Building Larder Shelving

Creating a place to store your canned goods is an essential part of making self-sufficiency work. In Fun is Where You Find It! (Part 3) you see one view of the larder shelving we use to store our canned goods in the basement. The shelving has to be built to withstand the weight of the canned goods without sagging. In addition, you want to be able to support part of someone’s weight when they need to regain their footing.

In order to create our shelving, I played with some wood and actually weighted it down to see when it would sag. I then used those assumptions to start designing the shelving and to feed the numbers into the Sagulator. The maximum amount of sag you should be willing to tolerate is 0.01 inch per foot. You need an engineering margin to ensure the shelves will hold up.

Of course, the problem is getting the numbers the Sagulator requires. A typical quart jar of canned goods filled with a liquid weighs 3 pounds. If you make the shelves 24 inches deep using three 1 × 8 boards and create spans of 25 inches, you can store 42 jars per span for a total weight of 126 pounds. Using #2 Douglas fir, you get a sag of 0.01 inch. You must consider the kind of wood that you’re using as part of your calculation and keep refining the measurements until you obtain a setup that works.

You also need to consider the shelf spacing. It’s important to allow finger spacing between the shelves so that someone can reach all the way into the back to retrieve a jar without problem. After a lot of experimentation, I came up with the following shelf spacing:

  • 8 inches for quart jars stacked one high
  • 10 inches for pint jars stacked two high
  • 16 ¾ inches for 5 gallon buckets and canning equipment

To create our new larder shelving, I started with four 2 × 4 supports tied into the ceiling joists. You absolutely don’t want the shelves falling on you, so make sure you use sturdy screws. I relied on 5-inch heavy decking screws that went completely through both the 2 × 4 support and the joist as shown here.

LarderShelving01

Make sure you use at least two sturdy screws to hold each framing member for the shelves for each shelf you create. My shelving ended up being 75 inches long, 24 inches deep, and 84 inches high. The shelving arrangement includes one shelf for five gallon buckets, two shelves for quart jars, and three shelves for pint jars as shown here.

LarderShelving02

Make absolutely certain you keep everything square and level as you build because any deviation will lower the amount of weight the shelving can carry. Each shelf should be tied into every framing member with at least two screws. In this case, that means eight screws per board or 24 screws for each shelf (because there are three 1 × 8 boards used for each shelf).

Because of the shelf heights, you’ll find that you have to insert the screws at an angle. Actually, this is a good way to add the shelving anyway because the screws gain greater purchase in the wood. However, make sure you alternate the direction you screw the screws so that you don’t end up racking the shelving (making it out of square or level). Here is how your screw pattern should look.

LarderShelving03

In this case, the first and third shelves have screws coming in from the right, while the second (center) shelf has them coming in from the left. In the next section, I reversed the direction so that the first and second shelves came in from the left, while the second shelf came in from the right. Alternating directions like this helps make the shelves stronger.

Every shelf should also have a backer board to keep the canned goods from simply falling out the back of the shelf. In this case, I used 1 × 6 boards secured with two screws in each section. The backer boards also provide added strength to the entire unit.

Finally, to keep things from sliding out of either side and to also provide places to put hooks for items we wish to hang, I added end pieces. These end pieces are made from two 1 × 10 and one 1 × 8 boards. Here is how the shelving looked after I finished it (with some items already in place).

LarderShelving04

When building shelving, make sure you take time to ensure that the shelving will actually hold the items you want to put on it. The essential issue is to control sag so that the shelving doesn’t fail in the long term. Let me know your thoughts about larder shelving at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

 

Using a Bleach Substitute

I have become a label commando in recent years. People actually become quite disturbed waiting for me to finish my latest epic reading of a cleaning product or food label. I read everything, including the list of ingredients when I can find one. More importantly, I look for what’s missing on the label. For example, I’m surprised at how many margarine labels refuse to tell me that they don’t contain any cholesterol. Lest you think this is one of those odd fetish requirements—some fish oil tablets actually contain cholesterol. We pay the extra to buy a product that’s labeled cholesterol free (and yes, it does make a difference when the doctor tests your cholesterol).

So I was taken by surprise recently when I read a bleach label. The stuff should be labeled toxic waste and left go at that. The label told me about the dire consequences of using the product, such as permanent damage to my esophagus. Bleach is also a terrible product to use in a house with a septic system because it kills off all of the helpful bacteria in the septic tank and causes the waste to just sit there (possibly flooding your house with a really smelly mess). However, the part about not putting the empty container in the trash or in the recycle bin is what got me most. Just where was I supposed to dispose of the container? It turns out that you’re supposed to take it to a hazardous waste disposal site. A product labeled hazardous waste has no place in my house. (Just consider the fact that many of the foods you buy in the store have been soaked in bleach and you don’t have to think very long about why your food is making you sick.)

Of course, country homes require some means of keeping things clean and getting rid of bacteria, just like anyone else does. It turns out that there is a really good solution and it actually works better than bleach. Most importantly, this solution is pretty much harmless to everyone and everything. You fill up two bottles: one with vinegar and another with hydrogen peroxide. Spray a surface first with the vinegar and second with the hydrogen peroxide and you create a really effective cleaning agent called peracetic acid. The point is to keep the two components separate until you actually need to use them in order to gain a highly effective cleaner that’s a whole lot less harmful than bleach.

What impressed me most is that the combination actually works well on carpets as a stain remover. It’s also much more effective than bleach at getting bathroom grout clean and it works especially well on surfaces with small crevices. Some people do mix the two and add water for use in laundry, but keeping the two chemicals separate is the best way to avoid the potentially toxic qualities of the peracetic acid. As with any cleaner, you do want to use this one with care, but it’s frankly a lot better than using bleach. Let me know your thoughts about this interesting cleaning aid at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

 

Emergency Repairs

A less thrilling part of being self-sufficient is dealing with emergency repairs. They seem to happen far too often. We use our snow blower to remove snow from our long driveway, as well as create paths to the various animal enclosures. It’s in this second capacity that I encountered problems the other day. The snow blower moved in an unexpected manner while working around the chicken coop and the side of the wheel hit the coop stairs. A small pop sounded, but I didn’t really notice. I did notice a few minutes later when the tire deflated and the snow blower was no longer usable .

Trying to blow the tire up with a hand pump didn’t work because the bead had popped. So, that meant putting the snow blower away and continuing snow removal by hand. Four hours later, I finally completed the task with Rebecca’s help. Nothing provides quite as much exercise as four hours worth of snow shoveling in freezing winds, but we also needed to get to town to fix the flat (as well as perform other tasks).

The snow blower is too large and heavy to get into the Explorer. So the obvious course of action was to get the wheel off and take it to our local repair shop. The only problem was getting the wheel off. The bolt holding the wheel in place is designed to provide a tight fit and proved quite resistant to any effort at removal. Blocking the tire would normally provide enough friction to allow removal of the bolt, but that technique didn’t work in this case because the wheel simply turned within the tire. I finally improvised by attaching a large deep reach c-clamp to the wheel, which blocked the wheel and made it possible to gain purchase on the bolt.

At this point, the bolt wouldn’t move at all and penetrating oil (WD-40) wasn’t helping much. I brought out my persuader—which is a length of pipe that I slip over the end of my socket wrench handle to increase the torque I can apply to the bolt. Actually, it isn’t a pipe in the conventional sense. I saved the torsion bar from our old garage door and have cut it into several pieces that I use for a number of tasks, including persuading bolts. Extending the handle of the socket wrench gives you a physical advantage and makes it easier to remove stubborn bolts, but you have to be careful not to break the sockets as a result of using the pipe.

Bolt removed, the wheel still wouldn’t come off. The snow blower shaft is keyed and the wheel fits quite tightly. Unfortunately, working with the front of the wheel wouldn’t accomplish anything because the wheel goes on in that direction. The back of the wheel isn’t easily accessed because the snow blower transmission is in the way. In order to gain access to the back of the wheel, I angled a 2 × 2 over the top of the engine and hit it with a mallet. After a few pounds with the mallet on the end of the 2 × 2, I turned the wheel 90 degrees. Each 360 degrees of movement saw me applying a little more WD-40 to the front and back of the wheel shaft. Eventually, the wheel came off.

Getting the wheel fixed was quick and easy. The local repair shop has a compressor and the tire blew back up without problem after applying a sealant to the bead. The tire is back on the snow blower now and the snow blower is ready for use after today’s snowstorm. The point is that you have to think ahead about the potential for emergency repairs and have a strategy in place for dealing with them. Yes, the approach we used was a bit inconvenient and time consuming, but it did work.

What sorts of emergency repairs do you think about when thinking about self-sufficiency? Do you have contingency plans in place to handle your emergencies? Let me know at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.