Storks Doing Stork Stuff

Avalus is treating us to a closer look at these magnificent birds, this time including a short video. No photos of delivering babies. I guess they do that in secret.

First a stork preeening…

©Avalus, all rights reserved

©Avalus, all rights reserved

And now a stork doing I know not what. Avalus suggests maybe hunting or possibly yoga. (Avalus apologizes for the quality of sound, explaining he is unfamiliar with video art and editing. He suggests you may want to turn your sound down, but I didn’t find it problematic.)


I mentioned before that I’ve given in and bought myself a small lathe. The first thing I wanted to make, sort of as a warm up, since it doesn’t require spinning tons of wood and resin while attacking it with sharp tools, is an opal inlay ring like this one. So I ordered some crushed opal, and a ring mandrel, and some ring blanks, and yesterday the mandrel and the blanks finally arrived.

First thing: the ring blanks are not what I expected and cannot be used for what I want to do. There isn’t a deeper grove in the middle where I could put the resin and the opal, but it’s just a tiny grove and it’s matte, so in the pictures they look deeper. I have since learned that they are meant to be fitted with additional rings of wood or metal. They were also on the large side, which I could have lived with. So I went looking for new blanks and ordered them.

Not easily dissuaded I thought “well, I have enough resin pieces that would make nice rings”, so I cut two of them into shape and roughly sanded them into shape and then I wanted to put them on the lather just to notice that my cheap little lathe doesn’t come with a chuck, but a bolt where I can screw on either the thorn thingy to hold an object or a plate on which I can mount an object.

Now, I hate stopping work on a failure, because it leaves me grumpy all day long, so I became creative. I put the ring mandrel into my power drill and started to sand a resin piece down. It actually worked rather well, though I should have taken off more material with the belt sander. Only the very wide resin ring didn’t fit the ring mandrel very well, so occasionally it came off. No problem, until the moment it spontaneously disappeared from existence. I saw it enter the vacuum hose, and usually such heavy objects stay somewhere in the hose, but it didn’t, so I took out the vacuum bag and … it’s not there. I cut it open and went through the dust by hand (thankfully it was a rather fresh bag), but it wasn’t in the bag either. I have no idea where it’s gone.

So I still ended my workday being very frustrated, just with a lot more reason.

A Rare and Special Hummingbird Encounter

I have something very special to share today, from kestrel. I’ll let her tell the story,

The other day I was working near the scarlet runner beans when I saw a hummingbird behaving a little strangely. 

©kestrel, all rights reserved

You might think, “But that’s what hummingbirds do – drink from flowers!” And I would agree with you. The strange thing was, this hummingbird was behaving like this right next to me. I took these with my phone! 

©kestrel, all rights reserved

As I observed the hummingbird more closely (this is a Western Broad-Tailed Hummingbird, I believe a juvenile male) he seemed exhausted. He is in one of my pens for chickens. It’s got a net over the top, to keep predators out of my chickens, but hummingbirds can easily fly down through the net. Most are intelligent enough to then fly back UP through the net, but this one I suspected had been in there for quite a while, due to being young and silly, and not knowing about that flying up thing. 

©kestrel, all rights reserved

Yep. Looks pretty exhausted. So, I went in there, and was able to walk up to him and pick him up in my hand. I carried him out of the pen and took him over to the hummingbird feeder. He acted like a trained pet parrot; he stood perched quietly on my finger, and when I brought him to the feeder, he very calmly stepped onto the feeder like he had been doing that his whole life. 

©kestrel, all rights reserved

Once on the feeder, he sunk his beak in all the way and then drank for over a minute. No dainty sipping here; I think this guy was near the end of his reserves. I stood by the feeder to stop any other hummingbird from chasing him away, until he was able to fly away on his own. Fly well, little bird, and remember, “up” is a direction too! 

Luxury, or What We Did on our Holiday

With Covid raging we made the wise decision to stay the fuck at home during our holiday, and with 2.5% of people returning form “risk areas” testing positive (mind you, these were mass tests, not tests of people who themselves suspect anything or show symptoms), this was a smart decision if we ever made one. Instead we invested the money in a steelframe pool with a dome tent to protect it.

What sounds like putting up an oversized kiddy pool was indeed about two weeks of hard work. Not the pool or the tent, but the preparations. First Mr had to clear the area in the overgrown area we rent from the city. Then we had to level the ground. The area has a very small slope. Really, you’d hardly notice. 20 cm on a 6m area. When you need to level it you notice, because you are shovelling several tons of dirt, not to mention the roots and that nice block of blue concrete that we had to remove. But after three weeks of backbreaking sweat soaking work, we needed about an hour and a half to put up the pool and my dad and I needed another 2 hours to put up the tent.

So here it is, and with a heat wave rolling over us, it was one of the best decisions ever. I can tell you, finding this house with its garden at a reasonable price was the best piece of luck we ever had.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

It’s got a diameter of 3.5m and can be filled to 1.3m depth. I suggest applying insect repellent before getting anywhere near because this is nature.


Jack’s Walk


©voyager, all rights reserved

Oh My! Jack and I are still exhausted from yesterday’s party. It was a fabulous day, filled with happy surprises, but today both of us are bleary-eyed and bushed. Jack says that fairie dust can muddle you up and make you sleepy, and that’s exactly how I feel – muddled and ready for another nap.

“Don’t worry, Mummy. The forgetting will go away soon.”

“Will the bumblebees in my head also go away?”

“Silly, mummy. Of course, they will. Are they bothering you?”

“Not really. I’m starting to like the way they tickle when they dance.” I reached over to Jack and wiggled my fingers into the thick pile of his ruff and started to scratch. Jack tilted his head back and closed his eyes.

“Jack, will I be able to remember your special day, or will it fade away with the fairie dust?”

He put his head down and laughed,

“Mummy! That’s a silly question. Of course, you’ll be able to remember. When the fairie dust fades, it will all make sense. I promise.” he wiggled closer to me and said, “Until then, I think we should just cuddle and close our eyes.”

“Alright, Jack, that sounds perfect. Hopefully, tomorrow I’ll be able to process all the vivid party vignettes in my head into a narrative. Maybe the bees can help.


Well, It Sucks, But…

My goal in mcgyvering a vacuum pump was to remain under 100,-€ – which I did – and get better results than I have achieved with my shop-vac setup – which I did too. Still, I do not know whether to be disappointed or satisfied.

I wanted to utilize things that I already have, which includes several water pumps that are used to water bonsai trees and vegetable beds in summer and pumping water out of the cellar in the winter and some spare piping from house renovations. So I had to buy only the things for making the vacuum pump itself – in combination with a water pump, the best option seemed to be something based on the venturi principle.

So I went and bought these parts:

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

The parts were connected to each other more or less in the order as they are laid out on the picture. The black plastic hose connector was fitted into the brass one to lower its inner diameter. The brass hose connector right next to the right side of the chrome T junction is the inlet nozzle – I have glued an old tip from a silicone sealant tube (not depicted) in it to get the position and size of the nozzle correct. Into the upper brass hose connector was glued the white plastic 6 mm hose connector for the air suction.

So water comes in the T-junction from the right, gets squeezed through a nozzle which sprays into a slightly bigger opening in the outlet left, behind which is again a big pipe. The spray drags with it the air surrounding the nozzle and that way achieves suction through the top of the T-junction.

I am not able to write-up complete how-to, but this is the final product up and running in a vat of water.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

The bubbles show it is working. When I connected the suction tube directly to a new vacuum manometer, I got a suction of whopping 0,6 bar, which did really impress me. Unfortunately, I do not get anywhere near that when I connect everything to the jar. After a few minutes, it stabilizes at this.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

0.22-0.25 bar is still a bit more than what the shop-vac could achieve (which was 0.2). So it is usable and it is a definitive improvement because unlike the shop-vac it can run non-stop with zero risks of overheating anything, and it also makes nearly no noise, so a win there too. But when it achieves this, it still bubbles, so it still draws air. And when I close both ball-valves on the lid (one ball-valve is for pressure release, one for the suction), I start losing pressure in the jar really quickly. That tells me that the jar is not properly sealed and this here is not the maximum this setup can achieve, but an equilibrium between the pump and the improper sealing.

I had to make a new lid from five layers of plywood for this, with two ball-valves and the manometer, so there was a lot of potential for failure. But I did use water/airtight plastic sealant for everything and I went over all connections once more, yet I still cannot identify the leak(s). If it was a pressurized container, I might find the leaks with help of soapy water looking for bubbles, but I do not know how to check vacuum tightness.

So this is where I am now and this is where I leave this be for a few days at least. It has occupied me for three days already, time to go back to making knives.

Project Degus: Houses

As I mentioned on TNET, we’re getting pets. More specifically, we’re getting degus. We did all our learning and deciding whether degus will make good pet for the little one, and then we went into the planning phase. Degus are day active and very active, so they need space, but holy fuck, those cages are expensive. Luckily, my grandma’s old kitchen was still up so we took that.

First of all: WORKSPACE!!!

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Look at it. A counter and cupboards and drawers. I still need to put up a shelf or two, power outlets that are not just extension cords and light. I also need to think about ventilation, because the window you can see is only about 20cm high. I basically grew up in that kitchen and I never noticed that all the drawers have different widths. Matching that kitchen is a high cupboard that we’ll turn into the degu home, but before that transformation can start, we’ll prepare some other things that they need, mostly huts.

Degus are rodents, which means they’ll gnaw everything, which is why the German word for rodents in “gnaw animals”, so stuff has to either withstand their teeth or be constantly replaced. For the huts I decided to do both: light plywood houses that will need replacement and terracotta pot houses that will last a while, so the little one and I went to the DIY store. While I was pushing 75 bucks worth of material she happily chattered how making your own things isn’t just so much more fun, but also so much cheaper… Now, she is right in general, but I had to explain that it doesn’t exactly come cheap.

OK, back to the houses… For the wood ones the standard house is an ugly box, and like most commercially available pet supplies way too small, so I designed them to be a more like hobbit houses and of course large enough, so I first cut out all my pieces on my brand new bandsaw. I didn’t know how much I needed a bandsaw before I had one. Sure, I thought, it would be nice to have one, and a small one is only around 100 bucks, so I treated myself when my contract got renewed. Holy shit, I’m in love. It’s so easy to saw things. Not just the plywood, which is to be expected, but also resin pieces that usually are such a pain in the ass. So I cut out all the pieces for two hoses and then the little one got to sand the edges.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Next I glued pieces of a square bar to the front and back, let it dry and then glued on the sides.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

This is actually the backside. You can see there’s a second exit in the back, which is something many commercial rodent houses are also missing. This is an absolute must because two degus might get into the same house and one may decide it doesn’t want to share. And while degus do fight, they mostly prefer just to leave. Having just one exit means that a degu may be trapped with another one. Having two means that the second one can just leave.

Next step we carefully glued strips to to the roof, which was a bit fiddly, but not too hard. Ta-daaa, degu/rodent house version 1:

©Giliell, all rights reserved