DIY

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

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2/12/2016

In the late winter months, when nighttime and daytime temperatures oscillate from deep-freezing to above-freezing, an imperceptible shift begins to take place in the trees around us. This huge variation in temperature is a signal that spring is coming, and in preparation for leaf growth, sap begins to rise up within the tree. Like a hydraulic pulse pumping within the tree, this sap—a watery fluid rich with nutrients and sugars—ascends from roots to branches, marking the beginning of a very sweet season.

Though sap flow occurs in a wide variety of trees, there is one variety that produces a sap sweeter than them all: The Sugar Maple. For a six-week window of time before the break of spring, the sugar maple flows. The sap can be tapped, and then boiled down to make golden, luscious homemade maple syrup.  

Maple syrup made from sugar and red maple trees. Photo courtesy of Waterfall Farm

A Shifting Season

The maple-tapping season as a whole is subject to location and has different parameters depending on your location, changing the further north you travel, notes Wheeler Munroe, who has been tapping maple trees on her family farm in Ashe County, North Carolina, since 2012. “Around here, in the South,” continues Munroe, “we look at when the maple trees are going to break bud and bloom. That first little pop of bud-break marks the end of our sap season, because the chemistry of the sap changes. So you estimate when the bud-break is going to be, and then you back up 6 weeks, and that's when you tap your trees.”

On Waterfall Farm, where she works with her father, Doug Munroe, the tapping season begins on the first of February and runs through through mid March, when the trees begin to bud. But it’s a shifting season, once that tracks the path to spring. “For my brother and his wife who produce maple syrup in New York state,” says Munroe, “they're making their first syrup as we're making our last.”

Tapping for All

“Tapping a maple tree is something that anyone can do,” says Natalie Bogwalker, a tree-tapping hobbyist and the founder of Wild Abundance and the Firefly Gathering. “And,” she adds, “it’s especially magical for children.”

Bogwalker started tapping when she noticed three healthy sugar maples growing in the forest next to a house that she lived in years ago in Barnardsville, North Carolina. She and her housemates at the time tapped the trees using homemade sumac taps (sumac wood is hollow, and functions as an excellent alternative to steel taps).

The maple sap itself, describes Bogwalker, is very different from what you buy in a bottle when you purchase maple syrup from a store. “The raw sap that comes directly from the tree is a dilute thing,” she says. “It’s subtle, light, slightly sweet, and tinted very slightly tan. Also, it often sours within three days, so you want to process it right away.” 

After harvesting the watery sap from buckets hanging below the sumac taps, Bogwalker then cooked the sap down on her wood burning stove, which was always lit and functioned as the house’s only heat source. From the few trees she tapped in her backyard, Bogwalker extracted about 30 gallons of sap in all, and that boiled down to about 3 quarts of sticky, golden maple syrup.

“Down here in the Southern Appalachians, it takes 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup,” says Bogwalker. “Sugar maples have the highest sugar content in their sap, but you can also tap red maples, black walnut trees, box elders, and tulip poplars—but then the ratio of sugar [to sap] changes, and you might need up to 80 gallons of sap to make a gallon of syrup, that is too much work for me!”

“What you want,” continue Bogwalker, “is to drill through the bark and into the cambium layer of the tree, where xylem is coming up from the ground and feeding the leaves of the tree, so you’re only [diverting sap] from that little section of the tree that you're tapping, and a tree can be tapped for many many years as long as you remove the taps when you're done so the tree can heal over.”

Photo courtesy of Waterfall Farm

Home versus large scale production (in the home: wood burning stove or bust)

Syrup production using an electric or propane stove is not recommended, since, in addition to a tremendous energy bill and use of non-renewable resources, you’d be adding a large amount of moisture to the air in your home (which could cause all sorts of issues on its own). Since sap needs to be intensely reduced, small-scale syrup production only makes sense if you have a wood burning stove that’s already being used to heat your home. A wood burning stove naturally robs moisture from the air, so wetness resulting from sap reduction will not become a problem.  This only works effectively with wood stoves that do not have firebricks in the top of the stove. Firebricks absorb heat, which makes the stove better at holding and slowly releasing heat into the room, making them ineffective at heating liquid placed on the surface of the stove.

Bogwalker used a medium scale set-up when living with her partner outside of Boone, NC, years ago. They set up a homemade, ramshackle boiler outside with cinderblocks stacked about 3 feet high with a giant stainless steel tray from a salad bar used as the boiling pan.  

Processing on a larger scale, however, requires a sugar shack or sap house, where sap can be boiled down to syrup in large open vats that are heated with wood. On Waterfall Farm, all the maple trees are connected by network of plastic tubing that carries the sap from the trees and ushers it directly to the outdoor sugarhouse for processing. Wheeler and her father tap both sugar and red maple trees. “Our syrup is a blend,” says Munroe, “and the red maple sap lowers our sugar concentration a little, so we get 1.5-1.7 percent sugar in the sap. In places like Vermont, sugar ratios in the raw sap can be as high as 2.5 percent, but we haven't seen that here.” For their production process, it takes about 50 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup. The industry standard is 66 percent sugar content for the final product.

Tree assessment before tapping

Before you get started, here are some considerations that Munroe suggests to ensure that best practices are implemented prior to tapping:

• Assess the health of the tree first. Look at the tree's truck and make sure there aren't any scars or wounds that the tree’s trying to heal from. Look at the crown of the tree, and make sure it is robust and healthy and that there's not any dead wood up there.

• If the tree is at least six inches in diameter at the truck at waist height, it’s safe to tap. Any smaller then that means it’s not ready.

• If you reach your arms around a maple tree, and if you can't touch your fingers on the other side, then the tree’s big enough for two taps. Anything smaller than that is a one-tap tree, and Munroe suggests never putting in more than two taps per tree.

• If you do have more than one tap in a tree, you want those taps to be as far away from each other as possible, so they're not competing with each other.

• The largest, oldest maple trees, contrary to what you might think, actually produce less syrup than younger big trees. Old trees, when you tap them, are not as productive. Like people, young trees that have reached maturity are bursting with life, while older ones begin to slow down. 

To tap trees in your backyard, you’ll need:

• A stainless steel tap (which can be purchased online for about $4, and be sure to order a tap that comes with a metal hook for the bucket to hang from)

• A 2-gallon bucket to hang from the taps

• An electric drill

• A 5/16th drill bit (make sure the size corresponds with the tap we're using)

• A wooden mallet for driving in the tap

• A wood burning stove or a homemade boiler outside made to accommodate hotel pans or other deep stainless steel trays. Stainless steel hotel pans or mini hotel pan, or as many pots as will fit on your wood stove!

How to Tap

With your electric drill and 5/16th bit (or bit that corresponds to the tap you’re using), drill a 1 ½ inch hole into the maple at either waist or shoulder height. You want to drill straight in and straight out as best you can (you don’t want the hole to be oval or uneven, and you don’t want the drill to wobble in your hands).

Once you’ve drilled the hole, make sure it’s clean of any sawdust left behind (flick the sawdust completely). 

Then drive in your tap with a wooden mallet.

Leave the tap open, and hang your bucket below it.

Check your buckets 1-3 times a day (more if it’s warm, as wider temperature fluctuation can increase the sap flow, and sap spoils more quickly when it warmer outside).

Keep your wood burning stove cranking and reduce, reduce, reduce. Enjoy!

All photos provided by Water Fall Farm.

For more information on Wild Abundance or to join a weeklong or weekend intensive like the Wild Food Foraging Adventure, the Ancestral Foods Cooking Class, and the Tiny House and Natural Building Class, check out wildabundance.net and click on the school or class titles.

Natalie Bogwalker and Wheeler Munroe team up every year to lead a Ladies Basic Carpentry Class outside of Asheville North Carolina in July, 2016.  

To learn more about the work of Wheeler & Doug Munroe, check out Waterfall Farm.

In addition to farming maple syrup, Wheeler Munroe produces handcrafted leather tool belts tailored to the tools and skills of farmers, florists, and woodworkers. Check out her leather belts at Wheeler Munroe Leather Company

Aiyanna Sezak-Blatt is an organic top bar beekeeper, a mead maker, herbalist and organic gardener. Since moving to Asheville, N.C., she has worked as a contributing writer for the Mountain Xpress, Asheville’s alternative weekly newspaper, focusing on matters of sustainability, food security, waste and community activism. Read Aiyanna’s recent publications here, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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



1/26/2016

The Talaheim Lodge

In 1976, my youthful dream started to unfold as I began building my remote fishing lodge, The Talaheim Lodge, in the wilderness of Alaska. Most of the state can’t be reached by road, so many Alaskan fishing lodges, like mine, have to be reached by either helicopter or plane. Everything from a toothpick to a gallon of gasoline has to be flown in to our site.

During my younger days we built stockades with local timbers. Large cargo, single-engine aircrafts on skis are expensive to charter, so most of my lumber was cut on-site with a chainsaw mill. Our first crude building was built from logs and chainsaw cut lumber and went up like a kid building a tree fort. For the next 30 years, I used a chainsaw to cut as much lumber as possible in order to keep costs down when building miles away from roads. We only averaged about one board an hour but most of our lumber didn’t have to be flown in which saved us money.

Skidding Logs by Snowmobile

All our logs are skidded to our site by snowmobile in March and April when the snow is deep and settled. Everything out here comes by air except our snow machines that we drive out in the winter - a 50-mile journey from the nearest road system. In 2006, I purchased a very large wide-tracked snowmobile, which was capable of pulling in much larger logs than I was able to in the past. Glaring at my log deck of about 100, 12’ long and 16” diameter logs, I suddenly started to tense up thinking about all that back breaking chainsaw milling I would have to do.

Log Deck

Cutting timber with chainsaws is slow, tedious and a backbreaking chore from being bent over for long periods of time. Not to mention chainsaws burn up gallons of fuel and oil, and the 3/8” wide kerf produce piles of sawdust that could be used as lumber instead. There had to be a better way. Shortly after, I found a Wood-Mizer LT10 bandsaw mill featured in a local outdoor magazine. It caught my eye as it was lightweight and could easily fit onto a ski plane. The local dealer 100 miles away had one on display that I could try. Seeing the mill in action secured the sale.

After the snow left, we had a running sawmill in one day and a friend and I cut those 100 logs into lumber in about five days. With my LT10 sawmill and a small tractor rigged with a forklift attachment, we weren’t just in the fishing business, we were also in the lumber business. My mill paid for itself in the first season with savings on lumber cut on site instead of flying it in. Most of our timbers are cut and used “green” with the exception of our hardwood cuts. We cut primarily slow growth spruce for building and “house dry” birch for flooring.

Wood-Mizer LT10 Sawmill

Since having the bandmill, I’ve built five new buildings from three-sided logs and timbers cut from our mill and cut in excess of 40,000 board foot. The sawmill has saved me thousands of dollars on lumber and has allowed me to cut huge beautiful beams that would be impossible to fly out. I’ve had great factory and local Wood-Mizer support from Anchorage, Alaska and with about all my buildings completed for my lifetime, I am now focusing on the fun stuff like birch flooring and birch and spruce furniture!

The Talaheim Lodge Building

I still love living in the wilderness and building with materials I’ve gathered locally. Today I manage with my band sawmill, a tractor with a front-end lift, and snow machines capable of bringing in large logs over the snow. Not only do I save money, but also I enjoy working the land. Robert Service once wrote, “It’s not the gold we seek, but the seeking of it”. For the past 38 years, my fishing lodge has given me the opportunity of “living off the land” in the Alaskan wilderness.

The Wood-Mizer Team includes a diverse group of individuals including woodworkers, farmers, homesteaders, arborists, entrepreneurs and more who are excited to share their knowledge and experiences of working with wood from forest to final form. Read all of The Wood-Mizer Team's posts HERE.


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



1/11/2016

With the chilly winds and cold air sweeping against our skin, it's time to give some extra tender loving care to your body's largest organ. And believe me, your skin will thank you.

Just a month ago I tried a sugar scrub for the first time. I massaged it into my legs and arms and rinsed it off with water before shaving. Not only did my skin feel tingly and clean as if it could finally breathe, I did not receive as much shaving burn due to my newly smooth, exfoliated skin.

As someone who's been on a mission to try out all-natural beauty products in hopes to transition into a green beauty routine, I've found that making your own toxin-free, environmentally friendly products is super easy. Additionally, it's likely that you already have most of these ingredients in your home!

homemade lavender salt scrub

The epsom salts in this scrub exfoliate the skin while the coconut oil nourishes and moisturizes. Epsom salts have also been known to soothe aching muscles. Lavender essential oil is known to be a calming agent in aromatherapy that can help with stress and anxiety. This homemade scrub is perfect gift for a loved one to enjoy a relaxing at-home spa-day.

Here's how to make your own Homemade Lavender Salt Scrub:

Materials:

• Epsom salts or organic granulated sugar
• Organic coconut oil
• Sprigs of fresh lavender
• Lavender essential oil
• Recycled jar

Directions:

1. Spoon out about two tablespoons of organic coconut oil into a microwave safe dish. I like to use Trader Joe's Organic Virgin Coconut Oil, but any oil such as olive oil will do.

homemade lavender salt scrub

2. Microwave the coconut oil for 2-3 ten second intervals stirring each time until the oil is translucent. The oil gets hot very quickly, so remove the dish carefully.

homemade lavender salt scrub

3. Next, spoon about a half cup of epsom salts into the coconut oil and mix well. Depending how wet and conditioning you want your scrub, you can add more melted coconut oil.

homemade lavender salt scrub

4. Take a couple springs of lavender and chop into small bits. I picked my lavender from my backyard, but you can also find lavender at most herbal and natural food stores.

homemade lavender salt scrub

5. Place the lavender bits into the oil and salt mix. Add 5-10 drops (depending on preference) of lavender essential oil.

homemade lavender salt scrub

6. Spoon your scrub into a small jar. I tied a bow from some twine for an extra touch. Enjoy!

homemade lavender salt scrub

homemade lavender salt scrub

Until next time, you can find more eco-friendly DIYs and sustainable fashion tips on Sustainable Daisy.

Karen Housel is a fashion designer and DIY enthusiast. She would love to see what types of trinkets you repurpose into cheery magnets! If you share on social media, use #sustainabledaisy so she can take look. Follow Karen on Twitter, Instagram, or subscribe to her blog at Sustainable Daisy for more eco-friendly lifestyle tips! Read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


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



12/30/2015

 

I made my first batch of soap about 15 years ago. It was a big deal since I decided to render beef tallow myself, just for the experience. It added a lot of work and time to the soap making process, but for me was worth the experience. The soap turned out nice­—but not terribly exciting. Next I tried a recipe that used olive oil. The soap turned out nice, but again, not terribly exciting. Then, after years of thinking my soap making days were over, I found a recipe that had a combination of rich, emollient nut and vegetable fats, plus coconut milk. This is a very creamy, fine-bubbled moisturizing soap and also doubles as a shaving bar. I'll share the recipe below, but first a little history, science and basics about soap making.

History

An excavation of ancient Babylon turned up evidence of intentional soap making around 5,000 years ago. It was made from fats boiled with ashes and the resulting soap was used for cleaning fibers used in textile manufacturing.  More history of soap can be found on the Today I Found Out web site. Trivia: Ever wonder how soap operas got the name? It's tied to the excessive amounts of money Proctor & Gamble, Colgate-Palmolive and Lever Brothers spent advertising their soaps on such TV programs. They had the perfect audience!

Chemistry

You must be very specific when measuring soap making ingredients: saponification is a chemical process that requires the correct balance of fats and alkali. Fats (vegetable/nut oils and animal fats) are triglycerides. When triglycerides come in contact with a strong base (e.g. lye), the molecules are split and fatty acid salts and glycerol are released, making what was once oily fat into a water-soluble hygroscope (attracts and holds water molecules from the surrounding environment).

Soap-making Basics

Melted oils and fats are combined with an alkali (sodium hydroxide, commonly known as lye, mixed in water or other liquids). The lye has a chemical reaction with the fats, called saponification. The resulting mixture is placed in a container for 24-48 hours to harden (incubation), then removed and cut into bars and set out to air-cure. The lye eventually deactivates during this time and the fats/oils are turned into soap. The curing process takes about 4-6 weeks to complete.

Tools You’ll Need to Make Soap

• Digital scale
• Non-reactive pot, spoon and spatula
• Bowls of various sizes (for ingredient measuring and lye mixing)
• Plastic or cardboard shoebox, wax paper & tape
• Sandwich baggie
• Hand-mixer or submersible blender
• Thermometer (digital is best; 2 are even better)
• Towels for incubation
• Some sort of drying rack

Warnings - ALL Are Very Important!

1. Soap recipes are generally given in weights, not volumes (as stated above, this is chemistry so proportions have to be specific). A scale is necessary.

2. Use only non-reactive containers, pots and utensils when making soap. Glass, stainless steel and plastic are all fine.

3. Lye can be scary. If the crystals become damp, they will burn through anything. Safety glasses and dishwashing gloves are recommended. ALWAYS pour the lye into the water, not the other way around, to avoid damp lye particles from being disbursed. It's best to mix the lye and liquids outdoors if possible‑there's a gas given off by active lye that you don't want to inhale. Finally, the lye will heat the water to about 200 degrees F.

4. Both the melted fats/oils and the lye/water need to be as close to 100 degrees as possible to get them to emulsify properly when mixed together. Any additional ingredients (fragrances, essential oils, abrasives, oatmeal, spices) are added after the fats/lye/liquids are emulsified.

 

This is tracing, see 6 below.

Making Soap

1. Prepare your soap mold by lining with wax paper (tape helps)

2. Weigh all ingredients carefully (even liquids!) and set aside. Place the weighed lye into a sandwich bag. 

3. Place weighed liquids in a non-reactive container (Pyrex works fine), take it outdoors if possible, and gently pour the lye into the water being careful not to splash. Mix gently with spoon. Do not inhale the fumes! The mixture will get very HOT. Throw out the empty bag. 

4. Place fats/oils (not fragrance or essential oils though) in a pot and melt, then remove from heat.

5. Check the temperatures of both the melted fats and lye/water mix. When they are both as close to 100 degrees as you can get them (it may take a little juggling back and forth to get them to both the same temp at the same time), carefully pour the lye mixture into the pot of melted fats. Mix together with a non-reactive spoon.

6. Blend with the hand mixer or blender for about 5 minutes, then stir by hand for 5 minutes, back and forth until "trace" is reached (the contents will thicken like pudding and eventually you will be able to make traces of the mixture onto itself. (See photo.) You can stir in your fragrances, etc. now.

7. Pour/scrape the mixture into your mold. Wrap the mold with towels and keep for 24-48 hours in a temperate place. 

8. Pop the soap block out of the mold, peel off the wax paper and slice with your favorite cutting tool. Place bars of soap on a rack and let them air-cure for 4-6 weeks. You MUST do this since some lye will still be active. Bars may lighten in color over time.

 

Soap bars on a cookie rack for curing.

Enjoy! The printable recipe for my favorite moisturizing soap can be found here.

Deb Tejada is an urban farmer, foodie, do-it-yourselfer, graphic designer, illustrator and web developer living in sunny Colorado. When she’s not in the kitchen or garden, you can find her at The Herban FarmerRead all of Deb's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


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



12/16/2015

 

One of the great joys I have in gardening edibles is preserving them for use during the restful wintertime. Beside the jars of canned goodies (salsa, preserves, butters, and such), the bins of root veggies (potatoes, sweet potatoes, and garlic), the haul in the fridge (carrots and cabbage) and freezer (frozen cilantro and pesto), I dry a variety of herbs.

At the top of the list of dried, must-haves in order to survive the winter, are mint and chamomile for my tea each morning. Also high on the list is sage for those wintertime pork roasts. At the urging of a dear friend, I’ve begun to steep some of my other cooking herbs in my tea. I feel a whole new adventure in next years gardening opening up as I add more herbs to the mix!

Because I want to leave room for instructions below for making a catnip toy, I’ll tell you that my final dried herb for this blog is catnip or catmint (Nepeta Cataria). I’ll admit to having a dickens of a time growing my own. When I tried indoors, the cats nibbled it to death before it grew large enough to dry. Growing it outdoors hasn’t proven any easier since we have a fair amount of wandering neighborhood cats who insist on frequenting our wildlife-friendly garden. I’ll try again, but will have to cage it to keep it safe.

This week, I’m sharing instructions on how to create a furry, catnip Mousie for your cats. This is a fun, quick, and easy project to do with children. I heartily recommend it as a way for them to create something for their own cats or for gifts to others with cat family members. Warning: you should NOT do this with your cats nearby unless you want their undivided attention throughout the process! I have had to track down mousie parts, before they were completed.

I’m sharing the dimensions for two sizes of Mousie. The larger size may be easier for some children. My cats love both sizes, but slightly prefer the smaller version.

Herbal Mousie

Supplies needed:

• pattern (see instructions below)
• 1 piece of faux fur (large: 4-1/2" square, small: 3" square)
• 1 piece of batting (large: 2-1/2” x 5”, small: 1-3/4” x 2-3/4”)
• 1 tail (5” of leather cord, or anything else you think might work and last)
• 1 small lump of fiberfil (you can use a cotton ball)
• 1 pinch of dried catnip
• rattle (large: 2 bottle caps, a rubber band, and a bit of dry rice; small: 1-1/2” piece of plastic drinking straw, tape, and a bit of dry rice)
• needle and thread
• scissors (both paper and fabric)

Instructions:

1. Create your pattern from a piece of card stock. For the large Mousie, draw and cut a 4-1/2” square.

2. Measure the center point on three sides of the square and mark with a dot.

3. Connect the dots so they form a “V” (on either side with the centered dot between the opposing sides) and cut the corners off creating a shape that looks like the silhouette of a house (see photo above). For the small Mousie, follow the same directions given but use a 3” square.

4. Use this pattern to cut a piece from the faux fur.

Prepare rattle

1. For the large Mousie, take one bottle cap and fill about two-thirds of the way with dry rice. (You can use something else, if you prefer. I simply use rice because I always have it and it’s relatively inexpensive. It also rattles nicely.)

2. Place the other bottle cap on top and rubber band them securely together.

3. For the small Mousie, cut a 1-1/2” section of plastic drinking straw (I use the slightly wider-holed variety).

4. Wrap tape around one end of the straw then fill it halfway or less with rice.

5. Tape the other end to contain the rice. (You can test your shaker for your preferred sound before sealing.) When happy, attach tail to the shaker. I tie it on the rubber band, or tape it on the straw.

 

Assembly

1. Flatten and slightly stretch the fiberfil and place the catnip in the center.

2. Wad the fiberfil around the catnip and place on the shaker.

3. Take the piece of batting and wrap it around the shaker and the fiberfil.

4. Sew up the seam and the ends of the batting to encase the shaker (this keeps kitty’s teeth safer). The tail should be sticking out one end.

5. Fold your faux fur (previously cut into the house shape) in half, furry side in, along the long center point.

6. Holding short (non-angled) sides together, sew along that short edge only. This will produce a tube.

7. Turn right side out. Stuff batting Mousie innards into the center of this tube with the tail hanging out the end opposite the point.

8. Fold in edges of each end and whipstitch both openings. For extra padding, you can fold the point up and tuck it in before stitching this end closed.

Your Mousie is now ready for play. Shake, rattle, and throw for your cat to capture! If you’re like me and prefer visual instruction, I have created a page just for you!

Blythe Pelham is an artist that aims to enable others to find their grounding through energy work. She is in the midst of writing a cookbook and will occasionally share bits in her blogging here. She writes, gardens and cooks in Ohio. Find her online at Humings and Being Blythe, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


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



12/8/2015

repurposed magnets craft

I have lots of small treasures hidden within the drawers of my armoire, or dwelling within depths of my bed-side storage. They are collections of trinkets from my childhood; pretty jewelry that have lost a few gems and bags of sea-glass that I've picked up from the beaches of my college-town. I wanted to think of ways to place these types of special items into the open instead of hidden in boxes that I only occasionally open and come across. That’s when I decided to place them on an appliance I frequent daily — the refrigerator!

I chose to repurpose two groups of precious pieces into repurposed magnets. One, a collection of stones and geodes that I have picked up over the years from road trips. The other set of magnets I created are glam holiday-inspired fridge décor made from an old brooch and two clip-on earrings that had lost their mates.

I think that these magnets turned out great! They also act as a cute gift to give someone just in time for the holidays!

Some other things you could repurpose are: seashells, broken keychains, Polaroids, spare buttons, holiday ornaments, baby pinecones, small plastic toys, puzzle pieces, extra markers from jumbled board games, pogs, bottle caps, old keys, and dice.

Follow along for this super easy do-it-yourself project!

Materials:

• Glue gun
• Magnets
• Small knick knacks
• Gold oro (optional)
• Paintbrush (optional)

repurposed magnets craft

Directions: 

1. Place a generous amount of glue on to the back of a magnet.

repurposed magnets craft

2. Place the object on to the glue and hold for 10-15 seconds. Depending how large and heavy your knick knack is, you want to make sure that the magnet is strong enough to hold a magnetic force with the added weight of the object. I chose the thickest nickel-sized magnet for my largest geode.

repurposed magnets craft

3. An optional route is to paint your repurposed magnets. I planned to paint a thin gold strip along each rock, but I opted out at this stage. I really like the simple, all-natural look of the geodes on their own. Gold oro has a shiny metallic sheen which can give a nice finishing touch to your magnets, depending what objects you chose.

repurposed magnets craft

4. Enjoy! My two batches, an earthy grouping of gorgeous geodes and a glam batch of diamond bursts, can be swapped out throughout the year to change the décor of the room. The two looks are created from the same concept of repurposing small treasured doodads scattered around my home! Repurposing allows you to feel good about making previously owned items useful and treasured again.

repurposed magnets craft

Karen Housel is a fashion designer and DIY enthusiast. She would love to see what types of trinkets you repurpose into cheery magnets! If you share on social media, use #sustainabledaisy so she can take look. Follow Karen on Twitter, Instagram, or subscribe to her blog at Sustainable Daisy for more eco-friendly lifestyle tips! Read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


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



12/1/2015

Something is very satisfying when a person can complete a project from reused items so that they don’t end up in a landfill while saving money in the process. Last year, we constructed a goat barn using mostly reused building materials and it cost us less than $1,000.

The barn is 16 feet square and of pole construction. The posts used were of Rocky Mountain juniper (locally known as cedar) that had been killed in a wildfire. Several years ago, we obtained a permit from the Forest Service and harvested the dead trees. This particular species is naturally resistant to rot and, for added protection, a layer or roofing tar was applied four feet up from the bottom.

All the holes were laid out and then dug by hand. One difficulty with using this type of post is the natural taper of the tree. The posts were plumbed only toward the outside of the building to ensure the walls were straight.

Next, the roof beams and rafters were installed. The beams are lodgepole pine that was harvested in western Wyoming. The trees were standing dead and had been killed by mountain pine beetle. A very inexpensive post and pole permit was obtained from the Forest Service to harvest the trees. Lodgepole pine is extremely strong and makes excellent roof support beams.

The roof purlins, wall girts and rough-cut siding were all purchased from a local sawmill. The lumber was cut from beetle-killed ponderosa pine. The barn was sided in the board-and-batten style. The battens were cut on a table saw from rough 2-by-8-inch boards to reduce the lumber needed and reduce project cost.

The base boards that make up the bottom perimeter are 2-by-6-inch and green-treated. The boards were acquired from a rancher friend and had been salvaged from snow fence in Wyoming. Areas of Wyoming have very severe winters and many miles of snow fence have been constructed to reduce snow drifting on state highways. The snow fence is occasionally repaired or rebuilt and sometimes the landowners are allowed to salvage the old fence materials.

The two windows were acquired from a friend who had gotten them from a neighbor after he had replaced all of the windows in his home. My friend was tired of moving them and organizing around them, so he was glad to have someone get them out of his shop.

The only materials that were purchased new consisted of the corrugated roofing steel, screws/fasteners and the electrical wiring and boxes. The barn was wired for lights and outlets. It was to be used for milking and kidding in addition to shelter and hay storage, so power was needed for water tank heaters and heat lamps.

A weatherproof outside outlet was also installed to provide power to the adjacent chicken coop (a DIY chicken coop, which happens to be a salvaged oil/water separator building from a local oil field).

Shortly after completing this barn, we purchased several thousand linear feet of roofing steel that had been salvaged from a warehouse, which had hail damage and was replaced with new. We found only a few hail dents in the entire lot of steel roofing. We sold a majority of the steel for over twice what we paid for it and now have large supply for future projects and it cost us virtually nothing. We regret not having this supply of steel when we built this barn.

 

A DIY tip: A person must preplan and be willing to purchase reused materials when they become available at a reduced price. Many times larger lots must be purchased to get the best deal but like in the steel purchase, we were able to resell much of the material for a profit while retaining what I needed.

The barn was built completely by us with no outside labor and the final cost was around $1,000.  The methods that we used to acquire the materials for this barn will not work for everyone but if the builder is imaginative and keeps a look out for affordable cheap building materials, it’s amazing what can be found. Classified ads, Craigslist and Restores are excellent places to find building materials for reuse.

Another DIY tip: Don’t be afraid to pursue materials that may not be for sale yet. It’s always shocking what people will sell if you just ask.

Our DIY experience shows that buildings constructed from reused materials can look as nice as buildings constructed with new materials for much cheaper and come with a great story.

Jason, Amanda and their two daughters live on 20 irrigated acres outside of Cody, Wyoming. Jason has more than15 years of professional natural resource, vegetation, rangeland management, invasive species management and rangeland restoration experience and Amanda has more than 9 years of experience in prevention and wellness program and nonprofit management. Together they own The Happy Cowgirl, where they blog and offer freelance writing services and small acreage consultation.


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