DIY

Aquaponic Gardening

As a teenager I was able to visit DisneyWorld, and among the time I spent there I remember passing through the Epcot center and seeing their hydroponic gardens.  They were amazing systems that displayed the potential for growing food without dirt. As a kid of course I thought this was something designed simply for use in spaceships, why else would you not have *dirt*? I learned how the workers needed to make sure the water had the correct nutrients for the plants, all that good soil would normally provide. (more…)

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Fixing it up: Refinishing a Table

Preparing for this past holiday season gave cause to some concern in my family.  Recently moved into a new home that is larger than our old one, my wife has the itch to furnish. Add to that the fact that her extended family was coming to visit to celebrate Christmas at our house this desire became much stronger.  There was one issue, however.  The fact that we had just moved into a new house, meant that our discretionary funds are and we are unable to purchase anything new.

The largest of concerns for my wife was our dining room table. Inherited from her grandmother, it hadn’t handled the years of abuse our kids have given.  Pitted, scratched, and discolored the table had truly seen better days.  My wife was really looking into what could be done to replace this thing. Dreams of counter-height, new colors, and more seating area were frequently discussed, but the reality of the budget didn’t leave her room to get what she wanted.

This then left me in the position of being able to work a little with my hands in order to make my wife a whole lot happier. (more…)

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Homemade camping stove

Sometimes you just want a small stove for your tent. Wouldn’t that be nice to have an actual wood-burning method of heating a shelter that doesn’t cost a fortune, and is easy to carry around? Now dont’ get me wrong, I truly covet a nice stove for the wall tent I dream of owning some day, but reality hasn’t let that come into my posession yet.

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Bug out/Camping/Utility Trailer

I’ve been wanting to get out camping more often, but I suspect like many have had trouble convincing my wife to give camping a try. For some reason, sleeping on the hard, cold ground doesn’t appeal to her.

Buying a dedicated camper, pop-up tent, RV would be nice, but they are generally more than I want to spend, are single purpose and often require separate registration here in Utah. I often find a need for a small utility trailer for hauling mulch, compost, etc. and here in Utah, smaller trailers under a certain weight and size don’t need to be registered. When I obtained an old home built utility trailer recently, I decided to jump head first into a home built adventure trailer build.

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Making Better Char Cloth

When starting a flint and steel or striker type of fire, char cloth makes all the difference in being able to actually get the fire started or just making a bunch of sparks that never catch anything on fire.  Char cloth (sometimes also called charred cloth) is one of those amazing mountain man items that is still very useful today.  Char cloth is pieces of blackened fabric that easily catch a spark and burn similarly to the way steel wool burns–no big flame, but a nice ember burn that doesn’t blow out once it’s lit.  The spark lights the char cloth and the char cloth is used to light the other tinder.  I’ve been wanting to add char cloth to my fire kits and having used all my char cloth made by others, I decided to make a batch of my own.

100% cotton jersey fabric

100% cotton jersey fabric

I had some basic directions to go off of, but had never made it myself, so here’s how the first round went.  I got some 100% cotton fabric–I used jersey fabric (an old T shirt) and cut it into approximately 2″ squares.  Mine was kind of a natural color, but you could probably use any color you have, just avoid screen-printed designs, etc.  I cut the ribbing off from the neck and sleeve ends as well as the seams.  You just want the fabric.

Next, I got a metal can–I used an old cookie tin.  I punched a vent hole in the can lid with a hammer and nail.  You can use whatever metal can you have–I’ve seen it done with smaller tins as well as cleaned out food cans with foil for a lid.

Char cloth cooking tin

Char cloth cooking tin

Cut cloth in the tin

Cut cloth in the tin

I put the cut up fabric squares in the tin, put the lid on, and put the can on my grill on low and let it cook.  You definitely want to do this outside–burning fabric doesn’t smell all that good.  My instructions said to cook it until it stopped smoking.  I had the tin fairly full, and cooked it close to 3 hours before I decided to turn it off.  It never smoked a lot.  When it cooled, I opened the can and only the bottom 3-4 layers were black, the rest of the fabric was brown.

I turned the pile over and put it back on the grill on Medium this time and cooked it another close to 3 hours.  This time it was all black when it was finished.  However, it didn’t catch a spark very well.  I could light it with a flame, or an occasional large spark, but it was very frustrating to work with.  Nothing like the char cloth I’d had before that a friend of ours made from terry cloth (old towel).

Cooked jersey char cloth

Cooked jersey char cloth

So I put it back on the grill again, this time I only filled the can about 1/3 full and cooked it on high another 3 hours or so.  Now it was a little more fragile and easy to tear (as char cloth generally is), but it still didn’t catch spark well.  I had no more ideas to make it better, so I decided to start over.

Cotton monks' cloth (quarter for scale) and smaller cooking tin

Cotton monks' cloth (quarter for scale) and smaller cooking tin

The second and far better batch of char cloth I made started with 100% cotton monk’s cloth I got at Walmart.  Notice the loose weave and air holes.  Those made a huge difference.  I cut it a little smaller this time–about 1 1/2 inch square as 2″ was a little larger than necessary.  There is some shrinkage as it cooks, but not that much.  I wanted to see if it would work straight from the store without washing the fabric first, so I only cut 5 squares of it.

I put it in a smaller tin which also got the hammer/nail air vent in the lid.

Feeling like I’d spent enough of my grill gas on this project, I opted to do this round real mountain man style and build a fire and toss the tin in the fire.  I pretty well buried it–it’s in there somewhere.

Real mountain man char cloth cooking method

Real mountain man char cloth cooking method

It did not cook long in the fire–maybe 15 minutes (of course it was in a smaller tin than the first round, but I’m guessing even a large tin wouldn’t take 9 hours in the fire).  I couldn’t tell when it stopped smoking since it was in a fire with all the rest of the smoke, so I just guessed at when to pull it out.  It wouldn’t matter if it stayed in there until the fire burned out as long as no sparks got in the airhole and caught all the fabric on fire in the meantime.

Cooked monk's cloth char cloth

Cooked monk's cloth char cloth

I fished it out, let it cool, and opened it to nicely blackened monk’s cloth.

This second round of char cloth lights up with minimal spark from a firestarter or flint/steel.  It is more fragile than the jersey char cloth, but works much better.  I’ll have to post on flint/steel firestarting another time :)

Char cloth burning

Char cloth burning

So, to recap, to make better char cloth, start with a 100% cotton fabric with texture and a fairly loose weave.  Use a fire pit if you can to save on gas.  Cooking on higher heat and cooking a smaller batch help speed up cooking time.  Happy firestarting!

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DIY: Horizontal Storage of 55 gal. Water Barrels

water_barrels_finalFAILURE WARNING: After two weeks two barrels started to collapse due to insufficient support. I plan to add a 2×6 or 2×8 across the middle to increase the surface area supporting the barrels. I was anxious to share this project and should have waited longer to see if my concerns about too little support were legitimate. I will re-post this article once I have a proven design.

I will  I stumbled across this DIY project recently for storing 55 gal. water barrels horizontally. The biggest drawback of standard upright water barrels is getting the water out when needed. This generally involves either a siphon or a hand pump. Storing the barrels horizontally and adding a spigot to one of the caps makes using the barrels much more convenient. You’ll also be more likely to exchange the water every six months since it will be easier to do.

Here’s the website I found this project on and here are the instructions you’ll need (same pdf as you’ll find on the other website).

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Pandemic Preparedness – DIY Sanitization

san-prodsPandemic Preparedness is one of the simpler types of prepping – mostly because it relies heavily on you already being prepped with other things like food storage, water storage, etc.  A major component of Pandemic Prepping is preparation for quarantine.  Sanitation is a major part of Pandemic and quarantine preparedness.  While sanitzation is always important, during quarantine, sanitization will be extremely important in order to keep everyone healthy.  In this post we’re going to talk about killing germs and how to do it safely with household products.

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