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
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.
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 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).
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.
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 gloves. Hats 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.
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.
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.
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:)
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).
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).
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…
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?”)
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.
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.
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.