Pedal-Powered Drum Carder



I love No Tech Magazine!

I am on a huge kick for human-powered machines – I am seriously tempted to salvage a bike frame and experiment with some of the plans for universal pedal generators. This magazine goes further in-depth than I knew existed – the hand drills are incredibly interesting – and it’s giving me tons of ideas.


Alternative Housing – Shipping Containers

Ever since I saw a Discovery Channel? program on alternative houses feature a home composed of three stacked shipping containers nestled into a 10-foot-deep lot at the base of a cliff, I have been in love with the idea of making a home out of these amazing modular components.

  • They stack!
  • They’re inherently structurally sound and you’d have to work pretty hard to ruin that,
  • they’re much cheaper than standard building methods, yet still rectangular enough to use standard-sized components for alterations,
  • they require a minimum of external maintenance, which means you need to earn a minimum of future income to pay for that,
  • one end of a container will easily fit a full size bed across, or four twin-size bunks lengthwise;
  • the walls are magnetic and thus offer crazy interesting removable cabinetry options –
  • and most importantly, the insulated ones used for refrigerated transport have the same R-value as straw bale housing. Duuuuude.

Cut in some windows for ventilation and you have an infinitely rearrangeable transportable comfortable home that doesn’t advertise itself as full of stuff worth stealing. 😉

While realistically I will probably stay in this house for a while,  that doesn’t stop me from dreaming…

While this particular design includes a lot of glass that would have to be compensated for / covered at night to slow heat loss, the basic idea is perfect. Imagine four shipping containers, in two stacks of two with open courtyard space in between – and that courtyard space enclosed and finished. Each container would include all the privacy an occupant could want – bed space, a bathroom, a kitchenette/kitchen and relaxation/sitting space – and the shared public space used for large crafts, gatherings, exercise, board games, running around in the sunlight, and st-r-e-t-c-h-ing.  Given how much I miss the college shared-house arrangement of having interesting friends easily accessible whenever you want to debate some pop-culture reference, this would be an ideal setup for an extended family or four friends to live for cheap on a bit of cultivatable land.

My friend Trampas said he would come play with me if I didn’t call it a commune, but instead an Evil Lair. Named Skullcrusher Mountain.

It’s all about the branding…

Disaster Preparedness: Making room for guests in small spaces

Aka, “This is the way the world ends – with your brother-in-law sleeping on your couch – but my couch is a two-seater and gives you a horrible crick in the neck.”

I’ve been working on making my house more versatile – redesigning it by functions it needs to accomodate, which usually do not match up with rooms it already contains. It’s important to me that I can:

  • store basic food ingredients and the means to process them;
  • store art/craft / project  materials and enough room to use them effectively without having to clear new space every time, because that means I won’t use them;
  • and have enough clear, open and welcoming space for friends and family to stay with me if they need it.

After all, I got laid off in 2010; a few family members a few months later; and now, even in North Dakota land of the new Oil Boom, unemployment is creeping back up again.  It’s not unthinkable that someone I know will need help. If it’s me, I have my legume stash in the basement; if it’s my family or friends – I have my legume stash in the basement!

What makes preparedness feasible, is when you realize it’s not just a time-and-money sink for a long emergency that may never happen. The same preps will help immensely for a medium-term emergency – like a blizzard snowing you in for a week and breaking the Just-In-Time grocery store supply lines. (Well, not THIS creepy crazy year… usually in January we have one week of -60 F windchill. This January, we had a day of +60 F actual temperature.) And of course, the same preps will help immensely for a short-term “emergency” – like a crowd of friends over for movies who drink a bit too much wine and decide to sleep over, who will need blankets and breakfast. 🙂

Sharon Astyk also makes the point that you don’t have to have tons of extra money lying around to stock up on these contingency supplies – if you don’t treat these things as backup, but as essential parts of your daily routine, then you’re not buying two of everything – you’re only buying one multifunctional one. The stuff that integrates neatly into your everyday life is the stuff that you can afford to purchase, and use.

Let me illustrate that point a bit better with a recent problem I’ve been considering – how to make sleeping space for guests, now that the ex-husband has taken the futon.

(You may notice that I read modern design blogs in my spare time.)

Option 1:  A folding mattress with a matching tray table – mattress and end-table in one.

Yes, it’s multifunctional; and yes, I could make it in any color to match my decor; but you can really only have one in the room I have, and it would be annoying to sweep around. Probably not the right choice for me.

Option 2: “Stay in My Home” by Designasyl

At first look, this is pretty awesome! Much less footprint; it’s got a drawer where you could stash a small basket of backup hygiene supplies like a toothbrush, hairbrush, handkerchief, pads, etc; the table and pull-out drawer give the guest someplace private-feeling to store their own things; and the table-top makes it at least somewhat multifunctional.

Major drawbacks for me – again, I could only have one or two in my space, it’s pretty clear what it’s supposed to be, and having the mattress rolled up on the floor in my house guarantees it will be coated with dog and rabbit hair in about 2 minutes.

Option 3:  A six-person daybed! Awesome!!!

Apologies that I have no attribution for this – the styling looks like it came off, but I cannot find it again.

The clear winner!!  It has multiple uses, and does REALLY WELL at all of them.

This daybed takes up the footprint of a normal couch; can break out into as many as six mattresses if needed; the pillows store on the top making the backrest of the couch version; and the sheets can be folded and stored in between the layers, requiring no additional closet space dedicated to them. I have the sewing skills to make the mattress pads myself (mmm six coordinated black-and-white upholstery prints from my stash), and while I don’t grow bamboo, this would make a lovely project to get a carpenter friend to give me a primer. (I am unutterably sad at missing out on a shop class, through all my years of schooling.) I am thinking having a frame on both narrow ends, and having two diagonal choke ties from “armrest” to base to keep the mattresses in place?

I’ve got room in the basement for this now. I am considering keeping the basement empty, for possible roommate longterm, staging area for decluttering/destashing short term, and basically just to prove to myself that I can get by in ~800 square feet of upstairs + utility rooms. If I keep going with that, then when my current loveseat dies, I already have the replacement selected.

What-if Clutter

This is meeeeeeeeeee.

“But I need to save these empty plastic containers with air-tight lids! I just gave away seven of them with the Christmas legumes! I do actually use them!”

I actually had to make myself throw away a bread bag at SOMEONE ELSE’S HOUSE yesterday.

Decluttering is going to be a big theme for me this month. I got a start on clothes last year, but someone GAVE ME BACK what they didn’t want of the good stuff so now I have to convince myself to get rid of it all over again. 🙂