DIY Tutorial: Recycled Wood Slice Garden Pathway

Adapting a “new” home (built in 1928, but new to us!) to suit your own style is usually a big ordeal… but that went doubly for us, when we were hit by the tornado right after moving in!

After the debris had settled, most of the cleanup was done, and we had a new roof over our heads, it was time to do some finer cleanup, repair, rebuild, and redo. The side yard was a PROJECT – it was where most of the debris had landed, the small amount of planting we’d done pre-tornado was trampled by the roofers… just a huge mess. Add to that the fact that neither of us had done any sort of landscaping design before? We were sort of floundering!

We started working on the side yard last summer, one year after the tornado. It was around this time that we were also trying to figure out what we would do with the remnant logs from our downed black walnut. We’d taken the biggest logs to a mill, and had some smaller (too small for the mill) logs milled in our yard. After all of that, we still had some more logs that were either too small in diameter, too short, or too irregular for the portable wood mill. It had been such a gorgeous tree, and the wood was WAY too beautiful to let any of it go to waste.

After the tornado

With the bulk of the wood being processed and spoken for already – mostly for rebuilding the kitchen – these few leftover logs were something we could play around with a bit.

I had the idea of slicing them all up into disks and using them to redesign the side yard. We’d already decided that we wanted it to be lush with edibles, but hadn’t really come up with a solid design, or even really tossed around ideas yet. I thought it would be a pretty, rustic looking walkway to separate gardens on both sides of it… and the idea looked fabulous in my head!

Porter was a bit hesitant, and needed to be talked into it. He wasn’t sure we’d have enough wood, and wasn’t able to picture the outcome like I did.

So, I did the math – I measured out the ideal pathway, and figured out how many square inches we were talking. Then, we figured out the average diameters of the logs we had left, and worked out how many square inches of coverage we would have, when slicing them into 3″ disks. There would be enough, so my husband agreed to go ahead with it.

While this looks like a huge project, it took about a day and a half of work, with the two of us doing it ourselves. We love the results, and here’s how we did it:

This is what we started with at the beginning of the weekend. The bulk of the tornado debris had been cleared, but we still had some construction debris in there. We had already planted 3 or 4 raspberry bushes along the side of the house, and had covered the soil in that area with cedar mulch.

As a first step, we completely cleared the area of any debris, garbage, and any large pieces of broken glass.

Next, we pulled up the sod from the entire area, aside from the section with the raspberry bushes.

Once all of the sod was removed, we raked and trampled the ground to ensure a level base for what we were doing.

With a flat work surface to start laying everything out on, I started laying out the various garden sections, creating a wavy path with cement edging pavers.

Once the main pathway was established, I filled in the outer sections with fresh topsoil, and planted the gardens. I planted strawberry plants across from the raspberries, and basil and mint just beyond that in the next “wave” on that side.

The strawberry section

We planted two types of hops – 1 type each, on either side of our air conditioner – and ran twine up to our second level deck for them to grow up. Beyond the hops, we planted blueberry bushes (which ended up failing šŸ™ )

As I was building the pathway and gardens, Porter was busy in the backyard, cutting the logs into 3″ disks (larger ones), and 2″ disks (the smaller diameter ones, as filler). What a badass!

(As a note: He says it would have been nicer to use a large band saw for this, as some of the cuts – smaller logs – got kind of dangerous)

AS he finished batches of log slices, he would cart them out to me, and I would place them. I started by placing the largest disks evenly throughout the space, to create the main stepping stones. I’d work my way down the sizes of logs, finally filling everything in with the smallest disks.

This is what it looked like when I’d finished placing all of the wood slices.

Another view.

Once all of the wood slices were placed, we had to carefully fill it all in with dirt. We shoveled on clean dirt, and swept it into all of the voids between the logs.

The filled-in pathway.

A year later, this is what it looks like. Gorgeous! The wood has weathered a bit, and those 3-4 small raspberry bushes filled in like CRAZY, providing us with a ton of insanely delicious berries.

The strawberries have also filled in, and we’ve been transplanting the runners to the next garden wave (took out the basil and mint), for even more berries.

The hops have ALSO grown like crazy, and are threatening to take over our upper deck! Love it!

Not only do we love the look of pathway, but it has the added benefit of making our whole side yard a NO MOWING area!

Because we used a high quality hard wood, this path will look great for many years to come. Even as it degrades, it will only gain character!

So there you have it. Not a TON of work, with such great results!

On the afternoon of May 22, 2011, North Minneapolis was devastated by a tornado. Twisted recounts the Porters’ first 11 months, post disaster. Rebuilding their house, working around the challenges presented by inadequate insurance coverage. Frustration at repeated bouts of incompetence and greed from their city officials. Dealing with issues such as loss of control, logistics, change, and over-stimulation, as an Aspergian woman.

Subjects covered include: Opportunistic “Vultures”, gawkers, new friendships, a bizarre gingerbread house, unique decisions made with the rebuild – including an internet-famous kitchen backsplash, “Tornado Claus”, contractor drama, water balloons, DIY design and work, music, sensory overload, and details on how to cook jambalaya for almost 300 people, in the parking lot of a funeral home… should you ever find yourself in the position to do so. Order your hard copy here, or digital edition here.

North Minneapolis Tornado: The Playlist


My tornado memoir – “Twisted” was released on 05/22/12! click here for more details, or to purchase!

If you follow me on Twitter, you already know that I’ve been getting through this whole tornado deal by cracking really awful, sometimes dark jokes. I know, it’s bad… but making ridiculous comments and laughing at it is sort of therapeutic. I don’t want to think what kind of basketcase I’d be if I didn’t have at least a few laughs this past week and a half.

I’m surprised that I haven’t been told off for this yet, but I’ve been tweeting suggestions for a “Tornado Playlist” the past few days. Like Dead or Alive’s “You Spin me Round” or Annie Lennox’s “Walking on Broken Glass”. Haha.. I know, awful!

Well, today my husband and I were driving, I’d hooked up my phone to his car stereo, and we were listening to some tunes. I realized that, all joking aside, Unique II’s “Break My Stride” would definitely have to make it to my “Tornado Soundtrack”. Also, Eiffel 65’s “Lucky”.

As I thought about it, I realized that there are a LOT of great songs that come to mind, as I try to feel more upbeat about this whole thing. Some came to mind as friends gathered to help. Some came to mind at times that I’ve been wrestling with the worry that I was just a hair’s breadth away from losing my mind completely. I think that all of them are good to listen to if you’re feeling down, and all provide a pick me up.

So, I’d like to share my new, non-joking Tornado Playlist. Maybe some of these songs can bring some of the same cheer that they bring to me, to others affected by the disaster.


Picking up the Pieces – North Minneapolis Tornado


My tornado memoir – “Twisted” was released on 05/22/12! click here for more details, or to purchase!

Wow, where to start?

The past week has been insane. In some ways, it’s gone by quickly, in some ways, it’s gone on forever. For instance, work has STILL not started on our roof, nor does the roofer we were referred to have any sort of game plan or start date. So… back to the drawing board. Time to find a new roofer!

Between volunteer labor (THANK YOU, twin cities geeks!) and our awesome logger guy from Craigslist, the giant black walnut out back is dealt with, and ready for us to have milled. Gonna have to figure out where we’re getting that done, soonish.

These will eventually become new kitchen cabinets

Our friend Jen, providing a size reference for the stump!

As it turns out, we have water damage in our cabinets, so they’ll have to come out and get replaced sooner rather than later. The kitchen ceiling, floor, and walls all have to be replaced, so I guess they’d be coming out already. (more…)

… And then a tree went through our bedroom wall…


My tornado memoir – “Twisted” was released on 05/22/12! click here for more details, or to purchase!

It’s been a crazy few days. We still don’t have electricity, and the I’m sitting in a coffee shop writing this, so bear with me. I’ll list our needs at the end of this post, per your requests!

Sunday morning, my husband and I rented a moving van. We moved our commercial mixer out of our old garage, where it’s been stored since I quit making cakes… moving it to my father in law’s house for storage. (By the way, 30 quart Hobart is available for sale!) See details in comments!) We picked up a tree that we’d reserved through the local Tree Trust, and we bought and hauled the lumber we needed to put railings on our deck, per requirements from the city. This was for our new house, purchased 2 months ago.

We had just unloaded everything at the new house, and dropped off the truck at the rental place. We were finally sitting down for a late lunch, congratulating ourselves on a LOT of work. We planned to grab lunch, go home, sit in the hot tub and relax the rest of the day.

Then the sirens started going off.