Category Archives: Projects

This will be for when I get a wild hair and try to accomplish another project

Greenhouse build progress

Greenhouse build progress

It has been a while since we sharing an update on our greenhouse build progress. Not much was accomplished during the heat of the summer. Now that fall is here we have taken advantage of cool weather and got busy with this project. The structure is up, the end walls are built and all of the double wall plastic is up and secured. The blower motor that inflated the canopy is installed and operational.

Greenhouse build progress
Greenhouse build progress – preparing to install canopy

What’s left to do to the greenhouse

What do we have left to do with this greenhouse? The side curtains on our greenhouse need to be installed. This Zimmerman High Tunnel kit has curtains that secure at the bottom and drop down from the top to vent excess heat. After the side curtains are up and operational, the door needs to be built, covered with plastic and installed.

Once the door is on we need to bury an electrical line pulled through conduit. It will provide the power to the for the inflated fan and the fan that will blow air for the heat sink. Once the power is run to the greenhouse we will work on the grow boxes and making the heat sink operational.

Greenhouse build progress - canopy plastic
Greenhouse plastic installed on canopy of greenhouse

The grow boxes

We have all four of them built and pushed to one side of the greenhouse. They need to be placed, spaced out, leveled and secured in place with stakes. An application of preplant will applied to the soil inside the grow boxes. Then they need to be topped off with a mixture of sand and sawdust. After mixing in an application of weekly feed and preplant with the sand and sawdust the grow boxes will be ready.

The two grow boxes down the center of the greenhouse will have the a-frame structure built to allow vertical gardening. That can be built after the seedlings are in and in the warmth and comfort of an operational geothermal heat sink greenhouse.

What’s left for the heat sink

So far we don’t have any more greenhouse build progress to report on the heat sink portion of this project. But it’s on our list of things to accomplish. Once the greenhouse is buttoned up the heat sink is our next project. The pipes on the inlet side of the heat sink will be bundled together and cut at the same height above the ground. The fan that will move air through the heat sink will be mounted on top of the barrel that will be our manifold. That barrel will then be partially buried over heat sink pipes.

Watch the video update of our greenhouse build progress

This video is part 7 in our YouTube video series on our geothermal heat sink greenhouse build. If you haven’t already done so, please consider subscribing to our channel.

https://youtu.be/_KLYGDmFoMA

Greenhouse build progress

Greenhouse build progress

We have been working outside this week and thought we would provide an update on the greenhouse build progress.  This greenhouse is being built over our 95 ton heat sink and is part of our geothermal heat sink greenhouse project.  We are still a long ways off from having the the heat sink operational.  You can see what we have accomplished in this picture.

Greenhouse build progress
Greenhouse build progress – hip board installation

 

Arch supports installed

Near the peak of the arches you can see a horizontal support.  They are on all the arches except the two on the end,  These supports will provide rigidity for the arches under heavy winds and snow loads.  We don’t get lots of snow here in NW Missouri but we do generally see some every year.  If we received lots of snow it would have been necessary to go with a different style of arch to support a heavy snow load.  They’re held in place with a self tapping screw to keep them from moving.

Installing greenhouse hip boards

Both sides of our greenhouse will get a hip board and baseboard installed.  You can see the partially installed hip board on one side of our greenhouse in the picture above.

In this picture you can see how we are securing the hip board to our arches.  Notice the Tapcon screw installed through the top bracket.  One bracket at each arch will get a Tapcon to prevent the hip board from moving.  Each arch, with the exception of the two end arches, will have the hip board secured in this fashion.  The two end arches will have a 3/8 inch hole drilled through the board and arch.  A carriage bolt will be used to secure the hip board at each end.

We used a 3/8 impact adapter with a socket and our impact driver to insert the lag bolts.

Greenhouse build progress - installing hip board
Hip board installation on our Zimmerman high tunnel

What comes next

After both sets hip boards are up we will install the base boards.  Once those are on we will need to do a little back filling with dirt to help keep critters from getting inside.

After the base board work is complete the ends will need to be closed up and the door and door frames built.  We will be framing in both ends with treated lumber that was reclaimed from our in the garden greenhouse.  We are still sorting out the details of the end walls.

After the end walls are complete the grow boxes will be built and installed.  They will be filled with sawdust and sand, mixed at 75 percent sawdust.  We likely transplant seedlings into the grow boxes before pulling plastic.

The double layer of greenhouse plastic will be installed this fall once the temperature drops to around 60 degrees.

Making smoker wood chips

Making smoker wood chips

Recently we used the free Craftsman wood chipper we repaired to start making smoker wood chips  We had removed several mulberry trees for our greenhouse build and had a little apple and hickory wood that could be chipped.  We use a smoker often and go through more than a few bags of wood chips that we had to buy.  Now we can make our own and won’t have to buy any for awhile.

Making smoker wood chips
We will use this chipper to make wood chips for our smoker

Running the chipper and making chips

The process was fairly simple, we used the pruners to cut off branches from a limb downed during a recent high wind event.  Those branches were cut down more to make a straight branch that would feed easily into the chipper.

I found that with this particular unit it was best to keep the length of what we chipping to no more than a couple feet.  When we had a piece that was too long it would begin to bog down the Briggs and run the risk of killing the machine.  If you do then there will be wood inside the unit when you go to restart it.  When there is too much  material inside you won’t be able to pull start it.  We had to tear the unit apart once to unplug it. It wasn’t horrible, but it did take 20 minutes to clear and reassemble.  Lesson learned.  Limit the length of the material getting chipped to prevent this from happening again,

The finished product

This is our first chipper/shredder and we’ve never run one, therefor we weren’t certain how large of chips it would make.  The chips it made are smaller than I expected.  They’re smaller pieces than what comes in the bags we buy at the store. see the picture below.

Making smoker wood chips
wood chips from a mulberry tree that will be used in a smoker.

We have used them to smoke a chicken.  The smaller chips burn up faster than the larger store bought wood chips. Making smoker wood chips is pretty fast and we have an abundance of fruit trees. Burning more chips doesn’t concern me.  So far we have filled 2 feed sacks with usable wood chips.

Making smoker wood chips
Mulberry tree wood chips that will be used to flavor meat in our smoker

Repairing Craftsman 5 hp chipper

Repairing Craftsman 5 hp chipper

Recently we picked up a free older chipper shredder that was in need of a little tender loving care.  It was free and could be used to make our own wood chips for the smoker.  We got it home and started the job of repairing Craftsman 5 HP chipper.

Repairing Craftsman 5 hp chipper
Craftsman 247.797853 chipper repaired and ready for service

Finding manuals for the chipper and engine

With a grease rag and flashlight I was able to find model numbers for the Briggs and Stratton as well as the Craftsman model number for the entire unit.  It is a Craftsman 247.797853, 5 HP chipper/shredder.

Before I could begin Repairing Craftsman 5 hp chipper the model numbers were needed to see if replacement parts were even available. I was able to quickly find a free PDF version of the owners manual online.  With the model number for the Briggs we were able to find repair parts numbers for most everything we needed.

Engine repairs made

The little 5 HP Briggs actually ran when we got it, but it didn’t sound quite right.  Upon inspecting the gasoline in the tank it had the slightly sour taste of old gasoline.  It would need a tank flushing, and at a minimum, the carburetor bowl cleaned.  While taking off the air cleaner assembly it was clear the air cleaner needed replaced.   I was able to find an air cleaner and spark plug kit for $6.50.  The plug was ok, but was replaced along with the air filter.

After removing the gas tank and carburetor it was easy to tear into the carb.  The bowl had varnish buildup from our ethanol gasoline and needed cleaned.  The needle looked rough, so I elected to just purchase a carburetor rebuild kit.  It was around $10 from Amazon.

The carburetor kit made a world of difference in how this old chipper ran after flushing out the tank and adding fresh ethanol free gasoline.

Chipper shredder blades

To inspect the chipper and shredder blades on this unit I had to tear into it a bit.  With a few basic hand tools I was able to inspect our blades.  They were beat up but would be fine with a sharpening.  If you’re taking on this same job  you can still buy replacement blades.After installing my sharp blades I buttoned the unit back up.

Repairing Craftsman 5 hp chipper
These blades were rough and need sharpening on this old Craftsman chipper/shredder

Chipper shredder bag

The bag for this chipper shredder was long gone but I had hoped I could catch the chips in a bucket or something similar. Unfortunately   I discovered the bag was going to be required, it generates too much wind and the chips were blown out of my bucket,  A serviceable replacement bag is available for around $46.  If you are good with a sewing machine it would be easy to make one of these with the dimensions listed through my link.

Repairing Craftsman 5 hp chipper
New bag installed on Craftsman 5 HP chipper/shredder and ready to be put to work.

The first chipping job after repairs

The first task for the old chipper was to make some wood chips from a mulberry tree for our smoker.  We ended up chipping some hickory and apple wood as well.

Upgrading to night sights on the Glocks

The Mrs and I have the same generation (gen 4) and model Glocks. When we bought them they both came with the standard sights that don’t offer any illumination in low light conditions.

We had a sight pushing tool already so just bought new night sights.  It’s an expensive tool now but cheaper ones can be bought for around $50.  If I were to start over and didn’t have the tool I’d likely save money and just have a gun smith provide and install the new sights for a fee. 

If you have one or can borrow one from a buddy it’s a simple process to push on a rear sight. The front sight does require a special tool to remove that can be bought for less than $10.  It too is an easy job to replace and there are tons of YouTube videos that show you how. 


Here is the rear sight removed and ready to install the new one. 

cast iron electrolysis tank

cast iron electrolysis tank for cleaning rusted metal

After acquiring several old rusted up pieces of cast iron cookware we decided to get a cast iron electrolysis tank.  Some of the pieces were large, like an old dutch oven, so we wanted a large tank to accommodate it.  We had a plastic 33 gallon drum that held syrup for beverages that would be ideal for our job.  Any container that is not made from a metal will work.  The contain must absolutely be non-conductive!

The sacrificial metal for your electrolysis tank

A quick search of the topic on YouTube will show you lots of different metals being used as the sacrificial metal.  You will find everything from pieces of rebar all the way to pieces of old scrap metal.

To maximize the surface area available to attract rust from the item being cleaned I elected to use flat stock material.  It increases surface facing the item to be cleaned.  It also is easier to clean with a scraper and a wire brush.

Our cage was made so that when it is dropped into the tank it does not touch the sides or the bottom.  Admittedly I don’t know if touching hinders the electrolysis process.  I’m absolutely a novice at this and you should do your own research.  With that said, I liked the idea of the solution being able to freely circulate around our cage.  That is why it was built to not touch the container any where inside the solution

Cleaning the rusted item at regular intervals

While running our cast iron electrolysis tank I like to stop it every day to clean everything.  My assumption is that using a brush to remove lose pieces of rust from the item being cleaned and the superficial metal will speed up the process.

I’ve been running the electrolysis tank on the old cast iron Dutch oven for awhile.  Every day when i stop it for a quick cleaning I am seeing some great results.  It still needs some more rust removed but the water was so nasty and rust colored I decided to start over with some clean water.

At the end of each day the Dutch oven has come out of the tank and scrubbed with a brush made for washing drinking glasses.  The crud and rust that has come off after each scrubbing has been impressive.

The cage had a lot of rust built up on it when I removed it and dumped the water.  Most of the buildup came off easily with a wire brush.  While it was out we went ahead and hit it with the power washer.  Hopefully tomorrow the cage will go back in the tank and we will fill it and see how it does with fresh water and sodium carbonate.

Removing crud from the sacrificial metal

This picture of the cage was taken AFTER it was quickly attacked with the wire brush.  The bottom two steel bands looked just like the top one when this Dutch oven went into the tank.

electrolysis tank for cast iron
This is the tank we built to serve as our sacrificial metal in our electrolysis tank for cleaning cast iron

This was taken at the end of the first day of removing rust from the Dutch oven. You should have seen the water at the end of day 3.  That heavy number nine wire is suspending the oven in the tank and off the bottom.  The negative connector goes on that wire.

cast iron electrolysis tank and cage
electrolysis tank for cast iron working on that rust

While there is a lot of carbon on the bottom of oven in the next picture it is far better now than at the beginning.  When we started the entire bottom and most of the sides were covered with it.


And finally here you can see the inside of the old cast iron.  You can see the bottom of this old cast iron again!  When you compare it the picture that was taken at the beginning you get an idea of how much rust was removed.  There is still more work to be done, but I am satisfied with my setup.   The battery charger has been running at 2 amps during the process so far.  We could kick it up to 10 amp but I’m satisfied with doing this slow and easy.

The Dutch oven is out and I’ve dropped in a rough and rusted number 8 skillet.  After an hour in the tank I found this on the top of the water.

cast iron electrolysis tank removing rust
electrolysis tank for cast iron

You will need an automotive battery charger

Fortunately an inexpensive 12 volt battery charger works well for electrolysis.  My go to battery charger is a dual amp capable of 2 or 6 amps.  There are models available for less than $25 that will work for your electrolysis system.

You do not need a big and expensive battery charger to remove rust through electrolysis.  However, if you already have one it can certainly be used.

 

Electrolysis tank for removing rust from old cast iron

This project is one that I’ve been wanting to complete for some time now.  We have several pieces of old cast iron cook ware we’ve acquired that have a problem with rust and decided to try removal with electrolysis.   

An old plastic 33 gallon barrel that my brother gave me was perfect for the tank after cutting one end of of the barrel.  A local welder fabricated the cage for me using rebar and flat material.   I requested the flat steel to be used to increase surface area during the electrolysis process and to make it simple to clean up.

For our purpose we are adding one tablespoon of washing soda per gallon of water.  The electrical current is being provided with an old two amp charger.   Currently the old Dutch oven I’ve got in the tank has been there for less than two hours.  It has a long was to go but there is defiantly a noticeable difference in the amount of rust.  

My cage can easily be removed from the barrel to make cleanup and water changes as simple as possible.


Here you can see the flat steel bands that serve as my sacrificial metal.  It is easier to clean than a bunch of round rebar.  With a putty knife I’ll be able to quickly knock off the sludge that develops during the electrolysis process


Here ís the old Dutch oven that shows the level of rust before going in the tank.


The negative connector is attached to the wire suspending the item to be cleaned.  The positive cable is connected to my sacrificial metal, for my instance it is the cage I had made to fit inside my barrel. Do not use stainless or copper in any part of your build!

Building a few more seedling flats for seedling production 

Today the table saw came out and we quickly constructed a few more seedling flats.  It’s time to bump up a few of the vegetables under out grow lights, starting with the kale. They’re pretty simple to make and relatively inexpensive.  

The flats are 18″ X 18″. The instructions for building your own can be found on page 181 of the MGM book. We used the table saw to cut the two widths of the slats for the bottom of the seedling tray and a pneumatic staple gun to assemble each part. 

4 completed Mittleider seedlijng flats
completed seedling flat
conatucting a Mittleider seedling tray
Mittleider seedling flat

Grow boxes for an in garden green house

Our grow boxes and in garden green house is beginning to come together. We now have two 18 inch wide by 30 feet long grow boxes built from treated 2 x 8 lumber in our garden.  To those grow boxes we are adding the structure to allow us to grow vertically and support our in garden green house.   The grow box construction is covered on page 78 of the MGC.

  

Before mixing and adding our growing medium, sawdust and sand for us, we added our pre-plant mix to the bottom of the grow box.   Page 85 in the MGC book tells us to add one ounce per linear foot.  So to this 30 foot grow box we measured out and added 30 ounces of pre-plant fertilizer.  The grow box is now ready to be filled with a custom growing medium.

We utilized the free sawdust we were able to get locally to make our custom growing medium and sand.  Following the MGC book, we mixed three parts sawdust to one part sand.  This is mixed by volume and NOT by weight. 

One 50 pound bag of all purpose sand filled a 5 gallon bucket so we used that as our measuring tool.   After each bucketful of sawdust was added to our wheel barrow we added approximately 1/3 of a bag of sand.  After the 15 gallons of saw dust and 5 gallons of sand were in the wheel barrow we mixed everything with a shovel before pouring it into the grow box.   Each 10 foot section of our 30 foot grow boxes required 15 gallons of sand and 135 gallons of sand.  

   
   
Once the grow box is full and level we have to add our pre-plant and weekly fertilizer to the medium and mix it in thoroughly.  Page 87 in the MGC book calls for 1 ounce per linear foot of the pre-plant fertilizer mix and 1/2 ounce per linear foot of the weekly feed. 

  
The fertilizer can be mixed in with a potatoe for or a shovel, but we have an attachment for our gas powered weed eater and will be using it.  

Updates:

These are a little late in coming, but both boxes are now full and there is more progress on the green house portion.   Later today we will order the green house plastic to cover the structure