Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Getting a Grip

In our daily quest to become more environmentally conscious I have switched from using a gas powered mower to my wife's push mower. It is quiet, costs less to buy, operate, and maintain, it doesn't create carbon monoxide emissions, helps free us from our dependence on foreign oil, and I can always use a little more exercise.

Unfortunately, the handle grips had worn out and torn on the push mower. As I mowed it would without fail hit a stick or thick weed, jamming the blade, causing the mower blade to stop, causing the handle grip to slide off, inevitably driving the exposed handle into my groin. Needless to say, this upset me greatly and gave me the proper motivation to fix the problem.

I had the great idea of replacing the grips with pieces of an old garden hose. The problem is that the hose is slightly smaller than the handle. I boiled some water to soften the hose hoping it would stretch enough to fit. I sprayed the handle with a silicon lubricant to help get the hose on. This failed miserably. Picture trying to stuff a marshmallow through a keyhole. After about an hour of struggling with it I had it about half way on. And the hose had cooled by this time and wasn't going to come back off the same way it went on. So I set the project aside and hadn't mowed the lawn since.

Then my dad gave me his pipe threader. Either because they don't have pipe in Hawai'i or because it costs to much to ship. So I threaded the handles like a screw. At this point it had to work, 'cause there was no undoing this. I used a heat gun to keep the hose pliable and set about threading the hose onto the handle. It still didn't go easily. 

As you can see there are about 70 threads and each time I rotated the hose about 90 degrees. So it took about 560 turns to get both handles on. It gave me a blister and my hands are very sore. But I got them on and the world is a better place for it. Next time I think I will go to the Boise Bike Project and find some used bike handle bar grips. It just wasn't worth the time or labor to do this since it took me over an hour and now I don't have an excuse to not mow the lawn.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Gore Darber

Several months ago my new 'rents-in-law took an amazing vacation to the Amazon jungle and then to the Galapagos Islands. While they were away we had a storm sweep through the valley that struck their patio furniture with great vengeance and furious anger, breaking the glass table top. Well "breaking" is a bit of an understatement. I'm not even sure "shattering" does it justice. Picture a car windshield in all those tiny little bits. When I saw the table frame my wife said "Can you kindly make me a gourd arbor outta this?" I said "Hey, I just had a great idea. I bet I can make a gourd arbor out of that." And I did. 

But wait! Let me tell you about it, and include pictures!

This project was very easy. It probably took me 20 minutes to make and 10 minutes to stick it in the ground. My wife and I had wanted to plant some birdhouse and dipper gourds this year and we need something for them to grow in/on/around. This table was perfect!

Side story - Last summer I got a steal of a deal on some cedar fence boards (only 40 cents per (compared to $1.60 at Home Depot)) so I took all that they had left. The wood had been stacked on two 10 foot cedar 4x4s, so I asked if I could have those as well which they were happy to throw in since they had been sitting in the mud. 

I simply drove four 3" deck screws threw the table frame and into the 4x4s. At the base I took two 4" scraps of wood left over from the Greatest Cat Condo Ever Built and drove a handful of screws from the Brother Printer every two inches. Then I ran some hemp string from the screws to the inner leg support for the patio table. Finally, I dug two holes and planted the arbor about two feet deep. Easy as pie!

I don't know if any of you have ever grown gourds. If not, I highly recommend you do. They are a fascinating plant! The leaves are huge with beautiful patterns and they grow in a sort of funnel shape in a column. When it rains the water flows from one leaf and funnels down to the subsequent leaves. When it's hot, the leaves wilt and hang limp, but as soon as the temperature drops in the evening, they perk right back up. We planted 12 birdhouse and 12 dipper seeds and only got five plants. As you'll see, that was more than enough. At first we didn't think they would grow at all because they took 21 days to germinate. 

They have these little finger things that grow straight out and they rotate until they touch something. When the do, the rotating motion causes them to start wrapping around the object, coiling up, and drawing the plant up against what ever it has grabbed.

Once the little fingers grabbed hold of the hemp twine it was ridiculous! On one strand from one plant on one random day we measured 10" of growth in 24 hours! In the past month they have grown from the ground to the top of the arbor (8 feet) back to the ground and as much as 6 feet along the ground! 

Here's what it looks like now. I'm guessing we're gonna get around 100 or so gourds outta this thing. And it's still growing. It's grabbed hold of the tomato plants and the fence and whatever weeds were sticking outta the ground. Soon it will have breached the patio and started up the trellis.

 And here's what the gourds look like right now. In a couple of weeks I'll update this and show you what we've done with the gourds!
Birdhouse Gourd
Dipper Gourd