Animal in the Backyard at Night

A while back Karrie bought me a trail camera, also known as a deer cam.  In simple terms it's a camera that you mount on something, like a tree, pointing toward an area you want to watch.  When the motion sensors detect movement it will take a picture.  There are also infrared lights that will flash at night to take pictures in the dark. It uses infrared because a normal flash will scare away animals and they might not pass by again.

The cam that Karrie got me is a really nice one, it takes pictures and videos.  You can change several of the settings depending on what you want it to do.  
  • Active just during the day, just at night or 24 hours. 
  • Photos or videos
  • High, med or low quality
  • variable delay between shots

I first decided to test it out up north in the Huron National Forest.  So i walked way back into the woods and put it on a tree near an active deer trail. Here it is set up on the tree.  The top circle is the camera lens, surrounded by the infrared LED flash.  The white center circle is the motion sensor.  It has lights on either side that will flash red or green to let you know that it took a picture.  The green screen at the bottom is where you change the settings.  Underneath is the battery and control compartment, it's waterproof and also holds the SD card.
deer cam, trail cam, setup on tree, strap, how to, infrared, night

The bad thing was that i was only at the cottage for the weekend so the camera was only set up for 24 hours.  During that time nothing went in front of the camera and it didn't take any pictures.  I didn't want to leave it there for a month, i was afraid someone would take it, so i took it down. 
how to set up a trail cam, deer camera, setup on tree, strap, point, align

Anyway here were some other pictures i took of the small pond back in the woods.
forst lake, pond, huron national forest, lake, clouds, lillypads

I think i used the homemade ND filter on this one.
forest lake, ND filter, water, lillypads, clouds, reflection

When i got home i decided to set it up in the backyard.  I put some cheeseballs in front of the camera to use as bait.  Here's a squirrel that passed by.  You can see at the bottom that it took the picture at 3:47PM.
trail cam squirrel, cheeseballs, bait, time, yard, backyard

The next morning i noticed all the cheeseballs were gone.  When i looked at the pictures i saw this.  Whatever it was came by at 9:35PM.  I thought it might have been a cat or raccoon or something.
unknown animal on trail cam, camera, deer, opossum, raccoon

So the next night i set it up in the back corner of the yard.  But this time i set the camera to video mode.

Sorry for the weird video quality.  It looks fine on my computer but when i upload the trail cam video's to youtube it gets that strange pink and blue lines on the bottom.

Anyways at 11PM at night an opossum walked in front of the camera.  In fact that same animal came by at 11PM, midnight, 2AM and 4AM.  It must like cheeseballs as much as me.

It's really fun setting up the camera and then discovering what walks by at night.  I can't wait to set it up at the cottage again to try and find out what time animals pass by a certain area.  For example, there may be a heavily traveled deer trail in a particular area and you might think it would be a great spot to hunt.  But then when you set up a deer cam you might see that the deer only walk through there at 2AM.  And it might turn out to only be small doe's.  

The trail camera is kind of like a spy cam for the woods.  It will let you know who, what, where and when somethings passing by. 


How to Build a Shelf for the Garage

Winter is coming.

Which means that it's time to clean out the garage, or else it will never get done.  Actually i wanted to make room so that Karrie could park her car in there and not be covered in snow.  A few months ago it was completely packed full of stuff.  Since then i've given away my old broken Snapper riding lawn mowers and a bunch of other junk.  I also moved some boxes to the basement, cleaning that mess is definitely a job to be done this winter.  But for the rest of the stuff, i decided that a big wood shelf was needed to store it all.
google sketchup garage shelf, wood shelf for garage tools, wood shelf design 
Now i could have just bought plastic shelves at Meijer or Lowe's but they are expensive and wouldn't provide as much space.  I have a couple of really nice heavy-duty plastic shelves in the basement.  They are great for small stuff but the wood shelves i planned on building would be stronger, larger and cost a lot less.

A few weeks ago i made a tool rack for all the garden tools and hung that on the wall in the garage.  So far it's been great.  The big PVC pipes are easy to use and strong.
garage shelf, tool rack, garden tools, hang on wall, shovel, snow shovel, rake, broom

Seeing how well this tool rack worked out gave me an incentive to get the rest of the stuff in the garage cleaned up.

My plan was to build four 8 foot shelves made of pine 2x4's and OSB (oriented strand board - sometimes called particle board).  8 foot just makes sense because there will be less cutting since they all come in 8 foot sections. I decided to use 2x4's because they are cheap.  And decided on OSB because it's relatively cheap but really strong.  They make OSB in 7/8" and 1/2", they were only a few dollars different in price so i went with the 1/2" thickness.

I first drew up the design on paper but then i decided to get more detailed and use Google SketchUp.  I've used Google SketchUp before to draw the two twin beds.
google sketchup bed, bed design, sketchup twin bed

SketchUp is great for several reasons.  It's free.  It's easy to understand, which means it doesn't take hours trying to learn how to draw, though it does help if you spend 8 hours a day using AutoCAD.  It's just a really nice program that lets you draw 3D object very quickly.  And there's tons of Youtube video's that you can watch and learn different tricks.

I not only wanted to get the shelf right, but i wanted to make sure that it fit in the garage.  So i measured my garage interior dimension and then drew it up.  I added the two side doors and the big front garage door.  Then i drew the shelf itself and tried different orientations. The first picture at the top is what i came up with after lots of fiddling around.  But here's the dimensions for the final shelf design.  This was probably version 6, and the third time i redrew it.
google sketchup wood shelf design, wood shelf dimensions, 2x4 shelf how to

If you want to download the actual Google SketchUp files, which are .SKP and .SKP, i uploaded them to my Google Drive.  You can download them from these two links:
I actually got a bit carried away with what i could do.  Here's an early version  where i though about covering all the walls in the garage with shelves.  This was also when i thought that i should attach the 2x4's to the floor and ceiling.
how to make a wood 2x4 shelf for the garage, build wood shelf plans

But this is why Google SketchUp is great, it lets you zoom in and actually see what it will look like when you are done.  It gives you any perspective view from any angle.  That is when you realize things like, will the door shut, how tall will it look, do i need 4 shelves or only 3.
3D view of shelf design, garage shelf pattern, plans, design, layout

Now having said all that, the funny thing is that i didn't check was whether or not a car would fit.  It turned out to be ... not really.  If i pushed the shelf all the way over to the right a car could maybe fit, but there wasn't enough room to open the driver side door. 
google sketch up garage car shelf, how to make, build, dimensions

So even though this was my final designed drawings, the final location for the shelf was for it to be flat against the on the right. 

Material List:
Description     Height     Width     Length     Quantity    Price         Total
2x4                 2"            4"          8ft           15         $2.50        $37.50
OSB               1/2"          4ft         8ft            2          $13.00      $26.00

Also i ended up using around 200 - 2.5" deck/drywall screws, which cost around $4. 

The total cost with tax was just under $70 which seemed like a lot at first.  But then you figure that a cheap plastic 4 foot high shelf cost around $40.

Here's all the wood i bought.  Actually i only needed 14 - 2x4's but i got one extra, just in case.
wood 2x4 and osb particle board, wood shelf material, cost, plans

This is what the garage looked like before i started.  I made a 360 degree panorama of garage, combining around 18 pictures to make this one.  
(click to enlarge)
360 degree panorama garage, indoors, rotate view, iPhone 5

The first thing i did was to clear the area where the shelf was to go.
garage before begin work, wood shelf, how to make

And right away i ran into a problem.  Measuring from the back wall to the old wall hanging shelves i got 7.5 feet.  Which meant that i would have to cut at least 6" off.  So i cleared everything off the shelves, unscrewed them from the metal brackets and cut off 10", just to be sure.  
construction in the garage, saw horse, cut shelf to size

While cutting the shelves i decided to also lower the bottom shelf for more room. There used to be a board with weird hooks which in the way.  I never used it, so i just took it off the wall.  Before the bottom shelf was only 8" from the shelf above it.  By taking off the board with hooks i was able to drop the metal brackets all the way down.  You can compare this picture with the one a couple above and see the difference.
setting up shelf in garage, organize, 2x4 plans

Moving all of the junk, putting everything back, cutting the old shelf and all that was a lot of work, but when i was done it looked the same as when i started.

The next day i cut the short end boards and started to lay out the shelves.  These would be the vertical end pieces.
2x4 wood end pieces, how to build a wood shelf

After taking this picture i realized that i had the screws flipped backwards.  It might not seem like a big deal but if i left it like this then the screws which connect the side boards would hit each other.  So i had to remove these screws and flip them horizontally.  You will see what i mean later when i attach the front and back 2x4's.
screw pattern for wood shelf, wood cross piece

That's when i decided to make a pattern for each of the different screw layouts.  It was a great idea that saved me tons of time in the end.  The top pattern is for the shelf boards i would cut out later.  The left pattern is what i needed for the boards above.  The right pattern is for the front and back facer boards
cardboard pattern for wood shelf, how to make a wood 2x4 shelf, plans

With the end pieces all screwed together i set them in place just to see how it would look and see if it all made sense.
prefit 2x4 boards, garage shelf

Then i screwed in the first front and back shelf boards and stood everything up.
half way through building wood shelf, organize garage

Here's the way i connected all the boards together.  Had i not changed the screws earlier, all 4 or these screws might have hit them.
the best way to fit 2x4 at corner, screw, wood, shelf, end, no glue

The interlocking way in which the 2x4's all fit together was a design i decided on with some help from John.  When Karrie and i went to Katie and John's cottage, he drew this out on the computer. 
catia design, wood shelf, screw pattern, layout, dimensions

This was my original idea.  It seemed simple, but isn't as strong, since there aren't as many faces touching and screws holding it together.  The final version is more compact and everything interlocks with each other.
computer CAD shelf design, screw, wood, garage shelf, 2x4

Next, using a jig saw, i cut out the U-shaped notches using the cardboard pattern from earlier. 
1 shelf wood, 2x4 frame, osb shelf

Here's a closer look of how the OSB shelf fits into the 2x4 support posts.
detail for wood oriented strand board shelf, how to make a wood shelf

Looking at this picture you might think i forgot a few steps, but actually i didn't.  Putting the OSB shelves in before attaching the 2x4's was necessary.   If i didn't do that first then i would have never been able to get the shelves in.  
prefitting the shelf boards, wobbly shelf i made

That's because i had to actually pull the 2x4 uprights apart to be able to slide the shelf boards in and if i screwed the 2x4's in then i wouldn't have been able to pull them apart.  Luckily i realized that before attaching all the 2x4 cross beams.

But after cutting all the shelves and fitting them in place i was then able to screw the 2x4 front and back supports together.  To make sure it was all square i screwed them in with the shelf on it's side.  By this time it was getting pretty big and heavy so i had to get karrie's help to put the shelf down and stand it back up.
wood shelf, garage, organize, heavy duty, strong, 2x4 shelf

But i was able to push it into place by myself and take a look at it.  I knew from the start that i was going to have an issue with the shelf not being level because the concrete slab in the garage is much higher near the back wall.  You can see the crack in the slab underneath the shelf.
level shelf, garage storage, how to organize you garage junk

I thought about all the different ways i was going to make sure it was level.  I though about making the front legs longer or maybe trimming the back legs.  But i decided that the best idea was to just make the shelf square and level and then deal with the uneven floor afterwords.  It was off quite a bit.
not level, bubble not centered

So i lifted up the shelf on the right side and, after trying a series of different thickness boards, found out that using two 2x4's would make the shelf almost perfect.
level 2x4 boards, wedge, shims, uneven floor

Close enough for me.
level, bubble, shelf, how to

I pushed the shelf back into the corner as much as i could and did a few things to make sure it wouldn't move.  I screwed the floor 2x4's together and attached the upright to them with just one screw
secure wood 2x4 to floor, screw down

Then, so that the shelf didn't tip over, i screwed it to the wall in a few places.
how to attach shelf to wall with screw, tip over

Here's the finished shelf in place, level and secured to the wall.
wood garage shelf, storage, organize, 2x4, simple, strong, easy to build, plans

I actually got really lucky.  The second shelf cleared the handle of the old door by a couple of millimeters.  I totally didn't think about the door handle until i went to push it in place.   If it didn't fit i guess i would have had to trim a few inches off the legs.
lucky door knob, handle, saved, old

Then it was time to start loading up the shelves.  Hopefully it will have enough room for everything.  otherwise i'll have to build another one.
need to organize garage junk, stuff, shelf, rack, tools

I took a break, then came back a few hours later to start hanging stuff on the wall.  I used those rubber coated hooks and screwed them into the studs behind the drywall.  I admit that i got a little crazy hanging the wood bench i made for Karrie on the ceiling, but it did save a lot of room.
garage shelf, hang from wall, ceiling, storage, space, inch 

Over the winter Karrie and i are going to go through all the stuff we have in boxes in the basement and sort them.   Some of the less important stuff can go on these bottom shelves.  I haven't totally fill it up just yet.

Here's a summary video of the storage shelf being built
And here is a link to another storage shelf for the basement.

New Step-By-Step video of the storage shelf being built

EDIT:  PDF Templates
Some very nice anonymous person in the comments made a PDF of the the template.  Here's a link to it  Shelf PDF Templates



New Dining Room Table and Chairs

Karrie and i had been looking for a new table and chairs for the dining room.  After looking online and in a few stores, we decided that Craigslist might be a better option.  We saw people selling really nice tables for less than half the price they payed originally.  We both felt that we'd rather have a really nice, well made table that's slightly used, rather than a brand new, cheaply made table for the same price.

Also something i did not realize is that a lot of the cost is in the chairs themselves.  I thought that the table was the expensive part but typically the chairs accounted for more than half the price.  Also when we looked at the dining room sets they were selling in furniture stores, the table might be alright but the chairs would seem cheap and wobbly. 

So after a week or so of looking on Craigslist, Karrie saw a really nice set that met all of the things we were looking for.  We wanted it to be a dark brown color, approximately 40" wide and around 70" long.  Anything smaller than that and it wouldn't look right in the 11' x 14' dining room.  Plus we wanted there to be enough room for 6 people to sit.  And lastly the chairs had to be comfortable and sturdy.

Here's what we got.
dining room table and chairs set, recovered chairs fabric, wood table, sturdy chairs

This picture is after we picked the table up, brought it home, assembled the legs and set it up in the dining room.  Also the white fabric on the seats was not how it originally came. 

We didn't like the fabric on the chairs, it was an ugly dark striped pattern, so we decided to recover them.  We went to a fabric store and got some nice suede which was half off.  I think we ended up paying just $7 per yard.  It did take us about 30 tries to figure out how many yards of fabric we needed for 8 chairs.  We finally figured out that we needed 3 yards.  So it only cost around $22.

The hardest part was removing all of the staples.  There were at least 50 staples in each chair for just the black mesh fabric.  Then there were close to 100 staples that were actually holding down the chair fabric itself.  Removing the staples was my job, i used a screwdriver and pliers.  That's really all i helped with, Karrie did all the rest of the work.  

Once we removed the old chair fabric she used it as a pattern for the new material.  She cut out the new fabric then stapled it to the seat, starting in the middle so that there weren't any creases.  Then repeat 7 more times.
how to recover a chair, dining room chair cushon, simple chair fabric remove and recover, staple

 Then we just had to re-screw them back on the chairs.  They look a lot better then the dark stripe pattern they were before.
new recovered dining room chair, fabric on chair, how to recover chair fabric, simple and easy


Another Tigers Game Homerun

During the regular season i got to go to a few Detroit Tigers baseball games at Comerica Park.  Karrie and I went in May and sat in left field.  That's when we were in Section 149 Row 1 and Miguel Cabrera hit a homerun just a few feet over our heads.  Here's the link to that day out in left field.

Then about a month ago i somehow got to see a game from one of the luxury boxes at the stadium.  It was from another company, who invited other coworkers.  Much like First-Class in an airplane, seeing a game from a luxury box is the way to go.  There are seats and tables where you can sit and watch the game.

detroit tigers comerica park, baseball, luxury box, seat view, cost

They also have a room that connects just to your section where we had food and drinks.  It also had a tv and a bathroom.
luxury box, food, cost, rent, game, concert, price, sale, view, comerica park, baseball

We were allowed to stay there long after the game had ended and well after all the other fans had to leave.  It was great, but probably not worth the two to three thousand dollar cost.

Then at the end of September Karrie and i went to another game.  Before the baseball season began Karrie bought two sets of tickets. This time we sat in right field in row 5. 

Once again these were great seats and wouldn't you know it, we almost caught another homerun.  In fact we almost caught two.

The first homerun was early in the game when Jhonny Pieralta hit a homerun to right field and it landed about 4 feet in front of us.  We were in row 5 and the ball hit the empty seat in row 3.  After hitting the seat it bounced forward and someone near the front picked it up. Unfortunately they didn't show this on the ESPN highlights of the game.

The second near catch came later in the game from Prince Fielder.  He hit a ball that just carried over the fence.  Someone in the front row missed the catch and it bounced back onto the field.  That ball was actually about 20 feet away from us.  This homerun was on the highlights.  Although it's a little tough to make us out, i'm the one in the white baseball hat.
detroit tigers cabrera homerun fielder miguel prince right field game

It was a great game and somewhat significant.  Miguel Cabrera had 2 homeruns, his 39th and 40th, the latter being a grand slam.  This is the first season he's had over 40 homeruns.  Also Prince Fielder got his 100th RBI.  I think Cabrera hit a homerun in every game i was at in Comerica Park this year.  Probably the reason why he won the Triple Crown.

Here's a link to the highlights of the game on ESPN.

EDIT:  Apparently the link above doesn't work anymore.  It used to be highlights from that game.


Garage Tool Rack

In an effort to clean up the garage i decided to build a rack to hold tools, brooms, shovels, rakes and chairs.  By hanging them on the wall it would make room for other junk to go on the floor.  

When i first bought the house i did put some nails in the wall but they really didn't work that well.  So i looked at a bunch of different designs online for tool racks.  There were some fancy expensive ones that had individual clips for each tool.  But i figured that when it's the middle of winter and i just got done shoveling the snow i would just end up throwing the shovel against the wall, rather then finding the particular hook that went for that shovel.  I decided to go for something simpler.  So i went to Meijer and looked at the hooks and brackets that they sold.  They have me a ton of ideas. 
meijer walmart hook bracket row aisle garage hooks tool holder

I was thinking of making some simple U-shaped brackets like this for things like brooms and shovels.  Then make L-shaped hooks for tools with handles.  
u shaped hook for broom shovel handle wall screw rubber coated

But then i got my best idea from their Lawn & Garden aisle.  Instead of having just 1 hook for 1 tool, i could stack multiple tools on top of each other.  
broom bracket holder hook multi tool for sale walmart meijer lawn and garden

I was originally going to attach a 1"x4" piece of pine to the wall then use wood dowels as the hooks/runners.  But when i got downstairs i realized that i didn't have any wood dowels.  What i did have was metal conduit and lots of PVC pipe.  I thought the PVC would work great as long as i could glue it well enough to the wood and that it didn't snap off in the winter with lots of weight on it.  

So i decided on 3"4" PVC pipe then marked out layout that i wanted.  I kept it mostly symmetrical, alternating a single hook with a double runner.  I didn't take any pictures during the build process, so here it is after i attached it to the wall.
garage tool rack, shelf for lawn tools, rake, shovel, broom, chair, wood, pvc

The glue i used actually didn't work, it wasn't strong enough and the PVC pipe sagged with any weight.  So i drilled a small hole at a downward angle through the back of the board into the pipe.  The cool part is that you cant see it from the front.  
wood and pvc tool rack in garage, attach to wall, how to build, simple plans

 Also i used a stud-finder to locate the 2x4's behind the drywall in the garage.  Then i marked and drilled holes every 16".  A couple of the screws missed the studs so i had to redrill them, but eventually it was attached to the wall.
how to make a tool rack for the garage, wall, shovel, rake, hold, organize

I like how it turned out.  Everything is up and out of the way.  Also it's easy to see everything.  Much better then a big pile of rakes and shovels on the ground.