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 In the year 2020

5 May 2020
PPE: Running out of raw materials from sj

  Running out of raw materials.

Many folk have asked sj how they can contribute to her efforts to produce PPE. The answer isn't quite as simple as one might think.

from sj:    Turns out that as far as school is concerned face shield making falls into a murky gray area. They are 100% in support of it, but they don't have a way to handle donations for it as it isn't a school project, and they don't want me publicly asking for donations because it uses school equipment. So it is a potential conflict of interest.
I do have permission to accept personal donations from my friends and family, but anything beyond that they are uncomfortable with. So we can accept money from those of you who offered to give us money but I guess I have to be careful not to spread it to the wider community. It is unfortunate that red tape and red filament aren't the same thing.
Regardless, my coworker Mike has a paypal set up that can accept donations. So if any of you do want to contribute to our 3D printed PPE efforts you can paypal us money at this address:
For those of you who are Luddites like me, we can also take checks. PM me for my address.
No guarantees that we will buy the color filament you want but you can leave us color suggestions. Also, we just found out that we can buy 22lb spools of elastic from the same company (toner plastics) for $200. So that's happening!


Emily BaneCare:
Nice People of Newburyport
Shoutout to Ms. L and the students of Newburyport High School for their thoughtful and generous donation of 1500 protection mask bands to our skilled nursing facilities across the state. Our hearts are deeply touched by the kindness of you, your students, and MakeIt Labs
. — with Lynne Farrell

Back to sj:    I just had an amazing conversation with a local (Massachusetts) filament maker. They are going to sell me spools for $12.38 each (which is amazing, spools usually cost $20-30 each). They're about a 2 hour drive away from me so I'm just going to drive out and pick it all up so I don't have to pay for shipping (I might borrow one of the giant vans that we have at school).

Liz:    Tell us if you need “spool sponsors”!

sj:    I'm all on board with spool sponsors, though I'm guessing they are each going to want to sponsor a particular color.

Sarah:    I'll only support blue. Maaaaybe green in a pinch

Sj:    Mike and I are sorting out how people can get money to us for this and should have a plan later this afternoon.

Liz:    yes let me know as well
Amy:    I can sponsor some as well.

sj    that would be amazing, thank you. I just posted about how to do it (because bureaucracy). the short version is pay pal to Morse.mike@comcast.net

sj:   The filastruder is basically heartbreaking. It works well enough that I don't want to give up on it, but not well enough to be useful. It has to be watched like a hawk which is not a thing I can reasonably do (what with also having a real job), and even then it is only managing 6-12ft lengths before it messes up which aren't really long enough to print anything useful.

  The filastruder is basically heartbreaking.

Conny:   Oh no!
Benjamin:    Time to readdress. Maybe vertical? The filament maker here in town sends the stuff straight into a water bath then coils.

sj:   There is a filament maker in Hudson? Do you know the name of the company? And we bought a few things to try to cool it faster, but there are a lot of variables and at the end of the day we want filament, not to make filament so I am leary of throwing too much good money after bad when I could instead just use that money to buy filament.

Paula:    That sucks. I hear they are fussy.
Chris:    with a name like that why not repurpose it to make fish burgers?
Andrew:    plastic extrusion process is highly temp/pressure dependent; do you have any sort of preheating to increase uniformity? Is the filament snapping because you are pulling too hard at the spooling end?

sj:    Wow, talk about distractable. I opened a blank email over an hour ago and since then I've graded work, emailed a parent, texted the rwdc team to find out their tshirt sizes, updated the sailbot website to show that it is cancelled, emailed the camp director of the place we planned to host to see if we can have it there next year instead. Basically I am completely scatter brained, and overwhelmed with things I have to do coming at me from every angle.

But I figured that you would all want a filament update. So let's talk about plastic.

First, I too love perspex, although we call it acrylic here. It's pretty delightful stuff, and one of the main things we cut on the laser. I think Poppa would be very pleased with the number of things I use it for on a regular basis (although i am going to shock you and tell you that it is not without flaws as a material - laser cutting it results in micro fractures. also it is prone to shattering, but I still like the stuff)

Oh hey I got distracted again, graded a few advanced robotics things, posted a new assignment, another parent email, made a google form, and a phone call for tech support from one of the teacher friends.

Anyway back to talking about plastic. For printing we mostly use PLA (polylactic acid), it is a bioplastic made out of corn. As a result it is actually compostable (in industrial composters, not in your garden compost). This makes me feel a lot less guilty about the amount of it we use, and the amount of failed parts we have.

I've been able to have Abe help me with this project, his housemate has been away since the start of march and he hadn't even been to the grocery store in 2 weeks, so we figured we were safe expanding our social bubbles to include each other.

This was good as I probably would have hurled the filastruder into the lake in a fit of rage without him there. That machine and I have never gotten along, and that hasn't changed. Needless to say it has all sorts of problems, we got it to extrude filament but unless you watch it like a hawk it is liable to mess up, and we were struggling to get pieces longer that 6-12ft from it (never mind a whole spool which is about 250 meters). So needless to say even disregarding the fact that we can't get it to a consistent diameter, we can't get a long enough piece out to print something.

  I probably would have hurled the filastruder into the lake in a fit of rage without him there.

There are lots of reasons why, basically it comes out molten, but the auger isn't quite consistent enough in what it pushes through, you then try to cool it as fast as possible. but you can't cool it the very second it clears the nozzle so it has a second or two of being essentially liquid so you want to make sure that the pull on it doesn't change, but it does change because gravity plays on it and you only have so much room before it hits the floor, and then so much room until it runs out of room on the floor and stops traveling forward or starts to spool, and all of these little things change the pull on it and cause breaks.
Abe tried to make us a winder for it that we could control the speed of but it didn't have enough of a slow range, and once the spool gets weight on it from the filament the motor wasn't strong enough to move it at slow speeds, and since the auger isn't consistent a constant speed on the motor doesn't help us anyway and if you look away for a moment it messes up, so really some sort of feedback mechanism is required and here we run into the next problem.

I don't want to be able to make filament, I want filament. So we could probably solve these issues, but it would take weeks of work and fiddling, and some investment, and really we just want filament because we have a very real right now problem. And while I could throw money at the problem, it isn't the problem I want to fix so it makes more sense to instead throw money at the real problem.

At least I had fun CADing and printing some parts (an adapter for the winder to mount a spool on the motor, and a larger hopper for the raw plastic)

I'll attach some pictures, we tried it first on the table, and then on an incline, and then a straight gravity drop. You can see Abe showing the filastruder what he thinks of it. Two solid days of work and it just isn't reliable. Also it is heart breaking, as soon as you add color (which is what makes it fun), it gets even less consistent.

  At least I had fun CADing and printing some parts

  We tried it first on the table, and then on an incline.

  You can see Abe showing the filastruder what he thinks of it.

2 more emails and a bunch of texts later

Fortunately this morning I got a fantastic phone call. I sent a bunch of emails last week trying to find a place to get a deal on filament and today I got a call from a local(ish) company to say that they would sell me spools for $12.38 each (spools usually cost $20-$30 each). They're about 100 miles from here (2 hr drive each way) so I'm just going to place a big order, and drive to get them to save on shipping.

And on that note, I have to run out to fetch a couple of rolls someone locally has and bring them to mike as he is all out of spares. I have to (virtually) attend a school board meeting tonight to talk about everything we are doing, hoping it will lead to some donations so that I can afford a whole car-ful of filament.

Alex:    I'm completely in awe of what you are doing Sj. Huge congratulations for setting up something so useful and needed.
Ironic that grand/father instilled in us a love of plastic (ICI was God and Perspex the miracle product, which I still believe today!)
I've not seen this film yet but intend to check it out ♉Story of plastic

Carry on carrying on everybody...

1 May 2020
PPE update from sj

Back in mid April we reported on how sj and colleagues had re-purposed their high school's 3D printers to go into production of PPE for local hospitals and health centers.

Below are extracts from her heart felt emails to me and her fb posts, you can read the whole story so far ♉   here

In the last month, we (meaning myself and two of my coworkers) have delivered 718 face shields, 170 ventilator splitters, and 2,313 ear savers.

Accomplishing this feat has required us to run a 3D printer farm 24/7 for weeks. Indeed not only are our 7 Prusas now running 24/7 printing visors for face shields, we've also managed to get our 3 older makerbots contributing to the effort by printing ear savers during waking hours (their beds aren't as large as the prusas, and we don't really trust them with a longer print job, so those are basically running in areas where someone can quickly switch over a print job every hour and a half or so).

Needless to say with all this printing we have used a ton of filament, approximately 48 rolls, most of which came out of my storage closet (because I am a hoarder). Fortunately my administration has been supportive of our efforts and have no problem with us repurposing the lab and all of those school supplies that way (I think I will refrain from giving them a $ amount for that many rolls of filament however).

Unfortunately it's one thing to talk about printing our way through all of the supplies in the lab and another to realize that we've actually done it. Mike (who is the one doing the actual printing) sent me a photo of our remaining filament this morning. And as someone who knows what my filament supply used to look like, the image is wrenching. We no longer have enough filament to resupply each of our printers.


And of course, because I'm me, I'm on to that, and in the most ridiculous way.

Years ago, when filament was harder to buy and significantly more expensive, I convinced my school to buy me a filastruder, a little $200 device (ok fine, kit, I'm not smart enough to pay more for something that comes pre-assembled) that basically melts down raw plastic and extrudes it into filament. I could write a whole diatribe about my struggles with this device. I don't even know how many times I've assembled it only to have it tear itself apart and need to be disassembled and reassembled again. Needless to say when filament dropped in price and became more readily available I dumped said device on a shelf in the darkest reaches of my storage closet and pledged never to touch it again.

Earlier this week I rescued it (and a box of plastic pellets) from said closet and delivered it to Abe, who did the impossible. He assembled it! and got it working! He extruded a few yards of it and successfully printed a few things, so we will send it to Mike for a real test. The dimensional accuracy of the stuff is terrible, so Abe has started building a spooling device (if it gets pulled through at a constant speed it will reduce the variations in width, and then in theory we can fine tune the device to a speed that results in an optimal filament thickness). Earlier this evening I designed an adapter to attach an empty spool to a motor and as I type this that part is printing.

If all goes well I will hopefully be able to go into filament production this weekend. But even that is just a stop gap. I have about 50lbs of plastic pellets and when that's gone, I'm going to try to convince Abe to build me a shredding machine so we can recycle failed parts (he's a robot guy, robot guys love building dangerous robots).

And when we've done that? Then what? Real filament is getting harder to buy and prices are increasing. If I could find a place to buy PLA pellets, in theory we could just keep making our own, but it's not exactly ideal. In my dreams I find a local manufacturer that has a pile of the stuff that fell off the truck, a drop in the bucket to an industrial manufacturer would be an unbelievable quantity to us.

Because here's the thing (and this is where the feelings come in).

This was supposed to be a short term operation, a stop gap to fill a void until manufacturing and delivery of real PPE came online. But the need isn't dissipating, rather it's increasing. Those numbers I gave you, that's just us, me and two of my coworkers who have divided up the labor for this operation between us (Mike prints, Don assembles and delivers, I sort logistics, shake trees, and find us resources and materials). I'm spending enough hours on this on a daily basis that this has basically turned into a second full time job.

We've partnered with another local school, and with one of the bigger makerspaces, and each of those entities are seeing the same kind of demand we are. All around the state, all around the country, all around the world, there are high school engineering teachers, and makers doing exactly the same thing. And while we're rapidly running out of materials, the emailed requests keep coming fast and furious.

And the e-mails, they're heart breaking.

Absolute desperation, followed by profound gratitude when we drop off a package of face shields and ear savers. We're delivering these things to major medical facilities: Hospitals (Anna Jaques, Portsmouth, Salem, Lawrence General, Beverly, Lahey Burlington, Beth Israel), medical offices, cancer centers, nursing homes, and there's no end in sight.

And this is what gets me, we are a high school engineering program. Nobody should want stuff being made in a high school lab with the kind of equipment and materials that a public high school can afford to provide. These places should be laughing in our face. They should be patting us on the head and telling us that it is cute that we want to help but that they have it under control. They should be telling us that they have plenty of PPE, and that the stuff they have is way better quality than anything we can provide and it's really nice that we're willing to help, but it isn't necessary.

Instead I'm getting e-mails that make me want to cry from nurses who have little more than surgical masks. These emails are so hopeful, and so desperate, and once we deliver a package of supplies they are so overjoyed and grateful. I've been called an angel and a miracle worker. I am none of these things. I am a high school engineering teacher with a lab of consumer level 3D printers, and it really really bothers me that in one of the richest countries in the world, this is the best that we have to offer our health care workers.

  This is NOT ok.

If you can't tell, that last sentence embodies a whole lot of feelings. I want to scream, I want to cry, and I desperately, desperately want to fix it.
I don't ever want to have to respond to one of those emails by telling someone that we don't have anything for them.
So we will keep printing, and I will keep trying to solve one impossible problem at a time.

On Sat, May 2, 2020 at 11:20 AM Chris Leadbeater wrote:

well done to you sj ... but ...what are ear savers btw and if i had a dozen would i be able hear any better????

as you say This is NOT ok. and its not. i won't rant about our pathetic 'government' either as its not good for my blood pressure.

From: sj:
Sent: Sat, 2 May 2020 18:42

The picture below is of an ear saver (the first one made with homemade filament). Apparently rather than attaching behind your head, most medical masks attach to your ears. While this is fine for short periods of time, when you're wearing a mask all day long for weeks and weeks at a time, apparently they start to chafe the backs of your ears and they hurt to wear. So this silly little plastic strap basically goes behind your head and you attach the mask to it instead of to your ears. Thus rendering the whole thing less painful.

  a silly little plastic strap

Also, did you see Mike's time lapse printer assembly video?

On Saturday, May 2, 2020, Chris Leadbeater wrote:
ahh thanks sj i have seen pics of NHS workers at the end of their shifts with facial bruising from the PPE.
they are just about coping now but i fear the next peak they will be exhausted.

but well done you... keep it up ...

1 May 2020
Power washing

Rosemary was chatting to one of our neighbours before lockdown who said that she had been karchering, now Rosemary hadn't a clue as to what she meant but as ♉Banbury is the home to a ♉Karcher factory perhaps she should have been more savvy. Certainly round us the Spring chorus has to be the sound of the power washer, they can be heard both near and far and as we have reported before, it is ♉   Rosemary's favourite too

Our latest bout of power assisted cleaning though has to come into the category of 'Extreme Power Washing'



  Washer to my window, wand to Rosemary's




25 April 2020

A quick update on the tadpoles. There do seem to be more of them about than I first feared but still many fewer than last year. They are also noticably growing.



24 April 2020
Crow's nest

I've been following activity in my next door neighbour's cherry tree. A pair of crows around their nest! Considering that my room overlooks this tree and that I am spending rather a lot of time there at the moment I have to say that the pics are a bit pathetic and have deteriorated as the spring has brought out the leaves. At first, the crows would just fly away as soon as they heard my window open, now they don't seem to care. Also it is just a bit warmer so I don't care so much either when the window is open. [Kudos to those who do stand up to their waistes in leech infected water and keep still and quiet to get the perfect shot: ♉Warwick, ♉Jane and Roger.]

  my next door neighbour's cherry tree







23 April 2020
Real World Design Challenge RWDC

Latest from sj on her high school's RWDC team's preparation for the national finals.

As I think most of you know, my Real World Design Challenge team won states and is competing (remotely) in the national challenge this weekend.
In preparation for their presentation I invited a bunch of my RWDC alumni (this is our 11th year competing so there are a lot), to watch the presentation and ask questions. 16 of my alumni (ranging in age from the class of 2009, to the class of 2019), answered my call and I just had the most amazing night sitting on a video call with all of them, listening to them grill my students while telling jokes in the chat. It was great because there were kids there that the current team looked up to as underclassmen, and there were kids there that those kids looked up to as underclassmen, etc, etc, all on down the line.

Listening to their banter, seeing all of them, and learning about what they've been up to since they graduated from high school was exactly what I needed in the midst of this crazy, crazy world.


19 April 2020
Bread oven


This is the first time this year that I have used the bread oven. This has not been a deliberate policy its just that my bread making cycle has completely conflicted with the weather cycle. We have had a lot of bread baking unfriendly days since xmas. Had some very nice little oak offcuts that I had been saving for this purpose which produced a long lasting and hot fire. Baked on trays though as the oven bottom was a bit grubby after the fireless winter.

  Nice little oak offcuts burning well.

  Hot from the oven.

17 April 2020
Update from sj on the printer farm

All seven printers are setup and running! I only assembled 1 of the new ones, Mike assembled the other 4. So, so satisfying to see them all in a row and know that they're running 24/7. I usually think that webcams are silly, but I've found the prusa cam to be very pleasant to watch. Looking forward to having them set up in my classroom when things get back to normal, but pretty sure that Mike is going to be heart broken when I take them away from him.

  The printer farm.

And don't forget to look at the prusa cam, printer farm webcam.

12 April 2020
PPE manufacture

  I find this rather mesmeric.

Sj has been very busy re-purposing her school's stock of 3D printers to make PPE for hospitals and components for ventilators. The following post has been gleaned from her emails to me and her FaceBook posts.

3 April at 22:27 · Public

Every wonder what happened to the very, very long (but kind of narrow) tables you built cj? One of them went to live with my friend (and coworker) Mike. It turns out that 3D printers fit perfectly on that table, it's like we planned it that way. So after raiding my engineering lab at the high school, he has set up a printer farm (in a plastic tent - it's basically right out of the movie contagion) and is mass producing PPE for the local hospital. A local organization just donated a bunch more printers to my program, so Mike and I still have 3 more printers to assemble, but eventually the plan is to have all 7 lined up in a row cranking out supplies.

  Every wonder what happened to the very, very long (but kind of narrow) tables.

On Sat, Apr 4, 2020 at 5:55 PM Sarah Leadbeater wrote:

Oh you are in luck cj, Mike managed to get a live feed of the printers after all - so here is the printer farm webcam.

Don't expect to see much during night time on the Eastern Seaboard. They don't put the lights on for the printers overnight, they are quite happy with this. I do know though that sj was apt to leave her lights on for her roomba, just because she is a caring person.

Sj now tells me that mike turns the lights off on purpose, she has given him a hard time about it, but he knows that if he leaves the light on he will check on them if he wakes up in the night and if there is a problem he won't be able to keep himself from getting up to fix it, so it's a mental health decision.

Sj continues:

The NEF posted about the printers they gave us, and it got cross posted to the local facebook group, so I just posted a long message giving people more info on what we're doing. I figured some of you might be interested, so I'm copying and pasting the message here. Work breakdown is mike running and maintaining the printers (he has the best job), me dealing with all the logistics, don is in charge of some assembly and all the delivery.

8 April at 21:34 · Public
Cross posts

I noticed that someone cross posted the NEF's post about our Covid-19 3D printing efforts here. Because there seemed to be a few questions, and facebook won't let me message people who aren't on my friend's list, I thought I'd post a little bit more information for those of you who are interested.

Post from: NEF

NEF supports local high school

7 April at 17:05 · MA, United States · Public posted by NEF

Please help thank our local high school's own hometown heroes!
Three 3D printers that the NEF just purchased could not be delivered to the high school because of the closure. Engineering teacher Sarah and NHS IT Extraordinaires Mike and Don put their heads together and had the printers delivered to Mike's house where they are now helping to save lives. Not only are they making face shields to protect front-line workers, they have partnered with Project C.U.R.E to make ventilator splitters used to increase the number of patients that can be hooked up to a single ventilator.
Please join me in thanking these three amazing individuals!

Sj message:

I'm the engineering teacher at the high school, and as part of my program I maintain a bunch of 3D printers. During a normal school year, my students use these printers to print an array of 3D parts. The printers pretty much run 24/7 during the school week and turn out student projects from robot parts, to flashlight housings, to custom designed birthday presents for their friends. Because the printers are in such demand, the NEF just bought us 3 more machines to expand their availability, these machines arrived just as school got shut down.

Working with Mike and Don (two of the district's IT employees), we got permission from the superintendent to use the department's printers to start making PPE. We raided the high school engineering lab, and sent the printers to live with Mike. He built a tent for them out of plastic (both to regulate the temperature, and to create a clean/controlled space for them to print in). In addition to the 3 printers donated by the NEF we also have 4 other machines that we have pressed into service.

  He built a tent for them out of plastic.

  both to regulate the temperature, and to create a clean/controlled space for them to print in.


We did some research as to what kind of things people are printing and who the best recipients would be for our parts. We identified two entities that we wanted to work with and are dividing our time printing parts for these two groups.

♉Make It Labs: Face Shields

We are working with Make-It Labs, a makerspace in Nashua, NH to produce face shields. They're basically emerging as the local clearing house for 3D printed PPE and are coordinating distribution of finished face shields to local medical entities and first responders in MA and NH. They recently received a huge donation of thick plastic sheeting which they are laser cutting for use as the clear part of the shields. They have volunteers assembling the face shields, so they're just looking for the 3D printed visor parts. They seemed like a good match for us as they are positioned to help the larger community and we can just focus on turning out prints and not have to worry about assembly or distribution. If you are a local group looking to acquire a bunch of 3D printed face shields, I would encourage you to contact them. They have set up a distribution network and are working to get the finished face shields into the hands of everyone who needs them. ♉http://www.makeitlabs.com/covid19








♉Project C.U.R.E: Ventilator Splitters

We're also going to print some ventilator splitters for Project C.U.R.E. This is a more national project to produce parts that can be used to increase the number of patients that can be hooked up to a single ventilator (there are dual and quad splitters). They've basically set up a handful of collection places across the country and are taking care of pushing the design forward and getting it into hospitals. We'd really like to see ventilator splitters getting more widely adopted as it seems like the best bet to increase ventilator capacity in an emergency situation. We figured that that group was in the best place to push that forward nationally (which will eventually benefit us here in New England). We shipped our first box of ventilator splitters to them this morning (40 two way splitters, and 14 quad splitters). ♉https://makersunite.co/





While those are our current production plans, we are open to requests from local entities if there is something specific that they want. We do currently have a stockpile of finished 3D printed shields that we can deliver to anyone who has a need for them, and we are happy to work with local groups to fulfill their specific needs. (We can do both the printing and assembly of shields if needed, though the clear plastic of the face shield that we can provide is not as thick as those that you would get if you were to get the shields directly from makeit labs. As such, while we're happy to send face shields to anyone who needs them, we strongly suggest that people who need a larger number of the shields request them from ♉Make It Labs - we are happy to also give you some of ours in the meantime as a stop-gap measure until you can get the more robust ones.)

Please know that this community is our priority. The nice thing about 3D printers is that we can shift the focus of our production efforts at any time, so if there is a group locally that needs something specific, we are happy to help.

Also for those of you who are just interested in seeing what this crazy operation looks like, here is a gallery of images (we will keep adding to it) and this link gives a 24 hour stop motion of the printer farm in operation, with ghostly guest appearences from Mike. stop motion of the printer farm in operation

Links for this post:
printer farm webcam
gallery of images
stop motion of the printer farm in operation

♉Make It Labs Recipients and suppliers of face shields parts
♉Project C.U.R.E |Recipients and suppliers of ventilator splitters
♉Online Converter did the mp4 to active giff conversions

10 April 2020
The croakers

  Just a few widely spread around.

You may have been wondering why you have heard nothing about the croakers recently, well until today there has been nothing to report other than that the first batch of spawn had just disintegrated with no tadpoles. It got quite badly frostbitten a couple of times and I regretted that I had not moved it to a deeper place. I just thought that the frogs knew best!

Last year we had the first spawn on 14 March and the year before that on 30 March, this year it was 9 March. It was a very mild winter this year so I expect the frogs were seduced to start earlier but then we had a cold spell and they got caught out.

Links below vector to the last post in each year, scroll down to see them all.
♉   theBlog March 28 2020
♉   theBlog March 17 2019
♉   theBlog March 30 2018

  The water snails are also breeding.

3 April 2020

  Pungi stakes.

Went for a constitutional walk this evening, the first time I have been away from the house in three weeks. It sure is eerie with cars in all the drives but no one to be seen and its so quiet. I did see this though:

  Pungi stakes.

Which reminded me of being in ♉   Stoupa last year at 'the restaurant at the end of the universe' but you will have to scroll well down to see what I am on about. I was at university for most of the 60s during the Viet Nam war so not all of you may know what I mean by pungi stakes,♉don't follow the link if you don't want to know, and you probably don't.

Oh and BTW I have just discovered a major problem with the homepage at cribbitDOTnet ... I can't tell the difference between ♉   cuttlefish stifado and ♉   logs to burn but I know which I would rather eat.
Even more logs
Cuttlefish stefado.

1 April 2020
More frogspawn.

Pleased to see another blob of frogspawn this morning. It is much smaller than all the other bits so I nearly missed it.

  A new smaller bit.

31 March 2020
♉   Logs to burn.

So that is all the processable wood processed. What ever am I going to do for the next two weeks of lock down?

Years ago I stayed with friend Pam's family who had a farm. At the time her dad, the original famer, was still living in the family home though his son was now running the farm. One morning dad asked me if I could give him a hand with the chores his son had given him for the week. Of course I was happy to oblige and the old man and I spent a happy morning doing what ever it was. After lunch Pam came to me and said 'Now you've finished off all the chores my poor brother will have to come up with a new set for dad to do, keeping dad busy is the hardest part of running the farm.'

  Newly split logs into the store


  A good clear out of the junk wood pile

29 March 2020
♉   Logs to burn.

  Last years stock pile ready for the saw

This morning I moved all the wood from the side of the workshop onto the lawn and got to work with the chainsaw. The dry old logs made for hard cutting without the usual sap to lubricate the chain. Needed rather frequent tops up with fuel which was beginning to worry me as there would have been no way for me to go out and get more. I was also a bit leary of the fuel anyway as it was last year's and I know that it does not age well.

Some of these logs came from part of a cherry tree that came down last year. When I got to them I found that the centre was completely rotten so no use for turning. This put me in mind of an escapade I had with my Uncle Roy years ago when I was about 35.

It was at the start of the Dutch elm disease infection and one of the magnificent elms in Roy's churchyard had succumbed and the parish council wanted to get it cut down and removed. So Roy volunteered us, knowing that I would be bound to be up for a very large quantity logs.

We fixed a date and duly arrived with chainsaw, trailer and winch. I'd been getting just a bit cocky about tree felling as the last couple I had 'dropped' exactly where I said they would drop so I was pretty sure that I could do the same for this one. Threw a rope into the heavens and connected it to the winch and hauled away pulling the tree in the direction I intended it to go.

Then I cut a small notch in the planned direction of fall, a shallow horizontal cut and then a sloping downward cut to give the trunk space as it comes down. The next cut is from the other side of the tree and this is a much longer and steeper cut heading towards the first cut but leaving the solid part of the trunk to act as a hinge and control the direction of fall.

Well that was the theory. What I hadn't realised was that the tree was completely hollow, so my second cut whizzed into the tree before I coud stop it and there was no substance inside to act as the hinge. The tree came down with a big bang, partly over the church wall, osbstructed the pavement and reached out into the road. Not what had been planned at all!

Then the saw decided that it had terrorised the 'locked down' neigbours enough and refused to start and it started to hail so I've come in for lunch so this will have to be 'continued in our next'.

  Stop for a fill up with petrol

  That's seen off the big ones. Then the saw decided that it had terrorised the 'locked down' neigbours enough and refused to start.

29 March 2020
♉   Logs to burn.

This is the time of year when all my various logpiles get sorted out. Last week I completely cleared 'the house' pile, mostly taken over to ♉   Cribbit and used to keep me warm while working on the refurb there. Now I'm moving most of the 'bottom pile' up to the house and then it will be a chainsaw job to cut up the various large bits I've acquired during the year.

These piles work like FIFO [First In First Out] memory. Logs go in at the top and are extracted for use from the bottom, theoretically this means that the driest logs are used first. I use the term 'logs' rather loosly, I have never really recovered from an American friend falling about laughing at my measly and motley collection of small branches, twigs and reclaimed building materials that I refered to as 'my logpile'. American logpiles are a work of art and filled with logs to be proud of. Well you can see what mine are like below.

  'House' logpile

  'Bottom' logpile

  'Side of workshop' logpile, waiting for a visit from the chainsaw

  'Re-claimed wood' logpile

  The slatted front pulls out as the store is depleted


28 March 2020
More frogspawn.

Had a good look round the pond yeterday and to my surprise and delight found at least three more blobs of frogspawn lurking in its depths. So got out my trusty underwater photography pyrex oven dish and here are the pics!

  The pyrex oven dish floating and waiting for the camera.

  I presume it sunk as soon as it was laid.



  The first lot has started to go squishy, won't be long before there will be tadpoles.


10 March 2020
More overnight.

Pleased to see another blob of frogspawn this morning but no sign of the frogs. Confusing pics until you realise that the first is from the top looking down and the second a close-up from below.

  The view from above.

  The new addition.

9 March 2020
Frog spawn.

Surprised to see frogspawn in the pond this morning, surprised because I had not detected any froggy activity down there and I check it every day. Usually there is a croaking and a splashing, so much so that it has been known to attract the attention of the local cats, but not this year.

Reluctant to make any sweeping statements about this but last year the first batch was discovered on the ♉   14 March 2019 and on the ♉   23 March in 2018. ♉ ♉ I am told that February 2 links this year was the wettest and probably the warmest since records began.


  Frog and other spawn on 9 March.


10 January 2020
South Africa.

Cape Town 25 December 2019.

I spent the xmas season with the tTs in Cape Town and the ♉   markup of my visit is in this link or can be found linked from the ♉   South African pages of the website.

  I arrived on xmas day just in time to drink ♉   'to absent friends' at 1100 gmt, following Tanya's family tradition.

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