Thursday, May 17, 2012

Apiary Part II - Stakes to Earth Moving

 Laying it all out

Something that should be stated now is that I am fairly thrifty,  you will notice throughout this that where possible I used free, used, or low cost options to get the job done. First good example of this is the staking of the various tiers using felled saplings. If you have all your measurements and a laser level (I have a Craftsman Laser Trac) the job will be much easier. 
Starting from 1 side I drove the stake (Side 1), attached the string, measured to the other side (Side 2) and drove the opposite stake.  For levelling I placed the laser level on the ground near Side 1. After measuring the distance in height from the laser light to the string on Side 1 I proceed to Side 2 where hopefully I see the laser light “marking” that stick.  Take the measurement from Side 1 and reproduce on the other side and voilà you have a level string.  Do this for the rest of the strings, using a square when you are working the short strings between the tiers (moving downhill) and you end up with a grid that should match your design!

Following the design I had laid out I started hand digging the tiers and checking them for level across by measuring the distance from tier to string traversing along the width of the tier.  After an afternoon of digging here is the end result:

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

"Save to Google Drive" bookmarklet

Not entirely sure why I haven't been able to find a preexisting solution to save to Google Drive but I've just created a bookmarklet (tested in Chrome) for saving the current document(url) to my Google Drive:

javascript:(function(){document.location.href="" + document.URL;})();

Monday, April 30, 2012

Apiary Part I - Idea to Design

Getting Started
I’m happy to have just completed (until I change it more) a backyard apiary/garden.  I wish to share this to hopefully help others as I had either difficulty or information overload when I was looking for guidance on the internet for things like “tiered garden”, “installing a fence on a hill” and many others.  I know that some of this was due to specific requirements I had but others were just difficult to get to the right answer.  I share this so that anyone looking to make a full out backyard apiary or even just a garden can hopefully glean some help from what I experienced.  You will note that as with all things when design moves into implementation, something always has to be changed.

I've segmented this write-up into parts for digestibility and because I am sure that if I don’t, I will continuously remember some minute detail and will have to edit the post a thousand times.  Hope you enjoy!

The Spark
It all began to formalize in October of 2011, but really had its roots since we moved into or house. There is a section of un-wooded area at the back of our yard that had always been a magnet for weeds and struggling grass. I had been mulling over in my mind for 3 years what to do with the space and in the summer of 2011 I started getting very interested in keeping bees. My Dad had kept bees when he was younger and my Grandpa also had helped his father with bees growing up. This interest combined with the desire to have a food garden sparked the idea to design and build a fenced apiary.  Once I convinced my wife that keeping bees was not a dangerous endeavor I sat down to design and plan the project.

The Design
The space I had to work with was around 18’X18’ and sloped both down and to the right towards the creek due to its location on the corner of our lot.   I expected there would  be some levelling and re-shaping of the land but I am not certain I was aware from the start of how extensive this work would end up being.

The design was partially constrained by how I would fence it.  If money was not an concern then I might have approached the problem differently. I was able around the same time as I got my hive (late October) to find 10 sections (1 being a gate) of fence on Craigslist that was used but in OK shape for $10 for each 8 ft section.  This is quite a discount from the $25 or so that Home Depot and Lowes sell fence section.  Working within this I decided on a 16X16 garden and proceed layout all the pieces.

Another concern was how to create level areas in the garden despite the slope of the hill. After researching gardening on hills it became clear the best decision was to tier the garden to allow discrete level sections for planting. The de facto standard for constraining in landscaping is salt treated timber.  My concern was that this was going to be a food garden and there is a risk of the salt treated wood leaching chemicals into my food.  Rail road ties though not as cheap (14 of them at $16 apiece) would make a strong design without the risk of chemicals in the soil and food.

Once I gathered all the “component” measurements (uncut railroad ties, fencing) the last bit to sort out was the elevation and actual design of the tiers.  From the photos you can see that the land sloped on 2 axes.  I measured the slope over one direction, halved the value to average the difference and then repeated the process for the other direction. Details of this are found on the 3rd page of the design.  From that and some trial and error, quite a bit of measuring, internet searching, and guidance from my residence landscaping expert (Dad) I drafted my design in late October which  I have attached a the bottom of this post

The design is a 3 tiered garden enclosed within a fence.  It ensures the plant beds are large enough to hold a reasonable number of plants and at the same time allow for an appropriate walk path for me to move between the tiers.
Structurally the railroad ties overlap to provide stability, erosion resistance, and to allow for simple securing of the timbers together.

With design in hand, it was time to get my hands dirty.

Garden Plans - [Visio] [PDF] 

[Continued: Apiary Part II - Stakes to Earth Moving]

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Water Resistant Combination Lock Enclosure

I think most homeowners have somewhere they store their gasoline, kerosene, or other fuels and such.  I decided to use a Suncast 47 Gallon Balcony Storage Box,  camouflage it and place it in the woods. For many reasons you should ensure you have a lock on whatever you choose to store your flammables in.  I picked up a Brinks 4 dial combination lock to secure my storage box due to the key-less design and the simple 4 dial setup.  I looked and couldn't find any real information on the weather resistance of this lock. I was concerned that the multiple openings of the combination lock (around the dials and shank) could lead to a rusty lock so I set out to create a moisture protection enclosure for the lock.

The parts for the enclosure where things I had laying around the house.  From left to right are: iPod shuffle factory box, rubber band, combination lock and a desiccant bag that came with something I bought. There are articles online on how to recharge (essentially dry out) used desiccant packs that you may have.  This one is a small plastic satchel with clear silica gel beads.

 It may be difficult to see in this picture but I have measured where the shanks fit on the seam of the clear box.  This allows for the curve in the shank to reside outside the box and the body of the lock to be enclosed in the acrylic box.  I then used my trusty Dremel  and a small grinding cone to notch out the area for the shank with the center of the shank falling on the seam of the box.

Here is a view of the box open.  I left the packing tape that was on the bottom of the box from Apple as a hinge.  If your box or container doesn't have any tape I would recommend duct tape or high strength Scotch tape if you have it.
Here is the final product rubber band around the outside of the box to hold it closed and make it easy to access.  Although this picture shows different, I decided to place the desiccant satchel in contact with the combination dials instead of the back of the lock.
Hopefully this will save me from the fate of cutting a rusty lock off of my storage box someday or at least take away the frustration of dealing with difficulty to move dials.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

DIY Yard Cup Holder

I love to work in the yard and I love to drink coffee while working in the yard. The problem seems to be that like all yards, the ground of mine is uneven. I was intrigued by an ad I saw in a magazine (here are some others:, for a "yard cup holder of sorts".  With this inspiration I set out to find a way to make my own.

I have a few pegboard loop hooks laying around the shop (you could use any metal rod you have although I would not recommend coat hangers unless you plan on holding  plastic cups) that looked like they would make a good sturdy structure

 I started by bending the rods using a combination of vise grips and a vise.  I used my coffee mug as a form and checked the parts with a few of my regular drink containers for a good fit.

 Once I got the correct shapes I cut the rods that contained multiple parts with my Dremel.
Last steps are to JB Weld the parts,  prime and paint

And here is the final product in action