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DIY
Do-it-yourself projects and plans for anyone who can swing a hammer.

Building a Front Yard Pond

 

A couple weeks back we hosted a work bee with Reno's "Permaculture Northern Nevada" group to build a small pond in our front yard.  Our friend with pond building experience led about seven of us for three hours of pond making. Our motivation in building a small pond or water feature was twofold.  First, we sought to add the soothing qualities of water in a area of our homestead where we spend a lot of time in the summer hosting guests and eating meals.  Second, we wanted another habitat to diversify the little ecosystem of our land that would support birds, aquatic plants, and insects.  

Katy and I spent some time beforehand figuring out the future location and size of the pond with particular attention to how it would fit in with an raised sitting area we intend to build later in the summer.  The pond will anchor one corner of this future "outdoor room". 

Building Steps:

With the help of the group we dug a hole roughly seven feet long by four feet wide and two feet deep at its deepest point.  The edges we kept as vertical as possible.  The size of our our was in part determined by the size of the old pond liner our friend had for us to use.  We made it a bit irregular – one end wider than the other - to give it a slightly more natural look.  We also added about two feet to each measurement knowing we'd have to cover additional length over our earthbags (see below).

We used earth bags (sand bags) filled with the extracted soil to raise up the sides of the pond.  We stacked them two high to give us about 8" above grade.  Earth bags are great for this as they are malleable, smooth (no sharp edges to poke the pond liner), and easy to maneuver into place.

We leveled the bags using a long 2x4 with a level atop it and then tamping down or fluffing up the earthbags as needed.  We left a foot-wide spillway on one end intentionally lower by a couple inches.  This is the outlet should our pond overflow from rain or, more likely, our mistake in overfilling it.   

We filled in the gaps between the bags and the ground and between the bags themselves with wet clay-rich soil from what we dug out of the hole.  This served to make all the sides smoother and more plumb. 

We laid an old nylon/polyester blanket at the bottom and up the sides as much as possible to act as a cushion for the pond liner and reduce risk of puncture.  There were several roots we had to cut back before this, too.   

Using scraps of an old billboard sign we then lined the sides of the hole and up and over the bags.  We tacked the billboard vinyl to the bags with old nails. Old billboard signs are another great urban resource – call your local companies and ask for their old signs. They are usually 40'x14' and can be had for around $20. 

We then lowered the pond liner into the hole and over the other materials with a large rock placed roughly in it's center point.  The weight made it easy to lay the liner and knowing the middle helped us get the placement right quicker. 

Last, for the work bee day anyway, we filled the pond up with water.  As it filled we stood around the edges and made slight adjustments to the liner placement before it got too heavy to move. 

Since the work bee we covered and lined the liner with urbanite (salvaged concrete sidewalk chunks, in this case) and rocks to hide the plastic and help "ground" the pond in our yard.  We also added some aquatic plants, a log perch to make it accessible for birds, and a disc that promotes the growth of a certain bacteria which inhibits mosquito larvae development (gotten at the same place as the plants).  Mosquito Fish, which eat mosquito larvae, are on the way, too.  

In the future, as our outdoor room takes shape, we'll add flowers and plants in the urbanite and rock cracks and connect a small deck to one side so we can sit and dip our feet as we like.

Kyle Chandler-Isacksen runs the Be the Change Project with his wife in Reno, Nevada. They are dedicated to creating a just and life-sustaining world while having fun doing it. They were one of MOTHER EARTH NEWS’ Homesteads of the Year in 2013. Shoot him an email.


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Upcycling Old Fence Boards

Recently, we’ve been doing some beautification projects on our half-acre urban homestead and Be the Change Project in Reno, Nevada.  Many of these have utilized salvaged fence slats.  The results have been so lovely that I wanted to share about them so others can make use of a great urban resource.  

In our neck of the woods old wood is hip and is prominent on bars and breweries, in café’s, and on houses in Reno’s up-and-coming Midtown District.  And why shouldn’t it be?  With weathered colors, lustrous grain patterns, and soft texture it is a material that helps give a place a stronger sense of belonging.  A lot of this wood is old barn board which is generally thicker than fence board but also more expensive.  Fencing is thinner but nearly as versatile and wonderfully free!   

slats

We’re located right in Reno and back up to a busy road.  For years we’ve thought about fencing off the back to give a bit of privacy and, as importantly, to give definition to a long stretch of our backyard. However, like much of what we do, we didn’t want to use new materials.  Using salvaged wood reduces logging and is more sustainable, is cheaper, and like I mentioned above gives new projects the aesthetics of aged materials which help them blend in and belong.  

Sourcing Used Wood 

I contacted one of Reno’s larger fence companies and they were glad to show me their “bone yard”.  Every old fence they replace is loaded onto their flatbed trucks and dumped in their bone yard until they have enough to load into a dumpster for a trip to the dump.  Being a large company they amass a great quantity of wood debris each week.  Some of this is truly garbage – ancient slats of cedar barely holding themselves together, 4x4’s ravaged by water or dry rot, and lots of broken slats - victims of the demolition process.  However, it is rare that a trip to the bone yard does not yield a full pickup truck load of quality, usable, beautiful wood.  This includes slats of many widths, 2x4’s and 4x4’s (regularly of 8’ and longer lengths), and includes cedar, spruce/fir/pine, and redwood.  And, as an added bonus and (and following the permaculture principle of stacking functions), each trip doubles as firewood collection be it from what I intentionally grab at the yard for burning or from the scraps I’m left with after my building projects.  

Here’s an assortment of what we’ve done with this great resource:

Fences
Raised garden beds (as cladding)
Exterior siding over ugly particle board
Interior siding 
Trim and detail work inside our home
Art projects
As partial siding on our hybrid cob cabin  

So give your local fencing company a call and see how you can make great use of this underappreciated urban treasure.

Kyle Chandler-Isacksen runs the Be the Change Project with his wife in Reno, Nevada. They are dedicated to creating a just and life-sustaining world while having fun doing it. They were one of MOTHER EARTH NEWS’ Homesteads of the Year in 2013. Shoot him an email.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Cheap Lumber: Find Great Furniture Wood in Piles of Floor Joists

Next time you visit a lumberyard, check out the piles of cheap lumber 2x8s, 2x10s and 2x12s meant for framing houses. Where I live the best planks must come from huge, old trees because the growth rings are tight, the grain is beautiful and the very best boards have almost no knots. You may never have considered using framing lumber for fine furniture, but I know from nearly 30 years experience that cheap lumber like this is a diamond in the rough. The woodwork you see here is made entirely from cheap lumber milled for construction.

Before I tell you more, let me make it clear that I’m not talking about throwing together rough tables, cupboards, boxes and stools with deck screws.  There’s nothing wrong with this, but that’s not what this blog is about. What I’m talking about is making finely finished, ultra-smooth, refined furniture from wood that starts off as big, wide planks for house frames. I mill, joint and plane these with the same care I apply to the furniture-grade hardwoods I use in my shop and the results are every bit as refined at a fraction of the cost.

I discovered the secret of cheap, high-quality framing lumber for furniture back in the late 1980s. The 1/4”-thick shop-cut “veneer” you see on the drawer face here is an example of the kind of thing that’s possible. But what got me thinking about all this most recently is a YouTube video I posted in 2010. Until a couple of months ago, this video only got a few thousand views. Earlier this year something clicked, and now it’s my most popular video – about 75,000 views per month. Many of the comments are positive, but some are skeptical, like these:

“That kind of wood doesn’t take a nice finish”, some people warn.

“Framing lumber warps too much”, others proclaim.

“Don’t waste your time. This guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about”, offered one armchair expert.

After decades of experience, I can say for sure that none of the prejudice against building fine furniture from framing lumber is true. If you select boards carefully, then joint and plane the wood the same way you’d work any kind of expensive, rough hardwood lumber, you can get terrific results.  The glass-smooth finish you see here was applied to a piece of 2x12 floor joist.

Here’s are the basics:

1. Always choose “kiln dried” framing lumber. Avoid the stuff labelled “S-Green”. The high moisture content will have triggered mold stains all over it.

2. Always dry your framing lumber before and during building sessions. Even “kiln dried” construction lumber is wetter than the 7% to 9% required for interior projects.

3. Learn to recognize stable, high-quality grain patterns. Tight growth rings, freedom from knots and annular rings as close to perpendicular to the board face as possible is what you’re looking for.

There’s more to success building fine furniture with framing lumber than I have room for here. In response to those skeptical YouTube viewers I told you about, I’ve put together a detailed how-to post on the subject. Learn all the details for free at baileylineroad.com/cheap-lumber-makes-fine-furniture

Great wood at low prices. This is what building fine furniture from framing lumber is all about. So why is there this opportunity? Most of the softwood lumber industry in North America still thinks of itself as a bulk producer of low-value commodity wood. This means that wood from the biggest, best logs isn’t selected out for sale at higher prices. It’s just lumped in with all the knotty, low value lumber that makes its way to house frames. Once you learn this fact and you find a lumber yard that trusts you to pick through piles while keeping things tidy, you’ll get some very nice lumber at very attractive prices. All you need are eyes to see what quality looks like.

My post includes downloadable plans for a bunkbed I made using framing lumber. This project was originally published in 2001, but you can get the plans here: http://baileylineroad.com/cheap-lumber-makes-fine-furniture.


 All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

The Ugly Truth About Staining Your Old Deck

 

After three decades of watching people struggle to maintain a finish on their wooden decks, I’ve come to realize something. If you want something fancier than a weathered wood deck, successful deck staining boils down to one rare personality trait. How well can you keep your enthusiasm under control?

While it’s oh-so tempting to open up that new can of stain and slap some onto the cracked remains of a long-dead finish, that’s a recipe for disaster. If you do this there are two reasons why your deck will look crummy again in 6 months or less:

1. Most deck stains don’t work all that well even if you do apply them properly.

2. You need to delay gratification for a few painful hours while you deal with all that peeling, worn out stain and tired looking grey wood.

The trick involves finding a deck stain with a proven track record, and  doing the prep work simply, effectively and in the least possible amount of time.

The best way to start depends on what you’ve got. If your current deck finish is just starting to show age wrinkles around the ears, then you’re in luck.  Act now. All you need is simple top-up maintenance – a light sanding and another coat or two of finish.

Light sanding is crucial because it removes those tiny bits of loose stain that are just starting to let go around wood knots, and it slightly roughens the remaining firm deck surface so new coats stick long-term. Don’t sand right through the existing finish, just scuff the surface. That’s what you see here.

A variable speed random orbit sander spinning a 100-grit disk at half speed is ideal for this job. Go over the whole deck lightly, sweep or vacuum off the dust, then brush on a coat of the same stuff that was applied before. One thing to remember: too many coats of stain causes peeling, even on otherwise well-prepped wood. One top-up coat will probably be enough, two at the most.  

If more than 10% of your deck surface is peeling or grey, it’s time to get serious. Start by rolling on a generous coat of water based deck stripper to loosen as much of the old finish as possible. Let it sit, then remove the goop with a pressure washer. Today’s best strippers are safe around plants, though they do tend to foam up in a way that reminds me of the bio-digestion pond at a pulp and paper plant. Despite a great deal of concern from the head gardener at our house, I’ve never killed plants with deck strippers labeled as garden-safe.

Use a pressure washer (the power of a gasoline unit is especially valuable) to clean the wood after 20 or 30 minutes. You might need to apply more stripper and wash again if any old finish remains after the first assault. Do patches of grey wood remain? Deck brighteners that I’ve used eliminate this problem very effectively.

When the wood is completely bare, let it dry for a couple of good days before sanding with a 60-grit abrasive in a random orbit sander running full blast. Why sand now and not before? Two reasons.

A stripper and pressure washer always removes old finishes faster than sanding. And when it comes to deck stripping, faster is definitely better. But stripping and washing do have their side effects, nonetheless. By the time your deck is stripped, washed and fully dry, it will almost certainly show fuzzy fibres of wood sticking up.  If left alone, these always lead to a rough finished deck surface, but that’s not all. Fuzzy fibers also short-circuit your finishing efforts because they lead to premature peeling. Since they don’t have a firm grasp on the underlying lumber, fuzzy fibers break loose in time, bringing your new deck finish with them. Sanding off the fuzzies is fast and easy. One quick pass over dry wood and its gone. Just be sure to wear a tight-fitting dust mask as you work.

There are more deck staining details than I have room for here. That’s why I maintain an in-depth webpage on deck staining and refinishing. It’s free and I keep it updated with all the latest information about deck stains that work, prep techniques that save time, and alternatives to finishing.

Above all else, stay patient. Don’t let your enthusiasm get the better of you. A long lasting deck finish depends on it.

Learn for free at baileylineroad.com/how-to-stain-deck-properly/


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page. 

Which Pressure Washer Nozzle Should You Use?

MEN-speedwash-in-action_nozzles

Pressure washers are a great way to clean all kinds of surfaces around your home: vinyl siding, stucco, concrete, stone walkways, brick, boats, cars and trucks, power equipment, garage floors, and more. If you have a pressure washer or are considering buying one, you’ve probably noticed that there are all kinds of pressure washer nozzles to choose from. The nozzles are color-coded to make it easy to choose the one that you need, and the colors are universal. But which pressure washer nozzle is right for which jobs?

Nozzles Explained

Pressure washers spray water in a V shape from the end of the wand. Each nozzle that you add to the end of the wand will spray water in a wider or narrower V, depending on what degree angle it is designed to spray at. For example, a 15° angle is a fairly narrow V, while a 40° is significantly wider.

With a narrower spray (a low-degree nozzle), you get more pressure in your spray, but it is spread over a small area. With a wider spray (a higher-degree nozzle) you get less pressure, but it covers more area. If you are purchasing nozzles for your pressure washer, be sure to get the correct nozzles for your machine. Refer to this handy pressure washer nozzle chart for guidance when choosing a nozzle for your next pressure washer project:

Pressure Washer Nozzle Guide

Pressure Washer Nozzle Guide

Turbo Nozzle

MEN-turbo-nozzle

There is also a nozzle called a rotating nozzle, or rotary nozzle, that allows you to have the best of both worlds: pressure and coverage. The rotating nozzle gives you the extreme pressure of  a 0° nozzle with the wide coverage of a 25° nozzle. If you choose to use a rotating nozzle, be extra careful what surface you use it on. The pressure of a 0° spray can damage wood, siding, and some metals. For concrete, brick, and other very hard surfaces, though, the rotating nozzle is a great time-saver.

Bryan Johnson is Ecommerce Operations Specialist with Country Home Products and its brand DR Power Equipment. He is committed to making and promoting innovative, useful, time-saving power equipment. He is based in Vermont, surrounded by what he loves DR Power Blog, Facebook, and YouTube.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

How to Use Citrus Peels


We eat a lot of citrus in my household, however citrus peels are on the “do not feed” list for the worms in our vermicomposting system. I used to just toss the peels into our outdoor compost bin, but then I had a hunch that with a little creative thinking I could make my citrus peels stretch even further.

After doing a bit of research, I was pleasantly surprised at the myriad of ways I can use and preserve citrus peels to add a little zest to my daily routine.

 

 orange on tree
Flickr/Rafael Castillo

Dehydrated Citrus Zest

Citrus zest brightens up many dishes and can easily be made ahead of time. Take a few moments to zest your citrus before juicing or peeling. To do this, use a sharp vegetable peeler to cut away strips of the peel – try not to get too much of the white pith because it tastes bitter and won’t dry properly. Next, chop the peels up into small pieces. If you own a dehydrator, then dehydrate the pieces for 4 to 6 hours.  Otherwise, lay them on a parchment-lined baking sheet and then pop them in the oven at 200 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes. When dry, either grind the citrus peels and store them in a spice shaker, or keep the chopped citrus bits in an airtight container in your refrigerator.

An even better option — although it may require a specialty purchase — is to use an inexpensive microplane zester.  The microplane will allow you to grate your zest into super-fine flakes, which you can then pop directly into the freezer — no dehydrating necessary!

With ready-made citrus zest on hand, you’ll start dreaming up excuses to sprinkle it on everything from lemony pasta and key lime pie to homemade spice rubs and warming tea blends.

zested citrus
Flickr/Christopher Smith

A Digestive Aid

Just a drop or two of any bitter herb on the tongue will help stimulate healthy digestion before or after a meal. Orange peels are often included in homemade bitters recipes, along with dandelion root, gentian, and fennel.

This Dandy Tummy Bitters Recipe originally appeared in the Winter 2016/2017 issue of Heirloom Gardener.

The experts at The Herbal Academy also classify bitter orange (Citrus aurantium) as a fantastic herb to support digestion. Check out their excellent post Three Herbs to Support Digestion After a Long Winter to learn about bitter orange’s healing properties as a carminative, digestive aid, and liver tonic to help the body metabolize the heavier and fattier foods consumed during winter.

A Twist on Limoncello

Limoncello is an Italian lemon-flavored liqueur that’s traditionally served straight and chilled. It’s delicious mixed into cold lemonades, and you can definitely get away with substituting orange, grapefruit, lime, or any other citrus fruit for the lemons. It’s extremely easy to make, and you only need a few ingredients.

This is a particularly fun project to start in late October or early November so that it’s ready in time for the holiday season as inexpensive presents or hostess gifts.

10 organic lemons or limes or 5 organic oranges or grapefruits
Vodka (100 proof is preferred, but 80-proof will work)
1 cup sugar

Peel the citrus, avoiding as much of the bitter pith as possible. Add the citrus peels to a sterilized glass jar and cover with vodka. Cover and let sit for 4 to 6 weeks before straining. Make simple syrup by bringing 1 cup of water to a simmer and then stirring in the sugar until it dissolves; combine the simple syrup with the citrus-infused vodka.  If the end product isn’t sweet enough for you, then experiment with adding more simple syrup until it tastes the way you like.

Limoncello should be kept refrigerated and will store for 1 year.

Limoncello
Flickr/Pernilla Rydmark

 

Citrus-Scented Cleaning Products

I love the smell of citrus, and when used in cleaning products it makes the room feel bright and refreshed. Consider infusing distilled white vinegar with citrus peels – either fresh or dehydrated – to use as a citrusy countertop spray. Follow the same instructions as the limoncello recipe, above, but substitute distilled white vinegar for the vodka and don’t bother adding the simple syrup at the end. To use, add the citrus-infused vinegar to a spray bottle with equal parts water. You could also add 10 to 20 drops of your favorite essential oil for an additional punch.

Try using a leftover citrus wedge to wipe down your sink at the end of a day. First, sprinkle a few tablespoons of baking soda into your sink and then scrub it down with your citrus wedge. As an added bonus, the citrus wedge can go down your garbage disposal to freshen it, too.

Lightly salted citrus wedges can also help remove tea stains. Not only do they make the tea stains easer to remove, but from my experience they also seem to prevent new stains from forming quite as quickly.

For additional cleaning recipes that use homegrown herbs and citrus peels, check out the blog post How to Make an All-Purpose Herbal Cleaning Spray for Spring Cleaning by The Herbal Academy or check out Kami McBride’s excellent book, The Herbal Kitchen.

Homemade Potpourri

Making dried potpourri is a fun winter project, plus it makes great holiday or hostess gifts.

Dry your citrus peels by putting them in a dehydrator for 4 to 6 hours or in the oven at 200 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes. (You can also use entire citrus slices, which look nice but take longer to dry.) Mix dried peels with other naturally scented, dried plant material, such as pine needles, cinnamon sticks, cloves, cranberries, pine cones, lemon balm, rosebuds, or lavender.  Keep your dried potpourri blend in a decorative bowl or package it into individual linen baggies to store in dresser drawers or storage trunks.

If you want to whip up a potpourri instantly without going through the hassle of drying your materials, then try a simmering potpourri.  To make a simmering potpourri, simply toss your plant material into a stockpot, cover with water, bring to a low simmer, and then enjoy the scent that’s released as steam. Experiment with different citrus peels; I imagine orange would smell the best, but grapefruit, lime, and even lemon could be interesting. Toss in some cinnamon, cloves, vanilla, peppermint, or anything else that suits your fancy.

You can also try tossing dried citrus peels into your fireplace, where they’ll burn easily while releasing their warming scent

Have you discovered any other ways to use citrus peels around the home? If so, I’d love to hear about them. Don’t hesitate to leave a comment on this article or to send me a personal message at Hkincaid@MotherEarthNews.com.


Hannah was inspired to write this blog post during her time enrolled in The Herbal Academy’s online school where she worked her way through the Entrepreneur Herbalist Package. She is managing editor for Heirloom Gardener and senior editor for Mother Earth News.

 

Recycling or Upcycling

sweaterdress

Upcycled sweater “dress” Kara helped me make from thrift store finds.  Photo by Steve Barnes.

I grew up learning the mantra of “reduce, reuse, recycle” for making an environmental impact in the home.  We carefully cleaned and sorted glass, aluminum, plastics of certain numbers, and saved up paper and cardboard so it could magically have a new life beyond our home.  As a kid, we still had to take the labels off all the jars too!  It’s certainly much simpler to recycle most consumer products today…except Styrofoam, no one seems to know how to reuse that one yet.

Because of products like Styrofoam (which will still be kicking around millennia from now), another item was added to the mantra—refuse.  Not only could you reduce your waste, reuse items more than once, and recycle others, but you could purposefully “refuse” to purchase items that couldn’t be reused or recycled. 

At Farmstead, all our takeout containers are either made from pressed sugarcane pulp (which easily composts) or post-consumer recycled plastic (which can be recycled again), which means no Styrofoam.  We simply refuse to buy it and stock it.  The more people who refuse to buy environmentally non-friendly products, the less market demand that product will have, and eventually companies will respond by producing less of it.  Why make it if people won’t buy it!

Upcycling Trend

But there is yet even another trendy term being added to the growing list of things you can do to make a difference.  It doesn’t start with “re” though.  The new word of the day is “upcycle.”  In its verb form, upcycling means taking something that is no longer wanted in its original form and transforming it into something new and useful.  It’s distinct from “reuse” in that it changes form, but it’s not the whole energy-intense process that plastics or paper undergoes in order to be “recycled.”

Here’s a literary example.  Scarlet O’Hara needs a new gown, but the post-war economy is in a horrible state and she had no money.  Instead, she upcycles her curtains to make a lovely ball gown.  Velvet is still velvet—whether or not it came straight off a bolt or was a curtain for a while in between.  She still had to cut and sew the fabric to make the gown, but it was already a “post-consumer” product and something she had on hand.

Another interesting upcycling trend in our current time period is to take unwanted sweaters (thrift stores usually have plenty on hand) and turn them into new and interesting creations.  This might be patchwork handbags, fun hats, stuffed doggie beds, or any number of things.  If you cut out all the seams in the sweater, you’re left with pieces of knitted fabric of varying shapes and sizes (sleeves, fronts, backs).  These pieces can even be used to make new and creative clothing.

On average, Americans throw away 80 pounds of clothing a year per person.  That does not include clothing donated to thrift stores either!  I certainly don’t fit that number (you know farm families, it’s tough to throw anything away, even when it’s worn out), so someone out there is making up for my trickle of holy jeans and exhausted socks.  But still, considering those figures, in 10 years, that’s 800 pounds of clothing for one person!  That’s a bit crazy.

With upcycling, some of those throw-away clothes are intercepted and don’t end up in the landfill.  Kara’s been especially interested in the upcycled sweater project, resurrecting Grandma’s serger sewing machine.  She’s been making hats, coats, hooded capes, and even a fairy-like performance costume I wore at our St. Patty’s dinner and concert. 

“Red Riding Hood,” a red shoulder cape with hood and black trim recently sold in the shop (made from pieces of seven sweaters), and she just recently finished a children’s version in blues and teals.  The creations are fun and spontaneous, whimsical, and comfortable because the knitted fabrics retain their sweatery comfort and stretchiness.

Upcycling can take many forms—whatever turns something that has served its original purpose into something else with a whole new purpose is part of the upcycling movement. 

Great Grandma would take all her leftover scraps from making the family clothes and cut them into geometric pieces to make quilts, which is upcycling.  She could have bought new fabric to make those quilts, but she was old-fashioned thrifty and didn’t want to see those fabric scraps going to waste.

When I teach my wreathmaking classes, we start by re-bending two wire coat-hangers to form the base of the wreath, which is upcycling.  Yes, I could buy special-made wreath bases with fancy crimp and a special hanging clip, but the coat-hangers are readily available and help to empower students to realize that they have all the materials they need to do this on their own at home.

bookcover

Needle felted journal cover with antique lace and cast-off jewelry. 

My latest project is making journal covers using my new needle felting skills.  Starting with a base of scrap polar fleece (left over from sewing projects, like Great Grandma’s quilt fabrics) and quilt batting, I’m also layer on bits of antique lace, cast-off jewelry, old buttons, beads, and ribbon.  The creations are unique, fun to make, and texturally rich in your hands.  Hopefully these journals will find their way into the hands of writers who will also enjoy these textures and layerings as old objects find new, creative life.

 You may already be upcycling and don’t even know it!  So don’t feel bad if you have that stash of “can’t throw it away” stuff—find a way to upcycle it.  Be creative, invent something new with these old bits, and see how their stories and memories live on in a new form.  You just might catch the upcycling bug.  See you down on the farm sometime.

Laura Berlage is a co-owner of North Star Homestead Farms, LLC and Farmstead Creamery & Café. 715-462-3453 www.northstarhomestead.com.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.