Here is this week’s Rural Reflections Radio
Time is a great teacher. There are many times when I write my column
then put it away to be read at a later date. During the later review,
I realize what needs to be removed, what needs further explanation
and even typographic errors. This same situation occurs in the
projects I perform as I often change them after construction has
finished. A “finished” project reveals its flaws to me much more
readily after I can step back and look at a full scale model.
I built a Manitoba fly trap about two years ago. The fly trap is a
pyramid-shape contraption that allows flies access through the bottom
then directs them to seek sunshine by climbing or flying up the
interior of the pyramid until the end of their trip occurs inside a
one gallon pickle jar.
I tried to save money on the construction of the fly trap. I used
plastic to cover the frame and attempted to paint the plastic in
order to block sunlight from the portions where none was needed. The
plastic ripped and I eventually removed it. I replaced the portion of
the body that needed to block sunshine with ¼ inch plywood. I then
used fabric cloth (screen) to over the part of the frame that need to
allow sunlight. All of this additional weight meant the four main legs needed extra
support as they began to crack from the weight. I wanted to correct
his problem and let my readers know before construction revealed
flaws in the design.
It was not careful review that made me modify my second project-the
tornado shelter. I crawled inside it this winter and imagined how I
would feel in the event we had to use the shelter. I decided it
needed more structure out of pure fear.
The tornado shelter is actually based on plans for an outdoor tornado
shelter however I built it in the angle beneath our steps. In between
the double-thick and hurricane-strapped studs I decided to add more two
by four boards. In between each bank of studs, I stacked more two by
fours one on top of the other from the bottom to the top. Each
stacked board is glued to the one beneath it and also fastened to the
stud on either end. I remembered this is the way they used to build
grain elevators. I’ve seen old grain elevators topple over and still
not implode so I thought this might be a good additional design
After the glue dried, I then covered the whole mess with plywood
that was glued and fastened to that mass of wood. This will then be
covered with car siding to make it look nice. It will either be a
wooden cocoon or wooden coffin, however the more glue I smell and
screw heads I see; the more I trust the shelter’s integrity.
I’ve always said I typically build my projects three times before I
am satisfied. Maybe time and experience have brought that number down
to two. Anyway, I share my projects with you so I like to share my
repairs and improvements as well.
here are the original stories
I finally got a project in July, prior to that time life had been enough of a project to keep me busy. Although I have not finished this task yet, I wanted to write about it before summer had passed-it just seemed a bit more timely. This week I want to tell you about our indoor tornado shelter.
I want to say a few things before we get started. First, this column is not a step by step instruction in how to build a tornado shelter, I am just telling you what I did to try protect my family from storms. Also, much of the construction is based on instruction found on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) website. An F-5 tornado will destroy everything in it’s pass and if one was heading my way, I would head for the basement and prepare to meet my maker. I am building a first floor tornado shelter because it is much easier to enter than our outside-entry basement. In this area, we typically receive an F3 tornado or less-the Mentor storm last summer was an F3-and much of the damage is from flying debris in which case our shelter will protect us pretty well. Anyway, you should make a plan to protect yourself in the event of a tornado and you should use information based on engineered plans from federal agencies who deal with weather emergencies. Head for public shelter if you have no basement. Pity, I had to waste a third of my column on a disclaimer but that is the world in which we live.
The plans I based our shelter on were for an outdoor shelter mounted on a slab. I decided to basically build the shelter inside our house, under the stairway. A few basic rules of construction were that all plates and studs had to be doubled and each connection was made with hurricane straps. The interior walls were then covered with two layers of ¾ inch plywood oriented so the grain runs at a 90 degree angle. The final step for the wall is to cover the side facing the living space with 14 gauge metal which will catch any splinters should flying debris impact the plywood walls. I like to re-use building materials so I plan to cover everything with the wood from the counter I purchased from the old Viking Cafe before it was torn down. This wood is thick and has a nice-looking veneer that is attractive and should fit in with our current décor. The final act will be to install an entry door with three hinges and three dead-bolt locks located directly across from each other. The door will open into the new room in case there is storm debris blocking our exit. I’ve already installed electricity so we have light and a plug-in but will also mount an old-style wall phone that doesn’t need to be plugged in for cases of emergency. I also use screws instead of nails to construct everything as they hold much better.
There you have it, my first project in a long time. I tried to give you a balanced overview of the wind storms we have in this area and my reaction to protecting the Nelson’s from this threat. I spent several months studying different designs before I came to this one and suggest you consult official sources before you construct or purchase anything pre-built. My final thought was that the National Weather Service includes a suggestion to find an interior room in the event of a tornado. What I have constructed is an interior room from plans designed for an exterior shelter which gives me courage. It is these thoughts I will carry with me should weather ever occur in which I have to lock us into our Dorothy room.
Had a few minutes so prepare for a note to drop your way. Our cat, Magoo, is seated in between me and the computer screen; he likes to edit as we go along. I allow him to edit for spelling and grammar but never for content. Oh yeah, Magoo says hello too.
This week the first grass-fed steers of the season are set for processing. I usually sort and load them the same day and then haul them into our brother Steve, for processing. This year I put them into the barn several days prior so it makes for less work the day of hauling. I am feeding them some nice alfalfa during their confinement which I purchased from Lyle Swanson. Feeding cattle one forkful at a time reminds me of the fair when we used to bring cattle in for showing. I don’t go to fairs much anymore-too many people in one place. However, when I feed our steers I have close contact with them and it really takes me back to a time when our show cattle had fresh straw each day, got fed individual-sized portions of feed from a pan stored in our carefully packed barn box.
Dave, there’s a huge celebration going on in town for Arctic Cat; they’re celebrating a silver birthday. Arctic Cat has meant an awful lot to the area for many years and it all started with Edgar Hetteen’s dream. I drive an little Arctic Cat 250 ATV which has helped me build fence, check cattle, spray pasture and even relax at the end of the day. I use my tractor maybe once a week, the pick-up two-three times a week however that little ‘wheeler and I spend as much time together as Magoo and I do on the couch. Thanks to Arctic Cat for my little helper and happy birthday, too.
Dave, I have never been more organized however I’ve never been so busy. We have more cattle than ever on pasture but they are what we need to process all that forage into meat and fertilizer. I recently had a sample done on our pasture and found that it has all the nitrogen, phosphorous, etc that it needs. Here’s the kicker-we haven’t fertilized it for three years. The legumes in the pasture create nitrogen which feeds the grasses while the cattle process what they don’t need into manure which goes back into the ground. Photosynthesis from the sun does the rest. Anyway, I will have no fertilizer bill this year and that feels good.
I finally had a moment for a project, Dave-it’s called a Dorothy room. A Dorothy room is a free-standing tornado shelter built to specifications from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA.) I am using the specifications but am building it under the steps. The finished part which faces the hallway is made from the counter from the old Viking cafe. I am pretty confident when it comes to building fence, cattle feeders or anything rough, however indoor works makes me nervous. I typically build by eye however I am using tools for this project as foreign to me as a shovel to the average teenager. Anyway, I should finish it just as the tornado season ends and it will be the subject of a future column.
I hope the rain stops at your home in Carrington, North Dakota soon, Dave. In case it doesn’t, I have attached a pdf file of specs from FEMA for a floating structure-it’s called a Noah’s ark.
Your little bro’