Make A Huge Hot-Seat Reusing Styrofoam and Feed Bags

This is a triple win, and I’m so excited to share it with you! We are going to reuse TWO hard to recycle plastics and turn them into a fantastic resource so you can keep working through the harsh winter. I ran into some big obstacles with this project, so read to the end before jumping in…better to be forewarned! The first step is to save all that Styrofoam.

About 8 years ago I bought this bean bag cover at Sears on clearance for about $4 and I had no intention of paying $25 for packing peanuts. I tend to save too many things like packing peanuts anyway, so the bean bag cover became the place we ‘stored’ packing peanuts. Then I started putting other stuff in there like this random egg carton, the foam inserts out of worn out seat cushions and a “We’re Number 1” foam finger in there somewhere.

The next thing you will need for this project is a feed bag. The burlap bags of grandpa’s days would be great if you can get your hands on them, but this project makes use of the woven plastic feed bags currently used. The paper bags of my child hood won’t give you satisfactory results…especially if you hope to use this huge hot-seat to sit on the snow while working outside. Even better than burlap in that case. Just ask a friend for one. Most livestock owners have a few empty feed bags stuffed in a nook somewhere.

Wipe out your feedbag really well and spray the inside and corners with Lysol or Febreze or essential oils that mice hate. Having a mouse chew into your heat bag because it still smells like food would be disappointing. My unrealistic fear of mice is one reason I chose this white bag with very little lettering. Against the sun I can ‘see’ through the bag and most of the white foam. If you have a more colorful bag, don’t worry, it will work fine. If you are at war with rodents just be aware of how and where they might camp, just check like you would a regular hot-seat that you buy at the store.

Next, you want fill the bag with Styrofoam. No need to be picky here. You can save the good packing peanuts for your kid’s bean bag and only use scrap Styrofoam if you want. That’s what I did. When I went to retrieve the lower-quality Styrofoam from the bean bag I did run into a problem. The broken Styrofoam I had put in had made a mess…as Styrofoam does. The worst pieces were the corner blocks that get compressed for electronics or glass light fixtures. Those are pretty hard and don’t move around like peanuts and random foam does to accommodate your bottom. When they break you have a mess on your hands. This is where my project became a huge mess and took an extra day. But, I will show you what I did, what didn’t work and what you can do to get around it.

Those little static cling white dots of Styrofoam make me crazy! I realized if I could scoop the Styrofoam with a hot utensil that there wouldn’t be breakage….there would be nice, small homemade peanuts. So I looked up a YouTube video on how to make a ‘Hot Wire Styrofoam Cutter‘. I am not going to link to any of these videos because when I made mine the battery got hot but the wire did not! I put a few hours into this trying to scrounge materials from the garage, kids rejected toys, and assembling with the hardware I had on hand. The heat of the battery really alarmed me. It might be dangerous….better to buy something an electrician built.

As I put away the hot-glue gun I noticed that my soldering iron came with an Exacto-knife blade attachment. I thought that might be exactly what I needed, assuming it would cut through the foam like a hot spoon through ice cream. I was pleased at first, but after just a few minutes the wide and short blade accumulated so much melted plastic it constantly smoked/off-gassed. It was not a pleasant smell and probably not great for me to breath. An actual blade creates too much ‘drag’ which is totally unnecessary and becomes a sticky surface. So I went back to the web and tried new search terms and discovered these things that let you not only cut Styrofoam into little packing peanuts…you can carve all sorts of artistic things with them! I never knew! It seems a much safer option than my 9 volt battery DIY version that I was afraid would blow up in my hand.

The above close-up shows how a hot knife sealed the edges of the foam, whereas breaking it creates a cascade of static-charged dots. After the Styrofoam phase of this project I spent at least 45 minutes cleaning up the only way you can: a pet hair attachment for a vacuum. I don’t know any other way you can get 200 tiny charged dots of foam off the carpet, bean bag, clothes…. At this point I was mad at myself and swearing I wouldn’t do this again.

Sewing the bag together was easy using a long stich on the sewing machine though. This stich is made as near the opening as possible, with the ends folded over to match the store-sewn bottom. A second pass using the ‘tape’ that comes off when you open the bag was added about 1/2 inch in from the first stitch. Using a long stitch and adding the second stitch in a different location is important because a stitch can become a “perforation” if the tiny holes are too close together and the plastic is compromised too much.

The frustration from cleaning up Styrofoam last night is all forgotten now that I have this huge hot seat! It has been so cold in the greenhouse this winter that it’s hard to stay more than a few hours. It can take a few hours to just look over the next project and try out some ideas. If I happen to get wet during a project it’s impossible to get warm enough to continue the project. This should keep my knees and backside dry and hopefully be what I need to finish up the flashing I am experimenting with while sitting in the snow.

Brass Egg™ participates in affiliate marketing programs, and may receive compensation when you click and purchase from links to retailers. Brass Egg™ of Russell Holdings Group, LLC 2021. All content ©2021 Russell Illinois Holdings, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Staying Warm- Heat Pad Comparisons: Corn, Walnut Shell, Cherry Pit, Clay Beads and Styrofoam

The absolute best option for microwavable heat is a corn bag if sustained heat is your only concern. You should know there is a problem with the smell though. The first time you heat a corn bag it will have a pleasant popcorn smell. The next time it won’t be so pleasant. Eventually the corn bag will take on an earthy smell that you will mostly become nose-blind to. Others will notice it and be too polite to say anything. I tried many DIY solutions, but I have to admit that in the end the best option was a purchase.

My husband keeps the house almost unbearably cold even in the summer, so this has been a long quest for me. I almost caught a cold on my honeymoon in the summer…in Cancún because hubby likes to sleep at 68 degrees in the summer, 66degrees in the winter. (Help! I married a Viking!) I didn’t know I should pack sweatpants and wool socks for my honeymoon! That’s what I sleep in now (we are such romantics). I’ve found I can shave lots of time off my ‘falling asleep’ winddown if I can get my feet warm.

I grew up in a really drafty house that relied on wood-burning stoves, a drafty crawl space under the house and constantly battling frozen pipes every winter. My mother-in-law had mercy on me and bought me a heated throw blanket in our first year of marriage which gave up the ghost before our 4th Wedding Anniversary. I still use a heated throw blanket in my office, but we began to worry about the safety of sleeping with electric blankets. The final straw was when I began to have hot flashes and I would wake up drenched in sweat unable to get away from the heated mattress pad…it’s not like you can just throw off the blanket. You’ll have dreams you are a hot-dog on a grill!

After my first pair of ‘corn bags’ began to leak burnt crumbs I asked my mom to sew me up a new pair. My angel mom upgraded my originals with cotton corn bags and perfectly sized fleece cases for washability! We still use them for injuries or if a child needs a heat bag for their bed. For nightly use though, they quickly began to have an unpleasant scent and I was beginning to battle with the hubby over the thermostat.

The Quest was on! I read about walnut shells and I tracked down a case of walnut hulls at a tool supply store. I filled this Holstein Cow bag with Walnut Hulls and it heated great! It really was hotter than blazes and stayed that way for hours and hours. However, something about the heat didn’t seem right. I grew up in logging country and down there we’ve had incidences of sawdust piles spontaneously combusting. After 3 uses I was done. It actually smelled like a brewing fire. I am not taking a chance of catching my microwave on fire. Anyone want to buy a box of walnut shells?

Next up was Cherry Pits. There is an actual business that sells cleaned, dried cherry pits. It sounded so perfect I figured my mom and sisters would want some to replace their corn bags. I bought the 40 pound bag. The shipping was almost as much as the price of the bag. Oh well, I had come that far. By the end it was over $60 which made this an expensive DIY experiment. Once the huge bag was in my dining room I filled a cloth bag, sewed it up and microwaved it. Just like with corn bags, the first heating smelled yummy. The cherry pits smelled like a cherry pie! I was excited and held the bag close enjoying the ‘aroma therapy’ but the heat dissipated far too quickly. I was in love with the scent and decided I would just use a lot more bags, but the sweet scent of cherry pie quickly fermented and was no longer pleasant. These do make good coldpacks though because they give up their cold quickly, don’t give you ‘frost bite’, conform to shape of the injury, have no fluid to leak and they don’t break down like my previous go-to frozen peas. These Made In America Hefty bags are all it takes to make a small cold-pack. They also make a nearly musical sound that is addictive to kneed with your hands, so they would be perfect for a kid’s stuffed animal. I don’t sew kids toys anymore, and I don’t need 40 pounds of ice packs, so if you want a small sample size of cherry pits to experiment with I’m happy to part with some.

In all this bustle I noticed I had an “Aromatherapy Spa Wrap” I had picked up at a garage sale. After a week of using it I noticed the baby blue velvet had developed some discoloring from nightly heating in the microwave and it didn’t hold heat as well as corn or walnut hulls, but it also didn’t have any odor. It was too small to wrap around my feet, and didn’t have enough volume to stay warm very long, but I discovered that ‘mineral beads’ would heat and not create any odors.

I found these heat bags with clay beads that are large enough to wrap around my feet from ankle to toe. These really saved my bacon when I broke my leg because my cast had to be elevated high in the air every night and it was too painful to sleep with a heavy quilt pushing down my toes. I was able to prop my leg up above the blankets and wrap the heating pad around the ankle to add soothing heat that radiated all the way to my bare toes.

The grey color takes a beating well and the suede fabric is warm to the touch without being as bulky as fleece. By laying it flat in the microwave and propping up the ends it can fit on the turn table and expose the maximum surface area to microwaving. Mine is 11.5″ by 20″ and it weighs about 4.5 pounds. This is the closest thing currently available for sale. In my freezing house with my freezing toes it stays warm around an hour. If I haven’t gotten to sleep before they have cooled down I sometimes get up and zap them in the microwave again. Which brings me to one
other possible option.

These ‘bottom warmers‘ are popular with the hunting crowd. I don’t hunt, but when I camp I put two in my sleeping bag and hug them to bring my core body temperature up. As I get warmer and warmer at night I keep pushing it down in my sleep and wake up in the morning plenty warm with it at my feet. On ridiculously cold night I use these in addition to my heat bags to see if I can avoid re-heating in the night. It’s good to have a back-up if a winter storm takes out your electricity.

Brass Egg™ participates in affiliate marketing programs, and may receive compensation when you click and purchase from links to retailers. Brass Egg™ of Russell Holdings Group, LLC 2021. All content ©2021 Russell Illinois Holdings, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Best Way to Kill Flies in the Greenhouse or Barn – A DIY Flytrap

I built this fly trap just like the ones you see on the Internet all the time. I was running out of time as I left the house and mixed up the liquid lure from memory. It was not the lure I had written down. Oh well…now I can do an experiment comparing the different lures and give you the results.

Why not just buy a fly trap and be done with it? I may do that in the end, but I love a good DIY solution that lets me use up plastics in my recycling bin. By mixing my own lure I also know if I can compost the flies whereas I have to trash the store-bought lures because I don’t know if there is poison in them or not. I have heard good things about the store-bought traps that are reusable, and easy to hang, so that might be the next-best thing to making my own.

For this trap lure I mixed 1 cup of white sugar with 1 cup of apple cider vinegar. I cut the 2-litter across at 7″ from the bottom/table top. I’m going to take the plastic ring off the bottle neck of the next one just in case that is giving the fly a target to aim for, and I will cut closer to where the bottle begins to bend to see if that gives a slightly better connection point for taping back together. The next trap will use 1 cup sugar, 1 cup water and 1 teaspoon of yeast.

I have been having problems with flies for over a month. It started in the fall of 2020 just a few months after the Greenhouse was finished. I had over a hundred flies November 5th. They were all on the outside of my barn warming themselves on the dark green metal as fall began to blow in. I don’t know if they were all coming from the chicken coop or if that is normal, but I was relieved that they were outside. I shouldn’t have been so relieved.

Two weeks later on November 19 there were flies inside. Not as many as outside…I guess only a portion found their way inside.

The flies disappeared and then 9 days later they were back with a vengeance. The sunny day brought the greenhouse temp up to the 90’s even though it was chilly and windy outside. It looked like hundreds this time. The sound was disturbing. Sort of like being inside a metal bee hive, but a much softer sound…flies are lazy compared to bees!

Before heading home I placed a solar light next to the trap to make it more attractive to insects as it gets dark and cold each night. I only saw one live fly in the greenhouse, but I don’t trust that they are gone yet. It was 34 degrees outside, and inside was 46 degrees…but on a sunny day it can get much, much warmer. I don’t know where they are hiding, but I am ready for the next big fly festival.

Brass Egg™ participates in affiliate marketing programs, and may receive compensation when you click and purchase from links to retailers. Brass Egg™ of Russell Holdings Group, LLC 2021. All content ©2021 Russell Illinois Holdings, LLC. All Rights Reserved.