Many people don’t know that manatees are closely related to elephants. In fact, if you look closely at a manatee’s flipper, you’ll see the remnants of nails and toes that resemble an elephant’s foot. Under an x-ray, they even look like human hands. Pretty cool.
Here in Brevard County, we are fortunate enough to see Florida manatees fairly often in the Indian River Lagoon (brackish water), and in nearshore coastal waters by way of going in and out of local man-made ship inlets.
They are also known as “sea cows” because they move slowly, but they are VERY powerful. I’ve gotten knocked off my paddleboard more than a few times by a manatee. Hey, they didn’t want ME on their lawn….I don’t blame ’em.
I still love manatees, and they’re a good indicator of the health of the Lagoon system, which is obviously very sick and toxic currently, heading into a state of eutrophication sadly.
So I wanted to share some of of this fun info with you, plus a pattern I made up to make your own little chunky manatee Amigurumi toy! It helps to know basic single crochet in the round for this pattern. Add a loop of heavy thread on top to turn it into an ornament for the holidays. Manatee Tree. Freakin’ cool.
Jellyfish are often misunderstood creatures in Florida, especially since they often hurt surfers with stings that range from annoying to scream worthy.
I’ve had my fill for a lifetime, believe me.
In actuality, many of these “jellyfish” are groups of polyps clinging together, drifting with the ocean’s currents. These type are known as Chondrophores, which include the Man O’ War, a particularly famous critter that gives humans a painful sting. However, there are other types of unique Chondrophores here in Florida that don’t pack quite the wallop.
Blue Buttons are part of this group, and can be found in Florida quite often. They are small (usually only 1-2 inches in diameter), but they are beautiful to look at. So, I decided to make a jumbo, huggable version out of yarn. Just because, of course.
Below I’ve shown a bit of my process in pictures for those into amigurumi:
I used three basic blues with a 3.5 mm hook
Making a circle for one side, starting to change color to make stripe
Using a half- color change technique
Top half done- I made it a bit taller
Two halves complete
Each tentacle is from 5-8 inches
Lots o’ tentacles
Pulling each tentacle into the half
Knotted inside and ends trimmed
Stuffing and sewing shut
So happy together
At da beach….
With the oxygen levels dropping in the ocean as sea temperatures rise, expect to see more jellyfish (and colonies). They serve as a canary in the coal mine, if you will.
At least the signs of our stupidity will look pretty….
I’m the first to admit I’m a material hoarder. Lots of people don’t realize that clothing makes up a large fraction of landfill trash, and these days, much of it is synthetic and breaks down slowly.
I like to save old Lycra from random rashguards and surf gear, so I decided to cut pieces up into small quilt squares to make a simple two sided squishy pillow filled with scrap neoprene. Woah…that’s being supa Bro–active about our environment, yo.
Pile o’ Lycra
Cutting pieces into smaller squares from various pieces
Laying out a fun pattern
I serged into rows first
Layout of the other side of the pillow
Both sides of the pillow
Pinning the pillow to stitch it up before stuffing
Neoprene beans from wetsuits
I stuffed the pillow casing I made with quite a bit of the cut up neoprene “beans” I had cut up previously (see this project).
Clipped the opening closed and I whip stitched it closed
That’ll fit my rear, watch out, Max….
So I figure this pillow with be perfect for the beach, since I can rinse it off, toss it in the wash with no worries, and it’s small enough to sling over my bag.
Hey, if this helps the environment, great. I mean, it’s your world, brah.
While we were sifting around the junk in the garage last week, I noticed an old longboard travel bag that I won at a surf event several years ago. I’ve loaned it out many times to my friends who go on trips, so the bag is more surf-travelled than I am.
Might still have some life yet
The zipper pull is stuck and crusted from salt, and the plastic zipper teeth themselves have started to deteriorate.
That’s just nasty
It’s not currently usable with the zipper almost completely disintegrated, so it had to be removed.
Seam ripper- this was a good section
Taking out the zipper took a while!
Unfortunately, a replacement zipper must be at least 10 feet long for this particular bag, and I cannot sew it in with my home sewing machine. Nor would I want to.
Enter Industrial Velcro. You can pick it up at most big box stores or hardware stores for less than 10 bucks for 10 feet. I used titanium scissors to cut 2 inch strips of the soft loopy side of the Velcro first to put on the sides of the board bag.
Just cutting the soft loopy side of the Velcro- keep the adhesive backing on
I placed one of these squares around the sides about every ten inches or so
I needed to put additional E6000 glue under the adhesive Velcro since Florida’s so freakin’ hot that I thought the Velcro adhesive would melt. I was right.
Next, I made straps for the top cover of the bag by cutting 8″ strips of 2″ wide webbed nylon strapping, turning one edge under and gluing it with E6000. This makes a sturdy edge to pull on.
I turned the bottom of the strap up about an inch and glued it, holding it in place with clips
I cut 2” squares of the hook side of the Velcro to go on the underside of the straps
The straps glued up and drying
Once the straps were dried and the loopy patches on the board bag were dry, I was ready to affix the straps to the cover. At this point, I put one of my surfboards in the bag to fill it out properly for correct strap placement.
Once again, I used plenty of E6000 glue…
If it goes out to the edge, all the better
Glad textbooks are still good for something
I had to take everything indoors to allow the glue to cure properly since it’s a million degrees outside. I just made sure to keep everything ventilated. I also allowed everything to dry for over 24 hours since the bag will be taking a lot of stress.
Peels right open like a banana
Good enough for a trip up the street
Although this bag may not be suitable for plane travel anymore, it’s good enough for local travel. This may help keep some of the nasty sand, salt, and wax off of the roof of my car as a bonus. Since the cover just peels off and peels back on easily enough to load it in and out of the bag, it may actually get used now.
Hey, I’m might be a hick, but even I don’t want my little car to get THIS bad….
In my last post, I was carving some Tagua palm nuts to make some neato pieces. Like wood, Tagua nuts can be painted to artsy up a piece even more. I had cut a nice thick piece, and drilled a top hole to hang the slice as a pendant.
Sanded and ready to paint
For this project, I used my acrylic paint pens that I’ve used on my surfboards before. Small paintbrushes and toothpicks come in handy for detail painting too.
The brush on varnish I like to use with the acrylic paint pens I like
The important part is the varnish, though. Tagua is cellulose, so if you want your d’art to stay sharp and not bleed into the nut, put on a couple of thin coats on the surface before you start your creation. I sealed the entire slice before painting.
Once it’s completely dry, I can start painting whatever I want, building up color slowly.
Keeping just an accent
Happy little daisies
I made sure the acrylic paint was completely dry before painting two more thin coats of varnish to seal the piece.
I use my disposable contact lens containers for paint and varnish
I used some yellow Linhasita cord and some olivewood beads to finish this piece off into a necklace:
Happy and bright
Super easy, super fun, and if you hate what you painted, get out the sandpaper and start over. Hopefully the Tagua slice was cut thick enough.
I certainly got comfortable with sanding (not REALLY my arm, just a meme, haha!)….
I’ve always had a thing for palm trees, probably since they remind me of tropical places and surfy times.
It’s no surprise, then, that I freakin’ love Tagua nut anything, since it grows naturally from the Ivory Palm Tree.
Tagua was used in the old days like plastic would be used today: buttons, handles, knobs, jewelry, etc. were easily carved from this nut that resembles elephant ivory on the inside. So, after years of collecting various carved Tagua pieces, I had to try out carving some myself. Especially since non-biodegradable plastics seem to be forming islands in the ocean around us, it’s worth checking out for some hippie eco-fun.
I ordered some raw nuts from Etsy for about $1 each plus shipping, so it wasn’t a huge investment. Tagua nut harvesting is one of the few industries that encourages keeping rainforests around a little longer too….super hippie eco bonus.
One of the raw Tagua nuts I ordered
Tagua is supposed to cut similar to wood, so I used those type of tools for woodworking. I used tools like a scroll saw, sanding wheel, and drill bits that I already use for small wood craft projects:
My Dremel scroll saw
Since I didn’t want to saw my fingers off, using a vise was helpful- especially for cutting nice, even slices. You must either use a vise or glue the nut onto a steady block of wood to cut it. It’s just too small to try and line up under the saw with just your fingers….and keep ’em.
The hard rubber jaws of the vise are perfect for this work
Top view of the nut getting ready to be sawed in two
A nut slice…has a small void
Every Tagua nut potentially has a void at its’ center, which is something to consider when carving this. If the Tagua is dried properly during the harvest process, there is supposedly less of a void. So I’ve heard. This batch I received also looks a bit dark on the inside, so this Tagua might be older, but it’s still a beautiful color.
I made sure to cut and grind slowly, since Tagua burns very easily. And you can smell it when it starts to get too hot.
Sanding the exposed surface on the side wheel
I used a sanding bit to sand away the surface to make cool patterns
Tagua is delicate! I was too harsh with this piece
Some of the Dremel bits I played with
They polish up like little fancy bits o’ wood
Now, Tagua isn’t waterproof- it’s very porous cellulose, so it’s not a bad idea to coat pieces with a clear sealant. I like the paint-on varnishes better than the spray can type for these. When I tried using the spray can, the varnish left tiny little raised dots all over the surface. Bleh.
Here’s some of my sealed pieces using the better paint-on varnish:
Finished and varnished pieces
Since I already enjoy woodworking, I can totally see myself getting into this tropical craft that’s fun, sustainable, and reminds me of my favorite trees ever….
Christmas lights should be banned in Florida because it’s absurd
Remember that necklace/wrap bracelet I made a couple of posts ago? I saved the little silver charms from the 4Ocean bracelets, and I wanted to use them to make some easy fun earrings with basic stuff from the craft store. Ear hooks, a few glass beads, and a couple of eye pins can make a fancy looking pair of earrings. You’ll also need a pair of small round-nose jewelry making pliers (here’s a link to some I found online).
All of my supplies
Adding a charm to the end of each eye pin
Sliding a silver bead, a glass fish bead, then a silver bead onto each eye pin
Preparing to make a loop at the top of each eye pin
I try to match up the same position when I make the loop on each
These are a cute way to promote the 4Ocean cause of removing plastics from the ocean, and creating awareness of plastic pollution.
Honestly, though, for surfing the Cocoa Beach Pier, I need more useful earrings. I searched on Etsy and found my dream pair: