Sunday, April 11, 2021

Playing Carpenter in My Garden

I’m not a carpenter, but I do sew.  And there are many, many similarities in how both trades function.  The tools are some of the scariest differences and why I don’t normally pretend to be a carpenter.   Sometimes I can barely handle scissors so saws are not really my thing.   I’ve held many a board while it was cut or screwed in and I’ve had many cockamamie ideas that I’ve tried to have come to life through other peoples carpentry skills, so I do have some ideas about how wood and screws come together.

Homemade cage

This time, the man was too busy to help this one come to life and I knew enough of how I wanted it to look, that I thought maybe I could do it myself.  I knew this would involve cutting wood.  The man has a battery powered small circular saw that seems much safer  to me than a table saw or a skill saw, both of which get plugged in.  The battery powered one requires that you press two things at once when using it, so the second you dismember yourself, the remaining fingers will let go of anything and the saw will stop.  

Sounds safer, right?

I knew I wanted to make this out of strapping, which is not as thick as 2x4s, so easier to cut and deal with and lightweight.  And less expensive.  For this task, I didn’t need something highly durable.  I’m not trying to keep animals in or out.  Once we bought the bundle of strapping, I explained the bones of my idea to the man and he told me which screws would probably be best and off I went to the hardware store for screws, hinges and a latch.

Little did I realize that all of the hardware cloth (the metal stuff) that I thought I had at home had already been used last year in a project, so I would have to buy a bunch of that to complete this.  But that came later.

The first task was to get the frame done, which I did between work and dark one night.  The doors were a puzzle to me from the outset and I didn’t like any of the suggestions the man came up with.  This is about convenience.  I didn’t want to be lifting anything or making hatches that were going to need to be propped up if I opened them.  

The man also couldn’t picture how big this was going to be.  

At one point, he said I should make the top removable so I can just reach inside.  I still can’t stop laughing.  I can’t reach all the way inside with this on the ground, nevermind up on this raised bed.  I knew from the beginning it would be about 3 feet tall.  I’m still laughing.

The next day, I needed to get hardware cloth and as with pretty much everything I want, nowhere in my area had the size I wanted.  If you’d like to know the expensive way to do this, I’m your man.  Had I put some thought into that part of it and been a little patient, I would have ordered a roll and saved a lot of money but I had neither patience nor enough forethought.  

I did discover that there is 1/2 hardware cloth and 1/4 inch.  1/4 inch is what I knew would make this better, but the dimensions in 1/4 were less available than half inch.  The steam coming out of my ears as I did some math to decide the lesser of all evils could have powered a city.  As it was, I forgot how long 10 feet really is, so I ended up having to run out and get one more roll but in a different size because it was a different store.

Again, patience was not for me that day.

I went to bed that night with all but the doors completed.  I started looking online at how homemade doors look and it didn’t help much.  I asked the man for millionth time how I was going to do the doors.  He told me to think about it and then look the next day at what I’ve made and what I can do that would work.  For a second I thought he had become a teacher without my knowledge.  That’s a very teacher like suggestion and one I would definitely make to a whiny student who didn’t want to solve the puzzle herself.   Not the man’s typical behavior, but it worked.

I ended up finagling doors that open and close.  They are not completely straight and it makes me mad but I also didn’t use a tape measure for most of what I did so I won’t complain .

The only thing I haven’t figured out is a latch.  The one I bought won’t work because when the doors are closed and latched to each other, they open a little bit together.  I need to think about that some more.

So what is this?  A chicken coop?  Rabbit hutch?  Play yard for the cats?

It’s this year’s attempt to keep the cabbage moths away from my cabbage, kohlrabi, broccoli and whatever other brassica I manage to grow.  Last year’s farce didn’t work at all.  Every year, I get tons of them started only to have the caterpillars get the upper hand and I lose a lot.  

The cage is portable so I expect that another year it will be moved somewhere else so I can change what grows in that bed because I always rotate crops.  Most plants can’t be covered because they need pollinating but not the brassica family.

Brassica seedlings
Here are some of the babes that will get to live in the cage as soon as they are bigger.  There are kohlrabi and cabbage in this group.  

For the time and money that went into this, I hope it works!  

Not a single digit was lost, not a scrape to be had.

And there wasn’t even that much swearing.  Except when I had to “sew” some of the sections together with wire because I needed to do them in Pieces. There was a lot of swearing then!



Thursday, April 8, 2021

Ye Olde Outdoor Shower

Outdoor shower article

Today’s newspaper had this  article on the front page.  Clearly, it was a slow news day.  But it brought to mind the baffled expressions I’ve seen on people’s faces who don’t live  here, when I mention the outdoor shower.  People think it’s a joke, or they think it’s a ridiculous idea.  Sometimes, they think that because so many houses here are really old, it means we still have houses that don’t have indoor plumbing! I also think some people think it’s just a glorified hose so the water will be freezing,   I guess unless you have a lake house somewhere or live near the ocean, the idea of an outdoor shower seems peculiar  

Based one on of my non local friend’s refusal to take a shower in my outdoor shower, I think the biggest confusion is that people think they will be exposed.  Even though there’s a fence around it and you’re totally in seclusion, those who’ve never taken an outdoor shower fear they will be walked in on, seen from an upstairs window or spied on in some other way.  

I can’t 100% rule out any of those possibilities.  

We are near an airport, so small planes are constantly flying overhead.  If a passenger can identity my naked body in the shower from that height, I don’t even care.  Plus, most of my showers are at night so I can’t imagine being seen and identified  from a plane.

We do have upstairs windows and though we placed the shower 20 feet away from the house (most have them right next to the house) you could spy from upstairs.  

There is usually a door on an outdoor shower (we are in the process of redoing ours so the door is actually not there) but someone opening the door is always a possibility but highly unlikely in my yard.  

Most people who have outdoor showers say it’s so people can rinse off after going to the beach and no sand gets brought inside.  I completely agree with this and wonder why we never had one growing up.  With swimming lessons for many summers, I think my mother would have loved saying “get out of the car and go right to the outdoor shower and rinse off”.

We added an outdoor shower in the early 2000s and here’s what I can tell you about why it’s the best thing we’ve ever done:

1.  No steam in the bathroom to encourage mold.  Probably my #1 pleasure of having an outdoor shower.

2.  No soap scum to clean.  

3.  No long hair stuck on anything or clogging a drain- there’s no drain.  The floor is trek recycled decking and below is stone so the water spreads out and absorbs into the ground.

4.  Taking a shower in the sun is pretty great.

5.  Taking a shower in the dark, under the stars is pretty great.

6.  Taking a shower in the freezing cold but under hot water is spectacular.  This is a labor of love.  It’s not weather proof, so the water has to be shut off in the winter.  The man runs down cellar to turn it on and off each time he takes a shower in the winter.  Every. Single. Time.   That’s the worst part of a winter outdoor shower.  I will take one outside in the winter under two conditions:  there can’t be any wind and it has to be a day I wash my hair so I can put my head under the warm water.  Once fall arrives, my showers are mostly indoors again until evening temps are back to the 50s.  I will occasionally take one on a calm night in the winter but not every night, like the man does.

7.  Taking an outdoor shower on a hot day when the sun is out and then sitting in your towel for a minute in the patio while you dry is pretty spectacular.

8.  No worries about splashing water, flinging shampoo as you’re sudsing up, etc.  Imagine the joy of coming home from some kind of FILTHY job or activity and just going right to the outdoor shower to get undressed and shake the dirt out and then clean up before going inside.

9.  You might have a little frog friend that lives in your shower for a little while.  

10.  If you need to wash something with hot water but your sinks and bathtub aren’t going to work, the outdoor shower can handle it,  it’s my preferred way to wash the litter boxes.  Sometimes the hose isn’t enough because you need nice, hot water and the outdoor shower has that.

There are some drawbacks:

1.  They really aren’t legal.  If a building inspector comes, they can tell you to remove it.  I’m not sure anyone really would remove one or that a building inspector has really told anyone to remove them, but they aren’t technically allowed.  And there was one instance locally of a fire that supposedly started in an outdoor shower because a mirror caught the sun and started a fire.  Another reason not to have your shower right up against the house!

2.  Wind is a serious issue you’d never think of in an indoor shower.  Even on a warm night, wind can be a nuisance and spoil the joy.  Our shower happens to be in the most wind prone part of the yard and many a time I have thought it wasn’t windy only to get out there and have freezing gusts blow over me.  Wind also knocks over shampoo and soap bottles and extreme wind, which we have a lot, will scatter things all over the place.

3.  Bar soap is a tasty treat for mice and they will scratch at it and eat it if not covered.  We no longer use bar soap!  This has been the most bizarre discovery!

4.  Guests who aren’t used to outdoor showers think you’re weird.

5.  Bugs.  Anything that likes wet places will visit your outdoor shower, especially if it’s located in a damp area.  Ours gets sun for most of the day so it remains pretty dry but there have been a few hair raising spider encounters and I refuse to take an outdoor shower at night without a light on.  

That’s it.  The pros far outweigh the cons and I would advocate for outdoor showers forever.  We are currently doing a remodel of ours and it hasn’t been in use for a few months.  I’ve gotten so used to not taking a shower inside after another person has taken a shower inside, that when I enter a steamy bathroom after the man takes a shower, I can’t stand it!  Spring is here and the outdoor shower is calling.  We will have it redone by summer but I definitely would use it tonight if it was up to snuff.


Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Channeling My Secret Inner Designer

I’m not a pattern designer, I don’t pretend to be one and I really don’t want to have the ability.  There’s so much thinking and life consuming work in designing a pattern to then sell to the masses and I’d be devastated to see someone interpret my design differently than I intended.  Or worse, see someone struggle with my design and not be able to help.  Instead, I buy the patterns and mostly follow the rules, until something whispers in my brain and I have to change things just a tad.  Because I’m human.

Halfmoon 101Jeans
A few posts back, I raved and raved about the Halfmoon 101 Jeans from Halfmoon Atelier.  They are far from skinny jeans.  They remind me of 90s jeans.  No stretch.  Real denim.  But with a rise that doesn’t touch my throat.   Because short torso and high waist equal a strange corset-like monstrosity.  These are nothing like that.

As I made my second pair, I got to thinking how great it would be to have a denim skirt that fit through the hips the same way.  And I started perseverating  on how I could make that happen, as I started ripping out all of the man’s older, ripped jeans.  That really is some nice denim and it frustrates me that it’s hard to find. My second pair of jeans was made from off the bolt denim and as it gets worn, I swear it’s getting harsher and more burlap-like.

Sometimes, I have some divine intervention that steps in and my wild ideas turn into exactly what I wanted. I was so excited to share, I didn’t even wait until daylight.  I stood on a stool and hit my head on the ceiling so I could capture these beauties.

Jeans skirt

Jeans skirt

Jeans skirt

It took a lot of thinking and lots of studying skirts I already have so I could see their construction.  I pulled out two denim skirt patterns that I already have but both use a different fly method and I just couldn’t figure out how to transfer that method to this pattern.  Eventually, I winged it and I like what I have.

This is from upcycled denim so it has some dark patches and the fronts are actually two different brands, which I didn’t realize at first.  I’m debating making another.  As I’m writing this, I’m wearing the current one to see how it relaxes as it gets worn.

I didn’t hem this.  I’ve been on a non hemming kick.  I topstitched right at the edge so it will fray and then stop because that’s the kind of casual mood of this skirt.  It doesn’t have a lot of room for climbing big steps.  Climbing on the stool for pictures was risky enough.  But that’s how I like a denim skirt.  I don’t like them all shifty and acting like a silo around my body.

Come back soon and I’ll tell you all about my new favorite sewing machine foot that made this a breeze!


Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Talking Books

Talking book playerLet all my gen Z and millennial friends gather ‘round while I tell a riveting tale of life before hand held computers.  Way back when I was a kid in the 1900s, I had a record player in my room and lots of records to keep me entertained.  It’s hard to believe that a little kid could handle placing the needle on the record (and I know it’s hard for some of you to even visualize “placing a needle on a record” but we did and it worked) and not destroying it but my sisters and I seemed to manage it and spent years listening to songs and books.  
But before that, I had the latest and greatest in technology: the talking book.  Do you remember this this?  Fisher Price had their act together around 1980 when they made this foolproof device.  
You bought books that had a magic little circle on each page and when you put this thing on it, and
Talking book
pressed one of the brown buttons, it read aloud.  This was no robotic voice, it was a pre recorded audio book that was somehow impressed into the little circles and this thing would let it play!  Just the words for that page were on the circle on each page.  Anyone could do it.  Chubby toddler hands, arthritic grandparent hands.  You just put the player in that green circle and it would somehow play it.  I think it was somehow like a record.  
This came up recently because I mentioned Gertrude Mcfuzz, a Dr. Seuss character.  I vividly remember the book and the page where she had too many feathers and couldn’t fly.
This page traumatized me.  I hated how the other birds had to carry her and everyone was miserable.  

When I mentioned it to my sister, she said she never heard of her and the more I described it, the more we wondered why.  It was a very strong memory of a book that I didn’t like to read because I’d get a stomach ache just thinking about it.

I googled Gertrude McFuzz and one thing led to another and when I saw this page with the little green circle,  4  decades of a memory crashing through to 2021.  I almost remember what I was wearing the day I heard this book, the memory is that strong.

Gertrude McFuzz isn’t her own book.  She appears in Yertle the Turtle, which I know I’ve never read.  And, she’s a main character in Seussical, the musical, which I’ve never seen.  So how do I know Gertrude and why did she upset me?  

I hadn’t read the book and no one had read it to me.  I had played it with my magical device and it was the woman’s voice reading it that I remember.  I was bothered by Gertrude eating the berries to get more feathers and I didn’t like how the birds were like slaves carrying her home.

Oddly, Fisher  Price created a book that is her story, as a stand alone book, and narrated it for the Talk to Me line of books.  If you google, you’ll find a whole collection of books and I bet some of you will suddenly remember!  I didn’t recognize any of the other images that came up but I do remember having several of these books.  How ahead of the game was Fisher Price back then ?  Before audiobooks on cassettes or CDs.  Before expensive cassette and DVD players.  

I’ve never asked anyone if they had one because it was something I’d forgotten about but now I wonder who else had this? 




Thursday, February 18, 2021

Frozen in Stainless Mode

My refrigerator died
When my 25+ year old refrigerator gave up the ghost this week, I had to buy a new refrigerator.  I’m a big fan of if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, so I haven’t even considered replacing any of these appliances that are all 2 decades old or more.  Living in an old house, size is a serious issue and with all of the perks and newfangled gadgetry these days, trying to choose an appliance is like cramming for a final.

Refrigerator
Saturday morning, the old refrigerator had let the butter get soft (that sounds like a new way to say someone is near death, doesn’t it) and something in the freezer melted, but not everything.  We took that as a hint to get started on the idea of buying a new one.  I trekked off just to look at what’s out there, seriously doubtful  that I would find what I want, in a size that fits the doorways of this old house.  The new standard refrigerator is 36 inches wide and there’s no way that would fit the current space, never,ind trying to find a door to get it through.

My requirements are simple: a) not stainless b) bottom freezer c) single refrigerator door.

A)I just don’t like the look of stainless.  It’s an old house and while my decor may not be consistent and mostly questionable, stainless just screams “I don’t belong here!”  I wanted beige.  Almond.  Cream.  Bisque. Apparently I’m the last soul on earth looking for almond and no one wants black or white so they aren’t stocking them.

B)  I like a bottom freezer so the top has more space for refrigerated goods.  We have a stand alone freezer so freezer space in my refrigerator isn’t a big deal to me.  I freeze a lot of glass jars and bowls so having the bottom freezer reduces the likelihood of them slipping out of the freezer and breaking themselves, my foot or the tile floor.

C) I am capable of getting my hand caught in double refrigerator doors, no matter how they are made.  I can’t explain how it happens but it’s happened enough that I hate double doors.

At my first stop, I discovered that appliances are still not in stock and hard to come by, so when I found a few models that would fit and had at least one of requirements, I sat in my car and googled the model numbers until I found a place that would deliver within 3 days.

Good thing because by Tuesday, the old refrigerator had written its final will and testament and had become nothing but a giant cooler, stocked with ice packs.

Behold, my entry to the 21st century.

Stainless refrigerator
Ok, maybe I’m only halfway there because of my almond dishwasher right next to it.  That will be my next replacement because it’s also doing strange antics signifying it’s just about done.  And the stove is getting close to 20 years old so I’m sure there’s room in the grave for that one too.

And now I’m locked into the stainless mode for the next 2 decades. 

Who am I kidding.  Today’s appliances last 10 years.  


Monday, February 15, 2021

My Fabric Garage

Years ago, I bought these hanging sweater holders to organize my fabric.  I call it the Fabric Garage.  .  The  quilting cottons are in rainbow order and in the middle, I have some knits and wovens for clothing.

Fabric organization

Recently, a friend asked me if I’d like some fabrics that she didn’t have time to use.  I never turn down fabric!  I figured it would be a few pieces, maybe a bag full.  It was one bag and one box but I never expected all of this.

Fabric

Fabric
Once it was all washed, dried and ironed, I brought it to join the rest in my Fabric Garage.  I organize mostly by the main color in a fabric with one pile of very specific prints that don’t fit anywhere else.  I also have a bookcase with bins for scraps that are too small to bother putting in the bigger holders.  The bins of scraps are in Rainbow order too.  It’s what I do.
Fabric

Fabric

Fabric
I always wash, dry and iron fabric before putting it away because I don’t want to have to wait to do that once I decide on a project.  I wasn’t expecting to have such full bins after this haul but wow, do I have a lot of awesome fabric now!    I’m excited because I have a few scrap quilts percolating in my mind and now I have so much to choose from!

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Being A Responsible Blogger

I’ve learned so much in my decade of blogging: from how to select a theme, to what a widgets, to how to embed code.  I love all of the things I’ve figured out and how easy blogging has become over the years.

Something not a lot of people consider is accessibility.  I’ve learned a lot about the limits of accessibility and how important it is so that everyone can access what you’re putting out there.  In my position in technology, I have to be sure our school websites are accessible.  You’d be surprised how much still in inaccessible to people with disabilities even with all of the amazing technology we have.  Yes, there are screen readers and text to speech, but as far as we’ve come with these technologies, they are not always fabulous and in so many cases, they are laborious and tedious.

As a blogger, one thing you can do is alt text to your pictures.  This allows a screen reader to explain the pictures when hovered over.  It will say whatever you type, so be clear in what you write.  You might have noticed this on Instagram lately.  I see a lot of auto captioning now in videos and it’s because people are choosing to allow it to auto caption so people can read or be read to.  Again, it’s not perfect and mistakes abound but it’s a step in the right direction.  

Explaining how to add alt text
I know this will astound you, but I use plain on Blogger for this amazing blog.  When I add a picture, I get this:
I simply type a brief statement about what is in the picture and when touched or hovered over, the text will appear or be read aloud.  It isnt perfect, but it’s something that takes an extra minute that you can do to help those who don’t have the same access that you might  have.