Ikea Lack Table Hack: Making a TV Stand from 2 Ikea Lack Side Tables

These little Ikea Lack side tables are great. They’re £5 (£8 for pictured Oak colour) which is unbelievably cheap. You see them everywhere!

Ikea Lack hack: two lack tables converted to one TV stand with shelf

This is a totally simple hack. I had two of these tables, and I wanted to add a shelf to one. The reason is that they’re the perfect width for an amp and/or DVD player. You could probably make a sweet HiFi rack out of them by doing a similar thing. Here’s the end result.

The first thing to do is decide what height you want that little shelf to be. So, measure your amp or whatever to get it, and then add a centimeter. Mine is 24cm. You know what they say kids, measure twice, cut once!

So take your tables out to the shed, and cut the legs on table 1 down to size. This is the top table. Don’t throw away the off cuts – they’re going to be the bottom legs of your TV stand. Here’s what you’re left with:

Legs cut off table 1!

Now you need to remove the legs from table 2. Set them aside, you don’t need them again here and you can use them in another project. First though, remove the screws from the top of them. You’ll probably need a pair of pliers to grip them.

Now you want to take the little off-cuts and reattach them to the table 2 tabletop, using the screws you just removed. You will need a drill to put 5mm holes into the centre of these, before you can put the screws in them. Then just screw them into the tabletop as normal. You are now holding the bottom part of your TV stand.

Now you gotta attach the two mini-tables together!

This is more awkward than it sounds because the legs are hollow and you can’t just screw them in like you did before. So, you need to attach four little wooden blocks to the table ‘shelf’ into which the legs will screw:

Cut 4 little blocks that fit into the legs

Ignore that little leg. It’s not meant to be there!

That really is the most difficult bit. You need to cut out four little blocks (I just picked up some scrap) to fit inside the legs. The blocks are screwed on to the table – about 4mm from each corner – and the legs set onto those.

Once the legs are on, put little screws into the sides that go into the block of wood. That’ll hold the legs in place.

Attaching hollow Ikea Lack table legs on to a table-top. Fun.

Attaching hollow legs on to a table-top. Fun.

So hopefully now you’ve got a TV stand! Please remind me to take more photos next time I do this; pictures make it much easier to understand. Leave any questions in the comments.

Experiences From My First 2 Months Of Chicken Keeping

So I built my chicken coop/house and bought a feeder and waterer. I built a big 10m x 4m fenced area which had trees, shrubs, shelter, and the house in it. Finally I couldn’t find any more excuses for delaying it so we ventured out to buy our hens!!

Day 1 – buying the hens

We went to a poultry sale in a local village. It was a strange experience – we looked totally out of place, not being dressed as farmers. It was quickly apparent that we had no idea what we were doing despite having read everything there is to read about chickens for the previous 6 months. It was ‘point of lay’ hens we were after – around the 18-week old mark – which most of the hens for sale were. The sellers were very helpful and everyone had plenty of time to chat. No-one gave us the hard sell.

Every seller told us the hens had had their vaccinations (not that’d we know the difference anyway). In the end, we bought 4 hens from one guy and two from another. We bought them based on their colours which is obviously very scientific. We ended up with 2 hybrids, a White Sussex, a Barred Rock, a White Leghorn, and a Daisybelle which has beautiful iridescent black and green feathers. The White Leghorn lays white eggs and the rest lay various shades of brown.

Getting the hens home

We came prepared with a cardboard box in the boot of the car which the hens were very happy to sit in. At least, there were no complaints since they were probably scared out of their minds. One of the sellers started piling the hens into a plastic bag (!) before we told him we had a box.

We brought the hens into their fenced enclosure and opened the box…they weren’t keen to come out at first but slowly emerged and began to eat the grass and weeds and everything. Note that after a couple of weeks, your chicken area is going to be bare and brown!!

Finding bedding and food

We didn’t have bedding or food on the day we bought them, figuring we’d buy some of that at the poultry sale. There wasn’t any for sale, so we had to go elsewhere for that. It turns out that there are animal feed mills everywhere, at least within a few miles of any large town.

We were able to buy layers pellets which include everything a chicken needs nutritionally. We were also able to buy chopped straw, which is just little bits of straw about a centimeter or two in length. A big bale of it was £5 and a 25kg sack of feed was £8. Both last about a month. I also tried wood shavings and they work just as well – my preference at the minute is the straw since it composts more readily.

First Day

It didn’t take long for a hen to figure out how to escape. They can’t fly higher than a few feet, and the fence at nearly 2m high should have been high enough, however what I didn’t realise is that they jump on to things (like their house) then on to other things (like a branch) then over the fence. I have had to cut a number of low branches off a tree.

Chickens settling in!

First Night

The first night went smoothly as we manually put all the chickens in the house and locked it. This is the recommended practice as it takes them a little while to get used to it. I opened it again the next morning and they waddled out happily!

Second Night

The second night wasn’t as smooth. Two hens disappeared up a tree! I mean, right up the tree. I managed to get up on a step ladder and tap their bums with a broom and they flew out. I put them in the house. So, lesson learned: they’ll always go to the highest point possible! Another night, a hen managed to escape. I didn’t notice until she wandered up the garden path to say hello the next morning. I’ve no idea where she slept.

Egg Laying

We bought all the hens at 18 weeks of age, and they were a little too young to lay. We checked the egg box every day and happily, the first egg arrived after about two weeks. It was perfectly formed. Each hen started laying one by one over the course of a few weeks until we we got six on one day and knew for sure they were all laying :-)

We occasionally get a rubbery egg, or ‘softie’. They’re sometimes a sign that the hen is stressed (the egg ‘pops out’ too early, before the shell is completely formed) or possibly the hen isn’t getting enough calcium. In our case, I think the hens are just young and haven’t quite got the hang of things! We don’t eat them, although I understand they’re perfectly edible. If they’re broken, I clean it up pretty quickly.

Bullying

Our Barred Rock hen seemed to be getting bullied in the first few weeks. It was running away from the other hens and “sulking” by sitting in the house. I thought it was sick at first but then realised it was the only hen who hadn’t yet developed a comb so it was the youngest and at the bottom of the pecking order! So, since she was eating and drinking, there was nothing to worry about. Apparently separating her from the rest of the hens is the worst thing you could do in this situation.

Free Ranging outside of their enclosure

Although the enclosure we have is quite large (about 40sq m) I like to open it up and give the hens free reign of the garden occasionally. They enjoy pecking about in the compost heap, climbing on stuff, eating in our veg beds (which we try to keep them away from), pooing on paths, eating slugs and other insects (which is great), getting in your way, and digging dust baths!

Hens and Kids

We have a two year old, and he loves running about after them. They aren’t scared of him, but when he chases them, I think they get a bit nervous. I think this can contribute to some ‘softies’ – the occasional rubbery egg. So he only plays with them under supervision. He loves it when they eat food out of his hand – I guess it’s quite exhilarating for him since they’re pretty large animals relative to him!

Routine

The hens put themselves to bed every night when the light starts to fade. I just go out and close their door. I have a homemade automatic door opener that lets them out at sunrise when they wake up (which is totally necessary since there’s no water in their coop, and sunrise is about 4:30).

I top up their food and give them fresh water every 2 or 3 days. I actually change their water whenever it starts to look dirty – they tend to get it a bit mucky somehow.

I clean their coop out once a week. Sometimes I do a “full clean” – shovelling out all the bedding, and scrubbing any poop that’s stuck anywhere. Sometimes I skip the full clean and just shovel out the chicken poo and put it on the compost heap. It depends what sort of state it’s in.

Diet – Scraps From the Kitchen

We give the hens quite a few scraps from the kitchen, bits of peelings and chopped veg and bread. Apparently giving them too many scraps isn’t good for them since they get a balanced diet from their pellets. So, we try to limit it to a treat. We also have crushed eggshell in a plastic box available to them which they can eat if they want more calcium. Apparently they know and they’ll just take what they need. I rarely see a hen go near it.

Parasites

I have applied a powder to their coop once, which is apparently supposed to kill any ticks/mites that live in there. I don’t know much about this but I think at some stage I’m going to need to apply it to the hens themselves.

Building a cheap homemade chicken house, in pictures

Here’s my coop building process in pictures. Enjoy!

  

I firstly cut four pieces of heavyweight stuff for the roof. It’s at a 30-degree incline. I used some brackets I had lying about and bent them to 30-degrees. I don’t think I really needed them. I also cut four legs; I think they’re about 1.2m tall.

  

I fixed the legs to the roof frame. Then I made a frame for the nesting box. It’s about 45cm high at the tallest, sloping down. I don’t think mine is enough of a slope, it should be steeper.

Then I started screwing together a frame of thinner wood that holds the legs together. At this point it starts looking like a house! The purpose of the frame is to support the windows and door and just hold everything together. Also there are beams across the bottom to support the floor.

The windows frames are 25.5cm square, because I bought some 25cm perspex from ebay. It was pretty cheap, about £5 I think.

  

I continued screwing everything together. The diagonal X shaped bits at the bottom are simply to hold the whole thing square during assembly. I took them off when I was nearly done.

You can see in the second and third picture above that I have two roosting beams. One is higher than the other; apparently that’s good to allow the hens to nest in their pecking order.

  

I made the floor so that it can slide in and out to aid cleaning. I never slide it out though, I just brush it out. It’s too heavy. I’ve made a door that flaps open if the weather’s hot. I haven’t used it yet, though since the house is out of the sun and it isn’t warm at night here anyway.

You can see the end of the house is one big door. That’s good for cleaning it out, easy access.

  

So this is the nesting box getting attached. It’s not enough of an incline; water doesn’t run off it quick enough and it gets saturated. It works well enough for now, though.

I made window frames and a door frame that are screwed on top of the door and window openings. This is so that they stick out. The purpose of the window frame is to hold the windows in (duh) and with the door frame, it protects claws of predators getting into the edges of the door when it’s closed.

 

After the frame was complete, I cut cladding to fit in around the door and windows. That was the most boring job. Then I nailed wood across the roof and attached slates to it. I was originally planning to do a thatched roof, but I had slates available.

Most of the wood I got from an old shed that I dismantled. The slates were found around the garden, they had been carefully placed by the previous owner to block holes in the hedge. So now we’ve got a problem with cats coming in all the time!

The paint was normal indoor emulsion, but I painted a layer of PVC glue over it to waterproof it.

What I’d do differently next time:

  • I’d make it bigger, with an area I can put food and water in. Basically I’d make it big enough for the chickens to live for a day or two without human intervention (closing them in at night). At the moment, I have to be there every night to lock them in because there isn’t room enough for their food/water which sit outside.
  • I’d make a door that slides up/down. This would make it easier to add an automatic door opener and closer. At the minute I have a homemade automatic door opener fitted but I have no idea how I could get it to close automatically.
  • It’s tall so it’s airy, with plenty of room for our 6 hens. However, one of the roosting bars is a little close to the big end door so there’s always poop on it and that doesn’t help with cleaning. In mark 2 I’d like to have a single, long roosting bar with a poop tray under it to make cleaning easier.

Calf Fasciculation, or Benign Fasciculation Syndrome (BFS)

If you don’t read anything else, read this: if you have fasciculations, stop worrying. Anxiety makes it worse. And it’s almost certainly not dangerous or indicative of another issue. Go to the doctor who will confirm that. Now read on.

In January 2014, one evening, I suddenly began having twitches in my calves. Not just little twitches, either. It was the entire muscle – right from my ankle to the base of the back of my knee. In both legs. And it was all of the time, 24 hours a day. I read someone else describe it as like having “insects crawling around under the skin.”

I googled for videos of calf fasciculations but although these do give an idea of what it’s like, the results I found weren’t quite as extreme: https://www.google.com/search?q=calf+fasciculations+youtube

Now, if this has happened to you, there’s good news and not so good news.

Good news:
It’s not going to do you any harm or shorten your lifespan or anything like that.

Bad news:
There’s not much you can do about it.

It wasn’t particularly noticeable during the day, when exercising, but when sitting still it became too annoying. Not painful at all, but uncomfortable. I found there are two ways to reduce the annoying-ness:

  • Have the calf muscle in a stretched position
  • Have the calf muscle pressed against a surface.

Having the muscle stretched meant standing up. When sitting on the sofa, I’d have my legs pressed against the base of the sofa, and then I could sit without it annoying me too much.

The first couple of days were the worst, because I wasn’t used to it. I felt like it was making me feel fatigued, but later realised this was psychosomatic. I desperately ran through the possible causes:

  • Poor quality shoes I had bought a few days prior
  • Exercise (running) on the day it started, immediately following a blood donation session
  • Deficiency in Magnesium, Calcium, or Potassium
  • Deficiency in something else, maybe related to being vegetarian
  • Stress (a common cause)
  • Tiredness
  • Medication side effects (I wasn’t taking any)
  • Alcohol intake (I hadn’t been drinking, and rarely drink much)
  • Infection, eg. Lyme’s disease (I didn’t have anything I knew of!)

Having run through the possible causes, I narrowed it down to having ran back to the office immediately following a blood donation session. You’re really not supposed to do that. I remember my calves having been really sore, and this was understandable since a pint of blood was missing from my body via which to transport oxygen to exercised muscles. I had quickly caused some kind of muscle damage to myself through careless behaviour.

After around 4 days of desperately hoping this stupid twitching would stop (and initially believing it would), I realised I’d need to try and find a solution. The worst part was that I was finding it hard to sleep. The internet wasn’t much help but I compiled a list of potential short-term remedies:

  • Take calcium, magnesium and potassium supplements and get tested for deficiency
  • Lower my stress levels (I thought about it carefully and decided I wasn’t stressed)
  • Get plenty of rest
  • Stretching
  • Wear decent shoes
  • Take Quinine (tonic water). Apparently it’s good for cramps. It tasted awful and didn’t do anything. Apparently quinine tablets would be needed to get a high enough dose to have a chance of doing anything.
  • Reduce caffeine intake. I stopped consuming any caffeine for more than a week. It didn’t work.

None of these did anything. I had no deficiencies (other than in common sense). As time went on I got used to the fasciculations. Sleeping became easy again as I learned to either sleep on my back (calves pressed against the mattress) or on my side (weirdly configured so that one calf was pressed against the other). My initial feelings of fatigue evaporated after just a few days and I started to feel fine and energetic again, having realised that the fatigue was brought on by the mental irritation and depressing google results I was finding.

Note to self – googling a medical issue is a BAD IDEA! Only a doctor can tell you what your ailment is!

I thought carefully about alternative, long-term remedies:

  • Fitness. I resumed running (and quickly injured my foot which has temporarily put a stop to that)
  • Strength training/weight gain. I started Stronglifts 5×5 and the GOMAD diet (google it) and gained 10lbs (mostly of fat, in fairness) in three weeks. I became stronger, including my calves. Which was nice. I’m continuing with the strength training.
  • Copper ointment. Apparently this “complimentary” medicine helps with cramps and damaged muscle. I maintained putting it on my calves for a few days and then lost interest. I don’t think it was going to do anything.
  • Acupuncture – I’ll resort to this if I get desperate and have some cash to throw about.
  • Homeopathy – I’ll need to be very desperate to try this, but who knows. That day may come.

I should mention that I visited the doctor twice. The first time, I was told it was nothing to worry about and to come back in a few weeks if it continued. The second time, I gave a blood sample for calcium, magnesium, and potassium testing – these were negative. I haven’t bothered going back because I know there’s no proven treatment.

How am I doing now? Well, it’s been three months, and the fasciculations are still there. I feel like it’s less intense, though. I can sleep without pressure on my calves – this has only happened in the past two weeks. Sometimes it feels like they’ve stopped, but when I roll up my jeans, they’re still going. Oh well; as long as it feels better, that’s the important thing. My best guess for the cause of the improvement is my weight and strength gains. It may be coincidence, but the calf improvements did seem to begin about a week after I began strength training and weight gain. I’d recommend strength training anyway, since it’s a good health improvement to take on.

Apparently, in a large proportion of cases, this condition subsides within several years – maybe not completely, but often noticeably. The main thing is that it’s not worrying me anymore, and I’m fully confident that it’s going to disappear before the end of the year. In three months it feels noticeably better. After exercise it becomes much more intense, but that’s to be expected and is not a problem.

I have written this post because of the lack of information I found on the internet when trying to self-diagnose. All I found was loads of people deciding that they probably had a disease called ALS. Which they don’t. If recommend you attempt all of the remedies I’ve suggested, starting with the most common ones: stress, over-exercise, alcohol/caffeine consumption, and mineral deficiency.

Leave a comment if you have something similar or know of a potential treatment I haven’t suggested. Good luck!

Futher reading:

Update 31-Oct 2014: It’s been 10 months. It’s as annoying as it was at the beginning. I sleep with pressure on my calves: lying on my side, with one on top of the other, or on my back. Oh well…otherwise healthy :-)

Update 25-Mar-2015: Now 15 months. Nothing new, except it’s totally normal for me now. I don’t run any more because my calves are usually pretty sore afterwords. I walk a lot which I don’t think makes it worse. My son woke me up from a deep sleep one night, and it felt like the fasciculations had gone. I felt my calves and couldn’t feel them moving. I went back to sleep. I don’t know if I was imagining it but that’s the only time it seems like they stopped. I love reading the comments. Makes it all seem normal!

Update 18-Aug-2015: They’ve stopped. Not all at once, but gradually, over the course of the past 6 weeks or so. Actually I think they’re still going but very, very faintly. I don’t think there was anything I have done differently in my life – I have no idea why they stopped. It was about 17 months in total. Weird!! As someone posted in the comments, here is a site with more information, and a discussion forum.

Super strong homemade weights bench

Inspired by this description of a wooden DIY weights bench, I decided to make my own. Mine was way simpler, though; I used less wood but it’s much thicker so it’s still strong. This post includes photos of each step, but I won’t go into loads of detail – hopefully the images will speak for themselves.

Home made wooden weights bench

Excuse the mess….

But firstly, with regard to motivation for making this, let me quote from the link I mentioned:

Shopping for a weight bench can be difficult. And by difficult I mean expensive. And just to be clear, whenever I use the phrase “weight bench” I mean a strong one that can be used to Bench Press. The problem you’ll run into when buying these is that the reasonably priced ones are not rated to hold much weight. You’ll see figures like “300 lbs.” But when you consider that the bench has to hold your body as well, 300 lbs. is not much. If you weigh a measly 150 lbs. when you start, and bench press 150 lbs. That’s your 300 lbs. right there. This is novice level lifting. Once you turn into a real lifter after a few years of training, you’ll probably weigh closer to 200 lbs. yourself and be benching near 300 lbs. Now that’s 500 lbs. and all those affordable weight benches are now too weak for your purposes. But when you start pricing quality benches that are rated for this type of serious lifting, you are going to have to pay hundreds of dollars for them. This is unacceptable by Homemade Strength standards.

Before I get into how I made my bench, let me say I’ve tested it with a total mass of 250kg. That’s me (75kg – yes, I’m skinny) plus a friend (100kg) plus weights (75kg) all on top of it, in the middle. So it’s strong! However, you should always do what I’ve done and test your bench thoroughly before lifting weights on it. You don’t want it breaking when you’re holding your own body weight in cast iron above you. With that in mind, here are the details:

Dimensions

Standard sizes are 45cm high and 30cm wide. You can adjust these to suit yourself – you may want to make it shorter (if you’re short). Some people prefer it a little narrower. The length is 110cm – it needs to comfortably fit both your head and bum. 110cm is long enough for me and I’m 6’1″.

Tools

- Screws of various sizes, electric screwdriver
- Saw – probably a circular saw…I wouldn’t fancy cutting it all the old fashioned way
- Staplegun & staples for the upholstery (tacks are an alternative)

Materials

I used about 3 metres of timber measuring 50mm X 150mm. It’s really thick, heavy stuff: not like 2×4 at all. I had it lying around the garage. You can use whatever you have lying around as long as you’re sure it can hold the weight. When it comes to using it, go gently, and make sure you’re safe. If you’re not sure, then stop.

I had some left over MDF from my kitchen which was fitted last year, and I cut out two pieces of 30cm x 110cm x 12mm. The reason I need two will become clear later!

For the legs you’ll need another two pieces of 30cm x 30cm MDF. Read all the way through to see why these are needed.

Finally, I bought 4m of cheap wadding (polyester padding material). This probably wasn’t enough, it’s very thin. So my bench isn’t particularly comfortable. That doesn’t bother me. I also bought a metre of pleather (fake plastic leather) for about £8. It’s only a metre but it’s 140cm wide so that’s plenty.

The great thing about wooden construction is that you can change it later, or add more strength to it. I have the option of adding more legs to the middle of my bench for extra support if I ever go above the 250kg. When it’s complete you need to do some serious testing on this bench to make sure it’s up to the job before use. As I mentioned already, you really don’t want 100kg (or any amount) of weights crashing down on you during bench press when your bench breaks.

I’m a lightweight and I’m lifting light weights. You probably aren’t so your bench may need to be stronger.

Building

Start by cutting the legs. They’re about 40cm long (total height will be more when the MDF top is added). Also cut the centre beam, it should be about 100cm long. Adjust these sizes to your preferences, the design is flexible. Feel free to double up on that centre beam.

Now I use my pieces of 30cm x 30cm MDF and screw them to the legs. This holds the legs together but also, the centre beam will rest on it. In this picture there’s only 4 screws in each; I actually ended up putting 10 in each.

These need to be 50mm from the top of the legs – this is because the centre beam will rest on them. It’ll become clear in a moment.

This is how it fits together so far. Screw it together. You need some pretty long screws.

Here’s my two pieces of 30cm x 110cm MDF.

Then put the first piece of MDF on top, and screw it into the legs and beam. It’ll help hold the whole thing together. It’s way sturdier than it looks here. It’s really heavyweight and there’s no movement or wobble in the legs whatsoever.

Now, at this point, you may wish to do your testing and add additional legs to the middle if needs be! If you want to avoid doing testing and be conservative about, then just add more legs.

Here’s our bits so far: partially completed bench, leather, wadding, and the top piece of MDF.

Next up we’re doing the padding. Lay down your leather (upside down!) followed by the wadding, followed by the other piece of MDF:

Try and keep it as neat as possible, it’s awkward because it’ll try to move about. Allow the wadding to stick out of the edges so that it’ll wrap round the edges nicely. Staple one side first, then wrap the other size around carefully but tightly. Don’t rip it!

You should end up with something like this. I’ve trimmed off the excess because as you can see from the picture above, my piece of leather was way too big.

OK, now dump your bench on top, upside down:

And put a few small screws through the first layer of MDF to hold the second on. Don’t make the screws too long, you don’t want them coming through into your back!

Done!

As a final note, I need to reiterate, test it first. Test it by piling all of your weights on top of it, and then stand on it, and have a friend stand on it too, and if you hear any creaks (or it breaks…) then go back to square one!! I’m a lightweight and I’m lifting light weights so you may well need to add more legs to the middle your bench.

Good luck!!

Building Raised Beds for Growing Veg – Sourcing Materials

Raised beds are expensive to buy! If you have the time, and the necessary tools then it’s relatively easy to make your own. Here is the result of some of my research for my latest raised-bed project.

Part 1: Materials

There are lots of materials you can make beds out of. Here are some of the ideas I found:

Scaffolding planks/plain wood
Cost per metre: £1 – £3 

This is the most common option. If you can get old scaffolding planks they’re usually cheap. Alternatively, plain untreated wood from the builders merchants will do the same job. Note that untreated wood will rot away after a few seasons – I’ve heard conflicting reports of it lasting anywhere from 1 to 5 years before needing to be replaced. This is the trade-off you choose to avoid preservatives potentially leaching into your soil.

You can buy pressure treated wood which will last a lot longer; again, it contains preservatives which may potentially leach into your soil. I found it very difficult to find reliable information about the likelihood of this but I don’t mind replacing my beds after a few years.

Railway sleepers
Cost per metre: £8 – £20 

If you can purchase railway sleepers which are non-treated, those will be perfect for your raised beds. They are thick, heavyweight items that will likely last for a long time.

However, real reclaimed railway sleepers almost always come coated in Creosote, which is a horrible preservative that is applied to the wood. You will recognise it as a dark, tarry substance. Due to its carcinogenic properties, it is not recommended to be used anywhere where it is likely to come into frequent contact with skin – and this probably includes raised beds! Additionally, I can’t imagine it will help your soil quality, or contribute toward the ‘organicness’ of your produce.

Recycled plastic
Cost per metre: £10+ 

This is my favourite option, if we weren’t concerned with price! Recycled plastic will last for a very long time, never rotting. It won’t release any undesirable chemicals into your soil, either. And they look good: some types can look very much like some kind of beautiful hardwood. However, they were out of my price range

Just google “recycled plastic raised beds” to find some of the many companies that make these.

Rubber – tyres
Cost per metre: £free, but labour required! 

Recycling old car tyres looks like probably the cheapest way to make very long lasting beds. Best of all, any tyre place will give you as many old tyres as you want. They normally have to pay to dispose of them so they’ll be happy to hand them over!

This option involves a lot of labour, though. You’ll need to cut the tyres up into square sections which you’ll bolt together into “rubber planks”, which you can form a raised bed from.

Another option is to simply lay them out and fill them with soil!

Although they’ll last a long time, and won’t cost you anything, the downside is that they will not look particularly attractive. Just google for ‘raised bed tyre’ to get information and photos.

DIY Quandries

If you’re not into DIY then there’s no need to continue reading. This post is mainly for people googling for particular problems so that I can share a bit of hard-found knowledge!

Over the past year or so I’ve been renovating a house. It’s pretty much done but there’s lots of DIY issues that are new to me. Googling them didn’t get me anywhere, all you often find is a ton of scare stories.

Of course, the best advice is to go to a professional. If you want to try this at home, don’t blame me when you flood the place. With that in mind, here are a list of the DIY puzzles I’ve come across recently. 

Shower running hot and cold

This is commonly caused by a broken shower thermostat, which would be obvious because the other hot taps in the house run fine. If they also ran hot and cold, it would be a boiler issue, and that’s what’s happened in my case. I recently switched from gas cylinders to a bulk storage tank and apparently the plumber didn’t re-calibrate the boiler (or whatever it is they need to do). The boiler is cutting itself out as a safety precaution.

Pressure for the central heating loop dropping frequently

I had a leak in the system. I went round all the radiators, checked the pipes coming out of the floor for any leaking water, found one that was damp, and tightened it. Then open the inlet tap to re-pressurise the system and bleed all the radiators.

Lots of black smoke coming out of the car exhaust and juddery power

This was caused by a split in the intercooler pipe. It’s a very common fault and causes a lot of black smoke, poor performance and juddery power at about 2000RPM. The cost to have it replaced professionally is about £100, in my case, I bought a £25 replacement from ebay and fitted it myself in an hour. Another common cause on my car (Ford Mondeo) is a blocked-up EGR valve but that wasn’t the case here. My fuel consumption went from 35MPG to 50!

I got a good description of the problem and how to fix it from this forum thread.

Mould/damp on a particular wall

I assumed there was damp coming through from outside but this wasn’t the case. I had a lot of condensation which was causing it. I ventilated the place properly, kept it properly heated (the room was usually cold beforehand), treated the area with anti-fungal spray, repainted and that seems to have permanently sorted it! The main thing to remember is ventilation. I moved furniture away from the area so air could get to it.

 

Vegetarianism

Our health visitor today expressed surprise that our 9 month old baby has not eaten meat yet and suggested we speak to a dietitian. Which got me thinking about this topic.

When I’m out and about and eating food in public (eg. Christmas dinner!) Once thing that I will invariably be asked is why I’m vegetarian*. A reasonable question given the normal vegetarian choice in restaurants. Pasta isn’t too festive and nut roast couldn’t have a worse reputation.

The question is usually appended with a follow up like “is it an animal rights thing?” Well, no, although that may well be a valid reason.

My answer is to reverse the question: why do you eat meat? The only answer, the answer that all others derive from, is that we’ve all been brought up in a society where it’s normal. You eat meat because your parents taught you to, and because in society, we’re inundated with meat based foodstuffs. You’ve now developed a taste for chicken korma or slow cooked ribs or pepperoni pizza or rare steak** and that’s hard to let go of. Why should you? But it’s circular, and seems like a pretty lame reason to me.

After having been vegetarian for around 7 years I now can’t see any attraction in eating meat. I eat a much more balanced diet now than I used to, with a greater range of flavours. I’ve come to realise that the bulk of meat dishes taste of whatever you cook them in (chicken anyone?). And the idea of slaughtering an animal doesn’t seem worth it.

Tasty beef

Please don’t eat me

Don’t start me on the nutrition thing – a few hundred years ago, or maybe even 30 years ago (I wouldn’t remember), chicken would have been an important source of protein. We didn’t have the huge food supply we have today, and there weren’t 30 aisles in Tesco where you could get a vast selection of nuts and pulses, soya, and quorn, if that’s your thing. And if you’re among the large portion of people whose meat intake consists largely of cocktail sausages, chicken nuggets or fast food burgers, then….well, y’know.

So now that we know the bad reasons why you eat meat, here are some good reasons why you might want to be vegetarian.

Firstly, the well known health benefits as summarised here by the US Department of Agriculture “Dietary Guidelines for Americans“:

In prospective studies of adults, compared to non-vegetarian eating patterns, vegetarian-style eating patterns have been associated with improved health outcomes—lower levels of obesity, a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, and lower total mortality. Several clinical trials have documented that vegetarian eating patterns lower blood pressure. On average, vegetarians consume a lower proportion of calories from fat (particularly saturated fatty acids); fewer overall calories; and more fiber, potassium, and vitamin C than do non-vegetarians. Vegetarians generally have a lower body mass index. These characteristics and other lifestyle factors associated with a vegetarian diet may contribute to the positive health outcomes that have been identified among vegetarians.

Environmental impact is another good reason:

Pachauri, who was re-elected the [United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change]‘s chairman for a second six-year term last week, said diet change was important because of the huge greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental problems – including habitat destruction – associated with rearing cattle and other animals. It was relatively easy to change eating habits compared to changing means of transport, he said.

So now you know.

*I’m not really vegetarian, because I occasionally eat fresh, oily fish. Extremely good for you.
**if you like your steak cooked “well done”, you are a bad person.