Sunday, December 27, 2009

DIY - Replace The Battery in a Dog Collar

This has absolutely nothing to do with anything on this blog. I just like showing people ways to save money. Plus I hate it when companies design things solely for the purpose of taking your money. So here I will show you how to save money by deconstructing an unnecessary battery pack that was designed for one purpose, to take your hard earned money. There is NO reason to design something like this other than greed. They could have just as easily designed it to easily replace each battery inside the pack. In fact, they recently came out with their new pack, in which this can be done. But now you have to buy the new pack, and at a much higher price. This should have been done with the original purchase, but they wanted to sell you something "new" at a later date. These greedy pigs deserve no more of our money. Anyway, enough with the ranting.


If you have ever purchased an electronic dog collar for training purposes or maybe for excessive barking, then you know that replacing the battery is expensive. Instead of paying $25 plus shipping you can do it for about $3 and 15 minutes of your time.

I am one of those who likes to know how things work. The last time I had to replace my dog's training collar battery, I decided, since I was just going to throw it away, I might as well take it apart and see what is inside. To my surprise, this is what I found...

Yes, that is right, two common CR2032 watch batteries. Well, happy to see this, I picked up a couple for $3 at Wal-Mart, put it back together and saved the other $25, I was going to spend, for a rainy day.

Here is the quick DIY procedure for replacing these.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Water is Crystal Clear

The pond water can not get any more clear than this. Compare this system to one that employs all the expensive, unneeded equipment that the "experts" would have you unnecessarily purchase. This pond is equipped with one pump, home-made biological filters in the form of grow beds, and nothing else. You need nothing else, and I have all the proof you could ever want right here...

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Google Sketchup...Nice!

If you have seen my last couple of instructionals on the step-by-step blog you probably noticed the cool 3D images. I used Sketchup to create a 3D model of a grow bed and it was pretty easy. I watched 2 short videos as an introduction and played around with it for about 20 minutes before I jumped right in and started creating the model. Try doing that with AutoCADD(which I spent 2 days playing with and still couldn't easily make a drawing of my house).

So if you don't want to spend any money and don't want to spend a lot of time learning a new program, I recommend SketchUp.

And while this may look like a plug for them, it's not. I really do like it. And it's free!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Winter Composting Tricks And A "Go Green" Tip...

So it's winter, and your compost isn't getting finished as fast as you would like. Here are a couple of things you can do that will help.

1. Cover the pile - Put some landscape cloth, large plastic bags, or a tarp over the pile. This helps keep the pile warm by containing the heat created during the process. Make sure you uncover the pile during the day a few times a week and mix up the pile a little bit to get oxygen into it. If you keep it covered all the time without mixing it, you might suffocate the microbes that need oxygen to break down the materials.

2. Pour your leftover hot water into the pile - Almost every day I boil something to eat. Instead of pouring the water down the drain when I am done, I pour it into the pile to warm it up. This will help a lot during the cold winter nights. Just getting the microbes warm enough to get working will keep the pile warm all night. Once they get going, they will create their own heat. This can help speed up the process enormously in winter.

3. Only turn your pile at night - Let the pile work its magic during the warmth of the day. Turn your pile while it isn't doing much in the cold of night. When you are done, the pile will be too cold, so add some HOT water to help warm it up.

So while all of this helps speed up the process, it still might not be as fast as you would like. Maybe you need some compost today, and the pile isn't quite done yet. If it's been a month or two since you started the pile and it has been composting, just a little bit slow, there is a way to get the composted material out of the pile. It will take a little effort, but it can be done.

You will need a shovel, a wheelbarrow, and something to sift the compost with. I have used many things in the past as a sifter, including an old house fan front cover. It needs to be large, so a hand held kitchen strainer probably won't be large enough. Now I use the bottom from a store bought fire pit I have in my yard. It works perfectly and couldn't be better if I had made a sifter myself.

Get your wheelbarrow next to your pile and place the sifter over or in it and add the material you wish to sift. This photo shows the last bit of material I want to sift through(if you didn't notice the wheelbarrow is already full)...

Once you get a good amount in the sifter, go through it and remove any large visible items that haven't composted. Remove anything that doesn't need to be there, such as rocks and plastic. Use gloves! In the photo below I am not because I was taking a picture and didn't want to get my camera covered with rotting gunk. But generally you don't want to stick your bare hands into a compost pile.

After you have removed the visible stuff, start sifting. I find it works better to flip the material up and let it fall back into the sifter then quickly flip it again. Repeating until everything is spread out and falling through the sifter easily. This loosens up the stuck together stuff better than just moving the sifter from side to side. But once it is loose, moving from side to side works well also. Use both methods and sift until nothing is falling through the sifter. What you are left with inside the sifter will be the stuff returning to the pile.

Make a discard pile to temporarily keep the material that is going back into the main pile.


Keep going until your wheelbarrow is full or you don't have anything left to sift. Once done, what you have is good compost inside the wheelbarrow. If you want to make sure it's completely done, leave it in the warmest spot in the yard covered in something black, such as a plastic yard bag, for a few days. If you have a large oven and some large pots, you can stick it in your oven on 200F for a couple of hours, then set it back into the wheelbarrow, covered over night. Or do what I do, and use it just the way it is.


If you are like me and hate it when you buy something in a box, get it home, open it, and find a landfill nightmare in Styrofoam. So do you toss it in the landfill or find a use for it? Here is a great way to get rid of it and help aerate your soil. If you are interested in doing this, please read the entire post before you do it.

Break the Styrofoam into little chunks about an inch or two in size. Throw them into your compost bin for a few months. It won't break down, but it will get rid of that styrofoam smell and can help loosen up the tiny balls that compose the Styrofoam. Now, whenever you sift your compost you will run into these little chunks. Take them and scrape the sides of your sifter with them. This breaks it down into tiny little balls that fall into the compost. But...
DO NOT DO THIS IF YOU PLAN ON BAKING THE COMPOST IN AN OVEN! Instead let the balls fall into a bucket or something, then add them after you bake the compost.

When you are done sifting your pile you will have several layers of these balls in the compost.

Mix the compost well so that the little tiny balls of Styrofoam are not bunched together.

This will make the compost so light and fluffy you won't believe it.

About Styrofoam: Don't worry, Styrofoam takes 35 to 50 years to break down, so it will not harm your food if you use it in the garden. But if you absolutely want an organic vegetable garden, just use this compost in the flower garden or somewhere else. This is not considered an organic compost because of the Styrofoam. However, would you rather have it in the landfill doing harm and creating more waste, or in your soil doing some good? I think the latter is the better alternative.
Either way....

Happy composting!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Step-By-Step Instructions

From now on, all the future step-by-step instructions will be posted on my other blog. I created that blog for that specific purpose. It will also contain any helpful tips and information to help you get the job done correctly.

This blog will detail everything else related to the project, including what I am currently working on and other yard related topics. The link to the step-by-step's is in the sidebar or you can click HERE.

How To Make a Grow Bed (PART 2 - Mounting Support)

This instruction is for the mounting support that will go underneath the grow bed and is attached to the posts. Once the mounts are in place you just set the grow bed on top of it and secure it.

The above photo was taken when I was designing the mount and is not exactly what the final support looks like, but it does give you a good idea. An additional three posts(one 4x4 and two 2x4 posts) and a 4x4 support beam are added to the final design.


5 - 2" X 4" X 8' Studs
1 - 4" X 4" X 8' Post
10 - 90degree angle brackets(any type, make sure they are strong)
20 - 3" Deck Screws
50 - 1" Wood Screws or Nails

Cut your 2x4's at the following lengths:
2 @ 48"
3 @ 29"
2 @ 77"


For the full, updated instructional head over to the Step-by-Step blog HERE.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

How To Make Compost

You are going to need a lot of plants around the pond and the best way to grow them is using plenty of compost. Making good compost quickly is not as easy as a lot of people might say. If you want it fast, it takes a lot of work to get it right. It is easy if you want it next year, but if you want it in about 6 to 8 weeks, prepare to work for it.

First you need to designate an area of at least 6' by 4'. You can enclose the area with just about anything. I have used old branches jammed into the ground. Keep an opening so you can get into the area easily. You can also just make a pile without enclosing it.

I have had several compost areas in my yard over the last few years. Here are a few of them...

The key to getting it fast is to chop, shred, and cut everything as small as possible. Use a chipper, a mulcher, lawn mower, or just some hand clippers. This is the single most important part of the process. If you don't do this, you will not get fast compost.

You can use just about anything that will decompose in the pile. All food scraps, paper plates, newspaper(don't over do it), lawn/yard clippings, coffee grounds, and egg shells are just a few items I frequently put in the pile. Avoid using meat, greasy foods, and pet feces. These items will stink, attract animals, and and can cause disease.

The pile must be as large as you can make it. 4' wide by 3' high is as small as you want it. Any smaller and it won't get hot enough. The larger, the better. Size matters.

I always put new items on the top of the pile so that when I turn it, I can remove the fresh stuff before turning it. Then I place them back on the top. After it starts to decompose, it will just blend in with the pile and you should have fresher items on top by then. It just keeps feeding from the top down. This way I have a continuous pile instead of having another pile while waiting for the main pile to compost. The only problem with this method is you have to remove any items that haven't fully composted that might have got mixed into the pile.

Turn the pile every week. This can be a back breaking process and is the main reason I say that it is difficult to make compost. Some people use tumblers, but they are not even close to being big enough for my yard. Last fall My pile was about 12 feet long and 5 feet high. By January the pile had decomposed to about 5 feet long and about 3 feet high. That brings up another point, in winter, composting slows down, way down. When you turn the pile, do it in the cool of night. The process slows down late at night and it won't be so hot when you turn it.

Your pile must get hot. If it isn't hot, then you are doing something wrong. Make sure the pile is wet, but not soggy, at all times. Use green and brown items in the pile. You need a lot of dried up material, such as dried leaves, straw, or paper in the pile to provide carbon. Green items provide the nitrogen. When the pile is going good, you will know it. On a cool morning, it will be steaming if you open the pile. Like this...

Once it is done you should sift it to remove the larger objects. And for your troubles, you now have great organic, home-made compost. Your plants will thank you.

Friday, November 20, 2009

How To Make a Grow Bed (PART 1 - The Grow Bed)

This will give instructions for making a grow bed box out of wood. This does not include the mounting, underneath support, or the liner and drains. Each of these steps will have there own set of instructions. I feel this is a better way to go. A few small sets of instructions rather than one massive set of instructions is easier to follow IMO.

So here we go, the first of daily(or almost daily) instructions to cover everything this project entailed.


Materials needed:
15 - 2" x 4" x 8' fir or redwood studs
1 - 4' x 8' x 5/8" plywood

9 - 2" x 4" x 8' redwood studs(you can also use 1x4 redwood)
1lb - 1 5/8" wood screws
1lb - 2 1/2" or 3" wood screws
12 - 90degree angle brackets(any type, make sure they are strong)
4 - 24" strap ties(any type and you can get away with using only 2)
1lb - 1" nails or wood screws

Step 1
Take 2 of your studs and lay them on a flat surface. Spread them 4 feet apart and place the plywood on top of them. With the studs smaller sides contacting the floor and the plywood, line up the studs with the edges of the plywood. Secure them by screwing through the plywood into the studs every 6 inches with 1 5/8" screws.

Now measure the distance between the two mounted studs, it should be 45", but always measure for certainty. Cut 2 boards at that length using 1 of the studs. Now place the newly cut boards in between the mounted studs and secure with 1 5/8" screws by screwing through the plywood into the boards. Next, connect the mounted 2x4's at the corners with 3" screws. Image 1 below shows the details.

Now turn the plywood so it is face down with the mounted 2x4's on top. Take 8 of the angle brackets and mount them as shown in image #1 below.

Step 2
Now you are going to build the side walls up using 2x4's. You will want to take the studs and build 4 boxes. You will do as you did when mounting them to the plywood, but this time you will be adding the studs in between to form the box first. Using the exact same measurement(45") cut 8 lengths of board using 4 studs. Line up 2 of the newly cut boards between the ends of two studs and screw them together using 3" screws as in image 2A below. It is important that all these boxes are the exact same size, 4' x 8'. Don't worry if the corner angles are not exactly perfect at this point.

Once the boxes are complete take one and place it on top of the box mounted to the plywood. Take a 3" screw and, going in at an angle, mount it to the box below it. Repeat this with each box until you have an almost complete grow bed. Image 2B below shows the details.

Now take a strap tie and secure each board to the one below it on the inside of each wall using 1" screws or nails. Repeat for each side.

Step 3
Now we will make it look better and at the same time make it stronger. Take 1 of the redwood studs. Find the center of it and draw cut lines at 45 degree angles as shown in figure 3A below.

Now take 2 redwood studs and cut the ends at 45 degree angles to match up with the smaller boards, forming a rectangle. Screw them together with 3" screws as shown in image 3B below. You will first have to drill guide holes to prevent the wood from splitting. A 1/8" or a 5/32" drill bit will work. Once you have it complete, set it on top of the grow bed and secure with 3" screws as shown in image 3B below.

Now using the remainder of the redwood cut and secure trim as shown in image 3c below. You don't have to use the exact patterns I did, but make sure you have at least one center board that connects all of the wall studs. This will prevent the walls from bowing out when filled and only needs to be done on the two long walls.

In the picture above I used a different, and stronger pattern. I was running out of wood and money at this point, so the trim is not all redwood.

That is it. Next I will show you how to make the mounting supports for the bottom of the bed once it is mounted.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Modifying The Grow Beds

I didn't feel enough of the water flow was being filtered. This is, in part, due to needing constant water input into the upper pond to keep the waterfall flowing all the time. What I did was direct a lot of water flow directly back into the pond without being filtered. Coupled with the water being used for aeration, I would estimate only about 30% to 40% of the water coming out of the pump was being filtered at any given time.

Here is a diagram of the water flow as it was:

What I am doing to fix the problem is to modify 2 of the grow beds. I am adding a drain hole to the bottom of the bed that will be continuously draining water. The water input will be greater than the drain output, slowly filling the bed. Once the level reaches the height of the auto-siphon, it will kick in and drain the extra water. Once the water is drained the auto-siphon will stop and the cycle will repeat. I just finished the first mod, and it seems to work fine.

Anyway here is what the modification looks like:

And here is the actual modification:

Off to the next one tomorrow.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

November Images

To control mud during winter I decided it was important to finish the landscaping in the grow bed area. After a little rain, I had a taste of what the winter will be like if I didn't do something immediately. I have also spent a lot of time modifying the grow beds to get more filtration.

November images: