2008 is the year of the frog. At present 50% of 6000 described amphibian species are threatened with extinction.
Amphibians play a vital role in the ecosystem and because of their sensitivity to pollutants and environmental change they can be considered primary environmental indicators - a bit like the canaries employed in coal mines as advance indication of gases toxic to miners. The effects that environmental conditions are having on amphibian populations around the world can be extrapolated to the effects these worsening conditions will have on our own health and wellbeing. You can find out more about the Amphibian Ark Global Campaign and their efforts to redress the amphibian extinction crisis at http://www.amphibianark.org/
This is a project that will not only prevent viable timber going to landfill, but will create two frog or toad shelters and a sizeable trough in which to establish a veritable mini potager (and not a English oak turned wooden string holder, or vintage terracotta pot in sight! luvly jubbly. )
PLEASE NOTE (before comencing): FOR BOTH THE WELL BEING OF THE FROGS AND YOURSELF YOU ARE COMMITED TO USING ORGANIC METHODS OF GARDENING. THAT MEANS FOR INSTANCE USING ORGANIC COMPOST, NOT USING TOXIC SLUG PELLETS (usually Metaldehyde or methiocarb) OR CHEMICAL PLANT FOOD OR WEED KILLERS. YOU CAN FOR INSTANCE USE A LIQUID SEAWEED PLANT FOOD SO LONG AS YOU DILUTE IT CORRECTLY.
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Step 1: Checklist
You will need:
Materials for one planter:
1. two wooden pallets
2. twelve timber angle brackets
3. optional: two pieces 6mm thick plywood offcut approximately 21cm x 30cm
4. self tapping screws & round wire nails of various lengths . I found the 50 & 75mm to be the most useful lengths, go to your local builders' merchant, rather than a DIY store, where you can purchase a bag of mixed sizes per weight. My favourite builder's merchant sells nails by the scoop, screws by the piece and parcels them up in newspaper doing away with all the point of sale PVC packaging.
5. wood glue
6. acrylic paint, white spirit
1. eye protectors
2. protective gloves (your choice whether it is more sensible for you to work with or without wearing them.)
5. vice grips
6. hand saw
7. fret saw
8. measuring tape & pencil
9. fine guage paint brush
Step 2: Measure Twice, Cut Once
Following the schematic below, assess how you are going to break up your pallets keeping in mind that you need to build the four side panels and the floor of the trough with minimal effort and wastage.
Step 3: Breaking Down the Pallets
I found that if I sawed one pallet down the middle I could use the matching halves as the long sides of the trough.
Using a hammer and cold chisel (and wearing eye protectors else here's where the horror of a domestic DIY injury has the potential to take on biblical proportions) I then broke down the second pallet into individual planks. I found that I had to snap through the nails with the tip of the chisel (using sheer brute force). It was no good simply wedging the chisel between two planks and trying to prise them apart because inevitably the planks sheered and splintered along the wood grain.
It will probably take your more time to dismantle the pallets than construct the trough however, persist - and think of the Kizhi Pogost (the two large wooden churches and bell tower were constructed without using a single nail or screw!)
Step 4: Construction of the Planter: Step1
After meticulously ripping out every last protruding rusty nail with the aid of a pair of vice grips, use the single planks to cover the gaps between the slats in the long side panels and to construct the floor panel. The next step illustrates how I chiselled out the the notches in the floor panel to fit snugly to the contour of the side panels.
Step 5: Construction of the Planter: Step2
Image 1: Offer up the floor panel to the wrong side of each floor panel and pencil in any notches that need to be cut away to allow a flush fit.
Image2: Saw the perpendicular cuts into the notch. Then using a wood chisel slowly chisel away the wood to be removed. The cutting edge works best if you hold the tool at an extremely shallow angle to the wood and then allow it to glide along as you tap it with the hammer taking thin slivers of wood off as it goes. Remember the chisel is that sharp that it could for instance sever a finger so be mindful of where your fingers are at all times in relation to the cutting edge. NEVER CHISEL TOWARDS YOURSELF (you made me say it!)
Step 6: Pimp My Panache
I decide to add a bit of bling to les chÃ¢teaux des amphibies by applying decorative fretwork and painted motif to the entrances.
You can print out the pdf of the decoration I used or you can customise your own blinged-out portico.
I used the pedestrian method of transfering the motif to the wood by first holding the paper against a window and tracing the motif on the reverse of the page with a soft pencil . Then I laid the sheet on the wood and traced the outline again transferring the pencil lead from the reverse of the page onto the wood.
The plywood fretwork was attached using both wood glue and picture nail tacks.
I painted the motif using black floor paint as I have a half used tin knocking about.
Step 7: The Assembly - Et Voila!
Okay here a number of steps are covered.
1. Attach the side panels to one another to form a rectangular trough using 8 timber angle brackets (2 at each corner, top & bottom).
2. Using 4 angle brackets, attach the back panels of the frog house at a distance that will accomodate the roof tile or slate (as per schematic). The floor of the trough will rest on the tops of these panels so check to see the finished depth of the trough is sufficient (for instance) to grow carrots. I used 2.5cm x 2.5 cm wooden batons to attatch these as I had run out of angle brackets. Step 8 will illustrate the frog shelter in more detail.
3. Attach 2 grips to the top side of the floor panel. This will allow you to lift the floor panel out of the trough with ease. You will need to make some final trimmings to the floor panel to allow it to slide down the walls of the trough and come to rest on the back panels of the frog shelters. I screwed on some extra bits along this level to create ledges to further support the floor panel.
Step 8: Enfin
Here you can clearly see the components & construction of the frog shelter : the entrance, the back panel and the roof slate sandwiched at an angle between the back panel and the wall of the trough. I screwed 2 screws into the backpanel just under the tip of the slate and left them standing proud of the surface to support the slate and to prevent it from ever slipping down should the pallet wood distort.
I actually cut the roof slate to size as it is of natural slate and I was able to cut it using a hacksaw , keeping the blade doused with water as I sawed to prevent it from heating up due to friction and loosing its edge.
A REMINDER: FOR BOTH THE WELL BEING OF THE FROGS AND YOURSELF YOU ARE COMMITED TO USING ORGANIC METHODS OF GARDENING. THAT MEANS FOR INSTANCE USING ORGANIC COMPOST, NOT USING TOXIC SLUG PELLETS (usually Metaldehyde or methiocarb) OR CHEMICAL PLANT FOOD OR WEED KILLERS . YOU CAN FOR INSTANCE USE A LIQUID SEAWEED PLANT FOOD SO LONG AS YOU DILUTE IT CORRECTLY.