Friday, April 24, 2020


Being flexible and having a strong improvisation muscle is key when you're a maker. That's not to say that you should just wing every project that you do, but I put forth that you need to be able to roll with the punches and keep moving no matter what.

I was turning on my sprinkler system for the season and needed a clipboard to hold the printout that I needed to refer to, but for the life of me I couldn't find one. It was mid-afternoon by that point, and I needed to get the sprinklers turned on. So I looked around, found a scrap of plywood and improvised myself a clipboard. I thought it worked better than a regular clipboard because 1. I made it, and 2. it was thicker and tended to blow around in the wind less.

Being able to improvise on a larger scale can be useful too. When designing my sprinkler system, which I had no previous experience with, I divided the whole thing into lawn sprinkler heads and garden sprinkler heads. I went with conventional pop-up type lawn heads, but I wanted to be able to change the garden sprinklers as plants grow in or if we decide to move a plant or plant something new.

This is the solution I came up with. I found these spikes on Amazon (though I'm sure they sell them at the box stores for twice the price). They have female garden hose thread on the input and male threads on the output, and come with a threaded cap to cover the male end. The top is threaded to accept sprinkler head risers, and I like to use the type that allow for the riser to be broke and reused. They last longer that way.

So I started out with putting the spikes where my wife and I decided was appropriate, then I got to work plumbing them. I bought a few hundred feet of crappy garden hose, and like a hundred hose male and female repair ends. Then I set to plumb the heads by running hose between them and using the repair ends to put the appropriate male or female ends on. I ran that all the way back to the sprinkler zone valves. I made sure to the bury the hoses about an inch or two below the surface of the soil, then spread the mulch on top of that.

That whole thing was made up (I'm sure other people have done this, but I didn't do research. I came up with this idea on my own). And what's cool about it is that it's modifiable. When a bush grows in, I can move the heads around with minimal effort. All improvised.

I spent probably way too long drawing out a map of my property, with semi-accurate garden bed layouts, and the range of all of the sprinkler zones and head locations. The bottom has the zone and group run and start times. I keep it saved in my Dropbox so that I can access it through my phone when I need to. I printed it out this year because I significantly changed 3 of the garden zones this year, and wanted to draw on the map so that I could update it accurately.

I also took the time to map out my house and mark up all outlets, lights and switches. To one up that, I also mapped the breaker that powers it. I did this for all rooms and floors of my house. It helped that I had my hands in all of the outlet and switch boxes when I renovated the whole house over the last few years. Pro tip: you should date these kinds of documents so that you know when you last modified them. This is especially important if you're doing this by hand. You can easily have multiple copies laying around, and it's critical to know if you have the most recent copy.

I also mapped out the breaker panel itself. 

Improvisation is a skill to be honed. The more you use it, the better you'll get at it and the better your judgement will be. But this goes for literally every skill there is. The more you flex the muscle, the stronger it gets. And don't be afraid to try stuff, even if it doesn't work. Failing is the only way to succeed! And the thing about flexing this muscle is that the more you fail, the stronger it'll get, and the less you'll fail! If that makes sense.

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