Big City, Little Homestead

Living rural in the city.

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

These are what 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.

Mending and altering clothes

In 2009, I lived in Denmark on savings and a short-term contract. I came back that September and worked through the first half of 2010, when I graduated from my program at McGill. Since then, I’ve been looking for a non-profit job; times are tough, and I’m in a terrible state for clothes again. I would rather use common sense and not buy more on credit, so I’ve combed through the fallow piles that I’ve gathered and not tossed over the past year. Pants are in limited supply now, so I have to mend and alter what I can: a pair of Miss Sixty jeans, too small for me, given by a friend; another pair of pants I’ve frayed the seams on that needs repair on the waistband; a pair of checked slacks for work that unfortunately met the teeth of a very medium-sized, caramel-coloured pet, and the same for a pair of purple cords. So I went to the Grande Bibliotheque and found this book: Mend it!

What competency we have lost in clothing maintenance by coming to rely upon cheaply made clothes in a rapid cycle of fashion changes! Yet Canadian design is not supported because of this loss of competency. We go for established name brands and not new designers with interesting ideas. Having “interesting ideas” comes from the skill to create something out of fabric. If you’ve never created something out of fabric before, how can you appreciate the idea or the tailoring that goes into your workaday wardrobe? So you stick to the tried-and-true, and sudden fads.

Regardless of whether fashion is your thing, well-made clothes never go out of style, given that they are amenable to alterations. Most of us have to alter the pants we buy, anyway, shortening and hemming the legs, tucking a too-loose waistband, especially on mid-rise (the best rise) pants. Lately, with stovepipe legs being in fashion, tapering your jeans and pants is necessary. The unfortunate side effects of this style are it makes most legs seem short and butts appear either big or completely flat, and knees wear out if you wear them long enough.

I digress. I have now read up on the techniques to repair my checked pants (repairing checks is difficult!) and I’ll tackle that next week. I’ll tell you about the project I started last week.

I took a pair of khaki pants,  split the inseams, and hand-stitched them together in the form of a skirt. I then pinned an upward tuck in the fabric so that it lies nicely over my ass (derrière, behind, what is the best word?), rather than cling as pants are supposed to do. Once that’s hand-stitched and the skirt is gently laundered and ironed, I will finish the inside edges by machine, and restitch over my handwork. Then I’ll finish the kick-pleat. I may have to pick apart the waistband, reinforce it with new tape, and stitch the edge. Then iron it, try it on, and make little adjustments until the skirt is satisfactory, and then finish the seams. As pants make for a mighty long skirt, I have a couple of styling options to use that will make the skirt a business/casual length, without cutting the fabric. It’s unfortunate I can’t show you the Before, but when it’s done, I’ll post the after.  (Updated two weeks later: it didn’t look right at all. I abandoned the project.)

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