Jody Kerzman
(Megan Milbradt)

(Megan Milbradt)

(Megan Milbradt)

My parents are recently retired, and while I thought it would be a tough adjustment for them, they seem to be doing just fine. My mom quit the insurance business a couple of years ago, but this is the first growing season my dad the farmer hasn't had a crop to worry about. He's managed to find ways to stay busy; he started golfing again after taking 20 years off, and he's planning his fall and winter around the grandkids' sporting events. He's also cleaning out the buildings on the farm, which means we've inherited a few things, including a giant stack of pallets.

I am super excited about those pallets. I love projects, and I have a zillion ideas for the pickup loads full of pallets he keeps dumping in our yard. My husband, on the other hand, feels differently. He's a handy guy, but he doesn't quite understand the idea behind pallet projects. He seems to think those precious pallets would make great firewood. His threats prompted me to take my pallet projects into my own hands.

I had big goals. I was going to tear apart those pallets and whip up some cool, stylish fall projects for my front step. And that was just going to take one day. I also planned to make a storage box for the back deck and some wall art and maybe even some Christmas gifts. I'd show him. I could do this all by myself. I took shop class in junior high and I've been married to Mr. Fix-it for almost 18 years. I got this.

An hour into pallet demo I was starting to wonder. It's a lot harder than it looks. Those rusty old nails that hold the pallets together do a really great job of holding the pieces together. It took some rummaging through the garage, but once I found the proper tools (a hammer and something I'm told is called a "cat's claw") the demo became much easier.

Sanding was my next step. These pallets are straight off the farm and had been stacked in the corner of the shop for years, collecting decades of gunk. Sanding was a great way to get rid of that farm gunk as well as the pallets' rough edges. I rocked that belt sander. Seriously. I only sanded my fingernail once, and that's okay -- it's probably the closest I'll get to a manicure in this decade.

Around this time I realized there was no way I was going to finish all my projects in the one day I'd allotted, so I decided to tackle the fall decorations first. I'd seen a couple of ideas of pumpkins made from pallets. They looked trendy and easy to make, so I went for it. Thank goodness I have a 13-year-old son who knows his way around the garage. I hadn't touched a jigsaw in 25 years, but Jake saved me. He watched me struggle with the first pumpkin and when I broke the blade, he quietly replaced it and graciously took over the cutting.

Once the pieces were cut, I sanded them a little bit more, then stained and painted them. I wanted to stain them first and use a "dry brush" technique with the paint. I'm not sure if I did it correctly, but I did manage to get the rustic look I was going for, so I'm calling it a success.

After the paint dried, I attempted to put the pumpkins together using screws and a drill (that's one power tool I'm totally comfortable with -- I've assembled dozens of those Target/Walmart bookshelves). But, of course, the screws didn't hold. Once again I called in the teenager for help. He suggested using the nail gun, yet another tool I'm clueless about. Jake was happy to take over this job as well. (Our conversation about the nail gun went something like this: Me: "Jake, do you know how to use that thing?" Jake: "Yep. I've watched Dad use it. And I've watched 'Happy Gilmore.' There's a nail-gun scene in that movie." I was a little scared, but we got through it injury-free.)

When the pumpkins were assembled, I went over them lightly with sandpaper again and moved them to the front steps. They'll stay there until I get a crazy idea for my winter decorations. Judging from the pile of pallets in my backyard, those decorations will be made from pallets. I'm okay with that, because these stylish pallet pumpkins taught me a few things I won't soon forget: pallet projects are pretty cool, but not as cool as women who can use power tools. I'm not that woman yet, but with a little help from my son, I will be by winter. And I'll have stylish winter-themed front steps as proof.

Jody is married to Brad, and they have four super-busy kids. When she isn't at one of their events, she's probably driving them somewhere.