Death is in the air

There’s something in the air. Bill, a good friend and co-worker of mine’s mom is in the hospital and the prospects are not good. Another co-worker, Tsipi, from my time in Israel just lost her mom. Yesterday I was hanging out with a friend who’s a cop and one of his co-workers was killed in a traffic accident on the way to work.I first really became familiar with death and rituals surrounding it while I lived in Israel. The thing that’s interesting about death and funerals in Israel is the level of community it provides. I’ve been pretty blessed. The first time in my life that someone I knew and cared about died was when Oz Moses died from complications due to ALS (Lou Gerrig’s disease). I worked with Oz and loved being around him; everyone was. Intel chartered two or three tour busses to go to the funeral. Those busses were full and there were a bunch of cars that went as well. There were a couple hundred people at the funeral, the memorial 30 days later and a smaller, but still substantial crowd a year later for the one year memorial. Jewish culture/religion has the concept of Shiva, from the Hebrew root work “to sit”. Shiva is a period of about a week during which immediate family members congregate together to mourn and receive guests who come in a show of support during the most sensitive and numbing days. You just go an hang out for an hour or two. You talk about whatever… politics, vacations, work, as well remember the person that died. I went to probably ten of these while I lived there. I went to Jerusalem about 1.5 hours away on a school night to visit Nava, I went to Oz’s family (who I’d never met before) about 1 or two hours away. I can’t visit Tsipi as I’m not in Israel anymore, but if I still lived in the country, I’m sure I would have made the 2 hour trek. Tsipi will have a bunch of visitors. For being associated with death, it’s a pretty wonderful experience. So I guess it’s a reminder to appreciate the people around you. While hanging out with Chuck (the cop) he spent about 50% of the time on his phone talking to other officers supporting each other. I’d met the guy that was killed and he was someone I was glad to have working the streets. I spoken with Bill by phone at least every couple days over the last week he’s been with his mom at the hospital in Eugene and look forward to visiting with him and his family when he returns to Portland.

Baby got greenhouse

Click on the pictures for larger versionIMG_7684.jpgIMG_7685.jpg One of the key reasons to have raised beds is that they enable the soil to warm up to a temperature appropriate for germinating seeds and small plant starts. Separate them somewhat from the ground. To further improve things, I’m experimenting with a small greenhouse. I call it a “baby greenhouse”. The top is a simple frame with grooves to accommodate screen cord used to make/fix screen doors. The plastic is painters plastic. Works pretty well. The frame is assembled using using mortises and tenons. (I just got a mortising machine at the woodworking show this year) Anyway, I have one of those wireless thermometers and using it, I think I have a winner. Whenever I check the temps inside and outside the cover, the difference is about 5 degrees F. Not bad. When things start to warm up, I think this will give me a lot of extra time in the growing season. If I’m just trying to avoid the last frost and I get 5 extra hit points (role playing games, anyone?) I could put stuff out a couple weeks early. I’m thinking I’ll get some additional advantages as well. The soils in the beds is pretty drenched right now. Covering the beds should help. Cooler temps in the fall will be less of a hindrance as well.

sollar collector continued

Any of the pictures below can be clicked on for a larger version.IMG_7688.jpgIMG_7690.jpgIMG_7691.jpgIMG_7689.jpg Here’s my latest progress on my solar collector. in order to build supports for the copper, I took some wood strips, drilled some 1/2″ holes and ripped them in half. The frame of the collector is a couple 2x4s, planed down a bit, mitered biscuited, and glued. I also drilled some larger holes in the sides to access the copper. I used 1 1/4″ bit to drill those. The back of the panel is a 2’x4′ piece of OSB, rabbeted and stapled to the back with my 1/4″ crown stapler. (I would add the my stapler is one of the most used tools in my shop. If you have a compressor, you need to take a trip down to the local Harbor Freight and get one of their $20 staplers. I also like using the staples with the adhesive coating on them. Driving them causes heat which causes the adhesive to melt a bit and make for staples that don’t want to come out.   IMG_7692.jpgIMG_7693.jpg Here you see, I spray painted the collector plates black. I used about a half can of matt black rustoleum enamel. I also painted the grove on the other side to somewhat insulate the galvanized from the copper.   IMG_7694.jpgIMG_7695.jpgIMG_7697.jpgIMG_7696.jpg To finish off, I cut a small groove down each side of the frame to create plastic top. I seriously doubt that that plastic will last. In fast, I expect it to sag and melt, but first I wanted to see how the whole system works. As you can see in the pictures, I am using the cord used to make screen doors to attach cheap painters plastic to the top. Pushing down into the groove stretches it out a bit. Notice that I added some staples to keep them in place. Now we just need some sunshine!

Solar water heater collector part 1

Over the past year, I’ve had thoughts of building some sort of solar hot water heater. In fact the seed was planted well before this year. I lived in Israel for about 2.5 years ending with the end of 2000 when I moved to Oregon. If you look at most Israeli skylines, you’ll see that most buildings (I don’t want to say all) have at least one or two solar collectors. One of my apartments there had one and it meant that my electric water heater was off all but 3 months of the year. This was inspite of the fact that I took my showers in the morning.Anyway, we got a swimming pool last summer. It’s a collapsible pool about 15′ across and 3′ tall and it often seemed a bit cold, hence this project. So I’ve been doing a bit of surfing on the topic on da web and while I didn’t come across much, I did find some DIY project at this site. In particular this project which uses a big industrial looking press to form collector absorber plates got me thinking. The thing is I don’t have a press and don’t have much other need for one. So after thinking about it a bit, I decided to try using the weight of my pickup. Note: each of the pictures can be clicked for a larger version. IMG_7675.jpgIMG_7676.jpgIMG_7677.jpgIMG_7678.jpg As you can see from the pictures, I just took a couple pieces of scrap and build a simple form. I then just drive over it. A couple things to notice:
  • I screwed a couple loose washers on each side to keep the metal lined up. (the second picture)
  • I use a couple long bolts (two right pictures) to keep the top form from sliding away when I drive up onto it.
The metal is roofing flashing bought in a roll from Lowe’s or Home depot. about $6 for a 6″x10′ roll. I got the thinnest stuff they had to ensure my truck is heavy enough to form it. IMG_7681.jpgIMG_7682.jpgIMG_7683.jpg Here are some pictures of my current progress. My intention is for water to enter one corner and leave the opposite corner. I figure this will lead to an equal resistance path through each of the tubes which are 1/2″ copper. One thing about using dissimilar metals in contact with each other: one of them will corrode. After googling around a bit, I came across this site about metal corrosion and it looks like it will be the galvanized metal that will corrode. I figure that’s better than having the pipes spring a leak. I have couple options on how to address this, I need to spray paint the flashing black anyway, so I’ll spray the grooves as well. Also, I’m gonna glue the pipes into the grooves which should further isolate the copper while hopefully acting as a sort of heat-sink grease. That’s the current progress. Next, I’m gonna have to practice my copper sweating skills which I haven’t done in a couple years. I’ll also build up a box to hold it all.


I love to garden. It’s something that my girlfriend Robie and I do together. Each year we get better, we expand the garden, and learn new stuff on how to get our plants to grow.Robie and I also try to recycle and compost as much as we can and this is includes kitchen scraps. We’ve been pretty consistent in collecting scraps and I decided to take it to the next level. Vermicomposting. I mentioned wanted to try it to some friends at work and one of them told me his wife has been doing worm composting for over 10 years now. He put us in contact, she lent me her “Worms eat my garbage” book, and even gave me a bucket o worms. Of course just using a simple rubbermaid container is not enough, so I decided to build some stackable wormbins. click on any of the pic for a bigger version IMG_7667.jpghere’s a picture of the finished project. It’s made out of OSB, a fairly cheap type of plywood, particle board. I don’t know how well it will hold up to moisture, but I’m hopeful. IMG_7662.jpgHere’s the base, which can also serve as the lid. I’m thinking that this will come in handy when “harvesting” the results in the lowest bins. Also, this libs have holes drilled on the perimeter to allow air. IMG_7663.jpgHere’s a closeup. just a simple miter joint. The rabbet was cut on my table saw. IMG_7665.jpgHere’s the first level. The bottom is 4 1″x1.5″ wood strips, half-lapped together. I then stapled 1/2″ galvanized screening to it. Notice that the sides are tapered. to enable stacking. One level stacks on another by resting on the 2x2s in the corners. Since the sides are tapered, I angled them as well with this jig. Just a piece of 2×4 with a V cut into it.IMG_7674.jpg IMG_7671.jpgIMG_7672.jpgHere is how I cut the compound miters on the sides. Just a 3/4″ strip of MDF I had laying around. The OSB is about 1/2″ think so I was looking for a taper of about 3/4″ to get a somewhat loose fit between stacks. That’s it.

my teaching blog

This is the first of hopefully many articles about stuff that I build. One of my obsessions is building stuff. I work on my house, in the garden, on the computer. If I haven’t worked on something for a couple days, I start to stress.I also like to teach. some day I hope to switch to being a school teacher. Middle school. Old enough to learn real stuff but not too old to be reached. After I complete a project, I like telling my friends about it which often requires pictures. Getting in the habit of taking more progress pictures is also something I hope this blog will help me do.