So You Want To Start A Garden

Believe it or not now is a good time to get started on gardening in that you can prep that gardening area and let is set over winter and be ready to go in the spring. If you have not gardened before I recommend that you start with Mel Bartholomew’s Square Foot Gardening. Once you get some experience you can modify the methods in Square Foot Gardening and the garden bed you build will still be useful to you.

Step 1 – Build and Fill A Raised Bed
I recommend building the bed out of regular 2×6 construction lumber and make the bed either 4′ square or 4’x8′. Two 8′ 2×6’s will give you the 4′ square bed and three of them will build a 4’x8′ bed. The book describes “Mel’s Mix” that you can use to fill the bed or you can do what I did and just get compost.

Step 2 – Decide What To Grow
Looking at a seed catalog can be overwhelming and I would almost recommend that you not do so for your first year or two. In reality as a beginner you will probably just want to go to a local green house that will have vegetable starts and seeds. Pick 5-10 that you like to eat and get them. Greens like lettuces will grow quickly and can be harvested and replanted. Broccoli is a good one also as you can cut the main head and smaller heads will grow back. Also there is nothing like a home-grown tomato. Some taller or climbing plants will need support or a trellis on the north side of the bed. You plant your tallest plants to the north and the shorter ones to the south.

Step 3 – Plant
You need to know what your last frost date is and different plants are planted outside based on that last frost date. Check the instructions on each plant.

Step 4 – Enjoy

One thing I need to caution all new gardeners is to start small so you do not get overwhelmed. You will be surprised how much you can get from one 4’x8′ bed. Also something large like corn or pumpkins are not really a raised bed type of plant, they take up too much space

Lastly I believe everyone should have a garden even if it is just a small one. It is something that will reconnect you to what is real and help you deal with the stress of modern-day life as well as provide you with the best quality food there is.


Square Foot Gardening Book

Electrolytic Rust Removal

There are times when you are working on an old piece of equipment and you have something rusted badly. It may come as a surprise to you but the rust can easily be removed by an electrolytic process that using electricity basically pulls the oxygen atoms out of the rust and leaves the iron behind. It actually removes very little, if any of the iron. A side benefit is grease, paint and other crud is also removed or perhaps it is better to say it is separated from the metal part leaving you with an incredibly clean part. This is the favorite method of tool collectors, assuming any paint on the tool is not valued.

The basic process is to use a battery charger and hook the negative side to the part you want to keep and the positive side to a waste piece of iron. You are basically moving the rust from the metal hooked up to the negative side to the metal on the positive side. The two cannot touch or that would short out your battery charger and shut it down if it is a good one, or damage it if it is a not so good one. In order for current to flow you suspend both pieces of metal in a solution of water and washing soda from the laundry aisle of your local supermarket.

Remove rust and other crud form iron parts
Remove rust and other crud form iron parts

In my case I had a badly rusted carburetor from a tractor. I took a plastic tub and clamped a piece of re-bar in each corner and tied them all together with regular copper wire. The positive lead from my battery charger was clipped on one of the pieces of re-bar above the lip of the tub. I took a piece of chain and suspended the carburetor in the middle of the tub. I then filled the tub with water and added a cup or so of the washing soda and turned on the charger. A day later the carb was as clean as the day it was cast. You can tell it is working by the bubbles coming off the metal After this picture I added more water so the piece was completely covered.

Some things to beware of is the process releases hydrogen gas that while not harmful itself, but it is very flammable (think Hindenburg) so you want to do this in a well ventilated area. You are also mixing electricity and water, which means you do have to be a little careful but since the voltage is low you should be OK by showing some common sense. Also the freshly cleaned part will look like it rusts right before your eyes, so you need to coat it with something. This should only be done with iron parts as some other metals can be adversely affected, in my cast the carb was getting a complete rebuild anyway so those other parts that I couldn’t get off before the process was started were getting replaced anyway. Further don’t get the positive and negative reversed or you will cleaning your junk metal and rusting the piece you want to keep

Next time you have a rusty part to clean up, give it a try you will think it’s magic. I’ve even read online of people doing large items by building a wood frame and lining it with one of those blue tarps, you just need more sacrificial electrode material, more time and a bigger power supply. There is a good write-up here with more details.


The Electrical Tester Everyone Should Own

Electrical circuits are a mystery to many people and to be fair even household current can kill you, so unless you know what you are doing you might want to leave any electrical work on your house to a professional. However I firmly believe that everyone should know that basics about as many things as possible and with a basic electrical tester you can know if there are faults in household wiring that require someone with expertise to look at it. While I will not go into electrical theory and standards in this post, a simple tester like the one shown below will really tell you a lot. These are available at any hardware or box store like Home Depot or Menard’s and from Amazon and are in the $10-$15 range. By looking at the pattern of lights it will show you five different wiring faults as well as a correctly wired outlet socket. Further pressing the button will create a ground fault that should trip your GFCI protection. All plugs in wet areas (kitchen, bathroom outside…) should be GFCI protected. After the test make sure you reset your GFCI circuit which can be either the button in the center of the plug or could be in your circuit breaker box depending on the type your home has.

While this is certainly not an exhaustive test as it will not check voltage levels or tell you the size of a circuit, for basic circuit testing it is too cheep and easy to use for everyone not to have at least one. Further if you are having trouble with an electrical device it is good to make sure the plug is wired correctly. That way you will know if you need take the device in for service or have the house wiring looked at. The biggest thing this does for a novice is tell you if the power is on to a plug and if it is wired correctly or if there is a problem. Also it is safe for anyone to use because you don’t have to take anything apart to do the test, you just plug it in like anything else and look at what lights are on and compare it to the code printed on the unit.

Basic Circuit Tester

How to use and maintain a chainsaw

Just a super quick post today about chainsaws. Sort of a halloween theme right? Well I suppose saws are more useful than chasing screaming children around a corn maze.

Like many people I spend a fair amount of time sawing dead fall and pruning every year. Previously I had always taken my saw to the dealer to get service done and to get my blades sharpened, however I am very interested in starting to learn how to do these myself.

I purchased a chain saw sharpening tool that attaches to the end of a dremel and I will be reviewing that in an upcoming video, so watch out for that.

eHow definitely has the best collection of videos on using and maintaining a chainsaw.

Keeping your saw maintained will greatly increase the lifespan of your saw, definitely worth the effort

How to use and maintain a chainsaw