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

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I used to think of soap-making as one of those cool things I’d love to try someday, but for a long time it seemed too complex and intimidating to actually take the plunge. Then, one day it so happened that I had all the necessary ingredients – namely, a box of lye crystals and a bottle of non-food-grade oil I had absolutely nothing else to do with. I took a deep breath and dove in - I was going to try making my own soap.

I hunted up the simplest recipe I could find and played around with it a bit. I will admit straightaway that I cheat and don’t really weigh my ingredients. I take my measurements in cups and tablespoons, using 2 tablespoons of lye per 1 cup of oil, and always prefer to err on the safe side and add a tiny bit less lye. This isn’t very professional or scientific, but it works for our personal use. Hey, people used to make soap in their kitchens using leftover cooking fat combined with water seeped through wood ashes, right?

This is the beauty of making soap: the basis is a relatively simple, straightforward chemical reaction, but all the rest is incredibly versatile. You can make your soap as simple or as fancy as you like, combining various oils and fats, adding essential oils to make scented soap, using different molds, etc.

Safety first: lye is an incredibly corrosive substance. Never touch lye or raw soap with your bare hands. Never dissolve lye crystals or mix your soap in an aluminum pan. When mixing the lye and water, make sure to work in a room with an open window, or better yet, outside to avoid the heavy fumes. Do this well away from small children.

Allow your soap the full time it needs to cure properly. This is hard to do when you can’t wait to try out your first batch, but believe me, the wait is worth it. Properly cured soap is milder, more effective, and easier to handle.

Since my first soap bars turned out somewhat lumpy, I decided to experiment with them as laundry soap. There are plenty of recipes for homemade laundry detergent out there, but I simplify even further. I either grate up a couple of tablespoonfuls of soap flakes and put them in my washing machine, or I take a bit of soap, put it in a little mesh bag, and throw it in together with the clothes. This method won’t remove heavy stains, but it works just fine for light everyday wear.

The first time I did my washing this way, I was pleasantly surprised to discover how soft the clothes came out – without adding any fabric softener. This makes natural homemade soap ideal for washing baby clothes. Newborn babies don’t crawl in the dirt or smear mashed vegetbles all over themselves, so their clothes don’t often get really messy, and all they need is a mild wash. Not long ago, a friend of mine had a new baby, and when I came to visit, I brought along some homemade soap flakes, packed in a pretty jar with a note of instructions on using them in laundry. I think this is going to become my regular standby gift for new mothers.

I have no doubt I will spend many more rewarding hours making soap, enjoying the fruit of my labors, and sharing the results with family and friends.

Anna Twitto’s academic background in nutrition made her care deeply about real food and seek ways to obtain it. Anna and her husband live on a plot of land in Israel. They aim to grow and raise a significant part of their food by maintaining a vegetable garden, keeping a flock of backyard chickens and foraging. Connect with Anna on Facebook, find her as SmallFlocksMom on Earthineer, and read more about her current projects on her blog. Read all Anna's Mother Earth News posts here

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.



Installing a freestanding wood stove requires installing chimney pipe to vent the wood stove. This step by step guide will explain the typical chimney pipe and stove pipe installation when venting through a flat ceiling. Every installation varies, so if you have questions about your particular installation we're glad to help; please contact us with any questions you may have on your wood stove setup.

How to Install a Class A Insulated Chimney Pipe

Below, we will explain in full detail how to install Class A insulated chimney pipe and black stove pipe to vent your wood stove through a flat ceiling. After reading, you will see how simple the installation is and know the basics for how to install your own. We've also included an installation video for a visual reference.

1. First, locate the center point where the chimney pipe will penetrate the ceiling. You can mark this with a marker. When using single wall black stove pipe, you must be 18" away from combustible materials.

2. Once the center point is found, use the ceiling support box to mark the ceiling to make your cut. Trace the outside of the ceiling support box on the ceiling.

3. Following your mark, use a sawzall to cut the opening in the ceiling.

4. The ceiling support box will come with two brackets to mount to the ceiling joists. From the attic, slide the ceiling support box through the opening and attach the support box to the ceiling joists.

5. Now that we have penetrated through the ceiling, we will need to mark the hole to penetrate the roof. By sliding a section of single wall stove pipe through the support box with a level attached to it, you are able to mark where the center-point of the pipe will be on the roof. Running a screw through the roof deck will make it easy to identify from the roof where the center of the pipe will run through.

6. Moving on to the roof, take your adjustable roof flashing and center it around the screw you just put in the roof deck. An easy way to mark the hole is to use the flashing as a stencil and spray painting the inside on the roof shingles where you will make your cut.

7. Once the hole is marked on the roof, use your sawzall and cut the hole through the roof.

8. In order for the flashing to slide underneath the shingles, you must cut the nails on the top half of the circle. Using tin snips, cut the shingles 2" back on the top half of the circle. This will allow the flashing to slide underneath the shingles.

9. Next, apply a healthy amount of high temperature silicone to the back of the chimney pipe flashing. Slide the adjustable roof flashing under the top half of the roof shingles that you cut.

10. Screw the roof flashing to the roof deck using stainless steel screws. Silicone all of the screw heads and the area where you slid the flashing underneath the shingles, this will create a weather-tight seal.

11. Now it's time to put together our Rock-Vent Class A insulated chimney pipe. Locate the end of the pipe that has the insulation recessed down. This is the male end of the pipe. To make the transition from Class A insulated chimney pipe to single wall black stove pipe, we will be using the universal pipe adapter. Attach the pipe adapter on the male end of the chimney pipe with the provided hardware.

12. Once you have the universal adapter connected, lower this first section of chimney pipe through the flashing and through the support box. The bottom portion of the universal chimney pipe adapter will come through the support box.

13. While you're still on the roof, attach the storm collar to the chimney pipe. Be sure to put a bead of silicone around the storm collar where it meets the chimney pipe. This will create a weather-tight seal.

14. The Class A insulated chimney pipe should protrude above the roof at a minimum of 2 feet and it should be 10 feet away from the roof line. Attach the needed lengths of pipe for your installation using the included hardware.


15. Now we will attach the chimney pipe rain cap. Using a 5/16 nut driver, attach the chimney pipe rain cap to the top piece of chimney pipe. The chimney cap will keep water, debris & animals from entering the chimney pipe as well as keeping sparks away from the roof.

16. We are completed on the roof line, let's go back inside and install the single wall black stove pipe to the insulated chimney pipe. We chose to use a telescoping stove pipe for the first section of pipe since it eliminates cutting the pipe and gives you the perfect length. Attach the female end of the telescoping stove pipe to the male end of the universal pipe adapter with the included hardware.

17. Connect the remaining lengths of pipe needed for your installation and connect to the last section of pipe to the collar on the wood stove. You can use a level to make sure the pipe is straight.

18. To finish the inside pipe installation off nicely, you will want to install the trim collar around the support box. With the provided hardware, anchor it to the ceiling.

19. Congratulations! We have completed our wood stove chimney pipe installation through a flat ceiling!

Here you can find the Rock-Vent Class A insulated chimney pipe and Rock-Vent single wall black stove pipe used in this wood stove installation video. As always, please comment or contact us with any additional questions - we're here to help you do-it-yourself and save.

Jaquelin White is a Web marketer near Ann Arbor, Michigan. From helping local businesses increase their web presence to working for Rockford Chimney Supply serving the U.S. and Canada, Jaquelin loves the always-changing ways of the web, because there is always something new to learn and try. Read all of Jaquelin’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here. 

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.


a variety of healing dolls

I love gardening. I love arting just as much. When the two of them are allowed to dance together, magic happens.

An online friend recently shared one of her passions with me (and a group of fellow online doll makers)—making healing dolls. Crystal was kind enough to share her process with our small group and has given her blessing for my sharing her wisdom with this wider audience. As far as we’re concerned, Mother Earth and her inhabitants always benefit from abundant healing energy floating around.

Not only am I able to combine my garden and arting passions in this project, but I also have the added opportunity of infusing my energy work—a triple pleasure! I use sweetgrass and sage from my garden along with my sewing skills and weave healing energy into every stitch to create tiny bundles of support for others desiring help. What could be better?

If you’ve never made a doll before or don’t really sew, do not stop reading. The following instructions are wide-open (and meant to be) so you can use your own particular talents and skills to create unique dolls. If you decide that you’d rather ask someone else to create the doll, I’ll be happy to help. You can visit my website to see more about our made-to-order healing dolls.

My friend Crystal learned early in life to follow her feelings when creating. Crystal’s Cherokee memaw (and other beloved elders) have imbued in her vast amounts of wisdom about plants, healing, and tradition throughout her life. Crystal draws on all of this when making her dolls. One of her mentors, Nora Whiteowl, teaches that all you need are positive intentions and healing prayers put into the doll as you work.

stick healing doll

Crystal’s Doll-Making Pointers

Most important when creating your doll:

To have positive healing intentions flowing from you into the doll as you create it.

To use cleansed materials (Crystal smudges and purifies according to her Native American traditions).

Keep it simple and follow your intuitive voice as to what is included in the doll.

Specifics to take into account:

The finished doll should measure 3-1/2 to 4 inches tall, small enough to hold in your hand.

Create it from anything you are called to use when considering who or what it will be used for.

Feel free to include dried healing herbs or plants.

Putting a tiny medicine bag (which includes a quartz point or chip to amplify the healing) behind the face may be beneficial.

General guidance:

As you create, sew, and stuff the doll, continue sending positive healing intentions into it. If you use prayer, feel free to include positive prayers for healing—on both physical and mental levels. You want to basically create the doll in positive intentions for health on all levels.

As you seal the doll (sewing it closed), imagine that you are sealing in the healing medicine—free to be released later to the intended receiver.

Healing dolls can be carried with the person needing the healing but often work best sitting near them as they sleep.

If you don’t sew, don’t worry. Healing dolls can be crafted by combining two sticks and adding a head of bundled herbs (see photo above). Remember, it’s all in the intention. Imagine healing energies flowing from the universe through you and into the doll. Creating a doll for yourself, a loved one, or anyone needing an extra boost can be invigorating.

Dolls need not be complex, as you can see from the collection in the first photo. Crystal tells us, “I think the most important thing about creating these is not to copy mine; you are creating her, not me. You create the doll the way you see her. As you create your healing doll, you are putting your healing energy into her. We, as women, are great healers and all have that power within.”

Remember, intention is very important. You want positive energies and hopeful prayers going into the doll. Some of us view this kind of creating as a sacred act. While fashioning each piece of the doll can be a separate act of intention and can be purified and sacred unto itself, setting a strongly positive intention about the outcome can be enough for beginners.

As I stated earlier, I use sweetgrass from my garden when making my healing dolls. The photo below shows some of my sweetgrass drying in the sun on the altars of the four directions in my Sacred Fire Circle. When harvesting sweetgrass, I thank the grass, the wisdom keepers, and Spirit for sharing this sacred gift with me. It means a lot to me to be able to set it out in the sun around my Fire Circle as I feel it boosts the healing power.

Including pieces that you have grown or harvested with care and intention can help add to the medicine of your doll. Even if you’re not a gardener, or if you want to help a child create their own doll, you can include medicinal plants in your doll. The simple stick doll, pictured above, has two types of plantain flowers and red clover in the head.

I want to send a special thank you to Crystal for sharing with us! What a special treasure you are gifting to others. Thanks also to Christine for sharing a photo of the healing doll she just completed. May these instructions help us all to bring more healing and positivity to the universe!

drying sweetgrass sacred fire circle

Photos by Christine, Crystal, and Blythe Pelham

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.

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.


Today's used wooden pallets have two options after their initial useful life ends. They can be sent to a landfill, where they will linger until they have decomposed. Or they can be recycled and given a second useful life. Not only is recycling your used wooden pallets helpful for the planet, but it can help you stay young in brain and body by encouraging you to learn new skills. You can also have great fun as a family working on wooden pallet recycling ideas.

On my other blog, I have a list of 122 DIY pallet projects with great tutorials that you might want to try. But in this article, I will list 5 of the easiest ones that you can do on a weekend even if you're a beginner.

Create a Backyard Swing

Pallet Backyard Swing

Photo by Design Rulz

If there is one thing the average wooden pallet is perfectly sized and shaped for, it is a backyard swing.

You will want to remove all nails and sand down the pallet to remove splinters. Adding a coat of clear varnish can ensure a smooth, splinter-free seat. You can then paint the swing if you wish.

You can find sturdy weight-bearing twine or hanging string and ceiling hooks at a local home good store. By making loops through each end of the pallet section and looping them over the ceiling hooks, you have just created a nifty outdoor patio swing chair.

Deck Out Your Backyard

Pallet Backyard Deck

Photo by pamala.leonard

With just one or two used wooden pallets (depending on the desired size of your deck space), you have the makings of a cool outdoor deck for grilling and get-togethers.

First, you will want to remove any old nails and sand down the pallet surfaces. This will also give you a chance to test each pallet to be sure the wood is still firm and sturdy. Adding a clear coat of varnish or stain can match the deck to your home's look as well as seal up the wood against predation from insect pests and rodents.

The safest way to turn your wooden pallets into a deck (especially with little feet in the household) is to cover any openings in the pallet flooring areas with extra wooden boards. A packet of nails and a hammer or an electric nail gun can simplify this part of the project.

Adding another top coat of sealant or varnish will seal up the top layer of the deck (or you can also paint the deck to match your house if you prefer).

Build a Bed Frame

Pallet Bed Frame

Photo by homedit

There is no rule stating you have to have a bed frame that is specifically made to hold bed mattresses and box springs. In fact, the average wooden pallet is well-sized to hold a double or larger bed mattress. Cutting the pallet in half can make cute twin beds for the kids.

Your big decision is whether to lay the pallet right on the floor or add wooden legs. You can also add a pallet headboard by cutting your pallet into two sections - one smaller and one larger, and attaching them perpendicularly to one another.

You will need to thoroughly clean the entire pallet area, remove any old nails, sand down the wood and reattach any loose planks to prepare your pallet to hold your mattress. You can then varnish or stain it or you might prefer to paint it instead.

Make a Cute Coffee Table

Pallet Side Table

Photo by Ana White

You can use a wooden pallet in several ways to make a cute side table or coffee table. Your first decisions will be the height and width and use of the table.

For a side table, you might want it to be higher and narrower, with enough room for perhaps a lamp and some reading material. For a coffee table, a lower and wider table will give you more room when entertaining guests. Adding wheels can make the table more multi-purpose, even allowing you to wheel it outdoors for summer entertaining.

One of the neatest things about using wooden pallets for a table is that you can take advantage of extra storage in the open spaces between the pallet planks. You could tuck napkins, party plates, tea light candles and a lighter into the crevices for handy retrieval.

There are two ways to make the table. You can cut the pallet into smaller equal sections and stack each on top of the next, adding caster wheels at each corner. Or you can cut out one big section to use as the table top and make "legs" out of smaller pallet sections you add at each end.

Build a Garden Trellis

Pallet Garden Trellis

Photo by Christopher SeanH

One of the simplest and prettiest uses for a wooden pallet is to repurpose the pallet into a green trellis. The sky is the limit as far as the length, height, color and number of trellises you erect.

The simplest way to create your trellis wall is to simply prop the wooden pallet length-wise against the side of your house and plant climbing vines just beneath it, anchoring them to the trellis as they grow taller.

But you can also cut the pallet into lengths and use hanging hooks to mount them along the sides of your house. Another option is to create a free-standing trellis fence along the sides of your property. Still another option is to attach more than one pallet together into a freestanding gazebo trellis in your backyard.

There are so many ways to give used wooden pallets a second life. There are currently more than 223 million pallets sitting in landfills, yet with just a dash of creativity and a sustainable approach to living, each of those pallets could have more to offer!

As you are working to transform your wooden pallet, always keep safety in mind. Wear safety goggles and gloves and a face mask to protect against dust and fumes.

Jennifer Poindexter and her husband raise most of their food and a variety of animals in the foothills of North Carolina, where they built a small homestead on very little money. She writes about all of her adventures at Morning Chores, where she shares the knowledge she has gained with others that might want to take the full plunge into homesteading. Read all of Jennifer's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here. 

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.


I've added more dirt

In the category of “Use What You Have,” I decided to try an experiment in reusing and recycling.

When I first started building my garden and raised beds, I ordered several bulk bags of garden loam and bark mulch. This was the least expensive and most efficient way to get the material I needed for my garden, but it also left me with several very large bulk bags that I could not return or recycle in my local area. The bags are made of a sturdy, heavy-duty fabric, and I didn’t want to just throw them away, so I had to give some thought as to how I could use them.

I needed a couple more deep raised beds, though, and I was out of large scrap lumber. I decided to recycle the bulk bags into flexible raised beds in which I could grow potatoes and carrots. What this gave me were three extra raised beds with very little effort.

How to Turn Bulk Bags into Potato Planters

1.The first thing I did was decide on a location. I set the bags up next to my storage shed. This spot gets sun for most of the day, and it’s out of the way. Eventually I want to build a greenhouse here, but for now, it’s the perfect location to grow some potatoes.

2. I folded the sides of the bags outwards and down in two folds so I could raise them up as the potatoes grew. Instead of hilling up the soil around the plants, I would fill the bags in as we went along.

3.I bought some bagged garden soil on sale and filled each bag with about ten bags of dirt each. The bags are 25 liters or 22.7 quarts in size.

Setting up the bulk bags

4.In one bag I put six seed potatoes, and in the other I put seven. In the third bag, I sprinkled in three different varieties of carrots.

5. It didn’t take long for the little potato plants to appear, and they started growing fast.

Young potato plants grow fast

6. When the plants reached the top of the bag, I added four more bags of soil to each bulk bag and used my hands to level the dirt around the growing plants. I unfolded the bags to raise the sides a bit.

7. The plants have been thriving! I raised the sides further, starting from the back and carefully unfolding the fabric and lifting the vines as I worked my way around the front. I then added another four 25 liter bags of dirt to each bulk bag.

Raise the sides, starting from the back

8. Since the bagged dirt tends to be compacted, it is rather heavy and filled with lumps. I first emptied the bags of soil into my wheelbarrow and used a shovel to mix the bagged soil with some looser garden dirt I had, breaking down the lumps to a nice, fine garden soil. I used a small bucket to carefully add the soil around my potato plants.

Loosen the dirt in a wheelbarrow

9. The bag on the right has the sides unfolded and raised and I’ve added fresh soil for the second time. The bag on the left will be filled next. The vines are so long and heavy, they are hanging over the edge of the bag!

Second addition of dirt

10.   Once all the new dirt was added, I gave everything a good watering. These bags drain well, so I don’t have to worry about the dirt getting too saturated.

Watering the potatoes

At this point, I won’t add any more dirt. If I had a source for clean, organic straw, I would top up the bags with straw. For now, though, the potato plants can do their thing until they are ready to harvest.I’m looking forward to digging in these bags for new potatoes. I have four different types of potatoes growing: russet, red, purple and yellow. It will be interesting to see how they all do.

The vines are really healthy and clean and so far I haven’t seen many bugs to speak of. Because they are up off the ground, they are warmer and they drain well, so I am hoping that means a bumper crop of potatoes.

As a final note, my carrots are doing really well, too. I've thinned them out a couple of times and haven't added any extra dirt as they don't need it.

The carrots in their own bag

The beauty of these temporary raised beds is that I can empty them and move them to another location if needed. Once I decide if I want to keep them in a permanent location, I can build some fencing around them to disguise the fabric if I want.

They also add some extra gardening space, let me try out different locations for raised beds, and best of all, make good use of materials that would have otherwise ended up in a landfill.

So don't throw those leftover bulk bags away. Put them to work as planters and raised beds.

Judith Docken is a freelance writer, author and blogger. She has published gardening articles in SF Gate and Modern Mom online magazines and was published in an anthology of Canadian short stories called That Golden Summer. She is currently building her backyard into an urban homestead and organic garden, writing her second novel, and learning how to grow asparagus and celery Connect with Judith on LinkedInPinterest, and Google+. Read all of Judith’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here

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.


Ryan and large live edge slab

Most goods in today’s economy are made in factories from around the world. That’s not what you’ll find here, in my shop.— Ryan Baldwin, Baldwin Custom Woodworking

While working as an arborist removing trees from backyards and along city streets in Fort Collins, Colorado, Ryan Baldwin saw an opportunity to salvage city trees destined for the dump into usable lumber for woodworking projects.

“I saw the waste stream that was generated in tree work and the potential to recapture this material and turn it into something useful,” said Ryan. Although the utilization of urban wood was not a new concept, milling and selling locally-sourced lumber was uncommon in the Fort Collins area.

Ryan sawing locally sourced wood

As the home of Colorado State University, Fort Collins has been influenced by the school’s agriculture, forestry, landscape architecture and veterinary science programs.

“Our community has an unusually large population of american elm and due to CSU’s botanical influence, the city has a diverse urban forest including ash, walnut, elm, honey locust, oak, pine, hackberry, catalpa, mulberry, sycamore, Russian olive, linden, cottonwood, willow, and more,” said Ryan. From his sawmill, Ryan produces rough-cut dimensional lumber and large, live edge slabs in a variety of species harvested in Northern Colorado.

“All the lumber that we sell is urban wood reclaimed from the waste stream,” said Ryan. “This homegrown product is very unique – unlike farm-raised lumber, it is not perfectly straight with uniform grain.” The uniqueness of these urban trees include finding many interesting items inside such as nails, barbed-wire, and even bullets, but Ryan uses the distinct wood characteristics produced by these items to his advantage in marketing his products.

“These trees tell a story and it’s an amazing experience to see the beautiful wood inside them,” he said.

Lumber and slabs stacked for kiln drying

When milling became more frequent, Ryan increased his focus on furniture design and set aside hardwoods with interesting qualities. In 2008, Ryan established Baldwin Custom Woodworking to create custom furniture in addition to his milling services.

“I had a lot to learn – namely furniture design, aesthetics, finishing techniques, and the many intricacies of running a small business,” said Ryan. “I feel lucky that I’ve been able to turn a hobby into a real job.” Baldwin mills logs both for design projects and for the sale of lumber and slabs, splitting his time in half between both parts of the business.

Ryan Baldwin sawmilling

The majority of Baldwin Custom Woodworking furniture pieces are made from local, urban lumber, making each piece unique and truly one of a kind.

“We don’t recycle our designs, instead preferring to work with clients to develop a design and choose a species of wood that best suits their needs,” said Ryan. “We feel honored to be able to produce heirlooms that will live on for generations.”

Providing hand-made products such as desks, tables, chairs, china cabinets, armoires, kitchen islands, bathroom vanities, and more to both custom furniture and commercial customers, each client appreciates that the products are made with local materials. “Our customers value that our products are unusual and not available from national retailers,” said Ryan. “The concept of having something custom-made is pretty special in today’s economy.”

By offering products made from alternatively sourced materials, commercial projects are on the rise for Baldwin Custom Woodworking as contractors and builders seek LEED certification (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) to reuse material from a site for trim, flooring, and furniture.

Table built with locally salvaged wood

With years of hard work and a few key investments including a Wood-Mizer portable sawmill, Baldwin Custom Woodworking continues to succeed.

“The best part of my week is when I deliver a piece of furniture to a client and get to see them see it for the first time,” said Ryan. “It’s a very cool moment, they usually can’t take their hands off it – they just want to feel the finish and see it from all angles.”

The future is bright for Baldwin Custom Woodworking as Ryan plans to expand to a location where he can add a showroom for lumber and furniture and hire more help so he can spend more time with his customers. “I’d like to see us continue to grow and sell more lumber because that means less waste will go into our local landfills,” said Ryan.

By identifying an untapped market and turning a hobby into a profession, Ryan has built a successful family-owned business that will continue to grow for years to come. For more information about Ryan and Baldwin Custom Woodworking, connect on Facebook or visit Baldwin Woodworking or Baldwin Hardwoods.

The Wood-Mizer Team includes a diverse group of 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. Since 1982, the team has brought portable, personal sawmills to people all over the world who want the freedom of sawing their own lumber. Find Wood-Mizer on their website, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest and Twitter. Read all of the team’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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.


Greenhouse front with shade cloth

We no longer used our 6-foot-by-10-foot dog kennel and it looked like a sturdy frame for a greenhouse. After not seeing too much online about making a greenhouse from an unused dog kennel, we decided to take it one step at a time, and of course take pictures as we did in order to share the process with others.

We always see unused dog kennels in yards as we drive here or there, so we know others might like to know they can put it to good use. One of our goals was to keep the cost of this project down by re-purposing materials we already had around.

Leveling ground for greenhouse

First, we moved the dog kennel around in the yard to picture where the best location would be. Lots of sun, access to water, away from any parking strip, and within view of where we could see it for enjoyment. Once we located the best position for our greenhouse, we drew up a plan and made a materials checklist.

Greenhouse Materials List

Unused dog kennel
Several one inch pipe clamps
Several treated 2-by-4 boards
Hog wire panels
Nylon zip ties
Tubular foam pipe insulation
Weed barrier
Landscape staples
UV-treated, reinforced polyethylene sheeting
1-by-2 wood strips
Screws and washers
Spring clamps
Planter hooks with machine bolts and nuts (optional)
Tables, shade cloth, and irrigation (optional)


Next, we leveled the land our greenhouse would sit on. We were working with a slight slope, so the uphill side needed more digging out than the downhill side. The dog kennel needs to be as sturdy as possible making sure all the joints are strong and the chain link fencing is secure. Our dog kennel has a nice door, so we double-checked the hinges and balanced the door swing.

We do not want our greenhouse to be damaged in any of the fierce windstorms we get, so we secured the dog kennel to footings on the ground. It has stood the test of time now that it’s been there for more than 3 years and does not budge even in 45 mile per hour wind gusts.

There are different-sized dog kennels made with different-sized tubing. We used 1-inch pipe clamps every 2 feet to secure the bottom tube of the dog kennel to treated 2-by-4 boards on the ground serving as a footing.

Greenhouse footing photo

Footing Pipe Clamps

We used two hog-wire panels for the top. They came 5 foot by 16 foot, so we had the lumber yard cut 5 feet off of each to make them 5 by 11. This is the dimension that made sense and worked for us. You may find you want to work with different dimensions to fit your particular dog kennel and desired roof height.

We wanted the roof height to be 3 feet above the dog kennel at the tallest point, making the overall height of the structure 9 feet tall in order to hang potted plants, which of course are fertilized with our homemade sardine fertilizer, and so my husband could walk through it without ducking.

Hogwire roof for greenhouse

Our hog-wire panels are on the inside of the dog kennel with tension against the inside top tube of the frame. Placing the hog-wire panel on top of the dog kennel, my husband positioned himself on the outside of the dog kennel. Holding an edge of the hog-wire panel inside of the far side of the kennel, he pushed on the side closest to him, causing the hog-wire panel to bow up, and nudged his side of the hog-wire panel inside the side the upper edge of the dog kennel.

Be extremely careful when installing the hog-wire panels as you will be putting pressure against its strength and it could slip and spring back at you. Have others stand clear of the project during this time, and be sure to wear sturdy leather gloves and eye protection.

We secured the hog-wire panels to the top rail of the dog kennel with zip ties a few inches apart. We used spare tubular foam pipe insulation we had stored in the garage to pad the sharp ends of the hog-wire panels.

Just slip the pipe insulation over the ends of the hog-wire panels anywhere the UV-treated, reinforced polyethylene sheeting will touch. This prevents injury to people and the poly sheeting that will cover the dog kennel creating the greenhouse environment.

Tubular Foam pipe insulation

I have never liked working in a greenhouse with a dirt floor, so before going further, I secured weed-barrier strips to the ground with landscape staples. As an added delight, my husband drilled two holes through the vertical tubing at the top of each corner to accommodate attaching planter hooks at the corners.

Greenhouse floor weed barrier

To fasten the UV-treated, reinforced polyethylene sheeting to the dog kennel, first we draped the poly sheeting over the entire dog kennel.

Next, we cut the poly sheeting excess, so we only had about 3 feet excess, which would be rolled under and secured. Using 1-by-2 wood strips, we rolled under the excess poly sheeting at the sides and fastened them to the 2-by-4 board footings using screws with washers to protect against tearing the poly sheeting.

Worked fabulous — now we have a greenhouse!

UV Reinforced Poly Sheeting

For the back side of the greenhouse, we used the same method as the sides, but rolling under only part of the excess and securing by two separate one by two wood strips at the ground level.

Using two more one by two wood strips, we vertically rolled the poly sheeting gathering it into the middle of the back of the greenhouse and securing with spring clamps. Now, in extreme heat, we can open the back of the greenhouse for ventilation simply by unclamping the spring clamps and opening the V-shape vent.

To close it, we simply bring the vertical poly sheeting wrapped one by two wood strips together and clamp with the spring clamps.

Back of Greenhouse with clamps

We fashioned the front of the greenhouse similar to the back except since we needed to work around the existing door, we gathered the poly sheeting on a short 1-by-2 wood strip above the door fastening it to a second parallel 1-by-2 wood strip on the inside and along the sides of the door we did the same. The door was covered with a small piece of poly sheeting.

Back of Greenhouse Opened

We added tables and irrigation in the greenhouse for ease of working with plants and watering anything we grow. Standard shade cloth works well for plant protection during extreme heat.

Had any luck building a greenhouse with unconventional materials? Do you have any additional techniques that worked for you? Leave a comment and let's discuss.

Mary Ann Reese is a certified mentor in designing, building, and operating food bank farms. She has also been certified to teach cooking classes to low-income families. As an organic grower, Mary has owned a mini-farm, greenhouse, chickens, ducks, and geese raised from eggs in an incubator and is happy to share years of wiser living advice with her readers. 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.

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