Caffeine: the most potent artificial intelligence drink!

Caffeine: the most potent artificial intelligence drink!
Deep in the Lair of the Perpetually Curious Fox

Monday, 20 February 2012

Deer hock pouch iteration 3

Deer bone button

Twisted tea tanned leather strap

Nearly done

Running seam for attaching strap to side of pouch
Bone button on leather cord, with glass beads

Tea tanned leather Button loop on the flap.

Very BLING name panel! Glass seed beads on tea tanned leather

Taaa daaa! Be the envy of your friends

OK I suck at beading. Hahaa

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Castanea dentata ... the American Chestnut

I've managed to obtain some seeds for the endangered American Chestnut (Castanea dentata) species last fall, and proceeded to cold stratify some and plant some. Hopefully by spring there'll be more ... at least as houseplants.

They normally survive on the more humid regions of North America (Eastern states, including Eastern Canada). The plant was nearly wiped out as a species due to the import of Asian chestnuts lumber and plants (and their corresponding parasites, specifically the Chestnut Blight), which C.dentata has no immunity to.

Right now the seedling looks a bit tatty and leggy due to the inadequate lumens of my indoor grow light that I use to overwinter some plants .... but hey, it's kinda neat "hatching" an endangered species in your basement! Of course, I've named it Cocot, after my good friend in Ireland. The chestnut seedling is the leggy one in the middle.

The two other seedlings on either sides are sunflowers, just so I can have a measure of how "healthy" the amount of light and water (and temperature) the pot is getting.

To find out more about the American chestnut story, go read it here 

Just thought I'd add a few more recent photos of the chestnut seedling now ( 20th Feb 2012). I have a few more seeds cold stratifying in the fridge and about 7 more germinating in various mediums. Planning to go looking for new places to plant them where they can be appreciated by the local fauna.

2nd of March ... getting bigger by the day. Starting to take it outside to have a bit of real sunshine.

Also starting some more chestnut seedlings ...

If you find a chestnutty looking tree in your vicinity, and are wondering if you have stumbled upon the rare species, this website will help you identify the greenling. If you're lucky, it's the rare one, and do help re-populate it in it's native land!

Identifying Chestnut species

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Phasianus colchicus mongolicus; Phil and Lizzie the Mongolian Ringnecked Pheasants

After evading my camera for months, finally I managed to get a shot at the Mongolian Ringnecked Pheasant that's been making its home in the neighbourhood for months.

This flashy chap was a released pheasant from the nearby pheasant reserve south of town. No, I won't eat him either. He's too amusing to be eaten. In fact, he's called Phil.

Maybe I'll get a hen pheasant for him in the spring, seeing that he's built several nests around here, and been squawking and preening for a mate for a while ...  :)

Update 6th March 2012

Phil has managed to call in a hen to share the territory with him... but at a price - an off-leash dog managed to snap at him injuring one of his leg

For obvious reasons, I've decided to name the pheasant hen "Lizzie"
A couple of videos shot today ... of Lizzie feeding off the bird feeder scatters, and of Phil patrolling his territory on one leg. Maybe I should rename him Long John Silver.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Snow day

I am fond
Of Hydrogen Bonds

The gently falling flakes of snow
Flitting and dancing when the wind blow
But did you know, what makes the beautiful snow?

When Hydrogens meets the Oxygen treat
and the electrons start to dance to a different beat
To make the valence loop complete

How very bizzare! Two gases they were
Now Dance together as life giving water
Without which, none of us would be here.

Now you know, the hypnotic of snow
Goes well to show
Why I am fond
Of Hydrogen Bonds.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Even Pets deserve classy leather goods ^_^

Well, I had this strip of holey deer skin trimmed from WT hide that went into the bark bath .... and I have a very bad habit of not liking to throw away things (hoarding deer bits!!) so it ended up being a braided leather pet collar.

Very nice one, too, if I may say so for myself!

Hmmm maybe I should emboss a mock logo "Mew Mew" or "Paw-da" but will I get sued by Miu Miu and Prada?

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Deer neck skin + tea + deer sinew = Phone Holster [HTC Desire]

While waiting for the grain off hide in the tea bucket to take up the nice brown colour, I decided to make something else from the sample piece of tea tanned leather .... 

First, grab yourself a deer neck skin; if it's rawhided, rehydrate it. If it's frozen, thaw it out. If it's still on a live deer "ketch da deer, killit an skinit". In my case it was frozen with the hair still on, so into a bucket of soapy room temperature water it goes!

After you wash out the blood, goo, rutty smell, dirt, etc ... dry off the hair side (hair dryer, roll up in a towel, whatever works for you) and tack it on a flat board to dry out the flesh side.

Once dry, scrape off membrane, dried "hide snot", and other superfluous tissues.

While waiting for the piece to dry out, take all the used tea leaves (teabags, too!) and boil yourself a nice tub of tea liquor. Doesn't have to be extra strong for the first soak, just strong enough to discourage rot.

In about a week, the hair will start to slip - if you have the solution too strong, it'll take longer or won't slip at all. Rub your fingers to remove the hair and epidermis but leave the grain intact. If you're using really acidic tannin source (like spruce bark, say) soak it in plain water for 3-4 days to slip the hair first before you tea it.

3 days later. Nice golden colour to the leather's grain side

After a month, the leather has struck through - not "full" of tannin, but the centre of the skin is golden-orangey hued instead of bluish white of untanned leather. Take the piece out of the bath, and give it a good rinse with plain water to wash out unfixed tea tannins.

Grain side - golden brown!

Flesh side - deep cocoa!
Roll the piece up in a small towel to drain off excess moisture, then rub in the leather mayo (1/3 soap + 2/3 oils) into the flesh side. Work it in well until it's slightly oily (the fibres will absorb the oils as it dries). The flesh side will darken into a nice mahogany colour.

Here's where I did something really stupid - DON'T LET WET TANNIN LEATHER COME INTO CONTACT WITH METAL! IT WILL STAIN!!!

Well, good thing stains does not affect the function. Now I tacked the piece flat on the boar, grain side out, and rolled a smooth rounded glass object (marble, jam jar, crystal ball, etc) on the grain, pressing down, so it'll dry flat and have a tighter look. Then, to increase waterproofing, rub in a good dollop of dubbin.

Look at how the grain compares to an "unrolled grain" leather. It's from the same piece of neck skin, treated using the same tea bath, but was let dry un-tacked and un-rolled.

here comes the phone holster makin' bit. Cut out a paper pattern of your phone holster and place it on the leather bit. This is to maximise leather use and reduce wastage - plus it'll let you figure out how to cut the leather.
Obviously, make sure the paper pattern does form a holster shape and fit your phone.
Make a "body double" of your phone using thick hard cardboard - make sure the dimensions match, as we will use it in the final form fitting stage! Draw funny pictures on it to amuse yourself, if you're easily bored like me.

Now cut the paper pattern open, lie it flat on the leather and use binder clips to secure it in place while you cut out the leather bits.

Taa daaa! Front panel, back panel and belt loop.

Sew on the belt loop first, before you stitch the sides. Tea tanned grain on leather is really hard, so poke holes with an awl, or any sharp pointy things you have so you don't break your needle. Also help if you soak the leather in water for 30 mins or so, to soften it a bit.

I actually used real deer sinew that I harvested from the deer's main quadriceps muscle. Pound the dried sinew to separate the fibres, then pop it in your mouth (yes, I did! Taste like deer jerky) and chew it to moisten and soften it. The sinew is very strong stuff, and has natural glues that will keep the stitches tight and waterproof as it dries.

All the sewing done!

Now here is where you need the cardboard phone. When the leather holster is still moist, soft and pliable, stuff the phone's body double into it and let it dry overnight. The leather will shrink and harden, and conform to the shape of the cardboard phone, ensuring a perfect fit to your real phone!

Will continue when I figure out the clasp! So there you go - 2 hours of leather cutting and sinew sewing, and you have yourself a primitive lookin' phone holster, made from genuine deer leather!