Saturday, 28 April 2012

Easy to make flower press ... ...

Pressing flowers is not a new idea, people have been using dried and pressed flowers (and other plants) for many many years, and all you need to make your own press is 2 bits of wood and 4 bolts with wingnuts (wingnuts make it easier to use the press) and a few bits of cardboard for packing.

Or of course you could use the tried and tested method of sticking the flowers in a heavy book, if however you have ten minutes free you can make a small flower press for very little money, and you'll be able to read that heavy book should want to without having to worry about the flowers in it, as it happens my wife still has the Periwinkle flower I picked for her when we first got together in a book somewhere.

Okay, firstly you'll need two bits of wood of equal size, square or rectangles will do, I used 12mm plywood for my press, it's what I had lying about, but any sheet material 12mm or thicker should be okay for this (mdf for example) if it's any thinner it will bend too much and things won't press evenly.

The top and bottom parts of the press -

Ignore the circles.

I made mine six inches square, I marked the cross on it so that I could get the holes for the bolts in a good place.

Marks for bolts - 

I measured in about half an inch.

Next I cut out the two squares, then all that needed to be done was drill the holes for the four bolts. I used long bolts, this way I can pack quite a lot of flowers and such like into the press, the bolts and wingnuts can be picked up in most diy shops and hardware type shops for very little money, the same goes for the wood, you might even find a piece in the off cut bin.

The bolts and wingnuts -

I used four inch long bolts.

Once you have your four holes drilled (one in each corner) you'll need some cardboard so that you can layer things up, I cut four bits, but will need more if I want to try and press larger amounts of flowers.

Cardboard packing - 

I cut the corners off so they didn't get in the way of the bolts.

And that's about as complex as it gets, you're ready to start pressing flowers, just get some paper and some flowers and get pressing, you can use pressed flowers for all sorts of things, on homemade cards for example, or to make pictures with.

Completed press - 

Already in use.

Here's some I tried, they weren't really left long enough, but it will give you an idea of the overall effect.

Pressed flowers - 

They need to be left for a few weeks really.

This press is so easy to make, and great for kids to use and indeed make themselves, the only tools you need are a tape measure,drill and a drill bit large enough for the bolt holes and a saw to cut the wood, an easy diy project for all ages.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Handmade outdoor play kitchen ...

I still haven't managed to get through the large pile of pallet wood I have, but I have managed to use a bit more making a play kitchen for the garden, it's pretty simple design wise but it will last and will take being played with vigorously (hopefully)

The only thing we bought to make it was a plastic bowl (cost a quid) to use as a sink, all the wood came from pallets.

Here's the finished article -

One rustic play kitchen.

It could easily be built using bought wood, plywood may be best, but if you can get hold of them a pallet or two will do just as well, I've given it a good sand and just finished it using Teak oil, but you could wax it,paint it or just leave it, obviously some kind of coating will protect the wood and it will last longer.

Here are some diagrams of how to build it, hopefully they should be easy to follow, just click on any of the pictures to en-large them.

Step - 1, making the frame work.

This is a case of making two 'A' shaped parts, one for each side of the kitchen.

I've been lucky because the pallets had nice usable lengths of wood, this is what the frames I made look like.

Frames -

Easy peasy, you can use nails or screws to fix them together.

Once the frames are done it's just a case of cutting lengths of wood for the work top and the shelf underneath.

Step - 2, adding the worktop and shelf.

You should get the idea from the diagram, but if it's not too clear here's what mine looked like after step 2.

Almost done really -

You can see where I added pieces to the front to make it look neater.
As for the construction this is about as complicated as it got, doesn't quite look like a kitchen though does it ? and to be honest it could have just been a play bench, kids are pretty good at using their imagination, but I thought I'd add some extra authenticity, you can also see the small splash back I fitted, this is optional.

Step - 3, fitting the splash back.

As it says, it's optional.

As the diagram says I had a small gap at the back that made it easier to fix the splash back to, but you can just fix to what's there, I used a thicker piece of wood to fix the splash back to, mainly because I wanted a little extra strength along the back of the kitchen.

Here's what mine looks like -

I could have avoided this by making the frames slightly thinner.

I wasn't being to accurate to be honest, going for function and durability rather than form, but making the frames a few inches shorter would have avoided this, although it does help to keep things square and more rigid, just in case the cooker gets extreme, and because mud weighs a lot.

Here's a plan of the top of the kitchen, we opted for a bowl that's about 30cm across, obviously you'll need to make a hole in the work top to fit the bowl, or you could just have it free standing.

Step - 4, work top layout.

Looks sort of kitchen like ?

Lastly I added two circles of wood to the top to act as hotplates, the bowl goes on the left, leaving a work area in between, I even made two small cooker controls for the front, otherwise there would be no way to turn the cooker on and off ;-)

One thing to remember if you use planks like I have you will need to add some extra support to the bowl area if you cut out a hole to fit it into, other wise the planks will flap about all over the place, just add a strip of wood on the underside of the work top near to where the bowl is.

Here's a couple of pictures of the controls - 

Simple to make.

They look quite realistic, well I think so.

To make them I cut out two piece of wood using a hole saw in a drill, hole saws look like a round saw and you can pick them up quite cheaply, then I stuck a strip of wood across the circle and gave them a sand to shape them a bit better.

Fixing the controls is easy as well, I just screwed through the front of the kitchen, but left them loose enough so that they will turn.

Step - 5, the cooker controls.

You get the idea ?

A close up of the cooker controls - 

I gave them a coat of black gloss, the same with the hot plates.

That's about it really, I did give it a good sand with my belt sander, just to make it smooth and reduce the chance of the kids getting splinters, then I just finished it with Teak oil which will help protect the wood.

And here's the finished kitchen again - 

All done.

I'm still thinking about adding an oven section, but for now the kids seem to be quite pleased, so I might leave it as is, unless of course they request an oven at some point.

Thanks for reading.



Wednesday, 4 April 2012

A rant about 'Nature deficit disorder' ... ...

These are my own views, they are not based on any research or statistics, just my opinion as a parent.

Not content with the myriad of disorders our kids can already suffer from we have a new contender in the form of 'Nature deficit disorder'

I'm not making this up by the way - (opens in new window)

This isn't the first time I've heard this term, or the first time I've heard that kids (and adults) are loosing touch with nature, it's been happening for years, and the term 'Nature deficit disorder' was coined by American Richard Louv in 2005 - (opens in new window)

I haven't read the book, and to be honest I know very little about Richard Louv, but I do know we are loosing touch with nature, child and adult alike, I've seen it with my own eyes, did you know some people who live near me didn't know that this country has native lizards ? tell me that's not a shame.

And what about kids who have no idea what or where some of their food comes from, I read an article a while ago that said some kids who were asked about food thought carrots were made up, not grown squeezed out of some machine in a factory some where, things like this make me sad.

So who is to blame ?

Well I personally think it's a variety of things, for a start trying to keep track of 30 kids in a class room is difficult and taking them to a local woods or park is going to be much harder, I understand schools reluctance to risk loosing a child or having one get injured, we live in a world where suing people is the new black, and then there's the cost of having extra staff to help keep an eye on them, and with the government cutting costs left right and centre it's not going to get any easier any time soon.

I'd like to say that it's the fault of schools or the government and in part it probably is, I recently said on twitter that if it's a 'disorder' it can't be the fault of the government or the schools, and I've seen the way some school herd children about when they do let them out into the open.

The reality I suspect is a bit different, remember this ? - (opens in new window)

This article had me ranting for ages, for crying out loud it's a kids tv program, and speaking from experience I can almost guarantee that a kid is going to view a puddle in the same way whether they've seen peppa pig or not, it's what being a kid is about, exploring,getting muddy (heaven forbid) and general finding out about the world they live in, so maybe it's parents that are to blame ? we do tend to wrap our kids in cotton wool these days, it's a far cry to what I remember when I was a kid, if we didn't get at least one cut knee or bruised elbow and covered in mud it wasn't a good day out.

My point is that what chance do our kids have if we worry when they jump in a puddle ? what harm does muddy water do ? basically none, perhaps it's more to do with the pile of washing it creates ... ...

I get that times are different now, me and my friends could go out in the morning in the summer holidays and not be back until it was dark, our parents didn't have the worries we do now, it's a dangerous world for any number of reasons, but even so is that any excuse not to let them explore ? what about taking them to the woods ? or the local park to play football ? nature is almost everywhere and it doesn't cost to walk about in it.

It's up to us is what I'm saying, I home educate my kids and we get out when ever we can, our kids are very interested in nature, they love it, and that's in part down to us dragging them away from the tv and their video games and saying come outside and look at the flowers and the animals.

If we don't engage their minds who will ? the schools ? the government ? see this is as much about us as it is them, if they see us getting grubby looking for bugs or doing some gardening they'll want in on the action, are our lives so busy we don't have the time to get into nature with our kids ? ask yourself if twitter,facebook and what ever else are that important you can't turn off the pc or your phone and go and have a walk out in the open.

I'm as bad as the next person for using the pc, but take it from me switching it off once in a while is good, and look at the upside, instead of telling people online how many cups of tea you've had that morning you get to spend quality time with your kids,you get exercise out in the fresh air, you learn about stuff, you save money in electric bills and on your phone bill.

They are our kids, it's not the sole responsibility of the schools or the government to raise them and teach them, that job is ours, ultimately the schools and the government work for us, and what hope does the planet have if future generations of kids have no interest in it ?

It's all go here ... ...

It has been a some what hectic few weeks, well it always is this time of year, what with getting ready for veg growing, fixing all the stuff in the garden that's been damaged over winter (fences mainly) and general tidying up.
And then there's more of the same at the allotment, I'd have to say though we've done a lot of prep work in order to have a productive year, and of course the chickens are keeping us busy, all of them are now laying eggs, and on average we're getting at least 2 eggs a day and 3 eggs every other day, and the chickens are still young, so egg production may increase a bit over the next few weeks, fresh eggs every morning, can't beat it.

Fresh eggs -


On the subject of chickens I've made a few adjustments to their accommodation since they first moved in, the coop and run now have an extra 3 foot section, that has a door (makes life easier) and the run section now has a roof, which can be removed on sunny days, I only built it because the chickens really dislike the rain, well ours do.

Door section -

Makes things easier.
With the roof on -

The roof gives them some shelter.

I have also sectioned off the bottom part of the garden where their coop is, so now they have even more space in which to do chicken related stuff, so far none have escaped (fingers crossed they won't start trying) the kids are still (after 4 weeks) very into chickens, they spend most of their time with them now, helping them dig up worms and such like.

New fencing to contain chickens -

They have already looked at it with a 'we can get over that' eye.

 One of the major jobs I really wanted to get done was the green house, for the last few years we've had one of those metal framed things with a plastic cover, and for the last few years the cover has fallen apart, it's like the plastic has degraded, so this year I decided enough was enough, I'm not going to buy another cover for it, and so I covered it in wood (from the massive pile of pallets I had) well some of it, it's got a plastic roof and windows on two sides.

Used to look like this (only green) -

Not much, but it worked.

Basically what I did was fix planks of wood to the metal frame, and I've also added a little extra support so the thing doesn't fall down, I'm happy to report it's quite sturdy and seems to be working well, and it was given a coat of green paint by my lovely wife.

New green house -

Excuse the bins.

 You can see how it's put together, I've just replaced the plastic cover with wood, I had to change the roof slightly, but on the plus side we now have an extra water collection device, which is good seeing as they are banning hoses in this neck of the woods, I just need a new waterbutt or some kind of container.

The other side of the green house -

It gets quite a lot of light.

 The door is now a door, rather than a flap of plastic you roll up -

A proper door.

In all it's cost about £30 to fix the green house, I only had to buy the plastic sheeting, the whole thing is much stronger, and I can get more stuff in it now because I can add more shelves.
We've already started some things off, like turnips,broccoli,tomatoes,squashes and a load of other stuff.

I also made some small boxes to fit on one of the walls which we've started growing radishes in and small chantenay carrots.

Wall boxes -

Really easy to make.

  You might guess that we are trying to use the spaces we have in the best way possible, and this shows that even if you don't have a garden a couple of wall boxes can be used to grow a wide range of things.

And lastly the allotment is already in production, well it will be when the stuff grows, I planted a few rows of spuds at the beginning of March, about 60 spuds in all, and we've managed to get most of the plot dug over and ready for planting, we also put in about 5 rows of carrots,6 rows of peas (more to go in later on) a shed load of onions, some parsnips and some celeriac, which if you haven't eaten is very tasty cooked, it's also nice raw in some homemade coleslaw, I'm sure I've planted some other stuff as well (brain like a sieve) we have however got some interesting stuff to grow this year, not that spuds and such like aren't interesting, we have some purple carrots, yellow tomatoes, yellow cucumbers, which are called lemon cucumbers, because they grow ball shaped rather than long and thin, we've also got some spaghetti squashes to grow along with luffa's (loofahs) and even some liquorice plants.

The spud rows -

Much more than we planted last year.

And that's about it really, other than loads of gardening we've been looking after chickens and trying to get into gear for the spring and summer, I'll keep you posted on the progress of the garden and the allotment, and anything else we get up to, I have also managed to move my shop site to another provider (it's not quite finished yet) and I've also been turning some new stuff, so if you have a spare minute go and have a look and see what you think - (opens in new window)

Thanks for reading.