Monday, November 12, 2012

Fall fun

Yard Work

By the time word of Hurricane Sandy got serious, we already had many leaves on the lawn.  Wet leaves are a pain to handle so we wanted to make a dent in the fall lawn management.  We were afraid to pile them in the street because we didn't want them washing into and clogging the storm drains.  The last option, which was luckily the laziest, was to just run everything over with the lawn mower at the lowest setting for the last cut before winter.

Matt was breaking down and bundling up some branches while I got started on the mowing. All of a sudden I hear a loud bang and the lack of "lawn mower" noise.  We have some exposed roots in our yards that I am terrified of running over, so I give them a wide berth.  There was one gnarly bugger who was hidden under a few leaves.  It stopped the engine in its tracks.

I ran out to a local garden store (Home Depot didn't carry the blade we needed, but laughed politely when I held up the damaged blade) and we replaced it that afternoon. Thankfully we didn't bend the center shaft.

Molly, trying to get primal
Earlier in the week we were moving some piles of brush we had stacked up. Our garbage company takes bundles of sticks four at a time for free, so we've been buffering them. I decided a pile of sticks would be a very happy home for some local wildlife and that we should break it up into smaller piles. So while we were doing this, and out from one of the last piles ran a small vole. The next 30 minutes were spent watching Molly tear around our yard chasing it.  The vole ran outside the perimeter of the fence multiple times, just to run back into the range of Molly...voles must not be known for intelligence.

It finally got stuck in a window well, and we were able to shoo it into a bucket. I then drove it over to the nearest field and let it loose....while some people watched me awkwardly from their back porch.

We have half an acre of property and a good chunk of that is fenced (around the pool) so dealing with leaves has been a pain. We decided to tap out and get an industrial backpack style gas powered leaf blower. (Husqvarna 150BT)

Not only is it fun, but it works great :) we made quick work of the backyard today.

Hurricane Sandy

We don't have a battery backup for our sump pump so we decided to make one... sort of. We went out to Pep-Boys and bought a car battery (the same style that goes in both of our cars just in case one dies we can use this - multipurpose!) and Matt connected it to a 750 watt inverter he bought for his "silly project car" he worked on a while ago. We periodically checked the pit once we lost power just in case, but it remained dry throughout the storm luckily despite the yard around the house pooling with water.

Our other hurricane prep included moving everything off of the floor in the garage, the down spout extenders were all attached, and we had enough halloween candy.  We only lost power for two days and were able to keep our fridge and freezer at temperature.

Wendy's for dinner by candle light
First Spare Bedroom

We finally finished the first bedroom. We put the final coats on the doors, and replaced the window locks. One lock had come off and removed a large enough chunk of wood to make it not possible to replace easily, so we just put the lock on the right side of the window. Function over fashion. We plan on replacing all the windows in the house at some point, so this is really just lipstick on a pig anyway.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

GLaDOS Pumpkin tutorial

How are you doing, because I'm a pumpkin

In addition to the light show we wanted to carve some pumpkins. While looking for ideas (and seeing other peoples pumpkin's Dustin gave me a great idea of making a pumpkin sculpture of GLaDOS (an AI robot from the awesome game Portal... even if you don't like most video games, I can all but guarantee you will love this game do yourself a favor and play it)

Like with most of my crazy ideas, Halley was skeptical at first, but was soon on board. We used three pumpkins of small, medium and large size (we had to redo one of these as it rotted before we could use it).

I started with a 3d model I found online  We used this for our inspiration.

Starting materials after a rough initial shaping

There are three main shapes to her: her head, bottom and back, each larger than the last. All of these shapes are spherical, so look for relatively round pumpkins. We carved these large shapes first, then used what we had left for "cables" and other details. (the cables are just thinly cut strips of pumpkin)

Prepping for the overnight
bleach solution soak

We wanted to make sure this would last so we read a few articles (here's a comparison) on how to preserve carved pumpkins the longest, and most people agreed to use a mixture of bleach and water.

Once we  had the shapes cut out, we started on the detail work for the large pieces. We used the 3d model again for inspiration. Doing her face out of a single piece exactly didn't seem very doable, so we decided to represent negative space by removing the pumpkin skin. The only place we actually cut all the way through was the eye (We wanted to put an led from my light show here, and didn't want to be bother by carving it super thin)

The other large pieces were ellipses with "wings" so we drew the basic shape onto the pumpkin, carved it, then skimmed off a thin layer on the "wings" to differentiate them from the main piece.

For the sides of her head, we used her finished head as a template to draw the needed shape onto the side of a pumpkin scrap. The design was Halley's interpretation based on the 3d model above.

Drying pumpkins
After carving the detailed pieces we laid them all out to dry.
GLaDOS hangs from the ceiling, so we wanted to do the same. I used some left over electrical conduit I grabbed from work (we had some electrical work done recently, and the electricians threw out a couple of longer bent up pieces.) We put the conduit in between two cinder blocks and shaped it with a sledge hammer carefully.

Once we had it in a nice "J" shape, we put the largest of the three pieces on her. We just shoved it through the pipe and friction held it in place.
Tiny holes and twine to secure the middle
body section

The second piece was a bit too small to do this, so we put 4 small holes through it, and tied it on with twine 

The face we wanted to sit on the end, so we used a dowel shoved into the back of her head (close to the pumpkins stem so it would be sturdy) and put the dowel into the conduit.

After the main pieces were on, we just took a bit of "creative license" and added "wires" wherever we felt, and adhered them with small nails.

The Final Product