Friday, April 24, 2009

How to turn a $700 Filing Cabinet into a $70 pet rat cage

Step one: receive as a gift a broken 4 drawer "oak" filing cabinet from a relative who had paid way too much money for it a few years earlier. (Oak is in quotes because I discovered that,
except for the drawer fronts, and the bracing, it's all oak veneer over particle board. Do your homework before dropping gobs of money on furniture, people.)


Step two: try to use this filing cabinet for it's intended use for about a year, get really frustrated that the drawers don't roll on their tracks anymore, take it mostly apart and discover it's beyond repair.

Step three: Take it apart the rest of the way. Remove all hardware, kick out the back (essentially veneered cardboard. TIP: wear shoes for this). Turn it upside down. Peel off the plastic things they stick on the bottom to keep from scuffing the floor. Remove the drawers to the garage where they will eventually be taken apart for scrap wood.

It was cheaply made, but amazingly still fairly sturdy. I put in a few extra nails here and there, but otherwise left it.

Step four: Obtain materials. I had quite a few useful things lying around in the garage, but I admit, I went straight to Home Depot for everything else. Did not pass go, did not bargain shop at all. In fact, I splurged on a few things like coated wire, pretty brass hinges, and decorative molding. This could have been a cheaper project had I not been lazy.

8 Corner braces: $11.16
4 hinges + screws: $5.88
4 wheels: $13.92
3 rolls of coated hardware cloth: $29.94
15' of molding: $13.50
24"x24" piece of plywood: $5.47

Building the doors took the most time. I built a frame from pieces of plywood ("built" = putting a few staples on each corner) and then stapled wire to it and glued the decorative molding on top. I then put in a few finishing nails on the front and corner brackets on the back. IMG_4289 IMG_4291

Screwed in some chunks of wood to the cabinet body to act as shelf brackets. I decided to have three shelves that matched up to the already existing dividers where the drawers used to be. It worked out perfectly. (Funny story: these were scraps of some kind of hardwood came from inside a couch I took apart last year - yet another over-priced piece of furniture that was cheaply made.)

Stapled more wire on the entire backside and top. (I staple guns, btw). This lets in more light and air and provides a way to hang hammocks and toys.

Attached the doors and then the latches (two for each door for added security). And put the wheels on the bottom (I am so glad I added these wheels. being able to easily move this thing around has already been wonderful - I move it into the office so I can decorate it or make hammocks and toys while me and Tom watch movies and I have a feeling in the summer I'll be wheeling it in and out of the bedroom a lot so they can have AC during the hot months).

Then it was just a matter of cutting the shelves and customizing them. I had a bunch of laminated particle board from an old desk and it wasn't too much of a mess to cut it with the saw. I sealed the rough edges with duct tape. I love that the shelves are infinitely customizable. For now, I just cut them a little short so the rats can use the back of the cage as a ladder to travel between levels and drilled a few holes to hang hammocks from, but in the future I can foresee more elaborate ladders and holes and tubs and I envision incorporating tree branches to use as ladders... all kinds of fun.

Ta dah!
With the wheels it's almost 5 feet high with with 11.5 square feet of room inside for the ratties to run around. The internet tells me a comparably-sized new cage would be well over $100, so I feel that I still came out on top, even with my lame non-bargain shopping. I also
feel it's reasonably attractive for a cage (and much more attractive than my last home-made cage). I'm quite happy with it.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Insolent cat is insolent

Kaida loves napping on Ixchel's aquarium lid. I guess because it's warm and springy like a firm mattress. She knows it's not allowed - I have emptied many a squirt bottle for this behavior. She's already broken one lid. I thought the problem was solved by placing the aquarium high up on a shelf with little room for cats to crawl on top. I was wrong. She will always find a way.


Monday, April 6, 2009

The weekend was one for firsts-of-the-year.

The first turkey vulture sighting, first 70 + degree day, first of the garden planting, first sun-induced coma:


I had to work Saturday, so I've had all day today to garden, and I feel quite productive. Yesterday I went to the parents' and got three large buckets of well-aged horse-poo. I found a really good spot in the manure pile this year - it's black, crumbly, and full of worms. Beautiful.

From Poe's butt to my dinner table. Mmmm...

poo to food

Most of the work today was preparation for planting next month. Still too early for a lot of planting. Pulled the grass that grew up in the bark mulch around the raised beds. Squished many a slug between my fingers in the process. Plowed up the beds and mixed in the manure and ta da:


We've got the greens bed with two rows of salad mix and one row of spinach (with Bonus! anti-cat chicken wire protective covering) and the tomato bed, ready for transplants... next month.

I also sowed some basil in the container outside, catnip in a pot inside (on a high shelf - there were a few crumbling, dried leaves still in the pot from last year, and even that was enough to have both cats follow me all over the house for 20 minutes after I touched it). I have parsley and chives volunteering from last year, and wee little cilantro sprouts in the other outdoor container. I sowed a few fresh seeds in there, just in case the volunteers are spotty.

I've also been eyeing this cute patch of wild flowers that sprang up under the bench. I like them, and shall spare them from the weed wacker and may even water them occasionally.


The front yard still needs a lot of work, but that's where the peas and squashes are going, so it can wait a while.