DIY: Plant Smashing

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Copy your favourite plants to canvas with only a hammer and tape! Great for all ages.

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You will need:

-Canvas material

-Masking tape (duck tape also works)

-A hammer

-Green plant leaves (nothing harmful for best results…)

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Tape the plant to the back of your piece of canvas- I choose one of my favourite’s- the sensitive fern. Use enough tape that the plant won’t move. Note: smashing leaves turns out better than flowers, which can create dubious looking results.

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Turn over the canvas and hammer one the non-plant side.

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It should start to look like this!

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Once you are done, remove the tape. Et voila! Your own piece of fabric with a plant “smashed” onto it.

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DIY Car Tire Planters

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Today I tried a new way to reuse tires: upcycled raised garden beds. And I am super pleased with the results!

Disclaimer: all of this is outrageously DIY. There are probably better ways to accomplish this… but here are the steps I took.

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Step 1: Find tire, clean tire. If you want the paint job to look decent, you can’t have a muddy tire.

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Step 2. Prime the tire. I used regular indoor/outdoor spray paint from a hardware store.

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Step 3. Drink beer Paint the tire with the desired colour. I choose blue. Because it’s nice.

Step 4. I made a makeshift platform for the tire. I wasn’t sure if I was happy with where I placed it, so I wanted the option to move it around. I made the platform with wood salvaged from my neighbor’s firewood pile (with permission). I left spacing between the planks for drainage.

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Step…. 5? Yes, step 5. I wanted to put something between the platform and the tire… and the closest thing around to accomplish this task was a garbage bag with holes in it. So I used that and put even more holes to ensure drainage.

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Step 6. Add soil and enjoy!!! I planted my tomato plants and colourful flowers to make the planter stand out.

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Yurts, Tides & Waterfalls (Bay of Fundy)

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Bay of Fundy National Park is worth the visit.

The first national park in New Brunswick boasts spectacular hiking trails, well kept campgrounds and facilities, and stunning views. The are a variety of sleeping arrangements available, including YURTS (which was obviously what we decided to stay in). The yurts were wonderful- clean & spacious. The beds were very comfortable (a bunk bed and a futon) with room for 5 people. There is also a table to play cards on and hang out inside the yurt- what luxury! And with propane heating, they are open year long (snowshoeing on the trails in the park? Yes please!). Just make sure to bring your own bedding and cooking supplies.

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Yurt #1: a fantastic view of the beach and rock cliffs where you can watch the ebbing tides.
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A view from inside yurt #2

There are 5 yurts to choose from. Yurts #1 and 2 are right by each other (~ 5 meters), so great for a large group hangout. They also have the best views. Yurt #3 has more privacy, and is further into the woods.

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Sitting in a muskoka chair, drinking my coffee (brewed with solar energy) with a view.

Bay of Fundy National Park has incredible biodiversity. From plants to birds, lichen to mammals (we saw a momma deer and her two tine fawns. I almost overloaded on cuteness), there is something for everyone to freak out over. We were a group of 8 nature loving researchers, so a 4km walk took us a bit longer than predicted. One trail we did was called the ‘Thrid Vaults Fault’ trail, and you are rewarded at the end with a stunning waterfall (and plenty of nice little nooks to eat lunch in).

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The waterfall. Great place to hang out and explore for an afternoon

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There were also plenty of opportunities to take great pictures 🙂

But of course, the real draw to Bay of Fundy is the tides. So after spending the better part of a day exploring the trails that the park had to offer, we finally headed off to see some tidal action. Hopewell Rocks was closed (by a big gate an a security guard), but we did make it out to Cape Enrage which was beautiful and free!

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If you ever make it out to the East Coast, check out Fundy National Park and Cap Enrage: they are great places to explore.

How to Make a Solar Powered Coffee Maker

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My first ever attempt at making a solar powered household appliance.

Things you will need:

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1: Solar panel

2: Deep cycle marine battery

3: Charge controller

4: DC/AC inverter

5: Coffee machine

(not shown) Battery box

You can buy all of this at Canadian Tire.

 

Solar panels: for this project I have one 12 volt solar panel that can generate up to 80 amps (in ideal conditions). You can add more solar panels to your system by connecting their wires together (+ to +, – to -). See this link.

The amount of solar panels/amps that you need depends on how many watts you want your system to generate.  How to convert solar panel amps to watts

Batteries: make sure it is a 12v deep cycle marine battery. Has to be deep cycle and not just starting.

Charge controller: important for ensuring you don’t overcharge your battery.

DC/AC inverter: solar panels create DC energy, and coffee machines run in AC. So… you’ll need a converter. MAKE SURE that your inverter can handle the amount of watts necessary for the coffee machine.

Coffee machine: most coffee machines run at around 900watts because of the warmer (check bottom of box or machine to find out). My system runs on 500 watts, so I bought a coffee machine that runs on that (it makes 1 cup at a time and has no warmer). If you want to plug in a toaster or anything else, you’ll need a system that runs at at least 800watts.

TADA. Lots of equipment for a single cup of coffee…. but this coffee will taste like success!

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How to connect everything:

Solar panel -> charge controller

Charger controller -> battery

Battery -> converter

Converter -> coffee maker

Coffee maker -> happy face 🙂

Discussion

The main problem I ran into was that I didn’t buy an inverter that could handle enough watts for the original coffee maker that I purchased. I’m going to look into buying a different inverter and hooking up an extra solar panel (because having a coffee maker AND a toaster in the field would be amazing)

References:

How to hook up solar panels to batteries

Iceland

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My summary of Iceland: Go to Iceland. Awesome landscapes. Try the fish.

Iceland was my final destination. I flew with Icelandic Air (which is an awesome airline) and it didn’t cost me anything extra to stay in Reykjavik for a few extra nights before flying back to Toronto. Tip- choose the front row in the airplane. There are t.v screen under your seat, and lots and lots of leg room for no extra charge. Plus you might get to be the first person off the place which is kind of exciting if you are like me & easily amused!! & I was the first person off the plane… which I was super stoked about.

I loved Iceland. As a geography nerd, there was so much to keep me entertained/ occupied. I stayed at the Loft Hostel- great location, and a beautiful new place (renovated early 2013). Iceland is an expensive place to visit & I definitely spent the most money there. But so worth it. I chose to do a Northern Lights tour, and managed to catch a glimpse of them. Spectacular & beautiful, but low probability of seeing them. You get to take the tour as many times as you want until you see them, but I wouldn’t recommend doing a tour if you are there for only a couple of nights… unless you don’t mind gambling 50-70 Canadian for a chance to see them. Thanks to James from Iceland for image 9 of the Northern Lights!

I really wanted to visit a geothermal energy plant while I was there. So I signed up for the Green Energy/ Golden Circle Tour with the company Sterna. The guide was incredible- knew SO much about his country (the ONLY mammal native to Iceland is the Arctic Fox), and an excellent driver. The weather there changes every 5 minutes, and there were moments when you couldn’t see a couple of meters in front of you on the roads. We saw 3-4 cars in the ditches (everyone was OK), so a good driver is definitely something to be grateful for. The Golden Circle Tour is very popular- you get to go to the National Park were the two continental plates are diverging (SO COOL), see a geyser, epic waterfalls, and other beautiful parts of the Icelandic landscape. But doooo the tour with the green energy component! The geothermal energy plants was really neat (picture 5). 90% of homes in Iceland are heated by geothermal energy, and it is so cheap that some sidewalks are heated and when homes are too hot, people tend to open windows instead of turning down the heat. It’s something like a couple hundred dollars per year for heating.

Image 1 shows a delicious fish meal that we tried in Reykjavik. Dish out some money to try Icelandic fish- it is so tasty. My meal was called “hashed fish”- fish covered in cheese. Yum.  Image 7 shows us trying shark- which tasted like strong cheese. The texture was way too strange for me. Also, most of the shark hunting in Iceland is sustained by tourists. So a little dubious to be supporting it. I also meet a wonderful English family who took me in for the day during the Golden Circle/ Green Energy Tour. We tried fish soup, which was also delicious. Hooray fish!

Image 2 shows Iceland at 10:30 AM- Sunrise was 11:30 and sunset at 4, which was crazy, but also beautiful in  a way. Image 3 I took while wandering around the harbour of downtown Reykjavik. Image 3 is a church were you can climb to the top for an epic view.

Here is a random fact about Iceland: they are almost self sufficient on their produce imports, growing lots in greenhouses powered by geothermal energy (but food is still expensive). Each town that has these greenhouses has video cameras that take your picture when you enter the town. The reason for this is that the only people who are allowed to own grow lights are the greenhouse owners, so a lot of pots growers break in to steal them. According to the amount of lamps stolen, there is a crazy amount of pot currently being grown in the country.