims. They were laid on some scrap wood in the garage and I just rolled all of them two coats with a roller.



One tricky detail about painting the trims was that they were all cut to custom-fit a specific corner or to cover a specific place on the shed. Slav labeled all of them exactly where they needed to be. I used my beloved label maker to make sure that the information was not lost.


After the primer dried on the shed and the trims, Slav put the trims up. The shed immediately looked more polished.


The afternoon shade of trees on the shed is so pretty and made me confident that the stencil would work well.


Annnnnd – this is the shed painted! I rolled the top panels and faces of the trims first, followed by stenciling all around, and finished by brushing the side of the trims and corners at the end.


I am not gonna lie. Working with large size of stencil is a lot of work. It took me three evenings to finish painting – I think it was about 8 hours. We did our last stencil wall painting together and it was a very smooth wall, so it did not take more than a few hours. But this time around, Slav had to work so I flew solo. With no one holding the stencil up, it was hard to tape it down perfectly straight. And once it was taped down, it wanted to slide down as soon as you put pressure on it with a roller. There was so much paint accumulated on the stencil so quickly, which add the weight and made the edge blurry. So I had to pause and clean it every an hour or so. When I finished the front and two sides, I was visibly tired and we were running really low on the brown color. So Slav said, “let us just paint the back a solid color. We have so much exterior paint in green and it will blend in better into our grass looking from the other side”. Boy I was so relieved!


But we absolutely love how the stencil turned out. It adds so much more interest on the shed than any solid color, yet it makes the shed disappearing when it gets dark outside like a camouflage. Slav definitely adores it, which by itself made all the work worthwhile. He wasn’t sure about the colors I picked at the beginning, but once it was done he was like “this looks great, babe!” He carefully put on the doors on after all the paint was dried, stepped back, took a long look at the shed, and nodded with smile on his face. I could not be more proud! 🙂

As soon as the outside was done and the door was put in place, we started setting up the inside storage. The biggest reason for refreshing this shed, instead of just demoing it, is to have our gardening tools stored here. This shed is a lot closer to our future vegetable beds than the garage, and we want to keep gardening stuff separated from Slav’s car work area for the sake of cleanness.

I’ve showed you the storage plans, with shelves on the left, lawn mower in the middle, and long-handled gardening tools hanging on the wall:


It turned out that wooden shelves would come out very expensive – at least $100 for just the wood alone, and a lot more with brackets, screws, and paint. Slav found a discounted plastic shelving unit in the Habitat for Humanity store for $10 (in white), which is too good of a price to pass. So we decided just to do plastic shelving for the shed. We completed this side of the shed with a similar shelving unit from Lowe’s (in black):


They are both pretty steady and work just fine. For $45 total they are totally worth it compared to >$100 worth materials and hours of building time.

It turned out we did not have any extra lumber in hand, so we nixed the wood storage frame idea in the right corner. Our shovels and racks are waiting patiently for their final placement:


I filmed a short video to show you the inside and what we ended up storing here (the Christmas tree did not make it here). Enjoy!

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