My favorite time for entertaining is the Fall Harvest season, around here that is early to mid-October when grapes used for wine making reach their optimal sugar level for some of the best California wines, while the last of the table grapes are also being picked. This is a fun time of year when you can visit many local Harvest Festivals and even do a little “bare foot grape stomping” after a morning of wine tasting ; )
Agriculture is a huge part of life in California. You don’t have to live on a farm to be influenced by the bounty of fruits, nuts and vegetables that are grown throughout California. In a lesser way, agriculture has made its way into decorating, nowadays it is called “Farmhouse” style, different from the 80’s “Country” style decor. I prefer farmhouse style when it is taken outdoors…entertaining Farm-to-Table in the Fall when the weather is perfect for sitting under the stars late into the evening.
To create a beautiful Farm-to-Table setting keep everything SIMPLE ; the rustic menu, the mismatched dishware for the tablescape and food presentation…because it’s all about gathering family & friends.
When I do a pretty tablescape I like to keep the table uncluttered so I usually serve the food buffet-style…for Farm-to-Table that means sticking with that simple rustic style of food presentation. I gather ordinary things from around the house; books, wood boxes, baskets, a colander or paper sacks, to create different levels and as containers to display the beautiful food.
The photo above shows a fruit packing box used for displaying bread loaves. Such a subtle way to bring the Harvest feel into a tablescape. This photo also Inspired me to build my own Harvest Box to serve from. A harvest or packing box is a container used by the fruit picker or packer to collect or ship fruit in.
I wanted my Harvest Box to maintain a vintage personality, one that had seen the hard work of harvesting grapes on hot summer days in the San Joaquin Valley – my box label shows it is from a packing house in nearby Sanger.
One summer I worked in a packing house near Sanger, and it was REALLY hard work, so hard that the floor manager kept moving me from job-to-job, because I was so incompetent. I started as a packer, and then a box-maker, and then finally back to packer. Fortunately she saw I was really trying, I hung in there til the end of summer break, the hours were from the crack of dawn til the fruit was all packed each day, 6 days a week. That was the summer, at 15 years old, I saw what real work is and how people, outside of my own (tiny) socioeconomic world, live their lives. Today I just raise my brow when I hear Trump talk-down-to a world he has never stepped foot into ; ) – so that is why my
packing Harvest Box is not the polished chestnut oak packing box that I originally had envisioned. Instead it gives me a secret pleasure to see, in my house, something more earthy-authentic serving up a platter of cheese & cracker next to a bunch of fresh local grapes.
- Purchased wood crate (from craft store, to be broken down for parts (see Step 1)
- Wood: Box Sides (2) 19.75″ x 5.5″ -I used old wood from fencing from our wood pile. Top side-edge Rails(2) 20.5″ x 1.5″ x .75″ again from our wood pile, these had old paint on them which I left and stained on top of. Wood for Bottom Base Slats, I bought & cut at Lowe’s (3 pieces) 19.75″ x 3.5″ x 3/8″ thick (actual size).
- Nails: I used 2 sizes: 3/4″ for attaching the bottom slats. 1-3/4″ for all other nails.
- Stain: I used what we had in garage, Minwax – Provincial 211 (1st coat) & Classic Gray 271 (2nd coat). Clear coat: Minwax Wipe On Poly satin finish (easy to apply with a rag), Paint: mustard Yellow acrylic craft.
- Vintage packing label from antique store ($8.) 2 color photo copies to use.
- Label Paper sealer spray, and StazOn ink for aging label edges, and matte finish Mod Podge decoupage glue.
- Black Sticker letters/numerals. Misc. (use what you have) Paints & Markers to age nails and sticker letters.
Step 1 – Gather, Dis-Assemble, Saw & Sand
- Carefully take apart the purchased crate. You will have 2 hand grip ends and a lot of slats. Keep all pieces.
- For the new end sides, using a saw, CUT the (purchased crate) 2 handled end pieces down to 12″x 5.5″ (I left 1.5″ above the grips then measured downward total 5.5 inches.) **The skinny piece of wood cut from the purchased crate’s top edges (above hand grips) will later be cut to two 9.5″ lengths and used as the skinny ledge that supports the top serving slats.
- Save at least 4 of the purchased crate’s slats to be used later as top slats for serving shelf wood. Their cut length will be determined just before using)
I used my orbital power sander to distress the edges and the hand grips. Before I assembled the box I sanded the sharp edges from ALL the pieces of wood. But then did more heavy distressing to the hand grips after I stained it.
Step 2 – Nailing
- (Below photo) Nail side to bottom rail, matching edges, repeat for other side board and its bottom rail. **I pre-drilled and hammered nail just enough to break surface, added wood glue & pushed wood to wood to position it (that peeking nail holds it in place to match edges enough to then nail down. That’s a good trick when working alone without clamps.
Especially when accuracy is not important.
- Nail that unit to one of the handled end pieces. Now you have one side/bottom unit attached to a handled end. Nail the other handled end to the other end of the same side/bottom unit. Now you can nail the 2nd side/bottom unit to complete the box shape.
- Flip over so bottom is up, Nail the center bottom base rail to the two (hand grip) box ends.
- Note Top Side-Rails will be done in Step 5 and Top slats for serving from will be done in Step 6.
Step 3 – Label
(Below photo) While the yellow paint was drying I worked on the labels. They were color photo copies of the original, done on regular bond paper. After cutting them out I sealed them with a spray that would prevent the ink from spreading when I decoupaged (glued) it to the wood, smoothing bubbles out with a plastic card. After the first coat of sealer dried, I tore and aged (Optional: StazOn ink using a stencil brush) the paper edges. Then sprayed them lightly with another light coat of sealer. To glue label to the wood just coat the backside with decoupage glue, attach and paint over the top of the label with the glue. The glue dries clear and the edges of the label glued tightly.
Step 4 – Yellow Paint
(Below photo) I used acrylic craft paint. Brushed on thick in patches then feathered-out at edge to look worn. I did a few patches of yellow paint. let it dry over night then sanded to distress. I repeated the process using stain again in some areas to blend the paint into the wood more.
Step 5 – Top Side-Railing (above photo, bottom right)
Cut to 20.5″, pre-drill for nails and nail.
Step 6 – Top Slats to place platter on
To make the ledge for the serving slats – if not already cut, cut the 2 skinny pieces of wood, 9.5″ each, that were removed (sawed) from above the hand grip edges of the purchased crate. (They and the side slats should already be stained) Glue and nail into place. My ledge is 2″ from top of Top Side-Rail and 3.5″ from one box end, so it is not centered.
Now you can Cut to size, the purchased crate’s slats to fit on top of the new rails inside the Harvest Box. Not necessary to cut to fit tight. Glue them in place. No nails. Get that? See photo below…
I make it sound complicated but it’s not.
Step 6 – Details
(Below photo) Not wanting to leave any design detail undone,
those crazy details! I attached black stickers (CAL No. 5) to one end. Then distressed the black with dry brushed chalky white paint. Two light coats of Mod Podge decoupage glue to blend the stickers into the wood. A couple of layers of glue are added on top of the letters, making it look like authentic stamping.
Whew, another massive DIY explanation post done! If you do have questions give me a shout-out in Comments. This is simple to make in that it is just matching up wood edges and nailing them down, but it is a step-by-step process so it takes a few days to complete…BUT you end up with is a unique serving container/tray that looks great at your next shin-dig!
Photo above, for instructions on making the potting bench see my post Here.
Thanks for Meeting Me Lakeside!