Inexpensive Back Yard Slide

I needed a slide in the back yard for my son. He is seventeen, and he really needs a slide in his yard. I could take him to a playground (and I do) but sometimes there are gobs of other kids there, and their parents seem to feel a little funny about what appears to be a large grown man taking turns on the equipment with their toddlers. I get that. It makes sense for my son to have his own slide in his own yard.

IMG_20160810_185251988_HDR (1)But wow, guess what? I’m going to sound like the big cheese at an IEP meeting, but there are “financial constraints.”

There are other constraints too. Sometimes you can find someone willing to sell you the playground their kids have outgrown for a song, but the catch is that you need to disassemble it, haul it to your place, and then reassemble it yourself. I’ve assembled playgrounds, and I’ve disassembled playgrounds. In my experience, it takes about 2-3 times as long to disassemble a playground as to assemble it. That’s because there are no instructions, the metal parts have gotten rusty, the wooden parts have rotted and splintered, and the playground has sunk into the ground. You may find this to be worth your time, but it depends on your situation.

Since I wasn’t doing the whole swingset thing, I found it easier to just build a little slide.

I looked for a used plastic slide in my area, but I didn’t have any luck so I ordered one online.

I built the support for the slide out of thrifted lumber and hardware from the Habitat for Humanity store.

At my local store, people donate all kinds of building materials, some of them new and some of them used. They have a big pile of lumber out in the back and I picked through it three weeks in a row to gather the boards I needed. I used 4x4s, 2x4s, 4x6s, and 1x whatevers. The boards I bought were all sorts of lengths, and parts of them were damaged, so I did a lot of trimming. I had some screws and other hardware on hand, and the rest I bought at the Habitat store.

IMG_20160806_171322289 (1)Since my son is a teenager who knows that he shouldn’t jump off the top of the slide, I did not bother putting a rail or fence at the top. If I were building this for a younger child, I would do it differently.

I put drawer handles on the deck at the top so that my son could easily pull himself up.

I also put some solar lights at the top right near the slide part because my son is really into reflectors. I mean he is really, really, really into reflectors. He likes to play in the dark just so that he can see the lights.

Since I used thrifted lumber, this slide may not last as long as a slide built from brand new lumber. I’ll have to keep an eye on it to make sure it’s safe to use. I guess I would do that anyway though.

IMG_20160806_171238702I built a ladder right into the tower for the slide. My son doesn’t like it so much, so when I get a little free time, I’ll make him a ladder too. He’s right, it is easier to climb up when you can do it at an angle. But he’s enjoying his slide just fine in the mean time.

IMG_20160810_185251988_HDR (2).jpgI can tell he likes it by the ruts in the landing area.

 

How to refill a non-refillable pepper mill

I got a pepper mill at the dollar store.  I was thrilled because I’m a tightwad, but I have fancy, expensive tastes.  Fresh pepper, ooo fancy!

But look at the back!

Really??
Really??

Logic would dictate a screw top to make the pepper mill refillable.  I hate inefficient stuff like this!  I know there are real problems in this world and annoying pepper mills are not that big of a deal, but what can I say?  It bugs me.

“Do not refill??”  Challenge accepted!

You will need:

a poorly-designed supposedly non-refillable pepper mill

a mug

an inch or so of hot water (or cold water and a microwave)

a towel

some peppercorns or whatever you would like to grind in your pepper mill

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I used a microwave, and I heated the water for 33 seconds.  That’s because I like to be efficient, and looking for the 3, and then looking for the 0, and then pressing start is more complicated than looking for the 3, pressing it twice, and then pressing start.  If your microwave has a 30 seconds button, that would be even better.  I thought about getting a microwave like that, but they were more expensive, and when I calculated the cost per use versus the amount of time saved pressing buttons, I realized it would be even more inefficient than calculating the time cost of pressing buttons for every microwave I was looking at.  So I got the microwave where you have to push more buttons.

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Tip your emptyish pepper mill into the cup upside down and leave it there a minute or so.  You are waiting for the plastic cap to expand a little bit more than the glass jar.  So don’t leave it for five minutes because your water might cool and then it won’t work right.

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I spent the time fooling with my phone camera because I wanted to make these instructions for you, but you could use the time to open a can of mixed vegetables and dump it into the crock pot (without draining it).  If you’re quick with the can opener, you could also dump a little leftover spaghetti sauce or salsa in there too.  And some water and rice.

Now take your pepper mill out, wrap it in the towel (because it’s a little slippery), and snap the plastic top off.

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It’s a little messy, but that’s OK.

Try to remember how the pieces go together.

Then drop the plastic top in the cup of hot water to rinse it off.  Use the towel to dry each piece of the pepper mill.

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Fill up the bottle, and then put it back together the way it was.

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You’ll have to press on it a bit.  Use the towel if it hurts your hand.  When I did this, it made two snapping sounds when I got it back together.  Once to get it on crooked, and once more to straighten it out.

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Dump the cup in the crock pot.  Now you’ve got a full pepper mill, plus some yummy vegetable soup!

All you math geniuses are going to quiz me on how much money this actually saves.  The answer is “not much.”  The pepper mill is from Dollar Tree, so that’s $1 for 1.4 ounces, or 0.714 per ounce.  I used some very fancy peppercorns, which are a little more expensive than regular peppercorns.  Say it, melange.  See? Fancier.  These go for about $5 at Walmart for 7.5 ounces, which is 0.667 per ounce.  (I got it for less at a discount store, because I’m a tightwad.)  Regular black peppercorns are $5 for 9 ounces at Walmart, or 0.555 per ounce.

So if you like black pepper just fine, and you know your dollar store is going to carry these pepper mills forever, and you have a way to recycle the lid and jar, and you’re going there anyway, and you don’t want to waste any more time than you’ve already wasted reading this blog post, you should probably just buy a new pepper mill.  But if you want to grind up fancy pepper or maybe cinnamon or something else, or if you just like doing things yourself, I hope my little tutorial has made your life a bit more fun.

Thanks for checking in!

DIY Replacement Hammock from a Bed Sheet

The kids got my husband a hammock last year for Father’s Day.  They bought it a rummage sale, and the guy who sold it to us said it had been sitting around in the garage for years.

Unfortunately, the years took their toll on the hammock, and the fabric ripped.  We decided to re-use the tree straps and hardware and make our own hammock out of an old sheet.

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You can see I need to learn to tie a decent knot!  In my defense, I did this in the rain when it was very cold outside.  I would not let anyone use this if it were any more than six inches off the ground!

You can see the nylon tree strap to the far right with a round ring.  The strap is nylon and the ring is steel.  Then we have a steel S hook attaching the poorly tied hammock.  The metal part protecting the rope is called a rope thimble.  We salvaged it from our old, torn hammock.  It reminds me of a french wire for jewelry making.  Same concept, much heavier!

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Here’s the sewing part.  I’ve been sewing for 40 years, and so I’m afraid I have no excuse for how this turned out!  I used bonded nylon thread and I sewed the casing twice on each end of the sheet.  It was a very fancy satin sheet a few years ago.  But somehow, the hem was kind of crooked.  I followed along the existing hem when I made the casing, and then I couldn’t figure out why it was so crooked.  Duh, Maria!  I’m afraid it’s not the best looking hammock in town.

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Ahhhhh!  Here’s the important part!  My son likes to lie face down on the hammock.  For some reason, the pressure around his belly calms him and helps him feel better when he starts to feel upset.  Obviously, we need to supervise closely to make sure he can breathe OK.  Fortunately for us, he never holds a position for long.  He’s one of those kids that is always moving, moving, moving.

Now that the kiddos are back in school, I can take a few minutes and read up on how to tie a hammock properly, and then we’ll be set.  Hmm, I wonder if anyone will give their father a turn in his hammock!

DIY Boot Scraper from Scrap Lumber and Toilet Brushes

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Just in time for the winter weather around here, I made up a boot scraper.

I used some leftover wood scraps and some toilet brushes.  I used the old-fashioned kind, with a wire loop twisted with plastic fiber bristles.  I cut the wire loops and straightened them out, then poked the ends through some holes I drilled in the wood.

I probably made this unnecessarily complicated.  I didn’t know what I was doing, so I copied a boot scraper I saw at a store.  But now that we’re using it, I can see that the side brushes are unnecessary.  A flat piece of wood with a few brushes attached would work just as well.

In case you’re worrying, I bought NEW brushes at the dollar store for this project.  But that got me thinking…I’ve seen toilet brushes at the thrift store.  Who decides they don’t need a toilet brush any more?  And who buys used toilet brushes at the thrift store?  If I bought one, would I boil it before I used it?  And then would I have to boil my pot in another pot?  And then what about that pot?

Just something to keep you awake at night.

 

**Update:  Mom, here is your evidence.  You can see it didn’t sell yet so they marked it down.

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Still more than the dollar store.  But look!  It comes with a spoon rest for the kitchen!