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.