DIY
Do-it-yourself projects and plans for anyone who can swing a hammer.

The Mobile Maker-Stream Lab @ People's Tech Convergence

 

Ms. Clark, a retired chemist, president of the sponsor and spokesperson of the Women's Club in Burlingame, introduced the Makers to the People's Tech Convergence:

The maker culture is a contemporary culture or subculture representing a technology-based extension of DIY culture that intersects with hacker culture and revels in the creation of new devices as well as tinkering with existing ones. The maker culture in general supports open-source hardware. Typical interests include engineering-oriented projects like electronics, robotics, 3-D printing, and more traditional activities such as metalworking, woodworking, and the traditional arts and crafts. Makers stress a cut-and-paste approach to traditional hobbies and encourages re-use of designs from websites and maker-oriented publications.

Esoteric Donations

Mid-afternoon at the People's Tech Convergence in Burlingame. Permies, Transitionites, a pack of 35 Girl Scouts and wide-eyed rabid recyclers from Richmond to Gilroy piled out of the Women's Club and invaded the curb. No one could have predicted the stuff that people wanted to donate to the emerging Mobile Maker-Stream Lab. Rose was ready with her wish list.

"Hey, back there! Is that a microwave?" she laughed. "Please bring it in here."

A kid from Berkeley, having lost his mother in the fray, dragged an ancient, dented, red-orange tool box full of wrenches, bolts, nails and screw drivers.

"We need that box. Where's your Mom, young man?"

"Inside somewhere, making a drone from a busted PC."

"Cool."

"I need a new modem," called Rose.

"Here, got ya one!"

Fueled in part by the barter economy ethic, the community's share-craft gear offering is for a great cause. Soon the Mobile Maker Lab will journey to more community groups, transmitting new regenerative values and stories and supporting events like this one with live streams and competitions.

Eventually, Rose accepted some computers parts, a few old cameras and smart phones, and a seed collection. All were logged-in and stored in the converted Air Stream for imaginations and conversions to come. Rose, the Eco-Alchemist, has a month to install and test the new Mobile Maker-Stream Lab before her workshop at The MakerSpace at the New Museum, Los Gatos.

Regenerative Mythology is a community of practice (CoP): a group of people who share a craft and/or a profession. Please join the Regenerative Mythology Group at LinkedIn to participate now. Other channels are coming soon.

Willi draws deeply on the emerging values in the permaculture and transition towne movements. He is creating sound myths based now after an eight year exploration of myth, alchemy, compost soil and sound archetypes for Planetshifter.com and his experimental sound project, the chaos era. Please discover him at Regenerative Mythology, a new Community of Practice, on LinkedIn. Email Mr. Paul at willipaul1@gmail.com


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A New Spin on an Old Craft Handspun Yarn Gets Its Resurgence

Beautiful Handspun Yarn

When I tell people that my hobby is spinning, they usually assume I mean the trendy exercise class. However, you won’t find me sweating it out in a gym hunched over a stationary bike (although it’s a fair assumption to make as I am a physical education teacher by trade). Rather than pedaling, my spinning involves treadling. And it’s more common than you may think.

What’s Driving Handspinning’s Renewed Popularity?

Handspinning yarn from wool and other materials has seen a resurgence in the last two decades. While I don’t pretend to know all that has brought this about, I do know that it has grown not just in popularity, but the craft also has evolved and flourished as an art. Spinning veterans and newcomers alike are working to preserve traditional knowledge and to push the boundaries by exploring new methods and materials, creating a rich and diverse field of makers and a renewed prominence.

Digital marketplace. Since handspinning’s last wax and wane in popularity, we have seen the development of a global marketplace and communications network. This means that not only do today’s spinners have instant access to information, instructions, and an (amazing!) online community, but we also have easy and fairly inexpensive access to a whole range of materials that were previously difficult to source. With the click of a button, we can have silk from Asia, rare breeds from Great Britain, and Quiviut from the Arctic (ok so that one isn’t inexpensive!) sent right to our door.

Makers movement. Conversely, and likely in reaction to the above-mentioned digital presence in our lives, there has even more recently emerged several co-existing and intertwined movements that push back against the digital age: slow living, the makers movement, and slow fashion.

A sense of place and purpose. Despite how happy we are to have information at our fingertips, it (ironically) leaves us starved for a sense of connection. In reaction, we yearn to savor our creating, to know where the materials came from, and to produce long-lasting, quality garments that can be worn and enjoyed for decades. A step beyond the more mainstream crafts of knitting, crochet, and weaving is spinning your own yarn — possibly even from fleece you’ve sourced and processed yourself.

New modes of learning. And while such an historical craft may seem incongruous with the digital age, it’s an incredibly convenient anachronism. You can take an online course on Craftsy while nestled in front of your hearth. You can order a PVC spinning wheel to travel to guild spin ins with or browse YouTube for videos to help you restore your antique wheel. You can register online for a growing number of educational retreats where spinning celebrities will teach you new skills, and you can join a team of spinners from around the world for the Spinzilla or Tour de Fleece competitions.

Handspinning is an enjoyable, relaxing, and practical craft. It allows us to connect with the past while complimenting current lifestyle trends. It can be a very cost effective hobby and requires very minimal investment. So whether you learn from a YouTube video on a DIY drop spindle you find instructions for online, or head to the local guild to try out a selection of wheels and receive hands-on tutoring, I do hope that you will join me and give this craft a whirl.

Jennifer Huhta is a production handspinner and natural fiber artist in Ontario, where she teaches yarn-spinning classes, writes for fiber arts publications, runs an online business, and works with Canadian shepherds to creatively promote their fleeces. Connect with Jennifer at Roses and Purls on Facebook, Instagram and Etsy.


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A Quick Way to Repair Pin-Holes in Garden Hoses

Sometimes a garden hose will spring a pin-hole. Every leak reduces the amount of water reaching our plants, or increases the time we have to spend watering to give the plants enough. In hot dry weather, time spent watering is at a premium! Leaky hoses can waste a lot of water in one growing season! We need ways to get leaky hoses back in action quickly. Here's a way to quickly repair hose pin-holes, using parts you likely already have in your shed.

 

A repaired hose ready to get back into action. Photo by Pam Dawling

If you are dealing with larger holes, or lengthwise cracks, cut out the damaged portion and see my August 2017 post Step by Step Garden Hose Repairs. If it's a very small hole, you likely have been questioning whether it's worth the time to cut the hose and fit a repair coupling. Here's an alternative (with no cutting) that's very quick to do.

My collection of old hose repair clamps, ready for a new life. Photo by Pam Dawling

Plastic hose repair clamps often last longer than the inserts. I hope you kept some clamps. Maybe you don't have as impressive a collection as I do, but you only need one for each repair. The other item you need is a piece of inner tube. Tools needed are a permanent marker to circle the pinhole before you lose sight of it, scissors to cut the inner tube, and a Philips screwdriver for the clamp.

Keep a caddy of hose repair tools handy, including an old inner tube. Photo by Pam Dawling

Cut a piece of inner tube a bit longer than the clamp, and wrap it around the hose over your circled pin-hole. Fit the halves of the clamp around the inner tube, being careful to keep it smooth, rather than bunched up. Have the clamps directly over the hole. Fit the screws and tighten the clamp. Test the hose. You're done.

Buy good quality watering tools

I've noticed that cheap hoses usually crack up, and that it is the better-quality ones that eventually spring pin-holes. Those good hoses are really worth repairing! Without being paid to say so, I like the Gilmour Flexogen hoses. Their heavy-duty hoses have a lifetime warranty, and even their medium-duty ones have a 10 year warranty. That's for home use. They also sell professional hoses, as well as the heavy-duty all-metal hose repair ends I advocate in Step by Step Garden Hose Repairs.

Pam Dawling works in the vegetable gardens at Twin Oaks Community in central Virginia. She often presents workshops at MEN Fairs, as well as sustainable agriculture conferences. Pam also writes for Growing for Market and other magazines. Her book, Sustainable Market Farming: Intensive Vegetable Production on a Few Acres, is available at www.sustainablemarketfarming.com, Pam's second book The Year-Round Hoophouse will be published by New Society November 20, 2018. Her blog is on her website and also on facebook.com/SustainableMarketFarming.


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Rodent Proof Raised Garden Box

 

We live in the mountains where there are numerous rodents which can make gardening very difficult. After sacrificing half or more of our gardening efforts for a few years to chipmunks, ground squirrels, moles, voles and mice we came up with a raised bed box that kept our vegetables protected. I had a personal wood mill so I milled out the lumber needed to make several boxes. Since we have been growing vegetables in the garden boxes we have not lost any of our efforts to rodents.

Flexible Size Boxes

Below is a description of the construction and design of the box. Dimensions can be changed from our 30” wide, 60” long and 18” high box to suit individual needs. The actual box itself is 6” high and 2” thick.  I built boxes that were higher to accommodate peas, zucchini and beans. Boxes like the one shown in the photo were designed for spinach, radishes, carrots and lettuce. What I also like about the raised garden box is that with the ½” hardware cloth I can water the plants without having to raise the lid. It also protects them from hail which is not unusual in the mountains and I can throw a tarp over it when we get a late season snow.

Tools Needed And Materials

The tools needed to build the box are: hammer, screwdriver for the ‘L’ brackets, tin snips, a hand saw (what I used), small square and a framing square to get good square tight fitting joints.

Materials

2 X 6’s for the box
2 X 3’s for the framing.
1 ¼ ”X 4” lumber for the lid
1/2-inch gardware cloth

Since my lumber was milled out it was true to size but nominal size from a lumber yard would do equally well. I personally chose not to use pressure treated lumber as the chemicals used to preserve it could slowly leach out over time and contaminate my garden. Instead I use a good quality wood preserver painted on and applied long before I use the box so it will soak into the wood and not into the soil.

Step 1, The Box

I start by cutting the pieces to length and height before assembly. It doesn’t make much difference what joint is used as long as it can be tight and strong. In this box pictured I used half lap joints on the upper pieces and on the actual box itself I used butt joints with ‘L’ brackets at each corner. I also used a waterproof glue on all these joints along with galvanized nails at each corner of the butt joints. Between the ‘L’ brackets, nails and waterproof glue each joint will stay strong for many years. I also cut ½” hardware cloth to fit the bottom of the box and attached it with ¾” galvanized staples to keep rodents from burrowing up from the bottom.

Step 2, The Frame

Next I cut cross supports for the three upright posts so they would firmly fit between the posts and nailed them into place with galvanized nails and glue to hold them secure. I then took the partially completed box outside and put it on our picnic table and applied a good coat of wood sealer to protect the box from repeated exposure to moisture.  When the sealer had fully dried I then stapled hardware cloth around the inside of the uprights making sure there were no gaps. that smaller rodents could access.

Step 3, The Top/s

The only part remaining was to make tops or lids for the box. I chose in this case to make two lids that came together in the middle and hinged at each end so I could plant one species of vegetable at each end. I could have used half lap joints but instead I chose to use a ¼” thick plywood gusset at each corner. I liberally applied waterproof glue to each gusset and also used decking screws to affix them in place. This made a very secure and square set of tops that will be strong. After an application of sealer to protect the tops I stapled hardware screen on each top and then put on sturdy hinges.To keep the tops from going too far back I used a ¼” rope affixed with screw eyes so the tops would stay open as seen in the photo. That completed the box and it was now ready. I had some foam insulation tape left from when we put a cap on the back of our pickup truck. I put that along the top rail to cushion the top if it falls or is dropped but it is not necessary.   

Strong, Durable, Flexible

These boxes have proved to be effective in keeping rodents out and they are also durable. We looked out the window once and saw a bear standing on top of one and all we needed to do (after it departed) was push the hardware screen up from the bottom giving it a slightly rounded crown and not a concave one caused by the bear. By using ½” hardware cloth it allows the sun to reach the plants and also air and water. Occasionally the sun gets hot at 9,800’ elevation and small seedlings will wither and die. In that case I put a piece of black 50% sun screening over the box to allow the tender seedlings a proper start.

Easy To Empty And Store

At the end of each growing season I remove the soil from the box and store the box where it is protected and out of the way. That way when I start the box again next year the soil is automatically turned and aerated and any weed roots that came up from the bottom are easily removed. The roots of the vegetables, depending on how much soil you put in the box, will grow through the bottom hardware cloth into the soil below.

For more on Bruce and Carol McElmurray and their homesteading  lifestyle in the mountains with their three German Shepherd Dogs visit their blog site. They live fairly remote in their small cabin that they heat with a wood stove and in the summer grow their own vegetables. Their blog site is:www.brucecarolcabin.blogspot.com


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Safety Tips for Dangerous Home Improvement Projects

 

You like to learn new things and come up with creative solutions, which is why you’d prefer to tackle a project yourself than delegate it to someone else — especially when it comes to home improvement tasks in your current living space.

So far, you’ve done well with this old house. You’ve given it a more modern feel, upgraded to energy-efficient appliances and hashed together a streamlined design using funky, up-cycled industrial-inspired materials.

Now it’s time to address a few of the more difficult, potentially dangerous tasks on your list. Read on to discover essential tips aimed at helping you approach three precarious projects safely and mitigate through a variety of challenging roadblocks with success.

Switching Out Electrical Fixtures

You’ve waited long enough to hang that salvaged retro chandelier, and it’s time for the faulty outlet that keeps your favorite chair in perpetual darkness to go. Before you break out your tools and head for the breaker box, take a minute to remember electrocution is one of the United States Department of Labor “fatal four” occupational hazards. People reported 67 deaths by electrocution in 2016, up more than 8 percent from the previous year.

Other risk factors associated with electrical repair include shock, burns, overheating wires, destruction of insulation, fires and explosions. You can minimize danger and maintain adequate safety caution by following these guidelines:

Always replace existing outlets with grounded alternatives. GFC — Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupter — switches have built-in breakers that automatically disconnect the flow power in case of a short. You can install these circuits in the same manner as their traditional three-pronged predecessors.

Unplug all your appliances and remove all bulbs before you begin to work.

Turn off the breaker. If you will be in an isolated portion of the house, it’s not necessary to shut off the main — you may need power to run tools and affix spotlighting — but be sure breakers associated with the area in question are completely down.

Remove faceplates or fixtures, and keep the screws that held them in place.

Slowly pull wires out, leaving yourself enough space to move around comfortably.

Note black, white and bare or green copper wires.

Attach color-coded wires in precisely the same manner to new outlets or fixtures.

Wrap electrical tape around connection wires and nuts for added stability.

If you are hanging a heavy piece, consider recruiting a friend to help you hold it securely in place while you connect the wiring.

Fixing Your Roof

Another “fatal four” cited by the United States Department of Labor is falling. Roof falls accounted for 1,200 fatalities between 2003 and 2013 alone. You don’t have to become a tragic statistic, however, to efficiently undertake necessary roof repairs. You must employ essential safety requirements — and do so with diligence.

Study fall protection options and make sure appropriate solution plans are in place from the get-go. Viable examples include using sturdy covers for roof holes, guardrail systems, safety nets with harnesses and lanyard lines with a deceleration device.

Practice secure ladder and scaffold safety techniques. Ladder locations should be level, stable and clear of high traffic areas.

Always maintain at least three points of contact when climbing a ladder — such as two feet and one hand, or one hand and both feet. Also, do not carry items up or down with you — use a bucket pulley system for necessary tools and supplies.

Maintain safe access to connective scaffolding with secure ramps, walkways, portable ladders or stair powers. Finally, do not skimp on protective equipment such as safety glasses, work gloves, treaded boots and a visored hat, preferably a hard hat.

Removing Walls

The streamlined design you’re ultimately shooting for requires a more open floor plan than the one you’ve got now. Older structures tend to include several small rooms partitioned off with non-load bearing walls — yours is no exception. If you open up one or two of the internal walls, you might find additional flexible, multi-use common space.

However, wall removal carries a significant potential risk of exposure to toxic substances.  All too often, homeowners discover previous tenants masked the presence of harmful materials by building directly over them. It’s not unusual to find asbestos hidden behind a double wall, or lead paint underneath layers of non-lead varieties.

The good news is hiring an environmental expert and arranging for pricey testing is not your only option. If you uncover something concerning — like exposed pipes with white or grey insulation remnants, or paint that breaks off in a tell-tale scaly, geometric pattern — head to your nearest home center or hardware store and buy some DIY testing kits.

While asbestos results boast an average of 2-3 weeks turnaround time, you can confirm the presence of lead-paint in minutes. Of course, taking any amount of time to assure safety will always be the best precaution — regardless of project scope.

After all, avoiding problems in the first place is the ultimate creative solution!   

Photos Credit: Image by Pixabay


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Woodburning on Gourds

Woodburned gournaments

In past posts, I’ve shared how I grow my gourds, my method for cleaning them, and  how I greenscrape smaller gourds so they have a more pristine working surface for my arting. Now it’s time to describe one of my favorite arting tools—a pyrographic system with variable temperature and precise heads for detail work. My Detail Master is easily 15 years old but I wouldn’t want to play nearly as much with my gourds without it. Though it can be used on other surfaces such as wood and leather, I have yet to wander from my gourds.

I’ve created a video to show a bit about how I work—you can view it by clicking the link at the end of this post. I encourage you to play on scraps before attempting a final piece so that you can become accustomed to each burning head. As you’ll see in the video, I have two heads for my Dagger but mostly use just one. I like the way that particular tip allows me to draw as if I were using a pen. However, this head cuts into the surface of the gourd so it can weaken a piece by creating an easy breaking point. Practicing with your tips will allow you to learn their pluses and minuses.

I don’t require many tools for this process, though the wood burning piece is a tad expensive. All that’s needed are a gourd, a pencil, an eraser, a metal scrubber, and a pyrographic system. You can add inks or dyes to that list for coloring.

Woodburning tools

I generally have an idea in mind of the design I want to create but also work on the fly simply working patterns as I go along the surface of the gourd. An important thing to keep in mind is to remain flexible. Sometimes the gourd will present you with blemishes that can change the design in the middle of your creating. There is often an unevenness in the texture of the gourd that can slow down the tip if it’s cutting the surface. This can result in variances of line width.

My usual method is to combine following my pencil drawing with some freehand work. Where I know I want to add a dimensional feel, with some bits appearing to overlap others, I will draw in pencil ahead of time. When I’m simply adding lines or texture, precise planning isn’t as important to me. Because the pencil will rub off on your hands or your clothing as you work, it’s best if you don’t spend a lot of time drawing the whole design on your gourd before you begin.

There are many ways to achieve stunning final results. I encourage you to find your own method and places of comfort. Whether you prefer to draw out your design on a flat surface first and then replicate it on your rounded gourd, create stencils to work directly on the surface, or use the combination I describe above, I’m sure that with experimentation and practice you’ll find a way to have fun adorning your gourds.

Blythe Pelham is an artist that aims to enable others to find their grounding through energy work. She is in the midst of writing a cookbook and will occasionally share bits in her blogging here. She writes, gardens and cooks in Ohio. Find her online at Humings and Being Blythe, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


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Cure Your Cat’s Cabin Fever with a Flutter Wand

I created my first Flutter Wands years ago for a series of interactive artwork. I decided to alter the design slightly to come up with a fun toy for our cats. Back then, wire hangers were very easy to come by. Hopefully you will be able to find one without too much trouble so you can create your own Flutter Wand.

Materials needed

Materials you’ll need:

1 wire clothes hanger
1 piece of strong fabric approximately 14” x 7”
14” strands of yarn (optional)
14” of nylon webbing, twill tape, or other binding material
1 piece of fabric approximately 5” square (remnants or repurposed fabric is perfect here)
stuffing material (fiberfill works, but I love reusing cotton stuffing from vitamin bottles)
needle and thread
scissors and/or rotary cutter
pliers

Steps Compilation

How to make your Cat Flutter Wand:

1. Cut 7 strips of sturdy fabric in 1-inch x 14-inch pieces. I use a fabric similar to upholstery polypropylene cambric. Experiment. This fabric needs to withstand claws and teeth but remain safe for your cats if accidentally ingested. You can also use odd-sized remnants if desired.

2. Cut a few 14-inch strands of yarn and knot each end near the ends (optional)

3. Layer the strips of fabric with the yarn lengthwise and stitch down the center (across the short width) several times to form the flutter pack. This can be accomplished quickly with a machine if preferred. Set aside.

4. Untwist hanger. Bend the hook back on itself at the angle of the neck and wrap the end around as shown. Create a double circle from the other end (also as shown).

5. Wrap and sew binding tape around the circles.

6. Tuck the flutter pack in-between the the tape-covered circles and stitch in place by running thread through pack and tape several times. Test for sturdiness by tugging on the pack—trying to remove it. Trust me, your cats will play tug o’ war every single time you play with them. It’s best to be sturdy from the outset.

7. Cut a piece of fabric for the handle. I took this opportunity to repurpose a pair of my husband’s discarded boxers—they’re both soft and stretchy. Sew, right sides together, along the bottom and up most of the side. Leave enough unsewn to be able to easily slip the fabric around the wire handle and stuff it. You can choose to wrap stuffing around the wire and then slip it into the handle fabric, or you can slip it into the pocket and then stuff. Either way, once in place, complete stitching until the handle is fully enclosed.

8. Straighten the other angles of hanger so you have a straight wand with a handle for you at one end and a flutter pack for the kitties at the other.

Your Flutter Wand is now ready for play!

If you prefer to follow pictorial step-by-step instructions, visit this page. Below you will find a link to some of our kitties in action with the Flutter Wand created in this blog. Watch the video to see the comparison between their newest and oldest wands.

Remember to be kind to your cats. They are attracted to the flutter noise. Don’t whack them with the wand. Mind their teeth and nails as they grab the wand—don’t pull it away too quickly. Don’t get them too dizzy while chasing. Take care if they are perched precariously on the edge of a table. Be sure to let them catch their prey every so often. Most cats like the flight movement while others prefer to play on the ground as though with a mouse. You might want to remove breakables and spillables from nearby in case anybody gets out of hand with your play.

Blythe Pelham is an artist that aims to enable others to find their grounding through energy work. She is in the midst of writing a cookbook and will occasionally share bits in her blogging here. She writes, gardens and cooks in Ohio. Find her online at Humings and Being Blythe, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


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