Hits and misses of DIY projects, both big and small.

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Mason Bees, also known as orchard bees are docile pollinators that are easy to keep and provide a myriad of benefits for the pollinator community. In nature, mason bees build solitary nests with mud in hollow reeds, woodpecker holes or other small openings. To keep mason bees all you really have to do is provide some prime real-estate by building a mason bee “hotel.” These hotels replicate the type of little spaces that mason bees love!

Elsie Gibson is an environmental landscape designer with Dreamscapes Consulting and chairs the Shawnee County Master Gardeners Green Team.

Hear Elsie Gibson speak about the importance of pollinators and what you can do to support them at the Mother Earth News Fair in Topeka, Kansas, October 24 & 25, 2015. These instructions will also be provided, in supplement during her presentation at the Fair.

Tools Needed 

• saw
• wire cutters
• drill and screw driver

Parts List 

• 8-inch length of 4 inch drainage pipe
• 1-inch length of 4 inch PVC drainage pipe
• 5-inch by 6-inch piece of wood ( ¼,½ or ¾ inch )
• one piece of 10-inch-by-10-inch chicken wire
• a small tube of glue (liquid nail, Loctite etc.)
• 2 ½ long sheet metal screws

Construction Details 

1. Make 3 marks on the 4-inch pipe. A) One 2 inches in from the end on the bottom. B) The others 2 inches up on both sides on the end

2. Draw a line from the bottom mark up to the 2 side marks on the end.

3. Follow the lines and cut off the wedge shaped piece. This will leave a “porch roof” for the larva tubes.

4. To put the end on set the 4-inch pipe toward the bottom of the 5-inch part of the wood piece.

5. Hold it down and trace around it.

6. Put the pipe aside and put a good bead of glue on the mark you made.

7. Set the pipe into the glue and press it down. Let dry 24 hours.

8. Drill 2- 1/8-inch holes at the top of board for mounting.

9. Drill 2 more holes in the bottom of the PVC pipe in case water gets in.

10. Fill the pipe with your choice of larva tubes.

11. Form the chicken wire over the open end of the pipe to keep the wildlife away from the tubes.

12. Take the 1 inch long piece of PVC and make one cut so you can spread it apart.

13. Slide the ring over the wire and on to the 4-inch pipe to hold the wire in place.

14. Drill 2 holes in the ring and put the ½-inch screws into the pipe to hold it together.

15. To finish the project put a coat of paint on the wood.

Nesting Tubes

Tools Needed

• scissors
• 6-inch ruler
• 2 large brown paper sacks (or Reynolds cooking parchment paper)
• one #2 pencil & clear tape.


1. Place sacks inside each other.

2. Measure a 6-inch x 3-inch block and cut through the 4 layers of the sack.

3. Separate blocks.

4. Place one block on the table and roll with your finger on the #2 pencil.

5. Place tape in the middle on block and slide the pencil out.

6. Set a cardboard toilet paper roll upright on the table and place the tube in it.

7. Continue until all tubes are filled tightly.  Four full rolls will make a full hotel.

Photo by randimal/Fotolia

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.


For the past several months, I have been enamored with posts on Pinterest showing coffee mugs, terra cotta pots, and even gorgeous black-and-white photos cheerfully marbled with brightly colored nail polish! Because I rarely paint my fingernails but also don’t want to throw away something I’ve only used once or twice, I usually have several bottles of nail polish on hand. It seems like such a waste to throw them out, even though I only paint my nails about once every two to three years. I decided to try upcycle my nail polish by marbling.

Marbling with nail polish looks simple enough in the tutorials I found online. You simply drizzle a small amount of polish into a container of water, dip your item in and allow it to dry. Voila! You have new DIY marbled coffee cup, decorative container — whatever item you wanted to DIY! Easy, right?

Several tutorials mention working on this project in a well-ventilated area. I cannot overemphasize how important this is! I did a quick indoor marbling session with the windows open and fans blowing and the entire apartment still STUNK like fingernail polish for hours. I really should have done this DIY outside, because I’m sensitive to strong odors and the fumes were overwhelming.

I do like the bright colors and designs I was able to create with my old, cast-off nail polish, though. If you’d like to give it a go, here are some tips and DIY instructions.


How to Marble with Nail Polish

To use fingernail polish to marble to your heart’s desire you will need:

• Something to cover and protect your workspace (even if you’re working outdoors).
• Fingernail polish (to make this craft as environmentally conscious as possible, use polish you already own or ask around, your friends or family members likely have a bottle or two lying around that you can have)
• Items to marble (I used glass bottles, a ceramic coffee mug, cardboard and metal containers)
• A disposable container to hold water
• Water
• A toothpick or other pointy object to create designs (optional)
• Something to “scoop” up the excess fingernail polish, a cardboard toilet paper tube works really well

After laying out your sheet or paper to protect your workspace, arrange the items you want to marble. Once you get going this DIY doesn’t take long to complete but the fumes can become overpowering quickly!

Fill your disposable container with water, about an inch from the top. Choose your nail polish colors (if using more than one). The first color you add to the water will spread out, the next color(s) will not. I like to take the tops off all of the nail polish I’m using before pouring. The nail polish will want to start drying as soon as you pour it out, so you want to work quickly.

Gently pour a small amount of your first color into the water. It should spread out. Add your second color and third color if using. If desired, use your sharp object (a toothpick works well) to swirl the colors together. I liked the patterns I had without swirling so I didn’t use this technique very often.

Dip your object into the nail polish/water. If you’re using an item, which will come in contact with food, like a mug, avoid getting polish near where you would eat or drink from. Do not try to marble the inside of food and drink containers.

After you remove your item from the water, set it aside to dry.


To marble a second item, you need to remove the excess fingernail polish. I found that a cardboard toilet paper tube roll works really well for this task. The polish should be starting to dry and solidify, making a layer of scum on top of the water. All you need to do is dip one end of the tube into the polish and swirl it around to scoop the polish up. Once the excess polish from your first marbling is gone, you can start over for your next marbling.

Repeat the cardboard tube “scooping” in between each time you marble and at the end of your project before dumping out your water. Allow your marbled creations to dry for 24 hours, though they should be dry to the touch in an hour or less.

To increase the durability of your work, you can coat each piece with a light layer of clear topcoat, the same way you would if you are painting your nails (I did not do this step to avoid the fumes of more nail polish).

Some Additional Tips

• Do this DIY outside; trust me, your nose will thank you.
• One dip per item, the polish doesn’t stick well to itself.
• Hand wash items to preserve your marbling.

That’s it! This DIY is pretty simple and the results are lovely! This could be a fun DIY project to do with some friends; I could even see this project going over well with teens (the nail polish colors used could match the local high school’s colors).

I don’t know if I would personally repeat this DIY — the fumes from the nail polish really got to me! It’s still a really cute project. I might even try paper marbling (which should smell a lot better!).

If you’d like to see the projects that inspired my take on nail polish marbling, visit these links below:

1. DIY: Marbling with Nail Polish from Craftuts

2. DIY Marbled Mugs with Nail Polish from DIY Candy

3. How to Marble with Nail Polish from A Beautiful Mess

4. Nail Polish Marbled DIY Planters from Hello Natural

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.



The very first thing my dad taught me when I got a new car was how to change my own oil. It’s a great skill to have, but his lesson skipped an important step: how to recycle used motor oil.

I’ll admit that, until recently, I had no idea that motor oil could be recycled. I also didn’t realize that motor oil never goes bad—it just gets dirty. That means used oil can be re-refined into base stock for lubricating oil, and it can be recycled over and over again.

What about you? Have you ever recycled your used motor oil after changing your car’s oil? What about asking the local mechanic what they do with the oil? Most people are too busy to even remember to change their car’s oil, let alone think about recycling the used oil. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that over 200 million gallons of motor oil are improperly disposed of.

That can have a huge environmental impact. The used oil from just one oil change can contaminate 1 million gallons of fresh water—a full year’s supply for 50 people. If, like me, you change your oil every 3,000 miles (as recommended), you might have roughly three or four oil changes every year. That’s a lot of oil that could contaminate the earth if disposed of improperly.

The good news is, it’s easier to recycle your motor oil than you might think, and there are some amazing environmental benefits that you’ll want to consider the next time your “check oil” light turns on.

The Benefits of Recycling Motor Oil

• It prevents it from polluting our ground water supply and soil.
• It saves energy because it takes less energy to recycle used motor oil than to make new.
• It takes something old and turns it into a reusable resource. Reprocessed oil can be used in furnaces or power plants to generate heat and electricity.

Fact: If you recycle just two gallons of used oil, it can generate enough electricity to run the average household for almost 24 hours (Recycle Oil).

How to Recycle Used Motor Oil

1. If you’re changing your own oil, pour your used oil into an empty container—this is a great way to reuse the new motor oil bottles you’ve just emptied.

2. Check online or call 1-800-CLEANUP for a list of local drop-off centers near you.

3. Ask your local auto parts store if they accept used oil and filters.

4. If you’re not a DIY person and you stop in for a professional oil change, inquire about their process of disposing and recycling oil filters and used motor oil. Their answer may help determine whether or not you decide to use their services or look elsewhere.

Just as changing your oil is vital to the health of your car, recycling that oil is crucial to keeping the earth clean. Once you realize how easy it is to recycle motor oil, you’ll never consider disposing of it any other way.

Sommer Poquette is the Green and Clean Mom who shares her tips on recycling and DIY green tips for Home Depot. She writes her eco-friendly advice from her home in Michigan. If you're changing and recycling your car's oil, you can view Home Depot's selection of motor oils on the company's website.

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.



Hoop houses — this is my third year of using them. The first year, I put hoops over only one raised bed as an experiment. I used a plastic drop cloth for the covering, with various clamps and bricks to hold it in place. I wasn’t completely thrilled with it. During sunny days, even if the temperature was cool, the house would get incredibly hot because plastic doesn’t breathe. So I had to constantly vent the plastic by opening and closing the ends. The bricks and clamps were a lot of work.

But that year, I planted about three weeks before our so-called last frost date, tomatoes and all, and things went very well: I had an earlier crop that produced an amazing amount of vegetables. The no-longer-needed plastic tarp was stored under my potting table, where it promptly disintegrated from being exposed to the elements. The hoops were removed in early summer and stored under the shed, to be put up again in the spring. My garden had an obvious head start that year. Hoop houses were the solution I was looking for. A better design and a second hoop house were in the plans for the next spring.

After some Internet research, I found Agribon cold weather row cover cloth that was recommended by a few different sources. I ordered 50 feet of the stuff during winter in anticipation of getting an even earlier planting going the next spring.

It seemed flimsy to me, like a very lightweight interfacing you’d use in sewing. My fingers did punch through a couple of places where I tugged a little too hard while setting it up over the hoops, but it proved its strength and usefulness a couple of weeks later when it withstood several inches of heavy spring snow and several nights of temperatures in the 20s. I’ve gotten two years of use out of the fabric and will be able to use it again next year. It has a few holes poked in it, but so far they haven’t been a problem. I’ve even gone to the point of doubling up the fabric on especially cold nights and placing a space heater in the hoop house.

The tomatoes started blooming under several inches of snow! I figured out a way to make new, inexpensive and easy-to-use clips to hold the fabric in place. Now we’re talking! For the second spring of using hoop houses, I planted an entire month early and had the best garden yet. You can read more about that on my Herban Farmer blog.


By then I’d discovered the unexpected bonus of leaving the hoops up all summer. HAIL PROTECTION. Every spring, summer and fall we get several hailstorms that can be devastating. But the nice thing about hailstorms is that they usually come with an early warning system. Storm clouds that contain hail will have areas that have a distinctly greenish “iceberg” cast to them.

Because I work at home and am also attuned to the weather, I have the ability to run outside and cover the hoop houses with fabric when I see those hail-laden green clouds headed my way. I’ve gotten it down to about 10 minutes to cover both beds. Sometimes my efforts are in vain and the hail never falls, which is fine. But on those days when the hail comes pounding down and I have the fabric in place, I do a little happy dance and pray that the hail does not reach golf-ball size. Because nothing can withstand that kind of pounding.

There have been times when we get into a weather pattern, with violent storms every afternoon. At times like that, I leave the fabric up for several days in a row and it doesn’t cause any problems. The fabric breathes, keeps water evaporation down and I think the plants welcome an occasional break from our sometimes-relentless sun.

So, I’m completely sold on hoop houses. Next year’s plan is to get a track system working so the hoops can be slid back to one end of the garden to make soil cultivation and planting easier. And that will be yet another post!

Building a Simple Hoop House

Materials, to make a hoop house for one 4’ x 8’ raised bed (it should cost you less than $50)

• Four 1/2-inch (interior diameter) x 10-foot pvc pipes
• Eight 1-inch 2-hole conduit clamps, 16 screws
• Eight 1-inch (interior diameter) x 4-inch pieces pvc pipe
• 1/2-inch poly sprinkler tubing, cut into 3 inches for the clips (you’ll want 12-15 of these, this tubing can be bought by the foot; see clips instructions below)
• 1 package Agrigrow or other landscaping fabric (25 feet should be plenty for 1 bed)


1. On each of the long sides of a raised bed, attach four fairly equally-spaced clamp/1-inch x 4-inch pvc pipe assemblies, as per the diagram. See detailed photo below to see the pipe/clamp assembly.

2. Place each end of the 10-inch pipes a few inches down into the 1-inch pipe fittings, so they are secure.

3. Place fabric over the pipes and use the black plastic clips to secure the fabric to the pipes. If it’s cool out, you may have to spread open the clips first.

4. Tie the excess fabric around the 4 corner pipes. In the cold weather, if you need to make the beds more airtight, you can use 2x4s, bricks or pavers to secure the fabric to the ground around all sides.

To make the clips:

Cut a 1/2-foot lengthwise strip out of each of the 3-inch pieces of black tubing (see photo) with tin snips or some other tool that will cut through the plastic. Smooth the edges a bit using a file or even a heavy-duty nail file.


That’s all there is to it! Comments? Questions? Please feel free to ask, I’m 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 Farmer.

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.



A craft room is the perfect place to relax and let your creative juices flow, whether you’re making gifts, decorative items or clothing for your family. While it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by synthetic art supplies, you can give the space an eco-friendly flair with just a few simple touches. By adding natural elements into your creative space, you can find inspiration for whatever you’re working on—almost as if you were crafting in the great outdoors.

1. Soften your craft area with eco-friendly textiles.

When you’re sitting in your craft room for hours at a time, there’s nothing like a soft pillow for your back or a comfortable seat cushion to add color to the space. If you have old sweaters or fabric lying around your house, why not repurpose them into throw pillows for your space? You can see the tutorial here on my post Make Homemade Pillows with Recycled Fabric for tips. I also like to swap out different colored material throughout the seasons to reflect the current time of year. With the fall season nearing, I will swap out this summery peach color for a rust or burgundy pillow to feel the warmth of autumn inside my craft room! Don’t be shy about using florals, patterns and other types of recycled material to add texture to your craft room seating.

2. Use your favorite natural materials for desk decorations.

A few years ago I decided to give my craft room a rustic feel. Instead of buying a brand new desk, I sanded down an old door and had it refinished and then sized to fit my craft room area. Repurposing is a great way to give old items a new function, and the rich stain gives my craft area more meaning. I also like to decorate with natural materials I have outside on my table. My daughter enjoys collecting seashells and pinecones, and we keep jars of our finds as decoration, and for easy access when we need them for crafting.

3. Decorate with family crafts that symbolize nature.

What’s more inspirational than the people you love? For that reason, I love to decorate with crafts created by my family. One of my favorite gifts is this flowerpot made from pipe cleaners, paper painted flowers, and a picture of my daughter that I received for Mother’s Day. As I’m working on gifts and projects for relatives and friends that symbolize nature, I often turn to this one as inspiration. Another craft my family enjoys is taking small sticks and branches, cutting them the same length and gluing them onto a pencil/pen holder for your craft room desk.

If you’ve been trying to add a decorative touch to your craft room, why not try these simple ideas? By bringing in some repurposed items and natural elements, you will give your space a fresh new look that will be sure to get that DIY feeling flowing.

As a green home design lifestyle expert, Ronique Gibson has some great organic decorating ideas which she writes about for Shutterfly and her blog To find some inspiration for decorative ideas like the ones in this article, please visit the Shutterfly home décor pages.

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. 



I’ve been on a de-cluttering rampage this year! I’ve gone through my wardrobe and gotten rid of clothes that don’t fit well and clothes that I don’t love. I’ve sorted through my book and DVD collection; keeping only cherished books and movies we’ll definitely watch over and over. My parents have emptied their attic and my sister and I have sorted through childhood treasures to be trashed, recycled, sold at a garage sale, donated or kept.

Along the way I have unearthed a large collection of old trophies and medals from my elementary years playing soccer, junior high basketball camp and junior high and high school Science Olympiad competitions. I had too many to keep, but I but I didn’t want to get rid of them all. I came up with two craft projects to repurpose these medals into objects I would see often, but that wouldn’t be cumbersome to move or take up too much space: key chains and magnets.

Before embarking on these projects, I set aside my favorite medals. I also put all of my medals and ribbons together and photographed them. A photo takes up so little space on my computer, and is an easy way to remember my accomplishments. Then I selected my favorite medals to DIY with. The rest I mailed to Bling for Bravery, an organization that takes medals from marathons and triathlons, which are repurposed into medals for children fighting cancer. I contacted the organization before mailing my medals to see if they would take my academic, non-athletic medals, and they were happy to have them.

How to Make Medal Key Chains and Magnets

To make your own medal key chains you will need:

• Old medals, the smaller the better!
• An existing keychain or a metal ring (if making a single keychain and not attaching to an existing one)
• Staple remover

They key chains are simple enough to make that they don’t really need DIY instructions. I simply cut off the fabric ribbon and used a staple remover to pry open my keychain so I could slide the small metal ring, which held the fabric ribbon onto the keychain. Super simple! I had four medals of a smaller size so I made four key chains and gave them as gifts to my sister and husband, who were also in Science Olympiad with me - it’s how my husband and I met!


To make your own medal magnets you will need:

• Old medals, larger ones work well!
• A nail
• A strong adhesive, preferably one that is meant for use on metal. I used Permates Steel Weld
• Strong magnets
• Something to protect your work surface (I used a piece of cardboard from my recycling bin)


The magnets take a little bit more work, but not much. I removed the fabric ribbon from the medals I wanted to turn into magnets. I also used a nail to bend open the small metal rings in order to remove them. I then scratched up the back of each medal with the nail. A rough surface makes it easier for the adhesive to stick. Follow your adhesives instructions, some, like the one I used, require two different liquids to be mixed before applying. Use the adhesive to attach a magnet to the back of each medal, set aside for the adhesive to cure.


That’s it! These very simple DIY projects are an easy way to keep a treasured prize from school or a sporting event without storing them in a box for years (and possibly forgetting about them!).

If you’re feeling particularly crafty and have more old medals and trophies to repurpose, you might be interested in one of these DIYs:

Repurposed Trophies: Cupcake Stands from Just Something I Made
Trophy Bottle Stoppers from Decor Adventures
Vintage Trophy Coat Rack from Design Sponge
Repurposing Trophies from Coastal Kelder
What To Do with Old Medals and Patches from Coastal Kelder
Wind Chime made with Race Medals from The Run Commuter
Race Medals as Ornaments from fit bottomed girls

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.



I made this terrarium after the mesh screen in my French press was no longer doing its job of filtering out loose coffee grounds (and no replacement could be found online). I spotted a photo of a large French press terrarium on Pinterest a few years ago and decided to make my own with my small, single serving coffee maker. I didn’t purchase any supplies for this DIY and was able to use items I already had at home. If you don’t have a French press to repurpose, try picking one up at a local thrift shop or garage sale. The other items can be purchased at any home improvement or gardening store.  

The three main components needed in a terrarium are pebbles for drainage, charcoal to clean and purify the water and soil for the plants to grow in. The most important thing to remember when making a terrarium is drainage. A French press doesn’t have a drainage hole, but I was able to improvise by using the metal filter to separate the potting soil and plants from the drainage pebbles in the bottom of the glass beaker.  

To make your own French press terrarium you will need:

• 1 French press
• small pebbles
• potting soil
• charcoal
• small terrarium plants or mosses
• larger pebbles or other decorative items
• water
• spoon (optional) 

Before beginning the project, make sure your French press is thoroughly washed and dried. Once the glass beaker is ready, add the pebbles. You'll want a small layer, about a ½ -to-1-inch deep. If you’re using a large French press with a deep beaker, you can add more pebbles. 


This next step is where things get tricky. If at all possible, remove the lid of your French press so it is no longer attached to the plunger. You can then put the plunger with the assembled metal filter parts into the glass beaker, on top of the pebbles. Removing the lid makes it easier to add the charcoal, potting soil and plants. If you can’t remove the lid, like me, you can put the three pieces that make up the metal filter and mesh strainer together and place them on top of the pebbles. As you add the next layers to your terrarium, avoid putting any charcoal, soil or plants over the hole where the plunger and lid screw into the metal filter pieces. It’s more difficult, but completely doable.  

Sprinkle or spoon a layer of charcoal over the top of the metal filter and mesh strainer, about ¼ to ½ inch thick. Add a layer of potting soil, about ½ to 1 inch deep. Again, if you couldn’t take the lid off of the plunger, avoid the hole in the center so you can attach the plunger and lid later.  

If using small terrarium plant(s), take them out of the container you purchased them in. Gently tease the root ball so it's a bit loose before setting the plant in the beaker. Once your plant is sitting where you would like it, add potting soil around it. It's easiest if you pre-moisten your potting soil with a bit of water before adding it to your container. Dry soil will get everywhere; with damp or wet soil you have more control. I prefer to spoon a little bit of soil into a plastic container, add water and stir before adding the damp soil to the jar. I also use a spoon to add my soil to the teacup, but that’s entirely optional. If you’re using moss, you can add a couple spoonfuls of potting soil to the beaker, make small depressions in the soil and set the clump(s) of moss in the depressions. 


Next you can add a decorative touch to your planter. I used some of the same pebbles that make up the drainage area in the bottom of the beaker to decorate the top of the soil and a small metal frog. Any small items can be used, a little plastic animal or other trinket adds just a little something extra! 

The final step is replacing the lid of the French press plunger. If you were able to remove the lid from the plunger, simply screw or twist the lid back into place. If, like me, you were unable to separate the lid from the plunger, you will need to insert the plunger into the metal filter and twist it into place. 

Be sure to keep the needs of your plants in mind when caring for your French press terrarium. Some plants need more light than others and since your French press will not be watertight, you will occasionally need to water it.  

If you're in the terrarium/tiny planter making mood, you could follow my DIY instructions for teacup planters and plant some tea or coffee cups with plants to go with your French press terrarium!

Photos by Courtney Denning.

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.

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