I have a stack of old T-shirts in my fabric box waiting to be turned into baby shirts (ones that are no longer fit for adult use but have enough good fabric in them to be worth chopping up), and this week made my first attempt, with an old Belle and Sebastian shirt. Lots of pictures after the cut.
This morning I spent five minutes attacking a frying-pan with a hammer; this afternoon I spent two hours taking a bike wheel apart and putting it back together again. Repair and reuse.
The frying-pan had an increasingly large rise in the middle — bad enough by now that you were guaranteed a patch of burnt-on stuff where the oil wouldn’t sit. Not sure if the hammer solution will actually work, as I didn’t get it all that flat, but it was getting to be unusable, so I can’t have gone that far wrong. So that was the repair.
The bike wheel is suffering from a broken hub. I did take the hub apart to see if I could fix that, but the cup (definitely) and the bearing races (probably) are dented, so it’s a bit past that stage. I did keep the bearings, though, in case they come in handy. What I figured I could do was to reuse the spokes, nipples (the bits that attach the spokes to the rim), and rim. So far, so good: took everything apart successfully, and have got the basic tensioning done. Next job is to true it properly and put the sprocket back on — probably about another hour’s work. And that was the reuse.
There’s something very satisfying about fixing a broken thing, or about not wasting reusable parts. I doubt I’ve saved any money (when I account for my time) with the bike wheel, but the satisfaction is more than worth it even without the environmental advantages. And I trust my wheel-building over a factory wheel every time.
Plus I got to hit something with a hammer, which is always a pleasing experience.
There’s a couple of obvious advantages to using Freecycle (or Freegle, which is the new UK-based version). Giving a home to things you don’t want or need any more, rather than throwing them away. Getting hold of things second-hand — and free! — rather than having to buy new and generate more waste. (I got a stairgate from Freecycle recently when we acquired a new dog.)
But I’ve found that it also helps with the process of deciding whether you really need to keep something at all. I’ve been trying of late to move away from a policy of “keep it just in case”. As a policy, that leads to stacks of belongings festering in corners; reducing the space available for you and for the things that you genuinely do want and use.
Freecycle lets me have the attitude that if I need something at an unspecified later date, I’ll be able to get hold of it again at that point. If I send out into the wild the stack of paint trays and rollers that have been in the bottom of a cupboard for 5 years, then should I ever need them again, I’ll be able to find another set.
Of course, that particular set of paint trays may never be in circulation again. But the more stuff there is circulating in the free and second-hand un-market, the more likely it is that the stuff you need will be there when you need it.
I’ve started to see “keeping things just in case” as a form of wastage. It means that a useful thing isn’t in use, so when someone else needs it, they have to buy another one. As opposed to using the one sitting unused in my cupboard. In a similar vein, I share a bike trailer and various power tools with other people: they’re expensive things that we don’t all need at once so why own multiple versions? I can treat Freecycle and free shops as something a bit like a large and less trackable version of a lending library. End result: less stuff in the world and in my house.
Last week I finished my small cold frame for the balcony.
It took very little extra work, in fact: I just had to cut an appropriately-sized chunk off one of the 2m2 pieces of polycarbonate I brought home on my bike trailer a fortnight ago:
(Another demonstration of the truth of my long-held belief that you can transport pretty much anything with a bike. Six miles — albeit quite slow ones — from Dulwich to Bermondsey and I didn’t have to stop and retie it even once. I was very pleased. NB: the polycarb wasn’t touching the ground at the end when the trailer (a Carry Freedom Large — fantastic piece of kit) was properly attached to the bike.)
The jigsaw went through the polycarb with no bother at all, and I taped the edges up with gaffer tape. To get some air into the frame, I’m using part of one of the planks I cut up for the slanted top: the polycarb lid just rests on it at the back. I haven’t bothered to make hinges; I’ll rethink that if the lid doesn’t stay put.
Next plans: slightly bigger cold-frame for the table of herbs outside on the balcony, and much bigger one for the allotment. Currently in the allotment there are three rows of various sorts of greens under mini-cloches (cut the top off a one-litre juice bottle), so the cold frame needs to be built before they outgrow the cloches.
In my ongoing quest to reduce food miles by growing more greenery I have spent an hour or so building a small cold frame for the balcony. It’s not quite finished yet (I have a huge piece of clear polycarbonate that I need to saw into pieces so I can use part of it for the cold frame top), but the frame itself now exists.
The best bit is that it’s made from 100% reclaimed bits. The base is a wine box that I got from my parents (sadly by the time it reached me it was empty of wine).
The part of the top that gives it a slope (so it’ll catch the sun better) is made from planks reclaimed from a pallet. The pallet was part of a very small pile of wood left after Climate Camp, part of which I took home*. I saved the nails as I took them out when dismantling the pallet, and enough of them were straightish that I could use them for this project. The measuring, sawing to size (including sawing the diagonals), and nailing together took under an hour: much quicker than I’d expected.
I was going to use a couple of pieces of dowel to hold the two sections together, but it seems pretty stable without. An old compost bag is providing a lining.
The picture shows it on the balcony in its temporary “on top of the wormery” location. (I need to rearrange the balcony space a bit.) The pots have rocket and bronze arrowhead lettuce seeds in: the hope is that the cold frame will keep the plants going over the winter & I’ll be able to keep having salads. We shall see!
* Technically doop took them home, as he was the one towing the bike trailer all the way down Blackheath Hill with 30kg or so of wood on it.