The challenge: in an old house with nice woodwork, mount a baby gate at the top of the stairs such that it’s secure – without damaging the wood.
This was a fun project. Got some ideas from YouTube videos (a learning format I usually dislike) and improvised a little. This is built from scrap parts I had on hand, plus a baby gate I had installed at our previous home.
The uneven surfaces presented by the trim on both sides pose the creative challenge.
Filed under “ideas I’d pursue if I had infinite time:” could I weld the metal wickets from old political yard signs into the bowl of a papasan chair? There are tons of signs rendered useless each election when a candidate loses or a proposal is decided. These are free or nearly-free, and indeed many are left by the side of the road to rust.
The thin metal rods bend well. I imagine giving them the proper curve, then welding a grid of them into a bowl shape. Welding is on my long-term to-learn list, perhaps in 2019. Would this be an easy trial project or a foolishly hard one? It would at least be low stakes.
I’m not sure what material the rods are. Galvanized steel? I’ve seen some of them rust. If galvanized, I gather additional safety precautions may be in order from zinc fumes that off-gas during welding.
Someday, perhaps. I wonder if it’s been tried, or what else people have made from this source of free metal rods.
I started growing hops at my parents’ home in Chicago in 2008. In the summer of 2011 we moved them to Michigan and I built this trellis:
Now that it’s time for the trellis to find a new home, I’m writing up my design for posterity. Notable aspects include that it can be harvested without ascending a ladder and that the top is mounted on a tree.
Each of the three hop plants (Cascade, Mt. Hood, Centennial) has its own starting frame. It runs up the yellow chain for 5 feet, then starts climbing a line up into the trees:
The frames are a 5 foot tall 4″ x 4″ vertical post with a short 2″ x 4″ crossbar at the bottom and a longer one at the top. The ends of the bottom and top crossbars are connected by chains, allowing the hops to spread laterally as they grow out and up to the top crossbar. The chains are attached to metal eyelets at the top and hammered in with large galvanized staples at the bottom:
From the eyelets on the top crossbar, six synthetic rope lines (two from each base frame) run up to a steel ring hoisted in a tree, where they clip on with carabiners:
A pulley wheel is tied around a fork in the tree, and the ring is on a long synthetic line that runs through this pulley wheel. At harvesting time, the ring can be lowered from the ground, using the pulley, and the carabiners unclipped for transporting the bines to a picking area. Then the carabiners are reattached and the lines are raised again, all without use of a ladder.
The good and the bad
With 7 years of experience, I can comment on how the design worked.
Ease of raising and lowering: not having to climb a ladder is great.
Longevity: the entire system has held up well, including the synthetic lines, which I never took in for the winter. I don’t think jute or a similar natural twine would have lasted. One wood staple came out from a frame, which is an easy fix.
Shallow climbing angle. I should have mounted the ring higher in a tree, kept the lines tighter, or planted the hops closer to the tree. As it was, the bottom of the climbing lines flattened out under the weight of the plant and the hops needed some help to grow in the right direction. Manual training of hop plants is not uncommon, but I think a steeper climb would have avoided this.
Mowing around the trellises was tricky, both around the bases and under the lines. This meant grass and other unwanted vegetation encroached on the hops.
I was afraid I’d get tangled in the lines while sledding in my yard; this never happened, but could have.
Separate from my particular growing setup: I lost interest in growing hops. I’ve stopped training or harvesting them. A fresh hop beer is fun to make, but not worth (to me) the hassle of training and maintaining the bines. And trying to preserve and package hops for use throughout the year is tedious. They won’t stay good as long as professionally-packed hops from the store (I know: in one season before I had kids, I spent hours and hours drying my hops and turning them into plugs). Once the charm of growing them wore off, it made no sense to spend my time on growing instead of buying pounds in bulk.
Yesterday I had a nice maker win that felt like validation for time spent building confidence in the basics of electronics.
The situation was dire. The Medela Pump-In-Style breast pump was needed immediately. We found the old pump but couldn’t locate its battery pack or AC/DC adapter. It was late and local stores were closed.
On Amazon.com I found the specs for a replacement Medela adapter: output 9V, 1000 mA. Rummaging in my to-be-recycled electronics pile, I found a 9v 1000mA power adapter from an electric pencil sharpener I’d used as a high school teacher. But its prong was too small for the Medela.
More rummaging turned up an adapter prong that did fit, this from the power adapter to an old Asus RT-N16 router (12V, 1.25 amps). I cut each adapter’s cord in half, stripped the wires, attached them with crimp-on butt end splices – noting that the positive wire on each pair was marked with stripes – and voila! The pump worked and saved the day.