ScrapHappy April 2021: Reel and Raspberries

The reel thing

The reel thing

The Snail and I walk the dogs every day, provided the weather isn’t so miserable that even the dogs are begging us not to drag them out. This has meant that, over the last year, we have been out twice almost every day. On our walks, we talk about pretty much anything and everything and also encounter some ‘useful’ items lying around.

One such conversation went pretty much along the lines of:

Snail: The raspberry canes need supporting with tree stakes and wires of some kind.

Me: Mmm… steaks…

Snail: We’ll get some tree stakes from the garden centre when they are allowed to open. Do you have anything in that pile of junk you laughingly call your office we could use for the wires?

Me (noticing a reel of old telecoms wire by the road, and then failing to pick it up): I’ll have a think about it. Can we have chips with the steak?

One such item was a reel of copper wire, left by OpenReach (the telephone maintenance people, for my non-UK reader). They had been upgrading the telephone cables to fibre, and this rejected reel had been left, unloved and unwanted, and finally abandoned against a wall awaiting further anthropomorphism. It was left longer than was necessary as I kept forgetting to pick it up on the way past.

Eventually, I did remember to pick it up and recognise that its wiry heart was perfect for the Snail’s task. Easy! Just remove the outer sheathing and extract the wires. What could be simpler?


Attempt #103 to strip the cable quickly (it didn’t)

Turns out, almost everything. It took me around eight hours to strip back the sheathing and pull out the wires. I used the workbench as a vice and then cut the sheathing every 10 cm or so (being careful not to nick the wires inside). After every three or so cuts, I pulled the sheathing off and started on the next section. It took quite a few attempts using a variety of tools before I came up with this method.


Using a workbench as a vice because using the vice as a vice didn’t work


Just when you thought my office couldn’t be any more messy…

Once all the wires were removed (some broke in the process), I wound the long pieces onto whatever was available – thread reels, and toilet roll middles.

A wired and weary face

A wired and weary face

There was a lot of waste – unfortunately, the cable sheathing is unusable. I might be able to melt it down but I don’t think it is very nice stuff, chemically speaking, so reluctantly it’s off to landfill. Boo.



Happily, there was more than sufficient wire for the raspberry canes and quite a bit left over for electronics projects or more plant restraint. Now I’m looking forward to fresh raspberries in my Kir Royale for breakfast, er, evening cocktails I mean…


These ScrapHappy posts are curated by Kate, who provides links to other (mostly sewing) ScrapHappy bloggers at Tall Tales from Chiconia on the fifteenth of every month. I have sneaked one or two non-fabric-based ScrapHappys in when no one was looking!

Lots of other happy scrappers contribute too, so check them out:

KateGun, EvaSue, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy,  Tracy, Jill,
Claire, Jan, Moira, Sandra, Chris, Alys,
Kerry, Claire, Jean, Jon (that’s me!), HayleyDawn,
Gwen, Bekki, Sue L, Sunny, Kjerstin,
Vera, Nanette, Ann, Dawn 2, Noreen,
Bear, Carol, Preeti and Edith

Categories: gardening, recycling, ScrapHappy, Sustainable Stuff | Tags: , , | 32 Comments

ScrapHappy March 2021: I just can’t stand it…

Many, many years ago, I built a water butt stand that steadfastly refused to do what any decent DIY project undertaken by an incompetent should do – completely collapse after five minutes. I know, that is decidedly NOT playing the game. I think I built the stand nearly twenty years ago when we installed our Window Operating Cistern *† (a hosepipe that you can open a window and pull in to fill the toilet cistern). The stand has had one or two minor repairs and this one is no exception, except it has an element of happy scrappiness to it.

You see the two bits of fresh wood that will be the new support on one side, replacing the rotten timber?

They were part of the packing around our new oven.

Some jiggery-pokery later and ta dah! Fixed. I even managed to reuse one or two of the screws. I guess when the other side goes, I’ll just order a new oven!


Reunited – water butt reconnected and looking a little like Borg‡


* Patent applied for

† Patent refused with the message “Stop sending us rubbish like this!”

‡ Alien assimilators rather than Swedish tennis players

Categories: recycling, repair, ScrapHappy | Tags: , , | 19 Comments

Mend It Monday: (It’s been) A Card Made Right

Looks like that must've hurt!

Looks like that must’ve hurt!

Some years ago, the Snail bought a new digital camera that was waterproof/shockproof/80% proof. Well, maybe not the last one but I needed three things for the list. Later came the purchase of a 16GB SD memory card, which we considered to be way bigger than we would ever need. And we were right.

In the early days, the Snail didn’t have a cable to connect the camera (via USB) to a computer to download the pictures, so would remove the card to put in a reader on her laptop. Over the years, the contacts on the card have worn away, to the point where they were drummed out of the International Contact Society for failing to live up to their essential tenet, at least inside the camera. That’s when a toothpick came to the rescue. Wedged between the card and the battery, it seemed to do the trick.

Until the other day.

The camera refused to accept that there was a card in the camera and was not going to enter into any other discussions because, deep down, the camera is, in fact, a computer.

The card itself would work in a USB card reader I had, so clearly it wasn’t completely beyond rescue.

Some frankly horrific use of a soldering iron later, and I had managed to flow some solder over the four most worn contacts whilst only melting a small chunk of the card’s body. In fact, so horrible does it look, I think the picture may need a warning notice on it.

The horror, the horror! Just, ugh, horrible. But it works!

The horror, the horror! Just, ugh, horrible. But it works!

And, in a turn up for books everywhere, it seems to work! It never needs to be removed again as we have USB cables around the place that fit, so hopefully, the other contacts won’t wear to the point of failure.

I wonder how many perfectly functional SD cards have gone to landfill because the contacts have worn through?



Categories: camera, repair, Sustainable Stuff | Tags: , , , | 15 Comments

ScrapHappy February 2021: Oven and Out

Our old, (t)rusty oven after 30 years of serviceOur old, (t)rusty oven after 30 years of service

Our old, (t)rusty oven after 30 years of service

Well, we persevered for probably a decade but, finally, I ordered a new oven…

When our house-to-be was built 30 years ago (see here for other 30-year-old stuff in Chez Snail), it was equipped with an oven and hob, because it was illegal back then not to supply a fitted kitchen having supplied the walls, roof, floors and general utilities*. I replaced the hob a long time ago as it was grim, but the oven… well, it still worked even though it did a good job of also heating the kitchen and in its last few years probably didn’t come anything close to its maximum temperature of 200°C. For a fan oven, its temperature distribution was, shall we say, uneven.

So, a shiny new oven arrives but what to do with the old one? Well, salvage some bits off it, of course! I decided that the electrics (heating elements, thermostat, fan motor) all deserved a good long rest, and that they could stay wrapped inside their metal shell for now. There were two pieces of glass that might prove useful for a cloche or the like, so I extracted them using that thing on a penknife you use for getting boy scouts out of horses’ hooves.


Glass from the past

Also, there was some wire that the Snail said would be useful for knitted things, and there were a couple of control knobs that might be handy. A little haul but the rest was going to be recycled so all, in all, not bad.


All that remains…

… and we have a new shiny oven to cook yummy things in! 


* No, it wasn’t.

Categories: recycling, ScrapHappy, Sustainable Stuff | Tags: , , | 17 Comments

Too Good to Go

1991 was a fine year for, er, me going to Dublin and buying sweat shirts

1991 was a fine year for, er, me going to Dublin and buying sweat shirts

In this weird world we live in, I am one of those people who likes to keep things as long as possible. Not for me the replacement of the perfectly functional gizmo with the newest sort that is probably slightly faster, or smaller, or a different colour. Nope, use things until they break is my motto. Well, one of them anyway.

I was reminded of this the other day when I went to put my gardening sweatshirt on – I bought it, along with another, in Dublin in 1991 so these garments are 30 years old. The one proclaiming the year is quite battered now, although its sibling is in much better shape as it hasn’t been worn as much (not sure why I favoured the one over the other). And they are still going.

In the middle of a VERY important upside-down calculation

In the middle of a VERY important upside-down calculation

So, then I thought, do I have anything older than the sweatshirt, that I bought new and still use? Of course! In fact, this is so old, there is an example in the Science Museum in London (read here of my discovery of it there). It is my trusty calculator, with the original Casio battery in it, new in 1980. A dodgy on/off button but still works, and I use it for VERY important things, as you can see above.


Convent Mice – Strawberry Mouse, Orange Mouse, Pink Mouse and Red Mouse

These mice have to be the oldest things that I have had since new. They were made by the nuns at the Clewer Convent near Windsor, Berkshire, UK. I visited there as my Dad used to take part in their annual celebration of being founded. I was six when I first went and was presented with Strawberry Mouse. I remember an amazing woman who I think was about 80 then, and who told me tales (while the grown-ups were doing churchy things) of when she lived in India. I am unsure what has happened to Strawbs’ tail in the intervening years. Naming was clearly not an issue for me back then – I used the “say what you see” method.

I see from the Wikipedia article about the Community of St John the Baptist, who were founded at Clewer, the order no longer occupies the church buildings. I also see that the order used to be known as the Sisters of Mercy, which is one of my favourite Leonard Cohen songs.

Do you have old things that were new when you first had them, but are still in use today?


Categories: General silliness, Sustainable Stuff | Tags: | 16 Comments

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