Big City, Little Homestead

Living rural in the city is hip and urban – and you can, too.

Category: Arts, Crafts, and DIY (page 2 of 2)

A new fence made of welded wire and cedar posts

At long last, I finally have a new front fence. I could go digging through my blog posts or photographs to show you its somewhat ugly predecessor — which I built with limited resources in 2010, just to try to keep my rabbits hemmed in. 

Oh, OK, here. Isn’t it fugly?

How the front fence used to look

In one of my posts last year (on making red pepper jelly), I wrote that I don’t have a post-pounder, an auger, or a sharp-shooter for digging the post holes. Page wire is the kind of fence I wanted, minus the barbed wire, however, when I found welded-wire fence at the hardware store, I bought it to finally commit to the project. I posted it would look something like this when done, except with nice round cedar fence posts from the country, and not square city posts.

Page wire is the kind of fence I wanted, minus the barbed wire, however, when I found welded-wire fence at the hardware store, I bought it to finally commit to the project. I posted it would look something like this when done, except with nice round cedar fence posts from the country, and not square city posts.

I rented a post digger shovel from Home Depot, and I got the help of one fine friend, Marc. He thought that round posts or square posts made a difference in ease of installation, until we got to work and saw it made no difference at all. We used six posts for the fence. Each one took about 45 minutes to dig – or at least it felt that way!

The sun was bright, and it was hot, and hair-metal music played on the boom box (which was called a Ghetto Blaster in Mr. T’s day). We joked about wearing beer t-shirts just to fit the work image. Marc had too much beer the night before, so we saved all cap-twisting for when the work was done.

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New Year’s Resolutions and getting organized



Come New Year’s, I always ask people what their resolutions are. (It’s more than just being polite because I want to tell them one of mine.) Most people say “None, resolutions are only made to be broken,” but I disagree; that’s all-or-nothing thinking. But some people surprise me with something ambitious or unusual that they want to do. Last year, I did some resolutions and goal work with a friend, and she accomplished more than she thought she would. This graphic (left) was what she found very helpful, but I prefer the version above, if you have the explanation from 13 Rules for Realizing Your Creative Vision.

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Things I’m up to, this November

It’s a good thing I haven’t updated in  a month, because the posts would have been obsessed with squirrels. (No squirrels for you! Trust me, I’ve got pictures.) They are under strict (oh well, not so strict) rationing of two to three chestnuts per day.

The two boys – Rufus and Clyde – know me well. Clyde dominates Rufus, but Rufus seems to be more like a pet. A smaller squirrel comes by and I chuck it a chestnut that it fails to notice, because squirrels are not super-scenters like dogs are, it seems.

We had our first frost a couple of nights ago. The swiss chard is surviving, as it usually does, but its days are numbered. I’ll be eating more of it in the coming weeks. The rabbits are getting peevish about getting old tomato leaves, but I’m also giving them juicy wilted nasturtiums. The green tomatoes are in a box in the garage, still on their vines, and the ones in the kitchen are turning red.  Continue reading

How to strain lumps out of paint

(This post has no photos because I didn’t think it was as brilliant an idea to blog about before I did it – but my technique worked so well, I have to share it.)

So you have lumpy paint. Lumpy paint is a pain in the neck, and also fugly to take a picture of. (Bonus, if the lumps are pigment – mine were making nice blueberry smears until they were well-rolled-in.)

You could roll that lumpy paint on the wall anyway. Then, when it’s dry, use a low-abrasive sanding block with a coarse grit to knock the lumpy bits off the wall. Don’t rub too hard, or you’ll mess the otherwise smooth finish.

Still, I betcha don’t want to roll lumpy paint on the wall. You’d rather filter it, right? But you either don’t have a screen sieve of the right gauge, or you don’t want to use one from your kitchen. So here’s what you do:

All 10-pound potato sacks have a nylon screen window. If you don’t have a 10-lb bag of potatoes, go buy one or ask your friend or neighbour for the bag. Do it.

  1. Cut the window out, leaving a good margin on the paper bag edges.
  2. Take some packing/masking/duct tape and tape the window around the top edge of the paint can, on the pouring side, of course, not with the handle in the middle. Don’t tape it too hard because you might need to remove it after pouring. You don’t even have to tape it at all, but it helps.
  3. Tuck the edges with tape or your fingers to make the window screen slightly cup.
  4. Pour the paint   s l o w l y   into the paint tray, through the nylon screen.
  5. If you’re not emptying the can, then as you upright the can, remove the screen and pinch the corners together. Place the screen on the lid of the can or support it above the can so that it can drip. You can use your brush to encourage the lumps to give up the last of their good paint.

At the end of painting, you can throw the screen out, finish the paint in the can, and recycle the can.

Here’s what happens to it in the environment:

In an aerobic environment, the paper will biodegrade, and so will latex or linseed oil base paints – these will be digested by fungi and bacteria. Even petro-chemical-derived paints biodegrade, but it is certainly preferable that we return to using paints made in a traditional way.

However, not a lot of landfills are aerobic environments, so… I don’t know how they’ll decompose. A lot of landfills produce harmful methane – harmful, unless it’s harvested for biogas.

Keep in mind that biodegradation is a process that works on organic compounds; the minerals – like zinc and titanium – in the pigments stick around. And even if there was no other use for them than paint – which there very well could be – they can’t be mined again.

All of which is why it’s important to recycle old paint, and not throw it out. Particularly if you can’t be bothered dealing with lumpy paint!

That means the only other thing that remains is the nylon screen, which is problematic, long-term. It will stick around for 30-40 years (less time than a plastic bag, but still).

The thing that frustrates me the most is not that we use nylon screens for our food packaging, but that we use them to hold down mats of sod on slopes. The sod that turns into a grassy, weedy hillside will be encased at the surface and root level by a nylon net, difficult to remove or reuse. While it’s still strong, it will trap and maim a few field mice and other animals. Landscaping ought to be more ecological.

Newer posts

Rewilding is about converting your lawn to groundcover (bit by bit!) to native species. This fosters biodiversity. It also creates habitat for urban wildlife. Finally, you'll only trim it 2-3 times per season rather than every 7-10 days!

The green driveway gallery shows you how you can DIY a driveway conversation using my first model as an example. There are other ways to do it, and things I learned in the process and afterward. Please call me at 514-815-5163 for my landscaping service, or to discuss upgrading your driveway.

The work season is April 1st through June 30th, but I install bird strike prevention (to stop birds from crashing into windows and glass balconies) whenever the temperature is above 5ºC. Call the number above or email. It's important to do this earlier rather than later,  in time for bird migrations in late April to end of May, and late August to mid-October.


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