DIY bird savers

Until recently DIY stood for Death In Yard, our yard was not a safe place for our feathered friends. We live in a pine forest and have a window wall which was being struck by fast moving birds daily. It wasn’t nice and we knew something had to be done.

Looking out from our living room

We had tried everything we could think of. Streamers outside. Large cardboard stars hanging inside. Nothing worked. Finally we found a web site, www.birdsavers.com that had a DIY way to help.

Parachute cord is easy to come by, just head down to our shop. However we have a serious wind issue so we actually used some left over black elastic cord. This was coupled with a restraint at the bottom of the windows so that the cords would not get blown around and tangled (we had that problem with our streamers).

Just a cedar 1×4 both at the top and bottom of the windows was all it took. Actually that isn’t quite true- our grandson drilled all the holes and is now an expert with the cordless drill!

Here you can see the top of our windows along with the “enticing” reflections that used to draw the birds in. Yes, used to draw the birds in! Fingers crossed, after a week we have not had a single bird strike. The yard is full and the bird air traffic control is working overtime but the BirdSavers are living up to their name.

As you can see in the last image we did not install them on the upper two windows. I don’t like heights and getting the first two levels done was all the ladder work I could handle. If necessary we have the parts but so far I have been allowed to stay on terra firma. You know the old saying, the more firma, the less terra.

Footman’s Loops

Footman’s Loops, Webbing Guides, Tie Down Eye Straps- whatever you call them they are a useful way to connect webbing to a rigid surface.

We stock the following options:
1″ webbing size in stainless steel, white nylon and black nylon
1½” webbing size in black nylon
2″ webbing size in stainless steel

Side view of a footman’s loop

Those that we stock are designed to be used with #10 fasteners (which are not included). If you need dimensions go to our site and search for “footman”. Choose your option and the detail page will have a full set of dimensions.

Now for the $64,000.00 question; where did the name “footman’s loop” originate?

Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo and other search engines are no help. Neither is Wikipedia. This must be one of the few topics not yet addressed on the internet.

Here is my guess-
Wikipedia says that “footmen” were attendants who ran beside or behind the carriages of aristocrats. Carriages often had mountains of luggage strapped to the back, most likely with leather. A low, flat loop would be useful in securing the load. That’s my guess.

When searching, the entry for “footman” in the Merriam-Webster dictionary caught my eye.
Recent Examples on the Web 
Nowhere is this more on display than in Thane’s Aunt Mabel, an aging widow who devours footmen (and any other attractive, available men in her vicinity) for breakfast.

This brings on a whole new question- what is the proper side dish when one devours a footman?

YUK! It’s A Hand Strap

Boarding your transit train you find it’s standing room only and you need to hang on to a hand strap. Is it clean? Who knows.

Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) polled their riders in March 2020 regarding the use of “Personal Hand Straps” and here are the results:
“BART’s Twitter poll asking riders their opinion about personal hand straps was available for voting until 2 pm Sunday. The final results are in: with 4,082 total votes on Twitter, 74.9% of the voters said yes to the personal hand strap idea. Other feedback from Facebook and Instagram showed similar levels of support for the personal hand strap.”

We started thinking about making a personal hand strap but two issues kept creeping in to our conversations.
1. How does one remove it without touching the grab rail?
2. How does one disinfect the strap after use?
Without solving those issues, using a personal strap would not be an improvement over just grabbing on to the bar with your bare hand.

After some testing we found that a simple loop sewn to the top of the strap would allow a user to disengage the strap without touching the grab rail.

Disengage the hand strap by pulling on the extra loop

Solving the second issue was easier. We turned to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and learned that immersing the strap in a bleach solution would do the job. A bit more research and we knew that polypropylene webbing would not be harmed by a room temperature bleach bath. The same is true for the polyester thread used in sewing these straps.

The end result is our Personal Hand Strap, an economical way to keep your mudhooks (one of my father’s favorite phrases) off of the grab bars.

Resources:
BART Survey scroll down to the March 16, 2020 posting

CDC Bleach Solution

DIY Winter Hummingbird Feeder

Wintertime feeding of hummingbirds has been a family goal for quite some time. Providing food in freezing conditions was something my father-in-law solved years ago. You can read about that winter freeze in an article written by my mother-in law.

Winter hummingbird feeder

This is our current model made from a plastic pot and some Christmas lights. With all three lights lit it will keep the food from freezing down to around 20 degrees.

Inside of hummer food heater

You want to use old fashioned Christmas lights, not LED’s. The heat the bulbs produce is what keeps the food warm. We took three sockets from a string of lights and wired them to an extension cord.

Nothing fancy and in warmer weather the pot/light assembly retires to the garden shed. Everything we used was lying around so our total cost is just in time.

When we used to live in Tacoma with a more moderate climate our winter feeder hung over a Sasanqua Camellia (which blooms in the winter) and the hummers would perch on a branch right under the feeder. Close to food and probably soaking up a little heat.

Safety tethers for sailors

Many marine safety tethers sold today are not safe.

We have known for years that many of the snap hooks used on the “boat end” of safety tethers can come unclipped rather than doing their job. I was reading an article in Scuttlebutt Sailing News that brought this issue up yet again.

A few years ago we looked into making tethers and determined that we did not have the resources to do it right. We consulted sailors (other than ourselves), equipment suppliers and folks with engineering backgrounds. It’s not like we just took a quick look.

Since our decision, sailors continue to die due to safety tether issues yet suppliers continue to sell products that are questionable and others provide DIY advice for a tether that does not make any sense.

We encourage sailors to research their purchase fully. Practical Sailor has a number of articles on this subject. Look at the racing rules and the ISO specification they reference. Do your homework, this is a life and death decision.

We encourage the industry to stop peddling products and DIY advise that does not, at a minimum, meet current thinking within the safety industry. It is a good sign that some manufacturers have quit supplying products that were poorly designed 20 years ago but it shouldn’t take that long to get crap off the market.

Jute twine protects your trees

You just paid good money for a new tree, the last thing you want to do is to kill it!

It’s springtime in Cle Elum and that means trips to the nursery hunting for that special tree. This time of year also means wind, lots of wind so when you plant that new find you don’t want it blowing over that afternoon. So we use tree straps to protect the tree and provide a way to secure it upright, safe from the wind.

Tree Straps
Various Colors of Tree Straps

Tree straps need to be tied to a stake, post or other secure object to do their job. Jute twin has one feature your trees will love, it rots.

Why is rotting good?

Because some times we forget to remove tree straps and as we all know, trees grow both in height and circumference. Eventually a tree strap secured with wire or synthetic twine will girdle the tree.

Girdled Mature Pine Tree

So rotting, or as the manufacturers catalog says being biodegradable, is a fantastic feature for use in the garden.

Other admirable features of jute include:

  • inexpensive
  • soft and holds knots well
  • it’s a natural fiber- not plastic
  • our 1/2# spools are easy to handle
  • good UV resistance

Straps or Webbing – what’s the difference?

We get calls from customers who don’t know if they are looking for straps or webbing. The difference is akin to line and rope….

My father used to explain that a line is rope with a job. Dock lines are made from a coil of rope, as are anchor lines, guy lines (for your tent) and lead lines for your horses.

Straps and webbing work the same way. Straps (at least the ones we sell) are made from webbing. We sell bulk webbing should you want to make your own strap(s).

As with everything there are exceptions. Years ago I used to sell “crab line”. What the crabbers were buying were coils of rope but it was still called crab line. Metal banding for securing cargo to a pallet is often called strapping even when sold in bulk.

In my world, once I have done something to a piece of webbing it becomes a strap.

Good Golly It’s Molle

The other day while wasting some time I was wandering through a sporting goods store and what did I run in to? MOLLE

MOLLE was everywhere-

On the side of a Yeti cooler bag,

On a Field & Stream backpack,

and on another Field & Stream product.

MOLLE needs a friend to work well and we have the Talon Hook

an easy, adjustable way to connect 1″ webbing to the loops on your backpack, cooler bag or whatever.

We have Talon Hooks in stock, order some today

Nylon webbing in a marine enviroment

Get nylon webbing wet and what does it do? Shrink. Does this matter? It depends on your Coast Guard inspector.

Years ago we used to service inflatable life rafts. For quite some time a US Coast Guard inspector would spend all day at our shop overseeing what we were doing. Generally they knew what we were supposed to do and stayed out of the way unless they saw something questionable (either with the raft or our work).

Seattle was a training port so there were times we would get untrained inspectors. Either they used their time to learn or once in a while we would get someone who wanted to make our life difficult. One day we had one of the latter classification and he checked the rafts out we were working on, regulations in one hand, tape measure in the other. He came across an older raft that had been stowed in a very wet place on the vessel. The inspector went around the raft measuring the distance from the exterior grab line to the floor. When new there is a specification for this distance but on this raft the grab lines were too far off the floor.

The image above shows the black webbing grab lines and how they are supposed to hang down.

The inspector told us that he would not certify the raft until we had moved all the grab lines down so that the distance would comply with the regulations. He did not understand that nylon webbing shrinks when it gets wet, and this raft had been really wet. Also missing from his understanding was the specification was a manufacturing spec, not one for a raft that had been in service. Still he would not accept our reasoning and once again informed us that we must rectify the situation.

Several phone calls later the head of inspections in Washington, D.C. set the new inspector straight. He signed off the raft and we never saw him again.

So if you are designing a strap where the length is critical, consider the environment it will be working in. If you are using nylon webbing and it is going to get wet, allow for shrinkage.

Staking trees using web straps

The rainy season is upon us and some of your recently planted trees are leaning over due to really wet dirt or maybe strong winds (or a combination of both). The tree needs to be supported so it can grow straight up, unlike the one above.  In the past many have used wire to do the job. It is easy to work with and we usually have some laying around the house. While this is a quick fix, the tree won’t like it. Over time the wire will cut through the bark and in to the tree and then nutrients have no way to travel past, really damaging the tree.

Arborists tell us to provide padding wherever we support a tree. Wire passed through garden hose has been used or a couple of pieces of wood between the wire and the tree will also work. A simpler way is to use a web strap.

img_1616

Here we have a tree planted in a sidewalk cut out that has been staked using three ratchet straps. This allowed the tension on each strap to be easily and quickly set and adjusted if needed.  The way the webbing was attached to the tree is better than a single piece of wire but would not be good in the long term.

The National Forest Service does not allow tree attachment points for backcountry horse pickets or even hammock suspension to damage the bark. The minimum with webbing used to comply with this requirement is 2″ and that would be a good place for the homeowner to start.  A simple endless sling will protect your investment and provide a safe place (as far as your tree is concerned) to attach a rope, wire, ratchet strap or whatever you plan on using to get your tension. You could also use a single loop strap but this would require tying a knot in the webbing where you plan on attaching your tensioning device. We could also make you a strap with a loop in each end which would really be the best alternative. This way it could just go around the tree and not “choke” it. It would need to be placed above a limb so that it wouldn’t move down the tree as it sways in the wind.