Our Upcycled Pallet Picnic Table

On a hot day in late July, Angie and I were sitting in the pharmacy drive-thru when we spotted the tiniest wooden pallet we’d ever seen. It was leaned next to the building and, for a moment, we were tempted just to grab it. Instead, we talked about all the cool things we could do with such a find – a platform for the outdoor shower we really need to build, new shelves in the garden shed, and on and on we went. Our restraint was rewarded. The very next morning, we found not one, but two, small wooden pallets by our dumpster.

The pallets we found fit perfectly in our tiny car! It’s amazing just how much a Chevy Spark can hold.

With pallets in hand, the idea of making a picnic table was born. Over the past four Saturdays, we’ve worked on our project. The hardest part was breaking the pallets into usable wood; but even this was made easier with a pry bar we purchased at Dollar Tree. Yes, Dollar Tree. For a dollar.

Much harder than it looks on HGTV!

As you’ve probably guessed by now, we had to get a few more pallets to make our picnic table. Until this point, I never knew how easy free pallets were to come by. We scored 2 through an ad on Facebook Marketplace and 3 more by simply asking for them when we went to place an order for flooring (for my mom’s bathroom).

Aside from a compost bin, Angie and I had never built anything together and aside from a hammer we found on the side of the road and a hand saw, we had no woodworking tools either. So we went to Harbor Freight (they have coupons!) and bought a small sander ($13), a reciprocating saw ($19), saw blades ($5), and 2 paint brushes (49 cents each) to assist in our project. We picked up the paint from the clearance rack at Lowe’s (thus the color choices) for $5/quart. Both quarts were exterior paints with WeatherShield, which usually cost $20 or more.

We designed the table as we went along, meaning we made a few mistakes in the process. The 2nd piece of wood at the top edge was one of them. It was pretty but not practical. You can’t put your legs under the table with it there.

So far, we’ve completed just one bench.

As we were working, I couldn’t help but think how pleased my grandpa would have been to see our project. During his lifetime, he rescued more than 1,000 pallets and turned them into porch swings (and a few picnic tables too). In 2008, I wrote a story for the Denver Post about how my grandpa’s love of woodworking has inspired me throughout my life to do only those things that bring me joy. I don’t think there was a day in that man’s life that he was not happy.

Making a picnic table has been more than just a fun project for us. It has been a lesson in resourcefulness and skill building as well. Do I think we could build a tiny house now? Maybe not (yet), but I do think we can do more than we often think we can.

We all can.

#5TF: Family Week

Five Thought Friday Challenge:  Week 6 – July 29 – August 4, 2017

Big Hug!

Angie said that the theme for this week should be “family”. I’m pretty sure Sunday was the only day this week that we didn’t spend with one or more members of our family, either in person, online, or on the phone. We visited with my mom on Saturday, had my niece over for dinner on Tuesday, spent the day with little Ticky on Wednesday, and worked in my mom’s yard yesterday. I also talked to my sister several times and Angie connected with her aunt and grandma to arrange a dinner meet-up during our trip to Niagara Falls in October. She also talked to her mom and swapped old photos with her aunt via Facebook. So yes…I suppose this was Family Week.

One thing I really enjoyed this week was having my niece and the baby over for dinner on Tuesday. It’s been a while since she’s been here. In fact, I think February was probably the last time we shared a meal together. The evening was quite unplanned. They had been swimming all day at the new City water park and their ride back home never showed up so as usual, we were the default backup plan. Instead of being upset by the interruption, we took the opportunity to make sure they had a good meal (with lots of veggies and fruits) before sending them back home. We even took a few minutes to walk to the park after dinner, where Ticky entertained us for a good while going up and down the slides. These impromptu moments of lighthearted conversation and laughter are always a welcome in my book.

Going for a ride-along with the neighbor boys. Looks like Ticky is calling for back-up!

I am grateful that Angie and I were both raised to be confident in my own ability to do things. DIY skills come in very handy when you are trying to be frugal. Last year, my mom spent more than $200 fixing an $800 lawnmower. This year, we decided that was nonsense and we would deal with maintenance and repairs on our own (when possible). While mowing last week, we noticed the cut was uneven. One side was barely topping the grass while the other was scalping it. I fixed it temporarily by adjusting the tire pressure but decided to try realigning the deck for a permanent solution. Thank goodness my mom keeps every manual for everything she ever buys. The adjustment was not too difficult and it made a huge difference in mowing this week. Plus it made me feel good to know that I’d done it on my own. [We’re also grateful for the free Panera bagels again this month.]

I need to let go of measuring our day by the clock. Every day I seem to get stuck at 5 PM. It’s like this position on the clock somehow represents the finish line for the day and I think everything – both necessary and fun – has to be accomplished by that time. For some reason, I think work/play should end by 5 PM and dinner prep should begin, followed by the wind down to bedtime. The only problem with this scenario is that we don’t go to bed until 11 PM so that’s 6 hours of our day in wind down mode. Relaxing is definitely necessary but perhaps it wouldn’t be so necessary if we didn’t try to cram everything we want or need to do into banker’s hours. It’s okay to go to the grocery store at night. It’s okay to take a walk at sunset. It’s okay to take a nap during the day and write in the evening instead. The clock is arbitrary (she says, mostly to remind herself) and it’s okay to simply ignore it from time to time.

The new freezer is almost full!

We made progress on our winter food stash, adding 2 quarts of tomatoes, 4 ears of corn, 4 pints of okra, and 2 quart bags of bell peppers and snack peppers to our freezer. We also took a short 2 mile hike on Sunday and spent the rest of the day scheming up ways to cheapen our fall vacation. So far we’ve decided to camp for the first week and use the free bus passes provided by the campground to get around to all of the attractions in Niagara Falls. The following week, we’re catching a cruise out of NY so if anyone has suggestions on cheap parking in or near the Manhattan cruise port, we’re all ears.

Enjoying her “stolen” ice cream bar.

The funniest thing that happened this week was when Ticky stole Angie’s ice cream bar. Up until that time, we had no idea she even liked ice cream. On the other occasions where we’ve tried to share some with her, she’s turned her head or said no. This time, Angie tried to give her a bite and she took off with the whole bar. She wouldn’t even let go of it to go down the slide! Poor Angie lost her snack. On the upside, Ticky didn’t waste a bit of ice cream. She ate the whole thing with little mess, while somehow managing to simultaneously slide and avoid Nanny’s attempts to chase her around the yard with a wet washcloth.