My grandmother was a very exact woman when it came to her crafts.  As a young child I was aware of this and should have known better when she decided it was time for me to learn how to sew.  Her favorite phrase was, “your front is only as good as your back.” and I fully  knew this phrase long before I ever sat at her sewing machine. It was her mantra.  So at eight years old I sat at that sewing machine trying to make a skirt whose pattern I got from a show called Zoom. I sat  trying to make my lines perfectly straight. My focus so intense the bobbing thread arm would smack my forehead because I leaned in so close.  When completed I was grateful to be done with the stress from that fast moving machine with a grudge. Then came the moment of truth – my grandmother’s inspection.  I knew what she was thinking,  “Your front is only as good as your back.” I saw her hand slip into her pocket taking out a seam ripper.  A seam ripper I would see many more times. I am just grateful Grandma wasn’t Rosie the Riveter….
A couple of months ago I wrote about some planter boxes I had seen on a website and that I was going to make my own planter boxes out of some corrugated tin we have at Aurora Mills.  Well, the monsoons have stopped and we now have sunshine in Portlandia.  I made two planter boxes that are 3′ x 3′ square out of  channel corrugated tin. Now, I am not a metal smith by any means and I think this was the first time I even attempted to cut through metal with a circular saw,  but I did!  With Norm Abrams voice in my head saying, “Measure twice. Cut once.” and Dick Naven (a Portland Master Carpenter I did my grad school internship with)  reminding me how he still has all ten fingers – I cut eight, three foot panels. I measured, drew chalk lines then cut with a blade made for metals and corrugated tin.  My lines weren’t as straight as the chalk lines or even as straight as I had hoped.  I secured the panels  to  4″ x 4″ rot resistant posts with screws and washers and to cover my crooked ways  I used some ridge caps we have at Aurora Mills that were salvaged from a barn.  Voila!  Crooked lines covered and a more attractive edge.

Raised beds or planter boxes for my tomatoes.

Planter boxes for my tomatoes.

Now you may be thinking, ” Wow!  Those are tall planter boxes.”  The truth of the matter is I have a Hell Strip on the side of my house.  A rocking hot area that has compressed fill dirt and gravel with about 1/8″ of top soil that has no redeeming value.   The planter boxes are 2′ high because that is the width of the corrugated tin.  I filled the boxes with the heavy clay soil my yard is blessed with (from another project) and mixed in lots of compost from the compost pile.  I am hopeful the planter box depth will allow for the first potatoes I have ever grown to not have stunted growth.
So far, so good!  Potatoes look happy after their first 2 weeks in the ground.

So far, so good! Potatoes look happy after their first 2 weeks in the ground.

There is still more I want to do to these boxes.  I want to put a wood edge around the top because corrugated tin is sharp.  In my interest to get the tomato plants I bought  back in April into the ground, I skipped this last part and will finish it in the Fall.  I am also wanting to make three more planter boxes for my Hell Strip because now I can have something green over there.
The front of my planter boxes may not be as pretty as their backs but THEY WORK!  My crooked lines are covered,  I have green in a land that was dismal and dusty and I used virtually all reclaimed materials. All in all, I would like to think Grandma would have been more satisfied with a nice, home-grown, juicy tomato than shallow aesthetic beauty. Maybe.
By: Louise Gomez Burgess at Aurora Mills Architectural Salvage