Friday, December 18, 2015

Living By The Scientific Method

It's funny, the things that happen in your life that have an impact.  I try my darnedest to remember some things and can't retrieve them from my memory bank no matter how hard I try.  Then there are other things that I remember for no good reason at all.  Don't laugh now, but I remember learning the scientific method in seventh grade.  Without realizing it, I use it often.  In fact, I used it today.

I think I missed my calling in life.  I should have opened a business called "Barb's Small Appliance Repair".  Yes, I just saved another small appliance from the dump.  This time it was a small inexpensive humidifier.  As winter approaches in Wisconsin, we switch from dehumidifying the humid summer air to adding humidity when the furnace dries out the winter air.  It was time to run a humidifier in our bedroom.  I retrieved it from the basement and set it up.  It ran all night, but when I got up in the morning, I stepped on wet carpet.  The darn thing was leaking.  This is where the scientific method comes into place.  That is a better approach to saying "What the H...".

1.   Ask a question:

 Why was our wet carpet?

2.   Do background research:

Ask husband if this had happened before.  Look to see if the wet carpet could have come from another source.

3.  Construct a hypothesis:

First I looked for possible causes of the problem.  Since we don't have a pet to pee on the floor and the carpet was wet under the humidifier,  I hypothesized that either the unit was leaking or the mist was condensing on the floor.

4.  Test your hypothesis by doing an experiment:

I split the humidifier into two sections.  The first was the water tank itself.  I added water and set it on the counter.  A half hour later I checked for leakage.  No water had leaked out of the tank.  Next I put water in the base unit and followed the same procedure.  Walla, a large puddle of water appeared on the counter.

5.  Analyze your data and draw a conclusion:

Since the water leaked out of the base unit, I concluded that is where the problem was.

 6.  Report your results.  Was your conclusion correct?

Since I knew the source of the problem, I looked for a way to examine the unit.  I saw six screws were holding the plastic lower section to the upper section of the base.  I got a screwdriver and removed those screws.  The bottom came off easily.  Inside the unit I could see there was only one place where water could be leaking through.  It was covered by another plate secured with three screws.  I removed those screws and saw a small disk surrounded by a gasket.  I loosened the gasket and cleaned some lime deposits and grit from it.  I reassembled everything.  I figured I hadn't dried the unit out completely when I put it away last Spring.  The water had evaporated and left the residue.  I tested the humidifier again.  I filled it with water, and I turned it on.  Everything looked good, but just to be safe I put it on a rubber mat.  The kind you put wet winter boots on.  In case it leaked, the carpet would remain dry.  I ran a whole gallon of water and everything is fine. 

Who would think that lessons I learned in seventh grade would help me in life.  Without realizing it, every problem can be solved this way.  It eliminates knee jerk reactions and second guessing.  In most things the process is quick but for more difficult things it is a logical approach to decisions.  At least it works for me.  Some people thrive on drama and the excitement of the unknown.  The jump in with both feet approach works for some, but not for me and I have a $30 humidifier that didn't get thrown into the land fill.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

What Is A "Real" Tree?

When my daughters were young we always put up a "real" Christmas tree.  Sometimes we would go to the woods and cut one down or go to the Christmas tree lot for the perfect tree.  Then my youngest daughter started to develop allergies to the tree.  It was probably the dust and pollen that remained on the needles as opposed to the pine or fir itself.  We decided we needed to buy an artificial tree.  I didn't like doing it at first.  All my life we had fresh Christmas Trees.  Then I realized it was a "real" tree because of what it symbolized.  I imagine the harmful chemicals emitted by the plastic tree was probably more harmful than the pollen, but the immediate effects were gone.  Also gone was the stress of getting the tree (which was always way too large) into a stand.  I wanted it straight even if the main branch was more crooked than a dog's hind leg.  The third reason was that it didn't need watering, so the left over needles on the floor and the fire hazard were eliminated.  So forevermore we have had artificial Christmas trees.  They have come a long way with how they look and the ease of putting them together.  In the past, each branch had to be inserted into the proper slot.  If you did it wrong the shape would be out of wack. They were color coded but that wore off so each branch had to be marked for the next year.  Now they just snap into place and look almost alive.  The only gripe I have is they smell like nothing as opposed to a nice fresh spruce smell.   Recently I was able to somewhat solve that problem.

Hidden away on my tree are some decorations I made.  I put the gingerbread man front and center so you can see it.  I have some other smaller stars and trees made the same way.

This is what I did.  First I purchased this product.  It is air dry clay by Crayola.  This one comes in the terracotta color similar to gingerbread.  It also comes in white and probably other colors.  There are also other brands at the craft store, but this was the least expensive.

I found some cookie cutters that were open on each end.  I tried the regular type cutter, and I couldn't get the clay out.  I needed to push the clay through.  It is quite sticky.  It also needs to be rolled out like sugar cookie dough but quite thick or it will break.  I would roll them to at least 3/8 inch thick.

Use this type of cookie cutter.

Not this type.  The clay sticks in the grooves.

After the clay is cut out, some type of indentations need to be put in the shape.  These indentations hold the essential oil which is put on after the ornaments are dry although the porousness of the ornament will also absorb the oil.

It takes about three days for the clay to dry.  Don't move it too soon.  I did with the star and the tip broke off.  I wet it a little and pushed it back together.  I didn't touch it again until it was completely dry.  So far so good, but there are no guarantees.  Also make a hole in the top when the clay is wet.  You can use the hole to put a hanger through for hanging on the tree.  A downside is clean up.  The terracotta color stains so cut out and dry on parchment or freezer paper.  Wash the cookie cutters right away or you will have to scrub.  A dishwasher comes in handy for this.  Then cleaning is not a problem.

When the ornaments are completely dry,  put some drops of essential oil in the grooves or anywhere on the ornament.  I used evergreen oil on the first two.  It smelled a little musty using it straight.  I have been playing with other woodsy oils.  I added some eucalyptus which helped a little but I'm not there yet.  Maybe a little peppermint will work.  It is all personal preference.  One container of clay will make many ornaments, plus I am sure they will last from year to year.  Next Christmas you can just refresh the oil and your work is all done.

I even put a little essential oil on the pine cones and the trees in my villages.