Olan Suddeth

Dad. Computer geek.
Homebrewer. Disney nut.
Would-be crafty guy.

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HomeBrew Dad

a blog about making all sorts of things while raising a large family

An Easy Trick to Make Holes for Holiday Yard Decorations

Yesterday - in spite of the fact that here in Alabama, we are still in the mid-nineties, temp wise - I started pulling fall decorations out of the basement. These decorations include a half dozen scarecrows mounted on bamboo stakes.

Now, I'm sure that some of you live in magical places with soft dirt that allows you to just press these into the ground, where they then stay in place without issue. I, however, live in the South, with dirt that has a consistency similar to concrete for a few inches until it gives way to hard red clay.

In the past, I would struggle with the stakes, managing to work them a couple of inches down - ensuring that the first decent storm would invariably blow the scarecrows over. I tried various method of digging them out, but no matter what I tried, I was constantly fighting with scarecrows that would lean to one side of the other, fall over time and time again, and so forth. Hammering them into the ground was not an option; not only do the tops of the stakes sit inside of the scarecrow (so that you can't reach them with a hammer), the fact is that a decent hammer blow will likely split the bamboo stakes and ruin them.

Last year, Donna came across a trick for these, and it was an absolute revelation... so I figured that I would share it with you.

Step 1: obtain a short piece of rebar. You can pick one up from Home Depot, Lowes, or a hardware store for just a couple of dollars. You want something roughly eighteen to twenty-four inches long.

rebar and maulMy maul and a piece of rebar.

Step 2: hammer the rebar into the ground. You can do this with a normal hammer, but it will take longer; use a sledgehammer if you have...

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Tags for this post: DIY

Making Our Old Maytag Clothes Dryer Work Like New

my old Maytag dryer
Our old electric Maytag clothes dryer.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is in fact an old electric clothes dryer. It has been well used, as the scratches and such on top can attest. If you look at this picture and think something along the lines of "old piece of junk"... well, I can both understand and forgive that.

We've had this dryer for at least ten years, now... it may actually be closer to fifteen. We did not purchase it new; this was a newspaper want ads special (which should help date its age) that we bought when our first dryer died, and we simply did not have the cash to spring for a brand new one.

It is, however, a Maytag, and has been very reliable for the time we have owned it. I think the worst problem that we have dealt with for most of the time has been an odd propensity to toss lint inside of our laundry closet. Donna used to bug me about fixing that; one day, I replaced the flexible exhaust vent ducting and put proper hose clamps on, and that helped a lot.

Over time, the dryer has lost some power. It's been a slow creep, where loads weren't all the way dry, so we'd run them again. Heavy loads like towels would take even longer... but much like you slowly raise the temperature on the frog...

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Tags for this post: DIY

Auburn Oktoberfest 2019 Was a Blast!

I don't write much about brewing beer in this blog; I choose to focus on other subjects here and leave my brewing stuff to other channels (like my BrewUnited website). But the fact remains that I *am* HomeBrew Dad, and brewing is my biggest hobby... so every now and then, you get to hear about it. Today is one such time.

kids stirring the mash
Silas, Wynter, Elowyn, and Gideon stir the mash for my Kentucky Common beer.

A year ago, Rob (a homebrewing buddy of mine) reached out after one of his other friends had backed out at the last minute. He had a tent at the Auburn Oktoberfest and needed someone to come and help him set up his gear, pour the beer, etc. I agreed, and ended up having a great time helping him out. In my experience, craft beer people tend to be super polite, friendly folks, and that definitely held true here. I left the festival that day thinking that I ought to reserve my own tent the following year... and when the time came, I did just that.

I won't lie, I looked forward to the event for pretty much the entire year, though at several points, I had serious doubts that I would make the festival this year.

While it is possible for one person to do everything, it's far from ideal. Admission includes a helper, as the...

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Tags for this post: Hobbies

Review: Small World, a Board Game from Days of Wonder

Playing Small World
Playing Small World around our dining room table

Nearly two years ago, Noah got a board game for Christmas that looked like it could be a lot of fun - and also looked like it could be pretty confusing. That latter part meant that Donna and I kept saying "we need to play that game soon"... but soon kept never happening.

Yeah, you may have heard a similar story before. Shame on us!

This time around, the game in question was Small World, by Days of Wonder (who you may recognize as the publisher of the incredibly popular "Ticket to Ride" games). In retrospect, we should have cracked this thing open a long time ago.

Small World, by Days of Wonder
Image courtesy of Amazon


Small World is a conquest type game for ages eight and up. The game is designed for two to five players, and a typical game is probably going to last from forty-five minutes to an hour and a half. Our first play through was a little slow, but that had more to do with us figuring things out than anything else; I expect that future iterations will be quicker.

The basic idea is that you take control of one of fourteen fantasy races (humans, elves, trolls, dwarves, and so on)...

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Tags for this post: Product Reviews

Reviewing Cash Back Shopping Apps

Three hundred dollars of actual cash back from purchases I was already making, anyway. That is where I stand today with Ibotta, a little money saving app that has really changed how I approach grocery shopping.

On Facebook, I've been sharing my excitement of late regarding various little money saving apps and such, and it occurs to me that while I'll certainly keep sending out little bumps to Facebook now and then... I really ought to take the time to make a real blog post about my success with them - and how to take advantage of them.

As always, I need to give credit where it is due - if not for my wife, Donna, I'd have never discovered this topic in the first place. And I should confess that she tried to get me interested in these things several times before I finally stopped procrastinating and installed Ibotta back in February. I decided to use it as a fun way to do a little extra saving for our Disney World trip next year, but I am really surprised at just how quickly some of this stuff can add up... and man, am I kicking myself for not listening to her sooner!

About a month ago, Donna sent me an invitation to a Disney World savings group on Facebook, and they turned me on to some other apps (which again, full disclosure, she had mentioned some of to me already). I got...

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Tags for this post: Budgeting

Installing a Pegboard Nerf Wall to Bring Order to Our House

It may come as a shock to you, but in my house, space comes at a premium. We are absolutely not one of those minimalist families that severely caps the number of toys that their kids may own. The kids love that, but it can cause obvious issues.

With three boys of the ideal age range for them, we happen to own a stunning amount and variety of Nerf guns. While this provides a lot of fun for them (and the neighborhood kids), the fact is, Nerf guns take up a TON of space; we had filled a toy box and a couple of storage buckets, and still had them scattered around the house.

After my wife saw some Nerf pegboard organizer projects online, we decided that we needed to tackle this ourselves.

Originally, we had looked at converting one end of the playroom in the basement to a Nerf wall. However, it occurred to my wife that we have a pretty wide set of stairs leading down to the basement, and that this space is utterly unused - with little potential for anything "useful". If we used the stairwell, we would basically be creating space from nothing.

As it turns out, this is one of the easiest home improvement projects that you might choose to undertake. My supply list was super simple.

  • Four 4' x 4' sheets of pegboard from Lowes
  • 2" drywall screws
  • 5/16" washers
  • 1" x 2" furring strips
  • Various pegs and...
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Tags for this post: DIY, Home Improvement

Canker Sores... How to Prevent and Treat These Nasty Things

Canker sores - also known as mouth ulcers - suck.

There is no polite way to phrase that. These horrible sores pop up in your mouth - most often on your gums, inside of your lips, and tongue - and cause days of unending pain. To make matters worse, lots of people (like myself) seldom get one such sore; they tend to come in twos and threes and fives.

To clarify - this post is NOT about cold sores (the type that show up on the outside of your lip), but about canker sores that form inside of your mouth. Also, please note that I am not a medical professional, do not play one on TV, and am speaking simply from personal experience. Keep that in mind as you consider my words.

I've seen all sorts of suggestions for why these sores pop up, but one thing that pretty much every source agrees on is this - there is no actual cure for them.

However, there are ways to both treat and help prevent getting canker sores. I have tried so many methods over the years, but have finally found some pretty reliable approaches. I've tried various medications, home remedies of all sorts (yes, a match head pressed into the wound hurts incredibly bad, but does little to improve it), ointments... you name it. I won't claim that I have any magical secrets that will work for everyone, but I can say that...

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Tags for this post: Health

Baseball Teaches Life Lessons

Youth baseball. Cheering, screaming, and blind umpires that obviously have it out for your team. Snack duty, fighting a losing battle to get red ballpark dirt out of those pants, and practice, practice, practice. The pride of knowing that is your child who just made that play, the agony of sharing their mistakes and losses.


Noah running for home

For the past sixteen years, I have been involved in coaching Dixie Youth baseball in some capacity, from leagues ranging from tee ball to teenagers and back again. As my seventeenth such season comes to a close, it felt apropos to dive into my motivations behind donating my time and effort again and again.

Don't get me wrong. Like virtually every such parent, I do this to be involved in my kids' lives - I have now had four boys play the game. It doesn't hurt that I love the sport of baseball, and that I enjoy teaching fundamentals and skills. I enjoy being around kids and working with them (more or less a necessary trait in someone with as large of a family as I have). But more than X's and O's, more than the love of the game, more than just any excuse to spend time with them, I also happen to strongly believe that baseball is a great teacher of life lessons.

Disclaimer: I am well aware that most of the points that I make about baseball...

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Tags for this post: Parenting

Teaching My Sons to Be Real Men

Silas the pirate
Why can't life stay this simple?

A week or so ago, I was driving my seven year old son, Silas, to baseball. We were talking about this and that, as usual, when he mentioned to me that he had found something he liked, but didn't know how I would feel about it. I reassured him that I was sure that I would be fine with it, so he explained to me that it was a new game he had installed on his tablet... where the point was taking care of little "cute" animals. Feeding them, bathing them, playing with them, giving them different toys or looks, and so on.

My first reaction was to laugh - not at him, but at the idea that I would have a problem with that. After all, I *am* the guy who blogs about sewing burp cloths, baby blankets, and sleeping bags for dolls. I'm the grown man that ranks getting his photo taken with Friar Tuck at Disney World as a true "magical moment" of his life. Had he forgotten who he was dealing with?

But as we talked, it became clear that he was worried that liking something like this would be too "girly", that it wasn't "tough enough", that it would be received as a fault in his character. Realizing that made me a little sad.

This is a kid who will sacrifice his body to lay out to stop a...

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Tags for this post: Parenting

Corn Dogs and Capri Suns, or, Emotions Following a Traumatic Birth

I want to admit that I have been really struggling of late. It may be shallow or foolish for me to feel this way, given how good Donna and Kalani are doing... but mentally and emotionally, it has been really tough on me.

We had these months of worry of whether they would even survive or not. Listening to the doctors say again and again about how her condition was "life threatening", and us looking at the mortality rates for moms with placenta accreta. All of the side effects that could come from a surgery that would remove her uterus and part of her bladder - pain, diminished quality of life, forced menopause, and on and on. Donna making me promise this or that in case she didn't survive... up to and including her demanding that I promise to perform an emergency c section in the event that she had a serious bleed (as it had been spelled out to us that she would almost certainly not survive long enough for us to get her to the hospital). There are youtube videos, she told me, instructing me that I had to hurry, that there would be nothing I could do for her, but that I could not let the baby die. I was to take my pocket knife, cut down from the belly button, only cut through the thick white layer so as to not hurt the baby, pull the baby out, dry it, wrap in a new towel...

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Tags for this post: Family Life

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