111 Cardoons, Medlars and Hipster Toilets

On the podcast this week, Kelly and I read and respond to listener questions and comments about cardoons, medlars and Toto’s Eco Promenade toilet! Here’s some links to the topics we rap about:

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What’s Buried in Your Backyard?

I hate digging. Around the Root Simple compound, if you dig deeper than six inches and you hit a layer of hard packed clay entwined with tree roots and chunks of concrete. At least my digging efforts yield the artifacts of previous inhabitants in addition to the raw material for adobe ovens.

While recovering from a bad cold this weekend I fell deep into the hole that is the Historic Glass Bottle Identification and Information Website created by a retired Bureau of Land Management Rangeland Management Specialist, Bill Lindsey. While the bulk of the internet consist of intemperate tweets and cats, it still has useful information like Lindsey’s bottle website which was created to, “assist archaeologists with the dating, identification and classification of historic bottles and bottle fragments located during cultural surveys and excavations.” You can lose a lot of hours on this site marveling at the design details and uses of old bottles. There’s a handy page for dating bottles, scans of antique bottle catalogs, and page after page of bottle types.

My unintended archaeological efforts have yielded no Spanish doubloons, viking graves or Anasazi ruins, but I have found lots of glassware, mostly broken milk bottles. I’ve also discovered what I think are cheap perfume bottles like the one above. If you know what this bottle contained please leave a comment. I suspect perfume, because this tiny bottle has a very narrow, flow restricting opening.

What have you found while digging on your homestead?

Saturday Tweets: Cactus Confit, Fissionable Poker and a Lion knight Riding a Unicorn


The World’s Most Beautiful Font?

The Futility Closet podcast had an interesting episode a few weeks back that told the story of the creation of what many consider to be the most beautiful font ever designed: Doves type. In 1913 the type’s creator, Thomas James Cobden-Sanderson, threw the typeface into the Thames rather than let it fall into the hands of his unscrupulous business partner.

Designer Robert Green spent years attempting to recreate the font. Unsatisfied with the results, he went to the bridge that Cobden-Sanderson had stood on while pitching tons of typeface. Over one hundred years later in the shallow, muddy waters at the base of the bridge, Green found enough Doves typeface to perfect his digital recreation. You can now purchase Doves font through Green’s website.

Something should also be said for Cobden-Sanderson’s bookbinding skills.

William Morris made some equally impressive printing achievements with his Kelmscott Press, a last ditch effort to hold back the tides of industrialized mediocrity. I found a list of Kelmscott Press facsimiles that you can view online including John Ruskin’s The Nature of Gothic : A Chapter of The stones of Venice.

Call me fuddy-duddy, but I think the Cobden-Sanderson/Morris Arts and Crafts posse have a few things left to tell us about the importance of beauty in our lives.

Why You Should Own an Impact Driver

Drill on left, impact driver on right.

Drill on left, impact driver on right.

How did I spend so many years without knowing the liberating power of the impact driver? How many needlessly stripped screws have abused my patience? How long has the madness of switching bits out on my under-powered drill mocked my home repair progress? Why did I not gift myself an impact driver sooner?

A cousin to those “rat-tat-tat” noise-making impact wrenches found at the auto garage, an impact driver is mostly for driving home screws (or a rough hole in recalcitrant wood). An impact driver works like a normal drill up until the point it starts to encounter resistance. At that point an anvil engages to increase torque. It’s not to be confused with a hammer drill, used for drilling holes in concrete and masonry. A hammer drill taps down the length of the bit, whereas a impact driver’s internal hammer is used to increase torque, i.e. rotation. The increased power of a impact driver means fewer stripped screws and less muscle fatigue. The two disadvantages are the need for more expensive forged steel (rather than cast steel) accessories and the fact that impact drivers make a lot of noise. They also only work with 1/4″ hex shank bits and have a collet instead of a keyless chuck. As for the noise, you’ll definitely wake up the night clubbing members of the household if you begin work early.

If you’re an urban homesteader type planning to do a lot of chicken coop/shed building type projects I would highly recommend owning both a drill and an impact driver. That way, you can drill pilot holes and then drive the screw with your impact driver without having to constantly change bits on your drill. And the increased power of an impact driver means your arm will be less sore after a day’s work. When my corded drill started to give out I replaced it with a Milwaukee M12 12-volt driver and drill. You can buy these two as a kit or separately. If you’re manufacturing cabinets all day you’ll probably want to go with an 18-volt tool but, for most of us, a 12-volt drill and impact driver is all you need. I like the compactness of the Milwaukee M12 even though it means charging the batteries more often.