What I Shed Today

lightening up a little at a time

– the repair project and ethical responsibility of the birdfeeder

I have finally decided, after much vacillation: our bird feeder shall be shed. I haven’t used it in well over a decade maybe two since one of the panels that holds and distributes the feed broke. But all this time I’ve kept it, thinking, “I could get and cut a piece of clear plastic to fix it. Hang it in the dogwood off the deck. Get some seed and cracked corn and start watching birds. I loved that when I was a kid. I’m pretty sure that feeder was a present from my parents while we lived in Illinois, probably because they remembered that. And Mom hates to look on WIST and see me shedding something she’s given me.”

the feeder in the Camellia out front

the feeder in the Camellia out front

I could do all that. Another problem, though, is that to start feeding birds in a neighborhood is to covenant with them not to stop. They quickly learn to depend upon it. I don’t know why I don’t trust myself to hold up my end; eleven cat-panions, past and present, would purr that I do. But felines have ways to reinforce good behavior that avians lack.

Oh, darn it—I am the son of an engineer—tomorrow I will cut a piece of something to replace the broken panel before I leave it at the ReStore. Glass or plywood would work. I may even have some acrylic out in the garage, I don’t know. Then someone who wants the joy of sustaining feathered friends can take it home and start using it without adopting a repair project, perhaps without the resources I’ve got.

shedding style: repair then give away
destination: Habitat for Humanity ReStore

Comments welcome … do you ever furrow your brow sorting out can, should, would if, and want to?

(Ummm … sorry, Mom!)


-/+? O-Cedar mop, part two

Yesterday I posted about contacting customer service at O-Cedar, maker of the mop for which I could not find a refill.

Before the first hour of the business workday ticked away, I had an answer:

Thank you for your interest in our O-Cedar products and for including the picture. We apologize for the difficulty you are having locating them. Unfortunately, the item you are looking for has been discontinued for more than 6 years and is no longer available. We do apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you.

However, we are certain we can provide you with a product that will satisfy your cleaning needs. Please feel free to email us with any further questions or comments you have.

We would like to assure you that quality and customer satisfaction are our highest priorities. Also, customer feedback helps us maintain our high quality standards.


O-Cedar Family of Products
Consumer Affairs Dept.

Fair enough. I hope Pam’s supervisors know she gets going on the day’s tasks as soon as the day starts. I answered,

“Thanks for your very prompt and clarifying reply. Though I’m disappointed that the model is discontinued, I’m not surprised. And, after all, it’s just a mop. A suggestion, since you invite customer feedback: I would have been helped to find a link to ‘discontinued products’ on ocedar.com. It might have saved me from searching at several different stores.”

And moments later she replied,

I think your suggestion is a very good one and I will certainly share this information with marketing.

So that’s that … though perhaps not. The Snail of Happiness (who steadily knits away, and more, at her gentle, patient, hopeful blog), reminded me that I am not without resources. I am, I recall, the son of an engineer and tinkerer, a Maker before the Maker Movement. The problem is to get a sponge to stick to the mop head. The trick is to not get stuck on how it used to stick there.

Perhaps there shall be “mop, part three” …

Comments welcome … ideas, anyone?

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– old kitchen faucet

One of the frustrations of our original kitchen was its faucet, which poured water out of the valve body onto the counter whenever we turned it on. But we tried to save it when we renovated. Its manufacturer, we learned, has committed to keeping repair parts available even for units that are decades old. I had to visit three stores to find them, but eventually I did and we were able to get it to work as it should … mostly.

All the rest of its parts had nearly 30 years of wear, though, and we haven’t been able to keep the lever-handle on tight. When the faucet started dripping last week, we decided it was B.E.R., Beyond the cost of Economic Repair.


We could’ve bought a new faucet for what we spent on the repair parts in this one … more tuition paid to Renovating U!

As I draft this post, Nimue is installing a new faucet with simple, old-fashioned double handle valves. I look forward to washing up at a sink where the water runs where it’s supposed to!

shedding style: the repair-then-replace dance
destination: construction-and-demolition landfill

Comments welcome …

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tent fly repair

Here’s another long-stalled project completed: replacement of the shock cords on my Eureka! Timberline 2 tent. After almost 30 years, they lost their stretch, and the fly wouldn’t stay attached to the frame. I found new shock cord some time ago at REI, but puzzled about how to secure it. Eureka! used custom aluminum hog rings that close in a tight oval and have rounded tips (the better to not cut holes in tender tent fabric). I tried to pry one off, but found they were a one-use item.

I have to go to a meeting in central Georgia tonight and tomorrow and welcome a chance to sleep outside. I don’t want to set up Nimue’s palace and I shed the 1-person tent earlier this year, so I need the Timberline back in service. It was time to stop making perfection the enemy of the good and accept the use of “regular” hog rings.

But since I neither raise hogs (they’re used to attach tags to pig ears), nor build chain-link fences (which use rings several ways), nor re-cover automobile seats (they hold the fabric to the frame), I didn’t own hog ring pliers and none of my parts drawers were full of rings. So yesterday I went on a hunt.

At one auto parts store, the clerk apologized, “We didn’t move many, so we stopped stocking them.” At the next I got a blank look and shake of the head. “Hog rings? What are those?” an employee of a Big Box Home Improvement Warehouse asked. A second Big Box HIW had pliers, but no rings. Fortunately, I live near a Medium Box Farm Supply Store. Nimue and I went there on our evening walk, and I came away with enough to tag 100 piglets.

hog ring pliers, the proper tool for the job

hog ring pliers with hog ring, the proper tools for the job

It went smoothly once I had the tool and supplies. A groove in the jaws of the pliers holds the ring until it’s pressed, whereupon it folds into a triangle, clamping whatever it’s meant to secure.

fresh shock cord on a 30-year-old tent

fresh shock cord on a 30-year-old tent

I’m thrilled to see the Timberline up again. It’s sheltered me in a lot of interesting places, and we have more of the world to see!

the Eureka! Timberline 2, first produced in the 1970s and still available almost unchanged

the Eureka! Timberline 2, first produced in the 1970s and still available almost unchanged

shedding style: repair

Comments welcome … no hogs were harmed in the completion of this shed!


fear of the firebox

I don’t like doing masonry work or cement jobs. I’m not confident I’ll get them right, and it doesn’t help that my mistakes literally turn to stone. So when Nimue asked if I thought the cracks in the bricks and mortar joints in our fireplace were a problem we should remedy, I mumbled that they didn’t look that bad. She caught the whiff of ambiguity in my answer, though, and did some research. When she goes off to do that and returns with her tablet in hand, I know I’m in trouble. “Faults in a firebox can lead to fires,” she said. Okay, okay, I muttered, we’ll fix it. “Show me what to do,” she said brightly, “and I’ll help.”

So I issued her a brick hammer, an engineer’s hammer, chisels, and safety goggles and told her to bang away at anything loose till it wasn’t anymore.

our firebox after Nimue attacked it with cold steel; arrows point to broken firebricks

our firebox after Nimue attacked it with cold steel; arrows point to broken firebricks

I hoped just a few chunks of mortar would come out. Instead, two bricks were cracked enough to break, and in my worst imaginings of what might follow, sparks flew and a brimstone smell filled the house as I sawed them out with a grinder. But then my research suggested that, since the gaps weren’t deep, refractory cement was up to the challenge of patching them. It’s the recommended product for both original and repair work in fireboxes, since it can take heat up to 2000°F.

Nevertheless, I put off doing my part for days … which turned to weeks … but finally found resignation by reminding myself that the worst possible outcome was I’d have to hire a pro to unmake my mess. So I measured out four parts of mix to one of water, stirred and added drops till it turned to a thick batter, got down on my knees, and crawled into the firebox.

Any resemblance to a state of prayer ended then. I wanted mortar in the joints, not on the bricks, but it didn’t work like that.

Some things have to get worse on their way to getting better.

Some things have to get worse on their way to getting better.

I found I could wipe off the extra with a water-filled sponge, though.

The mortar left a haze behind, but that happens to the pros, too. They let the job cure for a few days and then clean it off with muriatic acid. We’ll try white vinegar before we escalate.

the almost-finished project

the almost-finished project

I missed two small depressions, so later today will mix another small batch of refractory cement and fill them in. I’m grateful I don’t feel any resistance to doing so. I don’t want to embark on a new career of it, but I’ve shed my fear of tuckpointing. And our project list is lighter by one.

shedding style: demolish, repair

Comments welcome … what self-talk helps you get past fears that have you stuck?


swing blade repaired

Sometimes I feel that if all my projects were placed in a single pile, they’d form a new peak climbers would have to bag. In fact they are largely in piles, which hinders reasonable progress toward getting them done. I mostly decide what to work on next by triage: what must be completed in order to accomplish what’s become urgent? Then I go digging.

Tonight I shed the project of re-attaching the blade to the swing blade handle. All it needed was a bolt and nut … but then, I haven’t needed the swing blade, so in its pile it remained. Tomorrow, however, I said I’d deliver it to the community garden so Melanie can begin whacking down the grass and weeds that got ahead of everyone this summer. (She’s on a quest to find her potatoes.)

So I went to my little drawers of odds and ends of fasteners and found a round head machine screw that matched the others on the tool. Then I said to myself, “Self, that may have worked loose in the first place because washers weren’t installed under these screws and nuts.” I’m not an engineer, but I am the son of one, and I like the feeling a washer provides, that the force is spread out a little more when the tension goes on a fastener. Washers are to screws and assemblies as a couple mugs of coffee are to me and my day … it all works better if they’re there. So I fished eight washers out of a drawer and put the swing blade back together better than the day it was made. I wire-brushed the rust off the cutting edges, too. I deserve my swing blade merit badge for this evening’s work.

By the way, if you don’t know this tool, I’m pleased to introduce you. It isn’t as serious as a scythe or kaiser blade, but it will take down grass that’s gotten too high for the mower without wearing you out as soon as they will. And compared to a string trimmer, it has a carbon toeprint … a pinkie toe, at that.

This is not the "sling blade" of the Billy Bob Thornton film of that name. That's a kaiser blade. As Karl Childers says, "Some folks call it a sling blade. I call it a kaiser blade."

This is not the “sling blade” of the Billy Bob Thornton film of that name. That’s a kaiser blade. As Karl Childers says, “Some folks call it a sling blade. I call it a kaiser blade.”

shedding style: repair
destination: Evergreen community garden

Comments welcome … do you have clutter that wouldn’t be if it didn’t lack a screw and nut? (Don’t forget the washers!)


Nimue’s flute

day four of the WIST musical instrument shed-a-thon

Unlike me, Nimue can play a musical instrument. She mastered the flute in her youth, and has kept the skill. But for years she hasn’t made her flute sing, because it needs service.

It’s been out of hearing, out of mind too long. I’m shedding the inertia. Tomorrow I’m taking the flute to the local music store for a repair quote. And then, even if the figure makes me gulp, I’m going to say, “Do it, please.”

I have a “fun fund” in the bank. What’s it for if not experiences?

shedding style: repair

Comments welcome … what would you give for that with which beauty and meaning can be made?





bentwood rocker

day five of the WIST chair shed-a-thon

The year Nimue and I were engaged to marry, we bought two large items at a porch sale held by her parents’ next-door-neighbors: an old table saw and a rocking chair. We have both still. The chair appears to be a late-20th-century kit-built piece, so it isn’t old or valuable, but it’s comfortable and comforting. Nimue really, really loves it. Years ago, however, the seat failed. It wound up in storage in my parents’ hill barn with our other put-off projects.

Muffin's never met the rocker before. It requires sniffing.

Muffin’s never met the rocker before. It requires sniffing.

But we brought it back to Georgia last week, and we aren’t getting rid of Nimue’s beloved bentwood rocker. We’re acting deliberately to shed it from our pile of stalled projects instead. As I draft this post, she’s ordering the supplies we need to re-cane the seat. With that and some light refinishing, it should be ready to … (I can’t resist making this pun) … rock on!

shedding style: repair
destination: renewed use and enjoyment

Comments welcome … if you suddenly discovered you had an abundant balance in a TLC account, on what would you spend some tender loving care?


sitting room hole

Back on 18 February, we shed our sitting room hill.

Today, we shed the hole. Ah, how sheet it is!

You can never go hole again.

shedding style: repair

Comments welcome … do you have a hole in your life just waiting to be filled? Perhaps with plywood?


from pierced to pipe

Garden hose is a great invention: it enables one to install flexible, temporary, exterior plumbing where it’s needed. Or not so temporary: a previous owner of our house creatively used ordinary inexpensive hose and soaker lines to build an extensive landscape watering system. (That was before the southeastern U.S. drought brought increased water prices and permanent outdoor use restrictions.) It snakes all over the yard, buried about an inch deep. I pull it up as I find it. I haven’t found anything to do with the old hose till this year, when I began managing three small gardens and remain involved in a fourth. When hot summer weather arrived, suddenly I required a lot of hose.

So yesterday evening I raided my cache of the P.O.’s old lines and hooked them up to test how sound they were. No surprise to find several leaks. Fortunately hose repair is simple: with a sharp blade, cut out the damaged area; splice the sections with a properly-sized hose barb; and tighten clamps to hold everything together.

So I jumped on Slowjourner Truth and rode to the small-box farm store to buy the hardware. (The store is part of a chain that caters to small-farm owners and wannabes like me.) There, for $1.99, I found a “hose mender repair fitting.” It would have done the job, but seemed vastly over-engineered (I counted ten different parts to it) and was as big as my fist. Sighing, I went looking for hose barbs ($1.49) and clamps ($0.99 each, two for $1.98) … so my simpler, traditional solution would cost $3.47 each. “I believe I have clamps in a drawer at home,” I said.

I must’ve used them for another project. Sighing, I then drove to the big-box home improvement warehouse, where two clamps in the required size (packaged in plastic, of course) were $0.68. Better: now my repair method cost only 17 cents more than the ill-named “fitting” (though in fairness I should also factor in the three-mile round trip in the car.) Back home I happily assembled the pieces (squinting a bit in the rapidly falling dark) and sent water down the line to check my work. It held, but a third gusher sprang up.

I realized I wasn’t going to complete that shed last night. But today I finished the job. The container garden in the courtyard at church now has running water. (“What’s that draped over the church roof? It looks like a hose.” “Nevermind that, it’s just a snake that lives around here.”) I think hose turned from “useless” to “useful” counts as a shed.

Here's another way to do it, with a simpler/more elegant hose repair fitting that doesn't like like a rocket stage.

Here’s another way to do it, with a simpler/more elegant hose repair fitting that doesn’t look like a rocket stage.

shedding style: repair

Comments welcome … does it seem to you that some items that used to be straightforward have been unnecessarily complicated in the name of product development?