Monday, November 14, 2016

Stacking Firewood the Old Way

 I have been spending the past several days cutting, splitting and stacking wood. Fortunately, the weather has been absolutely gorgeous here in northern Minnesota, perfect for cutting, splitting and stacking. It is an exhausting job.  During the summer some strong storms rolled through and knocked down a lot of trees. Ultimately, they were turned into saw logs and piled up for me to cut into fireplace wood. I have made a pretty good dent in the pile. The pile in the photo is about one third its original size. I still have a ways to go yet.

I stacked the split wood in a large round circle rather than in rows. That way the stack stays up without any end supports. Once the stack is high enough I put loose pieces in the middle. It is an old world method of sacking wood and it works quite well.

The wood is mostly poplar and spruce. I will burn that in the fire ring outside. The oak, ash, and maple are stacked near the house and will be used for heating in the house.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Native American Beadwork Earrings by Lakota Charm

 You can find some beautiful Native American beadwork earrings produced by Cindi at the Lakota Charm store. Some while ago I came across an on-line Etsy store displaying some very appealing brick stitched beadwork earrings. The store is Lakota Charm. The artist, Cindi, has an uncanny ability to combine colors and designs into earrings that are truly gorgeous. She has several styles but they all demonstrate her eye for color and design. Cindi is of Lakota decent and donates part of the proceeds from her sales to the Joseph's Indian School in Chamberlain, SD. I invite you to stop in and take a look at her delightful creations. Here is the link: Lakota Charm

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Tips For Making and Tying Stretch Bracelets

 Beaded stretch bracelets are easy and fun to make. Bracelets can be made starting with a large focal bead flanked by complimentary beads and then finished off with common beads, or, the bracelets can be made with some complimentary beads strung in a repetitive pattern. Bear in mind that a repetitive pattern will determine the size of the bracelet. If a larger or smaller bracelet is needed the pattern might need to be modified.

I always begin by stringing the beads on regular bead cord. I mix and match until I have the beads the way I like and I know it will be of the right size. Then, I transfer the beads on to the stretch cord. I use Stretch Magic cord. I know there are several other brands of stretch cord.  I am still experimenting with them.  For now my cord of choice is Stretch Magic. It is readily available and is available in .5 mm, .7 mm, and 1 mm diameter. It is strong, stretchy, maintains its memory and is not affected by skin oils. The only drawback is it is a slippery cord and does not tie easily. But, there is a solution to that problem.

Most of my bracelets are made with the .7 mm cord.  I only use the 1 m size if I am using large heavy beads with large holes and I only use the .5 mm size for special situations.  It is important that the beads used in the bracelet have a hole size of 2 mm or larger. The holes must be big enough to allow the cord to pass through twice. 

Tip #1! The knot!  All that is needed for the knot is the familiar square knot. Start with a left-over-right overhand knot followed by a right-over-left overhand knot to make a square knot. You can go through the loop twice on the right-over-left  to form the surgeons knot if you like. It is stronger but, bear in mind it will be a bigger knot and you want the knot to be hidden inside a bead if possible. A square knot is sufficed. Tighten up the knot by pulling the tag ends and also on the other two ends. Put a dab of glue on the knot. Push one of the tag ends through an adjacent bead and conceal the knot in the bead.

Now the knot is inside a bead with tag ends coming out each side of the bead. Thread one tag end through a couple of beads and tie a cable-tie knot, cinch tight and put on a dab of glue. Thread it through a couple more beads and tie another cable-tie knot and a dab of glue. Do the sane for the other tag end. A cable-tie knot is just an overhand knot tied around the inner cord. Hold the loose end with you left hand close to the inner cord, wrap the loose end around the cord and go through the back side of the loop and cinch tight. These multiple small knots will be very secure. They will not pull out or loosen.

Tip #2! So what kind of glue? Glues most commonly recommended are the Cyanoacrylate glues like Krazy Glue or solvent based glues like jewelry glue or E6000. Some even use clear nail polish. The Cyanoacrylate glue makes a strong bond and dries almost instantly. But it seems that over time the bond becomes brittle and could crack. It is not flexible. Zap-A-Gap is Cyanoacrylate glue that is supposed to be more flexible but I have not tried it. Nail polish has the same brittle affliction as the other glues. Also, Cyanoacrylates have a short shelf life of one year if not opened and less that one month after opened. I like Dazzel Tac Jewelry Glue and E6000. They adhere tightly to the slippery cord and when completely cured (24 hours) are still flexible. The drawback is they are messy to work with. E6000 makes a tighter bond but is less flexible than the jewelry glue. Use E6000.

Tip #3! While stretch bracelets are somewhat forgiving of size they are not a one size fits all. The stretch bracelet must be made to fit a specific size wrist. Too small and the bracelet will be uncomfortable and the beads will pull apart revealing the cord underneath. It puts unnecessary strain on the cord and knots. Too big and it will flop around on the wrist. The stretch bracelet merely eliminates the clasp. The bracelet length will always need to be slightly longer than the wrist size. That is necessary to accommodate the space the beads take up inside the bracelet. The bigger the beads the longer it will have to be.

 I use a sizing cone. I use the readily available EZ Bracelet cone. Before transferring the beads to the stretch cord I pull together the bracelet and put it over the cone. I make the size slightly smaller than the finished size. A bracelet to fit an 8 inch wrist will be slightly larger than 7.75 inches. That adds just enough tension to the bracelet to keep it in place but it is still comfortable to wear. My man size bracelets are available in 7 inch, 7.5 inch, 8 inch, and 8.5 inch sizes.

Tip #4! My last tip has to do with how one puts on a stretch bracelet. The common way is to put the bracelet over the fingers and then pull it down onto the wrist. That method puts a lot of strain on the cord and the knots. If the bracelet were ever going to break, it is when putting it on when it most likely would happen. A better way is to put the bracelet over the fingers and then roll it down onto the wrist. That reduces the strain and it is an easy way to put on the bracelet.

Stretch bracelets are easy and fun to make. If you tie the cord correctly, use the right glue, and size them properly, they will not break and will fit perfectly. You will find some of my stretch bracelets at Sirocco's Trading Post. I hope you will stop in and take a look.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Garden Tip for Northern Gardeners

We have had some beautiful weather the past couple of weeks here in North Minnesota but the night time temperatures have been getting down close to freezing. It was time to collect the last of the vegetables from the garden and put the garden to bed for the winter. The last harvest produced a nice bowl of cucumbers, a bowl of green peppers and a bowl of onions. My daughter and I shelled the dried beans that I had picked earlier. There was a mixture of red beans, pinto beans, and black turtle beans. There are still the potatoes to dig. Last week I made a pot of ham and bean soup and last night we ate Italian stuffed peppers. All from the garden’s bounty! Life is good.

Garden Tip 1: My garden beds are 4X8 feet raised beds made with landscaping timbers. In the late fall after the beds have been thoroughly cleaned, stretch a sheet of clear plastic over the frame and staple it down. In the spring the sunlight will shine through the plastic and warm the dark soil below. But the heat will be trapped. The warm air will not just blow away. The ground will heat up faster and you will be able to plant much sooner. It works. Find this Projects For Small Gardens in my Curios Store.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Wild Turkeys

The wild turkeys have returned. Each fall wild turkeys tend to congregate in our back yard. Throughout the summer months I see them wandering up and down the road side ditches but in the fall they begin to hang out in our yard and the woods behind our house.

Several times a day, in single file, they come marching in to our yard and go about cleaning up under all the bird feeders.  They are immensely entertaining to watch and I have spent countless hours doing just that. They jump around, fly at each other and if one wonders off a ways and finds something to eat the rest run to make sure they get whatever might be there. They are truly selfish opportunist. After a time they all march off in single file across the road, presumably to some other bird feeder only to return awhile later. I counted 11 of them today. By mid-winter there will 20-30 of the critters.

In the early spring the males will fan their tails and dance around in a most unusual way while the females generally try to ignore them. It must be frustrating for the males. An occasional female will squat on the ground and thrash her wings as if making a nest. After several days of such commotion they all disappear into to woods and are not seen again until later in the summer when they are in back in the roadside ditches again, usually with a number of young ones in the mix.

I never tire of watching these creatures and they inspired me to make these Native American Style Thanksgiving earrings. Go ahead, click and take a look.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Beaded Gemstone Leather Bracelets


Once again summer is beginning to fade away and winter is not too far over the horizon. It is about this time of year that I end my summer activities and retreat to my little studio to create beaded jewelry and other adornments.

Last week I experimented with making some beaded leather bracelets. I have quite a stash of Miyuki 4 mm cube glass beads and also a lot of gemstone 4 mm cube beads. So, I thought to start creating using those beads.

My technique was to weave a design into a strip using either a square stitch or a peyote stitch and then sew the strip to a leather wrist band. The square beads always fit together nicely. I like to use Fire Line for this sort of beading as it is very strong and is not affected much by skin oils etc. I use snaps to facilitate easy on and off.

I have made these bracelets before and have sold a few. But I added a new twist to these IMG_4336bracelets. I edge beaded the wrist band with #8 Czech glass beads. The edge beads really make the bracelet pop and give it a very festive look.

The two bracelets shown here are about one inch wide and fit an eight inch man’s wrist but the bracelets can be made to fit any size wrist. They are, of course, unisex.

You can find my bracelets for sale in my etsy store, Sirocco’s Trading Post. I invite you in to take a look.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Make a Planter from a Discarded Weber Grill

IMG_4283 It all started when I decided to tidy up the clutter of junk that had accumulated behind my garage. One piece that I came across was an old 18 inch Weber grilling kettle. The legs were gone and the receptacles that hold the legs on had rusted off. The grates were gone and the metal clips that hold the grates were bent or broken. Clearly, the kettle would never be used for a grill again. Then an idea invaded my thoughts. I could use it as a planter. All I would need would be some wooden legs. The vent holes in the bottom would help with drainage.

IMG_4275 IMG_4278

To hold the kettle I collected up some short pieces of 2X6 all about 7 inches long and cut a 22.5 degree angle on each end. When 8 of these are fitted together in a circle they make an octagon with a center that is a perfect size to drop in the kettle. It was then just a matter of making some short legs with 2X4s. A little paint and some casters on the legs completed the project.



For planting, I put a piece of garden fabric over the vent holes in the bottom to keep the dirt from falling out. Then I added several handfuls of wood chips to help with drainage. Along the sides of the planter I added some Styrofoam insulation pieces to help keep the plant roots from getting too hot. A metal container generally does not work well as a planter without some sort of insulation. After that it was just a matter of filling the container with potting soil and putting in some plants.

I only had a few plants on hand to put in the planter. I will want to add a few more to fill out the space. You can see my finished product at the top of this page. It is sitting next to the matching chair that I made a while back.

I invite you to visit my curios store where you will find a number of unique items for sale.