By Michelle Podolec
Springtime is just around the corner, with the hustle-bustle of warm weather activity and a chance to hop-to on your long list of outdoor tasks. These last few weeks of winter have us all peeking anxiously out windows, looking for the first break in the weather, and tapping our toes with impatience. However, it can be a great time to get to those long delayed improvements dreamed of during the busy days of last summer.
A quick project done in the long winter days can cut minutes out of a tedious summer chore. But sometimes you need a bit of a kick start to get the creative juices flowing – especially when a peek out at the snow-covered yard stunts the ability to think about that troubling broken item or intended improvement. Where can you go to research how to fix that broken old gate, or string up a new greener lighting system in the barn, or whip up a quick re-use on that pile of old paint buckets left over from last summer’s barn painting?
There are a wide variety of free and low cost resources to help inspire, instruct and educate on do-it-yourself adaptations for farm, home, shop, and equipment. The local library has piles of back issue magazines and stacks of manuals on plumbing, wiring, and carpentry. The internet provides a world-wide library of inventions, how-to manuals, inspirational photos, time-saving tips, and even step-by-step video instructions. And your own neighborhood (or family) may host a quick-witted tinkerer who always has a great idea or two stored up. So open up your junk drawer, grab your tools, and check out these fun fixin’ up, making do, quick fix, tinkering, and inventor centered resources before spring sets us all in motion!
Farm Hack: Do you have an invention you want to show off? Want to fix up your farm with a mechanical hack? Farm Hack offers a sociable new forum for farmers to share inventions, innovations, quick fixes and inspiration. Hosted by the National Young Farmers Coalition at http://www.farmhack.net
Mother Earth News: Available at a feed store near you or online, Mother Earth has a massive library of creative fixes for inside the house and out on the land. Look up do-it-yourself articles on everything from sharpening tools to an extensive collection of shed plans. http://www.motherearthnews.com/Do-It-Yourself.aspx
Make Magazine: Upcyclers (people who recycle ‘up’ by taking trash and making it over to a new use) love this eclectic modern magazine, available at bookstores or online. Check out the Projects articles to find out how to make a beehive, restore old tools, or create an automatic pet feeder using parts from an old VCR. Many strange and fun inventions to inspire your creativity! http://makeprojects.com/
Backwoods Home Magazine: A magazine meant for the homesteader, and filled with tons of practical ideas and how-to articles. Available at feed stores or for free through back issues available online – including a great article on how to make a light-weight metal chicken tractor in the January/February 2011 issue http://www.backwoodshome.com/previssue.html
Adafruit Industries The website of a very creative young woman who develops and sells project kits for a wide variety of useful and strange gadgets to pique your inner tinkerer. Contains many easy kits and online video tutorials suitable for beginning electronic tinkerers. http://adafruit.com/
Ohio State University Extension Bulletin: Each state has an extension service dedicated to helping spread innovation and education. Back bulletins and publications are a great source for farm and home improvement techniques and tips. http://ohioline.osu.edu/lines/ebull.html
YouTube: This internet video site is a never-ending source of funny, interesting, and educational videos. Try searching for homemade farm inventions – I found videos on how to make an automatic chicken door, small scale grain thresher, road grader, and a whole bunch of very funny how-NOT-tos. http://www.youtube.com
Have a favorite inspirational internet site, book, or magazine you’d like to share? Send us a note or email.
Michelle Podolec is the co-coordinator of the Northeast Beginning Farmer Project, a project of the Cornell Small Farms Program in Ithaca, NY. She may be reached at 607-255-9911 or firstname.lastname@example.org.