Saturday, June 28, 2014

My New Clothes Line And So Can You

I have recently moved in to my trailer at the farm and it has been wonderful!! It is not completely set up yet, I'm waiting for a few things in the mail, so once it's all put together I'll take a bunch of pictures and take you through a tour :)

Just a day ago I made myself a clothesline so that I could, you know, do laundry. I just did a little research on the interwebs and then went for it! I thought I would take you through what I did step by step so that you can make one too. This is my first 'how to' and I didn't really plan ahead so I don't have any pictures of the building process, but I'll do my best to make it as clear as possible.

I made a T post clothesline with supports.

What You Will Need: I really just winged it, but it all turned out great so all is well :)
Two 10" 4x4
One 10" 2x4
One 10" 2x2
8 long nails, 2 1/2' or longer
16 shorter nails, 1 1/2' or 2'
8 medium hook screws (Again with the not planning ahead, I don't know the exact size I used but they were not small flimsy and they were not huge industrial)

Rod-like-tool for tightening hooks (I had a screwdriver handy but any strong tool that can fit through the hook hole will work)

Step One:
First you want to cut all the wood pieces. The 4x4's don't get cut so you can just put those to the side for now. The 2x4 gets cut in half at the 5" mark. I did not have a measuring tape handy so I took the clothesline sting, laid it along the board and measured the board with that marking the spot where the board ended. I then folded the sting in half and marked the string at the half way crease and then used that to mark the half way point on the board.

I also don't have a place to saw things, so I put one end of the board being cut on top of the 2 4x4s stacked to get the sawing point off the ground.

The 2x2s get cut into 4ths, at the 2"6' mark, the 5" mark, and the 7"6' mark. Now your four 2x2 pieces get cut again. Each corner needs to be cut off at a 45 degree angle so that they can support a 90 degree corner.

Of course I didn't have any tool for making perfect angles, so I took a piece of thick paper/thin cardboard that was a square and folded it in half to make a triangle and used that to mark out the 45 degrees on either side of the boards. I drew on all four sides of the board so that I would have multiple lines to follow during sawing. 

Step Two:

Now that you have all the sawing done you can put it together! (see how fast this is going?)

First you want to make the 'T' and to do that you need to mark the middle of the top of the 4x4 and the middle on the length of the 2x4 so that when you nail them together one side of the T isn't longer than the other and it wont be pulled off balance when you have heavy sheets on there. 

You want to lay them down on a flat surface so they line up perfectly and line up your two marks. I put four nails in the top and that seemed to work well. You want to start with two nails on the diagonal, one on the top right followed by one on the bottom left.

Do that with both posts so you have two 'T's.

It's starting to look like a real clothes line now! I have seen some clothes lines that just left it at this and have had success with it, but I wanted to make sure it was more stable. That and I like the look of the supports.

To nail the supports on I stood the T on it's side so it looked like it was a side plank champ. It is easy for the top to wiggle out of it's 90 degree by a smidge so double check that everything is nailed on tight. Take your time placing the support so that one side is against the top and one is against the middle post. This is where you want to use the smaller nails since where you will be nailing will be relatively thin and bigger nails could easily crack the 2x2s in half. There will be four nails in each support so you want to do that diagonal thing again (I'm not really sure why to do the diagonal thing but I heard it from someone who knows a thing or two about building so I have just done it ever since and everything has worked out great) starting with the bottom right nailing the support to the 4x4 and then moving to the top left nailing it to the 2x4. Then finish off the bottom left and top right.

Flip the T to the other side and repeat. Pretty soon you'll have two T's with supports. How easy was that?!

The only thing left to do is put the screws in!

Step Three:

Put the screws in! I put four on each post for no real reason other than that sounded good to me. One went over each support.

The other two I put half way between the middle and the first hook. This way I either have two sides that are a bit separated for whatever reason, or if I decide that I need five lines, there's a spot right in the middle with proper spacing on either side that I can add another.

That only took three steps and you have a clothes line!

Now all you need to do is find the perfect spot to put it, dig some holes a couple feet deep and pack your posts in. That is my goal for today to finish, but it's been raining so it's not like I could dry much on them now anyway.

Sorry for the lack of pictures really showing the steps, I'll be sure to document my next adventure in building more thoroughly.

Tell me how your clothesline went, or what you did differently, I'd love to hear!

Linking up with DIY Show Off

Thursday, June 19, 2014

My Home Depot Story

On a couple occasions I have been known to browse tumblr. When browsing I often look at #feminist posts as I personally identify as a feminist myself and think that it is important to listen (or read) other peoples’ stories. More than once, although not many more, I have read the story of a woman going into a home depot, or store like it, and having employees assume that she had no idea what she was doing when she was fully capable find, buy and put to use everything she needed. In one story a man whom everyone assumed knew exactly what he was doing, in fact, desperately needed help and had never built anything before in his life.

(Quick Side Note: I’m down the road less than a mile from a kids camp and I think they just put a rooster up to a megaphone to wake everyone up…either that or that was the LOUDEST ROOSTER EVER!!! And I know how loud roosters can be.)

Anyway, back to home depot.

After today, I have a home depot story of my own, albeit a little different from these stories.
I went in looking to get some wood to make a clothes line, for my new found trailer living J and one that I am now very proud of and will be making a how-to post for. I had gone in with most of a plan but was wondering the lumber aisle looking at all the different sizes and lengths and seeing what they had so I could pick the perfect materials. I was in no rush so I meandered my way back and forth. While I was looking at the pressure treated ten foot 4x4s, a store employee (male) came up and politely asked if I needed any help, as I’m sure he would do to any customer staring blankly at a pile of wood.

I pondered for a moment thinking, Do I need help? What are all the things I need and do I know where they all are? After just a couple seconds I looked at him and said “No, thank you.”

He smiled, replied “Alright.” And kept walking. That was all.

I finished looking around, grabbed everything I needed, two 4x4s, one 2x4, a 2x2 along with some hook 
screws and command hooks (to hang my animal calendar!) and made my way to the check-out line.

I was helped by a different employee, this time a woman and I was thinking to myself, How great is this? No one assumed I needed more than I let on and now I’m being helped by a woman working the lumber section! Last time I was there I was helped by a trans person, Go home depot!

But it was the friendly check-out counter conversation that ruined it all for me. She was probably just trying to be nice and make a connection, as many people do when working retail, but I wish she had done it another way. She took a look at what I had (not as though she could have avoided it while scanning everything) and told me “A piece of advice: Always try to get someone else to do it for you.” All while donning this ‘you know what I mean’ smile.

My first thought was, No way! This is my project, I want to do this all on my own, ain’t nobody else doing it for me. And I should have just let that role right off my tongue, but for some reason I didn’t. I tried to play it off with “Oh, haha, I don’t think I can pull that off this time.” The inner conflict avoider is strong in me.

She followed that up with “Yeah, but it’s still good advice.” Very matter of fact. She wasn’t asking my opinion of her advice, she was just letting me know that she was right. I smiled and walked out with my newly purchased lumber.

I wish I had stayed. I wish I had said something. That is terrible advice! For everyone! I mean, if there is something you need done and you legitimately are unable to do it yourself, that’s one thing. Actually, that’s not even in the same ballpark because that is just asking for help, which I don’t think pertains to what she was saying at all. What she meant was, never do something that you can coax someone else into doing for you. So I wish I had stayed and asked her a couple of questions.

Who exactly should I be getting to do these things for me? A family member? A friend? A big strong, good looking man? A stranger? By the 'you know what I mean' smile she had given me, I had at the time assumed the big strong man. But why would that be the go-to person? Because they are so willing to prove just how strong and manly they are? Well that is making a very large assumption about a great many people right there. It is perpetuating all of the expectations that we put on men and women that are completely stupid. 

And how exactly should I be getting this strong man to do these things for me? With my womanly wiles? (another assumption I made from that face she made) So I am supposed to get myself all dolled up and pretend to be completely helpless, a real life damsel in distress, to trigger his need to prove he can do it, just so I don't have to? Well that is messed up on a few levels. If I were to simply ask someone, knowing full well that I am completely capable and not trying to hide it, to do things for me, why would they? Even if they were a good friend, there is no reason for them to because I wouldn't be acting very friendly towards them.

Next I would have liked to ask her what, exactly, should I be asking this strong man to do for me? Since I had some lumber and screws on my cart, I made another assumption. I assumed that she made the comment because of what I was buying meaning that she had projects in mind that require lumber and screws and possibly hammers and saws and screwdrivers, you know, the manly tools. 

Lastly, why, exactly would I ask anyone to do something for me that I am fully capable of doing myself? Because I don't want to do it? But I do want to do it! I love that kind of stuff, taking pieces of wood or other materials and creating something useful out of them, it's the best! Am I getting them to do things for me because I can? Well that's a messed up reason. Maybe I can, but I think I shouldn't. 

People should take responsibility into their own hands. If they need something done, they should do it themselves! If for nothing else, for some learning experience so next time you'll know how. Maybe then you can help someone else (help, not do it for them). And if you don't know how to do something or really aren't able to do it yourself without difficulty, asking for help is a great thing! Maybe you do something once and realize that it is just not for you, sure you can do it but it's the biggest drag since a zombies left foot. Asking for help is great then too. I would now like to stress the difference between asking someone to help you do something and asking them to do it for you.

I was talking about this to my partner and he made the comment that sexism against women exists in a lot of ways because it is pushed on to women by other women. I realize that I made an assumption or two about her and what she said and I tried to highlight what those assumptions were, but she made an assumption or two about me as well. She assumed that because I am a woman walking around home depot with some lumber and screws, there is a project that needs to be done and I would rather find a way to weasel out of physical labor and put that on someone else than do it myself. She was wrong. I feel good about myself when I am lifting lumber and using tools, I get joy out of physical labor and working hard, I try to find new ways to put my hands to work in the dirt every day. Not all women are this way, because we're all just people and not all people are that way.

People should really quit assuming they know anything about anyone and find new ways to make 30 second connections over a check-out counter. Maybe with a question: "Do you have a project for these?"

Monday, June 9, 2014

What Can You Do?

So I have written a couple of blog posts now on permaculture and I wanted to write one more on what the farm I work at can do to become more sustainable by following some permaculture practices.

This farm is a little different in the way that the land we use is not ours. We lease the land year to year so putting permanent structures is not a real option right now. It is also a bit different because the person who does own the land is putting it up for sale. He has another business that is doing well and is no longer interested in running the extra property. So the owners of the farm I work at are trying to find a way to purchase all the land so that they can create a real farm that they can do with whatever they like. If that all works out the way they hope, then I will have a lot more suggestions that, at the moment, just don't make sense.

The one thing that we could start doing right away is moving towards no-till practices. I talked in the first permaculture post about how turning the soil is harmful to the ecosystem in a few different ways. The reason that most farmers still till today is because farmers don't know how to do it any other way. We have been taught the benefits and reasons for tilling because it has been the practice for generations, but if you want to know the benefits of no-till you have to really do research on your own and then take a risk at putting it into practice instead of using the old tried and true. Also in our particular situation because we run a community farm with lots of different people on tiny plots, we're not the only ones who need to turn a new leaf, we'd have to ask every person that leases a Mini Farm from us to use our same practices. That is another risk to take in a business, but maybe we'd only stick to no-till for our u-pick veggies.

There is also the practice of planting different kinds of plants together that are complementary (such as beans corn and squash) and help each other grow better, but at a u-pick our costumers would probably like to know what is planted where without the confusion of many different kinds of plants all strewn in together. Before I started farming I didn't know how to tell many plants apart, which ones are leaks and which ones are onions and which ones are garlic? I can't expect customers to know the difference if we plant them all in one thing together (I still don't think I could tell those three apart if they were all mixed up). It is a lot easier on everyone to have rows with a single kind of plant to each row, so with our current business model it's not very plausible.

The rest really relies on perennial plants and trees which is not currently realistic because we only lease the land year to year, there is a serious risk of lots of flooding (sometimes up to eight feet like last March) in the winters and now that it is up for sale, we may have to find a new spot all together. Fingers crossed that the farm owners can find a way to purchase the land and then create their dream farm which is a vision I truly believe in. Until that happens, permaculture may just have to wait a little while.

What we can do is provide information on it to anyone who comes to the farm. One Mini Farm family is doing their best to practice permaculture in their 300sq ft plot and it is a wonderful looking plot! It would be great if we could spread the knowledge to anyone who wanted it while offering a tiny plot to get started and try it out.

Some day everyone will farm no-till because we won't know how to do it any other way, so that is what we have to start teaching.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Take a Look Around

It's been a while since my last blog... sorry. I do have at least have a good reason for part of that time! I went to live at the farm for a week as a test run for this summer. This time I didn't have a bike or anything to go to the local coffee shop where there is internet so I had no internet for a whole week. That was actually really nice! I get distracted with silly things in the internet way too easily, so having a complete break from it was quite welcome. The rest of that time was just me being stressed about school and moving, and generally just being really sucky about doing what I told myself I would do.

Today I want to talk about those permaculture lectures I have been watching. It's the last week of the quarter so I want to wrap it up with something that they keep coming back to almost every week. There are so many different topics covered but there seemed to be one overarching theme that was touched on all the time. That was observation. Permaculture follows how nature does things on it's own, so all of your questions can be answered by observing nature.You can obviously learn a lot from reading about it (most of what I know about nature is from all my class work over the past four years) but that can't tell you everything. Every piece of land is different and needs to be examined before work should really begin.

They said that one of the most important things to do when you begin a permaculture farm is to watch the land for a whole year before doing anything. See what it does in all four seasons, when it rains and snows, where water pools and flows, where the wind comes from, how strong it is, if there are wind barrier hills or trees, what kind of plants are growing, where the land is in a recovery succession. There are so many different aspects that need be looked at to know what is needed to help that land become healthier and productive. Sitting still and watching the land for a year is something that people usually don't do. It takes a lot of time, time we may not have. I know I have a lot of ideas for my farm and the last thing I will want to do is wait even longer before I can get started on them. But the benefits from observing the land really are great.

The lectures are broken into a few different categories: Fundamentals, Design and Patterns, Climate and Soils, Water and Aquaculture. For each of these, observation plays a huge role. Many of these observations will take a lot of time, but some can be done quickly. Patterns are often simply observable if you know where to look. Patterns usually refer to the physical shape of something like the dome of a hill or cave, the shapes of tree branches, or the stacking hexagons of a bee hive. You can observe these by simply walking around in nature and looking. Then by taking note of their different functions you can use those patterns purposefully. Domes function as strong structures and can be put to use in buildings and cellars. Branching patterns are used for collection and distribution, this concept can be used for irrigation or pathways. Bee hives are great at packing things together and this pattern can be used for storage or anything where a lot of stuff needs to fit in a small space.

Climate and Soils takes a little more time observing. You need to take note of what the weather does in every season, when it rains and when it is dry, when the temperatures change and when the storms come. It helps to do a little research on the climate in your area, but climates all over are changing and it is important to know exactly how they are changing if you are going to design your farm in the most efficient way. Soils can be observed in a few ways. Simply picking up a handful to see what the composition is, whether it is mostly clay, sand, or loam can be helpful but also taking a close look at what is growing there right now. Are they water loving plants, or plants that need drainage? Are they early succession weeds or late succession forest trees? I also think sending your soil in to be tested for specific nutrients that are available is a good idea.

All of these things play in to the design of a farm. All of these things must be observed first to know where everything should be planted and built. The trees should be placed where they can block the wind best, the water catchment system should be built where the water can best be collected and then distributed, dams should be made in the gullies and every plant should be put in spots that are best for them. If we really observe, we can design a farm where nature does most of the work for us.

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