Category Archives: How to/Crafts

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.

Manual sewing

It was a beautiful sunny day when I decided to finally sew the curtains.  Pretty soon, we’re gonna need them to help keep the house cool inside when it’s sunny out.

I wasn’t expecting it to be quite so much of a total body workout.    I’ve never associated sewing with ab and quad fatigue before.

The century-old treadle sewing machine sews like it plans to sew for another hundred years.  Even, serene, but determined stitches, marching in a resolute line.

Most electric sewing machines I’ve used have a delicacy about them.  If you look at them wrong, they might start pinching the fabric, the  stitches might get cramped and tight, or the thread on the underside might generate big loopy snarls while you confidently sew away!- because the top thread looks perfect.  You have to coddle them; create ideal conditions around the tension, bobbin, threading, lubrication, etc, etc.

This machine scoffs at your mysterious bobbin issues.   It’s not very delicate to stomp vigorously and repeatedly, and maintain the rhythm of a train, for the presser foot to lap the miles.

I didn’t plan to break a sweat sewing.  But curtains happen to be long straightaways of stitching, requiring maintained speed.  Also focused concentration, to fold and feed the fabric to the munching presser.

Who knew?  Off-grid sewing = exercise.

While I sew, I can’t help imagining Laura Ingalls and her mother, exercising their (fantastic new labour-saving) treadle machine, wearing floor length dresses and corsets!

VEGETABLE CHAINSAW BAR OIL

I’m so excited to be done with the last jug of petroleum based chainsaw bar oil.  It’s disgusting, spraying that red thick oil all over every living thing, including oneself, every time you run the saw.

Every other kind of motor oil has specific protocols for disposal, but bar oil is designed to be lost during saw use.  Just vaporized, sprayed out, and dripped on the ground. Lovely.

Time to start using vegetable oil instead.

A friend told me it was possible, and I was startled.  You mean, no adaptation, just, substitute veg oil?  Yes.  Corn or canola oil, right off the supermarket shelf.  Not to mention, it’s about 1/4 of the price.  Only difference is viscosity, so the oil flow screw may need adjusting.

Wow. That’s a gamechanger.  One small change=major difference.  Better experience operating, and better for the earth.

Electrical tape chessboard

Easiest, fastest DIY chessboard ever.

Requires: pre-existing surface, partial roll of electrical tape, scissors.  Straight edge and a pencil should you wish it to be mostly square.

Does not include chess pieces.

Takes about an hour.  That’s a lot of little pieces of tape.

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H.W. has been agitating for a proper sized chessboard, since his little travel set, where the pieces fit inside the hinged box that forms the playing surface, is very, very small.  We have actually discussed during a game whether we should use tweezers to move the pieces , since it’s so easy to reach in for one and scatter a whole battalion.

So, electrical tape + kitchen table = voila.

First I lightly drew a few lines to grid it out, since I did want it to be square (a chessboard is 8 squares by 8).  I was using little strips  of tape 1 1/2″ long, as I picked a 12″ board grid (a nice size).  At first H.W. made a little template and supplied me with endless little strips, but these pictures show me cutting directly off the roll because the supply of strips dried up when he started to take pictures.

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I placed the “bottom” strip for each black square, following my lines, and then came back and placed the “top” strip, and then made a third pass to cover the little strip between the first two strips.

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Done.

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It looks really good.  Better than I expected.  The texture of the wood shows through the tape, wiping it off hasn’t been a problem, and if the bits of tape start to peel off, or if it needs some renewal, well, I know how to fix that.  If we get sick of it, or the Queen comes to dinner, we can just peel it off.

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The set of pieces I made in my teens for an art class assignment, miraculously surviving decades intact.  I adore them for their slightly off-kilter imperfections, yet how clearly I managed to get it right-every piece is simple yet distinctly itself and the right relative height, and a nice playing size.

Also I remember how I thought at the time that creating 32 chessmen in 6 different iterations was an afterthought to the (terribly creative, artistic-and now useless) chessboard sculpture itself, and probably left that aspect to the night before it was due.  I was gluing and staining and varnishing well into the night.

Now they are getting trotted out frequently thanks to the new table chessboard, and we are glad to not be playing with this ersatz setup (“No, the checker with the domino on top is a rook.  The ones with the sticks are knights, like lances, see?”)

 

 

 

INFLATING AN OFF-GRID GREENHOUSE

The short answer: a bilge blower fan on 6v.

The first question to ask yourself if you’re considering an off-grid greenhouse, is, should I choose an inflatable?

It’s more work stretching the plastic perfectly tight over a non-inflating greenhouse, but, then you’re done.  An inflatable is stronger, and warmer, but, is it worth it?

If you have a robust solar system and can hardwire your inflatable greenhouse into it, great.  Otherwise, say if there’s a possibility of having to carry batteries from a charging station to the greenhouse, you may want to choose more work up-front vs. more ongoing work maintaining power to the GH.

We  have an adequate solar array,  not a generous one, and it is set up too far from the GH to directly wire it or the batteries stationed there into the controller.  Therefore, we assumed from the beginning that we’d be carrying batteries.  How often was another story.

Choosing an inflated GH off-grid, the first hurdle is the inflator fan. AC fans are readily available, but DC fans are not, and the issue is not readily answered by Google either.  That’s why I’m writing this.

I’ll spare you the harrowing hair-pulling details in this quick overview of our journey to get our off-grid GH inflated:

1) Can the squirrel cage blower be detached from the AC motor it came with and be retrofit to a heater fan out of a car?  Yes.  It depletes a 12v battery in a few hours.  Not sustainable.

2) Go see an electric motor specialist.  Can a DC motor of appropriate specs be obtained that will run the squirrel cage at the right rate?  In theory.  It’s $349, and wait, no, it’s out of production.

Feeling very much trapped inside the box, 3) Call Inventor Dad. In 48 hours, he found the right thing.  A bilge blower fan from a marine supply.  It’s cheap ($25ish), it’s made to run on 12v, it’s the right size, and compact into the bargain.  Yay!!!!  This one is from Binnacle.com.

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Our troubles are not over…

I hooked it all up, plugged it in, it started blowing like it was born to, filling the envelope entirely in about 7 seconds, and then it kept blowing, and blowing.  Oh crap!  The plastic started to strain and at about 12 seconds I lunged to yank the leads off the battery before it blew.  Far too powerful.

4) Try a 6v battery.  Perfect.  It runs for two days on a charged 6v at exactly the right pressure.  Are we done?

Not quite.  The 70lb 6v batts that we have are, to put it mildly, no effing fun to carry back and forth from the cabin where our solar panels are mounted to the greenhouse.  Put a panel by the greenhouse?  A possibility, but there’s nowhere to mount ON the greenhouse, so it would require its own stand.

One last attempt. 5) Aha, I think, a dimmer switch.  An AC dimmer switch does not work in a 12v line.  DC dimmer switches exist, and are super cheap on eBay.  I thought this would be the final answer.  12v batts are no prob to carry, and the dimmer would cut it down to 6v.  The dimmer blew up on the first day.  Turns out you really can’t load them with a motor.

If this sounds bad and you’re wondering how much hair-pulling I left out, just imagine 100s of trips over months at all hours, in all weather, carrying batteries, and add in periods of despair (while carrying batteries) between each breakthrough.

Especially sucky is that in the winter, when you really need it inflated, there’s no sun to keep the batts charged.

Our reality: Most of the time it is not inflated.  That’s because we still have to carry 70lb 6v batteries back and forth, and it just doesn’t need to be inflated 100% of the time.  We turn it on for windy and snowy days and nights. I was a nervous Nellie at first about it, but the first winter it saw was one of the worst for snowload ever in the Maritimes, and it handily evaded Greenhouse collapse disorder.  I tightened up the plastic much more assiduously than usual for an inflated GH,  to quite smooth, and cold, there’s hardly any slack to flap.  In the heat of the summer sun, I’ll have to reevaluate how often it needs to be inflated, and perhaps dedicate a panel to it.  Then the battery-carrying might be eliminated or limited to the wintertime.

The moral of the story: think hard about inflating vs. not, before you buy.

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May 2015- We dedicated a panel to it.  Built a simple frame with legs.   It rotates manually:)  It’s working really well, now that the summer time sun is here – now we just leave GH inflated all the time, as it was intended to be.  It’s a bit of a waste for a 120W panel, perhaps, from our home system, but then, maybe it will be just right for the shorter days of winter and be not such a waste.