I just returned from our Local Growers Guild January potluck where we each brought a favorite tool for “show and tell.” My own favorite is a digging/whacking tool that a neighbor gifted to the GANG garden. (At Menards for $10!) It really fits my hand. My only gripe: handle is green, makes it impossible to find if I put it down. Why not neon orange? I keep thinking I’ll buy some neon orange tape . . .
Lots of other tools, none of them electric, all of them ingenious, many very old. One woman talked about her grandfather’s hammer. Another showed his specialized hand hoe that a local metalworker had made, of beautifully molded copper. And we talked about how to sharpen tools, and of course “it all depends.” Knives? Usually sharpen both sides of the blade. Other tools, like grafting cutters (for trees limbs): only one side, the beveled side. (I had to ask what the word “beveled” means.) For those dried-out wooden handles? Linseed oil is good, it soaks in and doesn’t leave a greasy smear. But: not good for lubrication.
All the little details of fixing and maintaining useful tools for a post-modern world that relies less on hi-tech and more on skill, manual labor, love, and connectedness.
Then we took a walk around Renaissance Farm, Keith Johnson’s and Peter Bane’s 1.5 acre permaculture farmstead where the potluck was held, in a second story room on their newly built tool shed with almost-completed double composting toilet. Two greenhouses, two cisterns, root cellar, bees, ponds, a grey-water system, fruit trees, berries, vegetables and flowers, on and on. Always something new every time I wander out there. Renaissance Farm is also the home of the Permaculture Activist and Peter’s new book, The Permaculture Handbook, should not only be on everybody’s coffee table, but, over time, well-thumbed.
Peter also wrote the fantastically detailed and imaginative Food section of the Peak Oil Task Force Report for Bloomington, filed at the city.gov site. This report is the vision-holder for what is possible and necessary for our fair city as we learn how to move forward into a new/old world of abundance for all. Check it out, it might be the template for your town, too.
As we move forward there are going to be a lot of new opportunities to exchange energy, whether part of that energy be money or otherwise: in terms of “fix-it”: just imagine how many “handymen” we’re going to need. Seamstresses, shoemakers, mechanics, woodworkers, of all kinds. Plus, I have a feeling that 10% of our population will need to be involved with food production at some level. On tiny farms, or in yards, or parks. Working with and for the earth, the soil. That should take all the extra pounds off, return us to physical health, and re-set our feverish minds. And oh yeah, remind us of our interconnectedness with all that is.
A while ago I saw an article from the Minneapolis Star Tribune reprinted in our local paper. This afternoon I remembered it and googled “fix-it clinics.” Sure enough, another newspaper had picked up the same article yesterday. Here you go.
January 19, 2013
by Kim Ode
Minneapolis Start Tribune via dailyherald.com
The table lamp, with its fizzling light bulbs, was built like a tank and about as attractive. Its base was so heavy that not even the cats could knock it over — and therein lay its beauty.
Reason enough for Molly Ross of Edina, Minn., to set it before a group of people who know how to fix fizzling lamps and recalcitrant toasters and unpredictable boom boxes.
They’re the volunteers for a Fix-It Clinic, an effort begun last year by Hennepin County in Minnesota. Clinics have a three-pronged approach: One, a repaired gadget is one less gadget tossed in the trash. Two, you can learn to do your own troubleshooting and repair work. Three, you get to meet some really smart and generous people, and that’s not a wasted Saturday, even if your toaster never works again.
The effort is itself part of an international movement that began about four years ago in the Netherlands. A similar group called the Fixers Collective started in the New York borough of Brooklyn.
Here’s how Fix-It Clinics work: Bring in small appliances, electronics, mobile devices, even clothing that needs mending. Volunteers guide you through the repair process, helping you figure out where the problem may lie and the possible solutions.
“I already do this all the time,” said Jimmy Lynch, a volunteer who also is a member of Twin Cities Maker, a community group that, in a nutshell, makes stuff and shares skills. “I like the idea of self-reliance,” he said, adding that his dad taught him most of what he knows. “Every weekend, we’d be Dumpster-diving or going to garage sales to find stuff to fix.”
Lynch nabbed the challenge of Ross’ fizzling lamp, whose two bulbs wouldn’t stay lit at once. Lynch and Paul Dingels removed the base, but the problem wasn’t there.
Then, to the sockets, which stymied them at first. Finally, they reached the innards. “Looks like someone did a good job of splicing at one time,” Dingels said. They tested the charge with a meter, then rewound the wiring, resembling surgeons bent over a patient. Dingels placed a probe on one socket, unexpectedly sending a small arc of sparks across the table.
“Science!” Lynch declared, before he and Dingels agreed to better communicate when the lamp was plugged in. Within a few minutes, they’d achieved success.
Around the room, other resuscitation projects were under way.
Anita Urvina-Davis gave Kelly Wilder a lesson in mending a rip in a pair of sturdy Carhartt jeans. It’s a skill she’d learned years ago when her father brought home an old sewing machine from the Salvation Army — evidence that parents modeling good behavior actually works.
Not everything proved salvageable. A toaster with a disobedient lever was eventually decreed, well, toast. The same fate loomed for a boombox that Daniel Runion of Minneapolis brought, complaining that its volume would inexplicably fade.
Tyler Cooper set about removing 17 screws, which led to the first rule of home repair: Keep track of the tiny stuff.
Cooper figured the problem was in the switch, but doubted that a replacement was available, given the boombox’s age. (Once, when the volume came up, the room filled with the Doobie Brothers’ “China Grove.” “Does that only play tunes from the ’70s?” someone cracked. Runion just nodded.)
Cooper considered soldering the switch in place, but kept worrying over the contacts board until finally surmising that the sound vibrations eventually were causing the switch to shift. At this point, it was clear that some repair tips are beyond the realm of being casually passed from expert to owner. Cooper made a fine-tuned fix, then set about the complexity of reassembly.
“You are the man!” Runion told him, later explaining that while he knows he’s gotten fair use from his boombox, “I hate to throw away anything that still has a function. My kids think I’m a pack rat, but really, I just hate consumerism.”
Nancy Lo, who coordinates the clinics, said the fix-it movement is growing nationwide, with similar efforts in the San Francisco Bay Area, New York City and Seattle. In St. Paul, Minn., a business called the Fixity (gofixity.com) opened last year, with the motto, “Fix it, don’t nix it!”
Lo said that while her goal is to see landfills filled less quickly, “I really think the main value is that people are leaving with the confidence to try and see if something can be fixed.”
She talked about a couple who brought in an antique radio that, having been dropped, no longer worked. “He watched the whole process, getting to see the inside of the radio and how they got it working again using the spring of a ballpoint pen,” Lo said.
Later, when the radio again stopped working, he felt like he knew enough to open it up and nose around. That time, the problem simply was a loose speaker wire, which he easily fixed.
“But if he hadn’t worked on it before, he wouldn’t be any the wiser,” Lo said. “We just gave him the confidence.”
Scripps Howard News Service