Category Archives: How to/Crafts

The wheels on the coop go round and round

Silkieland, the new coop, has optional wheels now.  I’d been moving it along laterally to give them fresh turf every couple days.  I could scoot it sideways by running back and forth, back and forth, end to end, shifting it a few inches at a time.  Moving it longways was out of question – it is not drag-able. I just ran out of room to move it sideways, moving it from one tree barrier to another.

Just in time, a treasured  friend swooped in, and listening to me talk about how I had to get wheels on this imminently, took action, taking away my scrap piece of galvanized conduit and old wheelbarrow wheels, boring holes for stop bolts and “cotter pins”, making it all work and coming back with a completed axle.  Awesome:)All I had to do was cut a notch in the bottom board, on the light end.  I lift that end enough to roll the axle in to the notch. Then that end is up 5″ ish off the ground.

Then I lift the (heavy with birds) coop end, and roll the whole thing.  Then I knock out the axle, unless I want all the birds oozing out underneath the gap  (which is ok sometimes) It works awesome!

The heavy end got a whole lot heavier though, like the fulcrum shifted majorly.  It was hard before, but with wheels nearly impossible.  I roped a loop and put that over my shoulders to get the difficulty level back down to hard.  It’s only for a few seconds, because it rolls admirably, even with the flat blown out tires.   This made me consider putting the axle notch on the heavy end, but then it still has to be lifted to get the axle under it.  Hmmm – more thought.  There’s options.

I want that axle to be fully and effortlessly detachable so that I can also use it on the next coop I build, which will be exactly like this one.

Just in time for the heat wave, I got the coop rolled under their fave pine tree for shade.

This coop/tractor is definitely my best design yet.  HW laughed and laughed when he looked inside.  He said it’s “like an apartment building!  You go down the hall and there’s rooms off to the side”.  But I know the birds like it because they lay eggs in all three “rooms”.  There isn’t a preferred suite, like the other coops all have- three nest boxes and they all want to use the same one.

Grub Generator

Warning- gross factor!   This post is about dead meat and grubs, although there are no grubs pictured!

I made a fancy new grub generator.  The original was effective but very, very primitive.

I got this one’s refinements from watching youtube videos, but used a big rubbermaid tub, because I had one, and I didn’t think a big bucket is capacious enough. Plus a few adaptations I made up.

First, the access portal for the flies.  There’s a hole in the side of the bottle.  I assume this is to limit both smells escaping and rain getting into the meat chamber.The flies get in through the bottle to lay eggs that colonize the dead meat.

On the inside of the tub, there’s a vacuum cleaner hose with a bunch of holes cut in it (that part is a bit tough), held onto the side of tub with zipties.  It’s arranged at a slight angle in a spiral around the tub, for the grubs to climb along on their bid for freedom.  Because they do that.  Yep.

It’s a grub escalator.  They will climb to the top like pilgrims, and then drop out, into the catchment bottle.  Surprise, no guru!I found it best to stab two slits through the side of the tub to attach the zipties.   You can see by the zipties on the outside how the vacuum hose makes a full spiral to the bottom of the tub.This vac hose was perfectly suited for this purpose, I’m quite sure unintentionally, and the catchment bottle slips on and off the hose, with a little duct tape gasket, for those days condensation inside the bottle enables the grubs to climb the walls.Best to draw a veil over the current contents of the grub generator.  All the chickens that died of natural causes this winter are in there, now thawed out.

NB: I strongly recommend installing the vacuum hose and zipties…spiraling all the way to the floor of the tub… while the tub is empty, and clean, before putting in the old, dead…thawed…carcasses.  Trust me on this.

The protein of the dead critters will be transformed by the action of the blowflies and other detritivores, their life cycles turning offal into top flight chicken protein.

I’ll leave it to all the other info out there to explain how awesome this form of recycling waste is, and how it helps reduce, not promote unsavory insects, and how much it’s good for the hens.  There’s loads of excellent and thorough info out there, starting with the black soldier fly fan club.  This is just my design, and I’m pleased with it.  I plan to make another to rotate between.

I can just picture my hens lurking around the tap all day.

I collect birdhouses now

Both functional (those are mounted in trees and look solid and functional) and decorative.  I imagine festooning a couple of trees with a variety of bright little dangling birdhouses.  And should anyone decide to occupy one of the decorative birdhouses, that’s ok too.  Some prefer style over function.

I have had a few kicking around that needed some repairs, and I finally got them out and repaired them and had a very creative hour painting on them that was glorious.  I haven’t had my paints out in years.

Then I announced to HW that he could keep an eye out for cute birdhouses at thrift stores/in the garbage for me, even if they were beat up.  “Oh, you want fixer-upper birdhouses?”

A stitch in time

I’m in my parents’ home, where many of my juvenile attempts at art are prominently displayed: enshrined for later evaluation and regret.

This one stands the test of time though, and  leads me to conclude that I should do embroidery more often:

Nearly 20 years old and probably the last time I embroidered anything (original design, but a rare foray into needlework for me)

However, my early work is around as well, to keep me humble :

(also original art)

Putting gutter on the Greenhouse

This has got to be a crazy people idea:  Cover a whole bunch of plants with a plastic roof, that keeps the rain out, and then, pump water in to them.  Or in my case, carry water.  When you think about that, it just doesn´t make sense.

Last year I emptied a well into my greenhouse, by hand (off-grid), and it could have happily absorbed two more wells worth.

This can´t go on, I thought (dreading another summer of schlepping water).

So, I figured out how to put eavestrough on a greenhouse, to catch the water, to put it back into the greenhouse.  Slightly less crazy.  Easier than taking the skin off every time it rains, which honestly would be my first choice, if it were practical. Until they invent one-way 5 mil plastic.

I doubt I´m the first to think this up , but I didn´t google it because I preferred to figure it out for myself (go ahead and google it now).  I didn´t want to know how other people´ve done it.   Much as that might have made it easier or faster. This is how I did.

First unsecure the bottom of the long side of plastic and undo the wiggle wire up the side.

In my case I redid all the wiggle wire on the side/gables in order to take a layer of plastic off.  In my style of off-grid, I´ve got no business having an inflated greenhouse.  Although I made it work, it just never made sense.  Most of the time it wasn´t inflated.  Now I´m saving the second layer of plastic for when my greenhouse needs its next skin. 

Essentially I installed a lip part way up the wall, creating a drip edge to catch the water from.

I ripped 2x4s (all rough cut for me) with a bevel and screwed them on to the top of a 1×6.  2″ screws, from the 1×6 side into the beveled strip. I did this in advance- measuring the overall length, so that I could lift each piece into place.

I cut through the exposed wiggle wire track on the side- only had to remove one screw, and cut out a four inch gap.

It´s four inches because the top track comes down over the 2×2

That bottom piece of track gets screwed into the rib again

When I measured each end, I made a four-inch overall drop.  35″ inches from the base on one end, 39″ at the other end.

So I lifted my prepared 1×6 piece into place, propped it up to attach the end, and then secured it, and its mates, to the ribs of the greenhouse with plumbing strap, eyeballing for  a nice straight line.

Plumbing strap is a bit hokey; I´ll get some of the proper brackets next time one of us in the area is ordering greenhouse parts.

My three pieces of 1×6 (36´overall greenhouse) were set up to overlap, so that on install, I could attach them.  Then I didn´t have to think about where the ribs landed.

How it looks from the inside.

That´s the bulk of the work- the wood.

Back to the outside, I put 1×4 strapping under the drip ledge and screwed that down.  I chose 1×4 to have 4″ of surface to mount the gutter on, and to have some room to play with the slope. Hence 1×6 behind the plastic.

This tightened up the skin quite nicely.  The wiggle wire goes back in now too.

Then the base securing goes back in:

The addition for gutter uses up about 2″ more of the plastic, but if you have less than 2″ of plastic at the base, you´ve got bigger problems (unless you trimmed it, oh well).

When I built this, I dug a shallow ditch and buried a strip of hardware cloth against the base.  Some squirrels and chipmunks have dug around my barrier, but it´s holding up very well.  I haven´t seen that since I built it.

Install the gutter, and voila!

I used vinyl gutter with brackets that you can lift off of their little mounting hook.  I´ll definitely be removing the gutter before any snow comes!

The greenhouse has never looked so good, now the plastic is more taut.

I´ve got two downspouts (with two elbows each side), to direct water into a stock tank, with has a threaded plug, which with a pipe-hose adapter I can put a garden hose on, and then put the water back into the greenhouse.  The guineas are inspecting.

Doesn´t that look good?  I thought so too.

I felt good and smug for about two hours until the rain came.  I´d been racing the forecast, determined to catch all the mm that were on the way.

I got up in the night to go check on everything.

The water was running the wrong way!  That is, what little water it was catching.  Slope could be fixed (I do need the 4″ of the 1×4  to play with), but there was a bigger problem- the water coming down the plastic wall was turning the corner of the lip, following back (as water does) and soaking into the 1×4, not falling in the gutter.  I should have seen that coming.  I should have seen that coming.

I stayed awake for at least an hour until I could figure out how to fix it.  Not simple, but it should work.

The only way was to take off that ripped 2×2 and change the angle on it.

This time the base didn´t have to come off, just the gutter, and the 1×4, and the wiggle wire on the ends.

Significant wrinkle- on the inside, I was using 2″ screws for the plumbing strap, through the 1×6 into the 2×2, for strength.  But now the 2×2 had to come off.  All 13 ribs!

Clamps came in handy, I backed out the screws, and I marked the wood against each rib.  I took the opportunity to adjust it all for more slope while I was reinstalling.

Also because I didn´t undo the bottom (the better to keep curious chickens out), once I got all the 2x2s detached, I had to pass them out the end.  And back in.

I put them all through the table saw again and put a bevel on the second side, creating an acute angle for the drip edge.

Slid them back under the plastic and reinstalled.

Now the business edge is sharp and angled down.

Waited for rain, now with less confidence.  Still didn´t work.

These pictures don´t quite show it.  There is a full inch of overhang on that lip, and then the gutter mounting holds the gutter out 1/4″, so there is 3/4″ of lip hanging over the gutter.  Not enough.

The water comes down, turns the corner and travels for about 1/2″, now neatly dripping on the back edge of the eavestrough, or  right behind it. Don´t underestimate the power of surface tension.

One more tackle.  I thought about cutting ditches in the wood to recess the gutter mounting into, to suck the gutter right against the wood, but opted instead to screw on a strip of aluminum flat flashing, to kick the water farther out into the middle of the gutter.

Success!

Totally works.

Adding the flashing was the easiest part of all; took, like a blink.  I got a roll of 6″ flat stock, cut it in half lengthwise (to 3″ wide), and I meant to put a bend in it and screw it into the 1×4, but instead I left it flat, and in one length, and tucked it between the plastic lip and the top of the 1×4, and put in just a few screws, pointed up, into the twice-ripped 2×2 component.

My conclusion is that this is pretty ideal, and despite having made it up along the way, I wouldn´t do it over differently (except putting two angles on the 2×2 on the first pass- definitely do that).  It´s usually much more straightforward to cut the wood right in the first place.

With the wood alone, it would be next to impossible to get enough lip protruding to shed water well – wood is heavy and that would get too bulky to hang off the greenhouse ribs.  The flashing is essential, and the 2×2 is perfect for adding it to.

Cost of about $400CA for gutter, wood, and flashing.

I approve.

 

 

 

 

Newspaper “pots” for tomatoes.

Another experiment.

I hate plastic; I might not have enough plastic pots anyway; they wouldn´t be deep cylinders.  So I tried making some pots out of newspaper to pot up my tomatoes into.

I rolled them around a bottle (half-sheet each), crunched in the paper on the bottom, slid the cylinder off the bottle,  and then turned over the half inch at the “brim” to the outside.  That´s what keeps them rolled.  Takes about 20 seconds each.  They kind of try to unroll anyway, but they hold together great once a little soil goes in them.

It remains to be seen how well they hold together once they have a plant in them and get watered.  But if all goes well, I can write the variety right on the paper with a Sharpie, and I suppose I can put them directly in the ground as is (that´s a lot of newspaer ink, though).

Ready to accept transplants.  We shall see.

So far, so good

Breakthrough Kefir hacks

I just started making kefir again.  I think it took me a while to get over the loss of the culture I had going for years, and I needed time to be ready for a new culture in my life.  This new culture is exceedingly vigorous, like it’s got something to prove.

Throughout all those years rinsing the grains with my fingers, it never occurred to me there might be a better way.

I finally had an aha moment, though.  I sewed a little bag out of nylon screen (like, bug screen), that fits into a mason mouth.  Simple, open on top.

Then the grains get rinsed off while they’re in the bag! You don’t have to chase after them.   Genius!

I can’t imagine why I didn’t think of something of the sort ages ago.

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How to be a Dumpster Diving ninja

Wanna join the craze, feel the rush, get utterly depressed by the unavoidable awareness of this society’s pointless waste?

Dumpster Ninja Skills 101 – A Comprehensive Guide to the Cold Hard Precautions
Think like a ninja, dress like a ninja
1. Casing the joint

Case your local grocery stores, very sneakily.

First, outside in the daytime , find the garbage bin.  Does this store have a crusher?  Well, you’re done there.  Does it have a locked dumpster?  Some days those are filled too full to be closed and locked.  Sometimes employees get careless.  Many times it appears to be locked and isn’t (the padlock hang).

Are there loading hours posted on the dock?  Then you can expect there to be workers in the store at least an hour earlier than that.  Is there a bakery in the store?  Then the bakers are there in the very very early morning.

Are there security cameras?  Then you might go hardcore and wear balaclavas or headsocks like real robbers, and if you have vehicle assistance, make a good parking and loading plan so your vehicle doesn’t get ID’d.  Keep checking for cameras, btw, in case they install some after noticing that someone is sifting through their garbage.

Take a casual stroll by a couple times at night to sess the scene and plan your timing. Between 11 and 3 or 4am are probably the best hours, but that’s really up to your location.  Is your dumpster well lit?  That makes your work easier but gives less cover.  Are there cleaners working in the store?  Determine their days and hours.  Any security?  Note cars in the parking lot. What else is going on in the area?  What businesses are around?  Diving right when clubs are closing or getting going is not great.  Are there late night restaurants where employees, or cleaners, could come out the back doors to smoke and bust you?   And probably most important, is this open dumpster in a “bad” part of town where there’s a remote possibility of garbage other than the store’s getting tossed in there?  By that I mean sharps.  Don’t ever take a chance like that.

Why all the cloak and dagger?

Because if you find the motherlode of all dumpsters, it could feed you for months, and you won’t want to lose it.   I had one location produce insane amounts of food for over a year, then they got a crusher.  It was heartbreaking.  If you don’t take precautions, that wellspring could all be carelessly lost in one embarrassing evening.  If you get seen, but escape, you probably wont want to go back, and if you do, I bet there’ll be a padlock on that dumpster now.  So BE SNEAKY.

Trust me, it’s fun.  The whole thing is hilarious.

2. The gear you need:

Wear dark clothes that you won’t mind getting dirty, but also don’t “stick out” for approach and leaving the scene (dress like a normal ninja person, not crazy dumpster diving ninja person), and good shoes.  For jumping in.  Feet first;  dive is a figure of speech.    If you’re squeamish, bring work glovesHats or hoods cover your hair and face.  A flashlight is absolutely essential, bc even if the area’s lit, the depths of the bin will be shadowed. Ideally, a headlamp. Bring backpacks and/or fabric shopping bags on bike or foot missions.  There will be zillions of boxes around to use if you’re going by vehicle.

3.  Taking the plunge:

Going with someone else is way better than going alone.  Some things can be really heavy, you can keep watch for each other, and it helps with the paranoia.  It almost seems normal when you’re not alone.  And it’s definitely funny.  You want to share that.

Whisper to each other, keep rustling and banging to a minimum, keep eyes and ears open for anyone approaching.   Try to keep yourself in shadow, or tucked near the bin, or between bin and building.  Or in the bin, if you jump in, which is often necessary.    If strangers happen to pass by, don’t bolt, just crouch and freeze wherever you are, and chances are  they will pass right by and never know.  Remember, people usu. don’t expect to see people in dumpsters, and won’t be looking for you.  Do not stand tall atop the dumpster wading through and hollering about your discoveries.   They’ll notice that.

Do not ever start ripping open black garbage bags.  The really bad garbage is in garbage bags- bathrooms and deli garbage – you don’t even want to know.  The good garbage is usu. in boxes, sometimes closed, sometimes top open.  Sometimes tipped over, but that’s what washing is for.  Another reason to not rip bags is the Golden Rule -don’t make a mess.  This is for your sake.  You want to protect your interests in this gold mine.  Don’t make it obvious that you were there.  Especially if the area is all swept clean.  If you start strewing trash about at night, the poor sap who has to clean that up is going to gripe about it, and then they’re paying attention, and then you’re busted.  Employees are not likely to notice there are fewer carrots there this morning than they threw out last night, but they will notice if the whole bin has been torn apart.  And if you’re sharing a dumpster with other ninjas, then you know what they say about bad apples.

Move carefully and quietly.  Speed is less important than stealth. It takes some time to really maximize a dumpster visit, if there is a lot of food.  The best way is to pack boxes as you go through the buffet, then shuttle them quickly to a staging area, around the corner, ideally in shadow where you can drive up, load up in a minute, and take off.  If on foot, then go through it all and neatly set aside what you want to take.  If you make a return trip to pick up it’s a quick stop.

4. At home

When you get home with the bounty, wash your hands, hoot and exclaim how you can’t believe you just did that, (take pictures to share) and sort and assess all the happy food that you just gave a second life to.   Some of it might not be as good as it looked at the scene, and that’s part of the game.  Some food is perfect, some is spoiled.  Check over any packaging for cleanliness and signs of compromise.  Wash all the food  before you eat it, just in case.

Now you’re a pro…

Dumpster diving is a little addictive, because you never know what treasures might be there any given night, but going every night is near impossible.  Some nights just feel risky, or there’re cleaners or delivery trucks, besides, you’d be exhausted and soon have a full time job processing and preserving food and then trying to find people to give it away to.  It is nice to try out different days of the week though.  You’ll learn their dumping and delivering schedule and find some food comes in patterns.  Speaking of sharing your bounty, I operate on informed consent.  I can’t give someone food without telling them where I got it, so my beneficiaries are pretty tight (and amused) friends.  But that’s your call.

Dumpster diving will increase your household garbage a little with the packaging you’re carting home.  If you don’t have  compost, you might want to take more care examining food before you bring it home.  I drag it all home and then sort it out, bc I have a (flourishing) compost box.  On the bright side, if stuff goes bad bc you can’t eat or process it fast enough, well, it’s guilt free, because it was headed for the landfill anyways.  You saved it once already.  BTW, if you have pigs, then you pretty much can’t not dumpster dive, even if you’re squeamish about eating the food yourself, because it is free high quality pig feed.

And then, eat eat eat, for free, free, free.

Here’s some more tips from Rob Greenfield.  I like #4, master the fear.  Jumping at your own shadow is a real buzzkill.  This is some furtive ops, but not actually very risky.

the_sneaky_ninja_by_kirillee-d2m052r

 

Ninja art by Kirilee on Deviant Art.

 


This article first written in 2008.

Dumpster diving need not stop at food.  I was convinced that my future husband was for me when the two of us were regaling a table of “Oh I could never!” fascinated normal people with our Ultimate Score tales of Dumpsters Past.  HW thoughtfully offered that everything he was wearing was out of a dumpster.  A man at the table sputtered “What!? You look like a fucking REI model!”  It was all true.  HW looks like a fucking REI model (that’s MEC, for Canadians), and routinely dresses like one, and everything he was wearing was out of a dumpster, including the technical hiking shoes.

Recycling calendars

It’s almost time to turn over the calendar again.

One of my favorite things is re-using an old calendar, because great calendars are works of art worth saving, and the years do come around again (although you have to wait a while longer to pull Garfield 1992 out of storage -2020).  Leap years are tough.

Those 2016 calendars you just about finished with come back around in 2044.

But 2017 is a repeat of 2006, which was only ten years ago.  Cats and Kittens ’06 is probably just under a stack of papers downstairs.

This is my master list of calendar reuse.  Of course, it’s online.img_4643

And if you want a shiny new one, then my photographer brother has a selection of calendars of his work (Iceland, New England, Utah, PNW, horses, etc) available at zazzle.com/derekkind.  They’re amazing; I’m not just saying that.

Since he started making calendars in 2010, I’m saving them all and looking forward to the years returning so I can use them again:)

 

Christmas Gift Sacks

Consider a reusable alternative to gift wrap.

Gift wrap is lovely, and fun to be creative with, but it does take time to fold all those corners.  Personally I’d love to be a mall-wrapper, at least once, but not everybody enjoys wrestling with gift wrap.

Paper is single-use, and generates waste (bigtime).  img_4660

There’s enough time left before the holidays to make some fabric bags to “wrap” with.

These use up scrap fabric, can be gifted back and forth, utilize waste, and frequently are part of the gift, as they might get used year-round to put things other than gifts in (like my Kindle, socks, and headphones).

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It’s just a square or rectangle of fabric folded in half, sewed up bottom and side, and turned inside out.  The pinked edge is a nice touch, and a ribbon can be tacked on, as shown, or…

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You can get fancier and sew a pocket with one or two drawstrings.

My mom made all of these, and many more.  They arrived in last year’s Xmas box, and some of them will go back this year (sneak preview!).

She also used new dishtowels and  facecloths (the small bags that just fit a hand, or a bar of soap, were promptly used in the shower).  Some had shoelaces for drawstrings (getting masculine – bootlaces in corduroy bags).

The smallest are the washcloths, and they range up in size and dimensions to … very large.  The size of a big pillowcase (speaking of which, a pillowcase would work great with a ribbon).  The sky’s the limit really.