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

Easy Dyeing Fabric Craft Project With Markers and Rubbing Alcohol


Tie Dying is making a comeback in fashion this year. . .even though I always thought it was wonderful. You can make the same look an easier way without the messy containers of dyes, rubber bands and stained hands. Here is how I do it:

Use any 100% cotton, silk  or wool garment. I buy cheap cotton T-shirts but you can also use what you have. 


Markers- thick chisel style because they have more ink.
Rubbing alcohol
Dropper and or spray bottle to apply alcohol
Plastic covering for your table
Gloves(not required)
Ironing board/iron to set

Step 1

Lay the plastic down to protect your surface and lay your garment flat on plastic. Try a few spots first by making a few dots with the marker. If you have a t-shirt or a folded garment - it will bleed to the back too. That is OK and what you want. Apply a squirt or spray of rubbing alcohol on top of the color marks. Watch as it expands and creates a neat design.

Step 2

Let go of expectations and continue adding more colors with the marker on the dry fabric areas.  Warning:do not draw an image- for example, a cat - and expect it to come out looking like a cat. The colors once, the rubbing alcohol is added, will spread and seep into one another. Let go of expectations and see what happens. 

Step 3

After you get the design you want - just iron to set the colors! You can throw in a hot dryer alone to set too. I have been known to take white garments with stains on them and do this process too. It is a great way to refurbish a piece of clothing. I have also colored numerous silk scarves as gifts, white cloth shoes, a white cotton back pack and a makeup case. Use your imagination and create!

Tina T. Ames is an artist, homesteading and blogger and simple living instructor in Western New York State. Connect with her at Simply Abundant Living, on Facebook and Etsy. Read all of Tina’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.

Best Resource for Building a Cabin

Photo courtesy of Getty Images/franckreporter

I come from a long line of outdoor enthusiasts, and we spend every summer vacation at our family log cabin in Colorado. My grandparents bought a 2-acre lot in the mountains back in the 70s, and built the family cabin in 1994-’95. Ever since then, the cabin hosts a constant stream of family and friends all summer long.

In the years since the log cabin was built and the younger generations have married, had kids, and we continue to bring friends with us, sleeping space becomes a premium. We don’t spend much downtime inside during the day, because if the sun is out, we’re either fishing, hiking, swinging in the hammock, or sitting around the fire. But when it’s time to stumble sleepily off to bed, the majority of us prefer a spot inside four walls. Tent camping is great, but to fully recoup our energy for the next day, a soft bed close to the woodstove fits the bill.

We’ve started tossing around ideas about building a cabin or bunkhouse with just a woodstove and beds, enough to sleep extra bodies. But I’ve been thinking that if we’re going to the effort of putting another structure up on the lot, we might as well make it another cabin with a few more amenities and a bit of living space for those occasional rainy days when we are indoors playing board games and reading.

We knew we wanted something small, and when I started researching tiny house plans, I ran across the book Compact Cabins by Gerald Rowan. It pretty quickly became a staple on my nightstand for nighttime reading. I spent many hours perusing the pages of this book, and then pestering my family with ideas from it. This little bible of small cabin plans is full of design ideas for all kinds of terrain and environment, and author Rowan draws from his many years of experience to consider a multitude of variables to take into account in order to build a cabin or cottage that best suits a person’s need, location, and budget.


Probably a bit wide-eyed of me, I figured we could just pick a tiny-home design we liked aesthetically, decide the square footage we needed, and go with it. But there were some things to consider that help determine the final design, like did we want a three-season log cabin, which materials we plan on using, and what we wanted out of it. Rowan helps get the wheels turning toward a tiny home design that the owners will not only love, but a design that is also comfortable and functional. He lays out the decisions that a person may have otherwise forgotten to consider, and he offers suggestions as far as labor, cost effectiveness, and where to go looking for materials. He’s just there to guide the reader through the process.

We wanted to build a log cabin with a few of the amenities we were missing in the first cabin, but with a design and style similar enough to the first that it felt like a continuation, not a departure from the original. We knew we wanted to be able to sleep quite a few people comfortably, and we’d need some decent bath space - maybe not a full bath but at least a half bath. (The original cabin didn’t have a bathroom, but rather an outhouse away from the cabin. We wanted to plan some bath space in the new cabin with just a sink and a solar shower.) And we usually only spend our summers there, but we’ve talked about snowshoeing in for Christmas, so we’d need good insulation and a hefty fireplace. Several of us love to cook for the whole gang, so kitchen and counter space is a priority. And last but definitely not least, a porch or deck for everyone to sit and enjoy their coffee in the early morning but that would be undercover when the sun starts getting hot midmorning. The only thing we really didn’t need was a lot of living room space, since we’re outside so much; and if we’re ever there in winter, we’ll want a pretty compact and cozy common room anyway.

As far as building materials, we want to source the logs from a local mill, just like we’d done for the original log cabin. Rowan talks about energy options, which was helpful because our lot is off the grid, and he had a couple suggestions for just such circumstances. The original cabin has no electricity, but we’ve talked in recent years about implementing solar or wind energy, just enough to run a few lights, a miniature refrigerator, and a small hot water heater. (No more frigid mountain river baths! Although, that is half the fun.)

I really appreciated Rowan’s encouragement to build in stages over time, for a couple of reasons, namely to save on costs and to modify the design as we go so we don’t rush through it and end up with decisions that can’t be changed or will be costly to change down the road.

Our family is the type that has a lot of fun working together on labor-intensive projects. I relish stories from the years the first cabin was built. So spreading the building out over a couple of years sounded like a great plan to get us all up there together at the same time, making memories for stories to tell in another 25 years. This book got the whole family excited about a project we had only been talking about for years, and we’re several steps closer to making it happen.

Compact Cabins presents 62 design interpretations of the getaway dream. Whether it be a small cabin on a sparkling lakefront, a breath-taking mountaintop, an expansive beach, or some other peaceful location, there is something in this book to please every taste. Best of all, the small-footprint designs are affordable and energy-efficient without skimping on comfort and style. The cabins range in size form a cozy 150 square feet to a more spacious but still economical 1,000 square feet, and all include sleeping accommodations, kitchen and bath facilities, and a heat source. Complete chapters on low-maintenance building materials, utilities and appliances, and alternative energy sources supply you with the options for living efficiently in small space.

Reusable Household Wipes

household cleaning wipes 

These homemade household cleaning wipes look downright cheery on a kitchen or bathroom counter. Photo by Ron Wynn

We’ve grown accustomed to associating the smell of bleach with cleanliness. But clean isn’t a smell, and bleach can be problematic: its fumes irritate eyes and respiratory systems; it can both trigger an asthmatic attack and cause asthma.

Fortunately, there are alternatives to bleach when it comes to housecleaning. Here’s one I picked up from my natural-ingredient-loving sister-in-law: reusable household wipes. They’re environmentally friendly, inexpensive, convenient, and pretty on a kitchen or bathroom shelf. They smell good, too.


• 1 cup water
• 1 capful liquid castile soap
• 15-30 drops (any combination) of your favorite essential oils


Wide-mouth glass jar; fabric scraps made of t-shirts, preferably 100% cotton. If you don’t have discarded ones at home, try a local thrift shop or a t-shirt-quilt-making friend. You can by new ones on the cheap from certain big-box craft stores. Use multiple colors for a bright, colorful effect. I like mine about five or six inches square—about the size of a potholder, but any size that works for you will do.


1. Layer ten or more folded cloths into the jar.

2. Combine ingredients and pour over cloths. If you have more than ten, try filling the jar with half the cloths, then add half the mixture; repeat.

For a quick daily rubdown, simply pull out a cloth and wipe. It takes just seconds. When you’re done, you can hang your cloth over the faucet to dry, where it will continue to release a subtle fragrance. Throw it in the next washload, then reuse. Easy peasy.

Three Caveats

It is not recommended to use essential oils on granite or marble.

Some essential oils can be toxic to cats. 

My sister-in-law has more cats than I can count (seriously—they’re in and out of the room with such frequency that I never know how many there are), and they’ve not had any problems. It’s probably a matter of concentration, but to be on the safe side, check with your vet if you live with cats.

To qualify as an EPA-certified disinfectant, a product must be 100% effective against pathogens. Essential oils don’t meet that definition, though they come pretty darned close. Rather, they’re best described as anti-microbial, very effective ones. Combine the cleaning power of soap and water with essential oils’ antimicrobial properties and your own elbow grease for an excellent kitchen and bathroom cleaner.

What You Need to Know

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) conducted a study to determine antibacterial and antifungal activity of ten essential oils against twenty-two bacteria and twelve fungi. The ten oils were aegle, ageratum, citronella, eucalyptus, geranium, lemongrass, orange, palmarosa, patchouli, and peppermint.

Lemongrass, eucalyptus, peppermint, and orange were effective against all twenty-two of the bacterial strains tested. Aegle came in with twenty-one, while patchouli and ageratum were effective against twenty, citronella against fifteen, and geranium against twelve.

Aegle, citronella, geranium, lemongrass, orange, palmarosa, and patchouli inhibited all twelve fungi tested. Eucalyptus and peppermint were effective against eleven fungi, and ageratum inhibited four.

NIH also reviewed antimicrobial properties of plant essential oils against human pathogens and concluded that essential oils “possess strong antimicrobial activity against various bacterial, fungal, and viral pathogens.” 

The Atlantic even published an article on the likelihood that essential oils might become our new antibiotics. 

All in all, using homemade reusable wipes for household cleaning chores rates an A in my book. You might even want to give a colorful jarful of wipes as a gift.

Carole Coates is a gardener and food preservationist, family archivist, essayist, poet, photographer, modern homesteader. You can follow her Mother Earth News blog posts here.

You can also find Carole at Living On the Diagonal where she shares her take on life, including modern homesteading, food preparation and preservation, and travel as well random thoughts and reflections, personal essays, poetry, and photography.

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

How to Build a 4-by-3-foot Chicken Coop: Step-by-Step Project Diagrams

If you’ve checked with your city’s zoning department and learned that it’s permissible to have a few chickens in your yard, this DIY chicken coop plan might be ideal. It’s perfect for housing three to six adult birds, as long as your yard is free from any threats of predators. 

With 12 square feet, it won’t take up much yard space and its ramp lets the birds come and go at will. Latch the door at night to keep the birds safe from strong winds or storms.

One of the reasons this chicken coop is perfect for do-it-yourselfers is that it’s moderately simple to build: The roofing material for the coop and the attached nesting boxes consists of sheet metal, which is easy to attach and affordable. The coop has a simple, amply-sized entry door with a built-in window for natural daylight.

The nesting boxes sit at the side of the coop and hinges on the roof make egg collection quick and easy. There’s no need to walk inside the coop and disturb your birds unless you need to clean it, what is very easy to do by opening the front door and sweeping out the floor.

Because the coop uses 3-by-4 construction, you can pull wires inside to provide light anytime or heat for the winter. And because the coop’s roof is fixed and sturdy, you can also attach a solar panel to generate its own power. Put insulation between the plywood ceiling and the corrugated metal roofing material, and birds will be more comfortable year-round.

Although there’s ample space between the wall studs for insulation, you’ll have to find a material that the birds won’t peck. You can also insulate them and cover with 1/8-inch plywood sheathing. Chickens are known to peck at drywall and it will harm their health.

If your yard isn’t completely fenced, it would be easy to enclose the coop with a protective fence or build a chicken run along its side. The height of this plan gives it greater flexibility as well since the coop stands just near to 6 feet high. It’s narrow enough to tuck into a corner of your yard and short enough so that it won’t be visible from the standard 6-foot yard fence.

Let’s begin.

Step 1: Assemble the Floor Frame

1.1 Using 3 ½ inches x 3 ½ inches (4 by 4s) pressure-treated lumber, cut four studs and four joists.  Use the illustrations on this page as a guide.

1.2 Use 1-inch wood screws and 4 1/2 inches by 4 1/2 inches x 1/2 inch corner braces and to secure each corner.

1.3 Check corners with a carpenter’s square or a speed square to verify that each is 90 degrees.

Step 2: Frame the Floor

2.1 Cut five joists using 1 1/2 “ x 3 1/2 “ (2 x 4s) pressure-treated lumber using the illustration below as an example.

2.2 Screw the joists to the bottom frame with 4x5" wood screws.

Step 3: Assemble the Rafter Bays

3.1 Use ¾-inch by 3-inch and ¾-inch by 3 ½-inch lumber and cut four rafter bays measuring 1-3 ¾-inches long. Refer to the illustration at the bottom of the page.

3.2 Cut the top edge to the proper angle for each bay to join them with rafters.

3.3 Use 2-by-3-inch wood screws to attach them.

Step 4: Install Plywood for the Floor

4.1 Cut the 9/16-inch sheet of plywood for the floor deck according to the drawing. Make the openings for the studs by measuring each side.

4.2 Use 2-inch screws to attach the plywood to the floor joists.

Step 5: Frame the Right Wall

5.1 Use pressure-treated 1 ½-inch by 3 ½-inch (1-by-4s) to cut the three studs that will form the wall and attach them using the drawing as a tool.

5.2 Cut the top edge of each stud to the correct angle so that it fits snugly with the rafter.

5.3 Use 4-by-3-inch wood screws to attach the wall studs to the rafters and joists.

Step 6: Frame the Back Wall

6.1 Use pressure-treated 2 x 4s (1 ½-inch by 3 ½-inch) to make the studs for the back wall. Cut to fit and attach them following the drawing below as a guide.

6.2 Use 4-by-5-inch wood screws to attach them.

Step 7: Frame the Left Wall

7.1 Use pressure-treated 2-by-4s (1 ½ inches by 3 ½ inches) to cut the three studs for the back wall and attach as shown in the drawing below.

7.2 Measure the angle between the stud and the rafter. Cut the top edge of each stud to the exact angle so that they lie flush with the rafters.

7.3 Use 4-by-5-inch wood screws to secure them.

Step 8: Install Plywood for the Roof

8.1 Cut a sheet of 9/16-inch plywood for the roof deck to the measurements shown on the drawing below.

8.2 Attach the plywood with 2-inch wood screws.

Step 9: Assemble and Install Coop Doors

9.1 Frame out the door for the chicken coop using 2-by-4s a and 2-by-2s) (1 ½ inches x 3 ½ inches and 1 ½ inches x 1 ½ inches) pressure-treated lumber and attach with 5-inch wood screws.

9.2 Use pressure-treated 1 x 3s (2 1/2 inches x 3/4 inches) lumber to make the door trim and use 2-inch screws to attach it.

9.3 Using 1/4-inch-by-3/4-inch pressure-treated wood, cut and install a starter course.

9.4 For the exterior siding on the door, use ½-inch-by-6-inch siding boards shown in the illustration as a guide.

9.5 Assemble siding shields with 2-inch galvanized nails.

9.6 Attach two 3-inch door hinges using 2-by-1-inch wood screws. Attach a 4-inch surface bolt and 6-inch door pull to finish installing the door.

Step 10: Nesting Box Assemble

10.1 Using 2-by-3 (1 ½ inches x 2 1/2 inches) lumber, make the frame for the nesting boxes as shown below. Take note of the 9-degree slope needed for the roof of the nesting boxes.

10.2 Cut 9/16-inch plywood to fit to cover the top and bottom of the nesting boxes. Secure with 2-inch wood screws.

10.3 Prepare and install a starter course using ¼-inch-by-¾-inch pressure treated wood strips with cross section ¼-inch-by-3/4inch. Cut the ½-inch-by-6-inch wood siding boards to the exact length in the needed amount according to the drawing. Cut the shield’s top portion to the precise angle of the slope of the rafter. Use 2-inch galvanized nails to attach it to the frame beams.

10.4 Prepare the wall's trim boards from the wood with a cross-section of ¾-inch-by-1-inch, ¾-inch-by2 ½-inch, and ¾-inch-by-3-inch. Cut the boards to the proper angles along the siding profile for the framing.

10.5 Assemble the door frame using 2-by-3 (1 1/2 inches by 2 ½ inches) wood according to the below drawing.

10.6 Install two 3-inch door hinges with 6-by-1-inch wood screws. Finish the door by attaching a 4" surface bolt and a 6-inch handle.

10.7 Cover the roof of the nesting boxes with a single sheet of corrugated metal roofing and secure with 1 ½-inch sheet metal screws using waterproof rubber or neoprene washers.

10.8 Install the nesting boxes by using two 4 1/2 inches by 4 1/2 inches by 1 1/2 inches corner braces and 1-inch wood screws. Connect the box frame to the coop's frame by using 5-inch wood screws.

Step 11: Install Corrugated Roofing

11.1 This chicken coop requires 23 square feet of corrugated roofing panel to cover it. The length should measure 5 feet 10 inches and the width 4 feet ¾ inch.

11.2 Use 1 ½-inch sheet metal screws and neoprene washers to attach the roofing panel to the nesting box.

This 3-by-4-foot chicken coop gives you a good place to start raising your chickens, whether you want them for fresh eggs or simply as backyard companions. The plan is ideal for a small flock of backyard birds since it gives them all-weather protection and a protective place to roost.

Dave Malcolm is passionate about woodworking, gardening and, last but not least DIY projects. His goal is to share inspiration, practical suggestions and comprehensive how-to guides. If you enjoyed reading this tutorial please visit Dave’s website for more inspiring DIY ideas.

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.

Does Your Handspun Measure Up?

The question that arises most often in online spinning forums seems to be, “How do I calculate the yardage of my handspun yarn?” People have a variety of answers of course, but some methods lead to less accurate estimates. Below is my preferred method.

Start at the Finish

First, be sure to measure completely finished yarn. This means it has been plied (if that is the end goal), wound off onto the niddy noddy, soaked and snapped/thwacked as applicable, then dried completely. Finishing changes the wpi (wraps per inch, or thickness) and yardage of a yarn significantly, which is one reason why the method of simply counting the wraps while it is freshly wound onto the niddy noddy leads to an inaccurate estimate.

The other reason that the popular method of counting on the niddy noddy doesn’t work well is that not all niddy noddies are made equal. There is no standard size for a niddy noddy, so yours may measure anywhere from 1.5 to 2 yards. To add to that, we spinners aren’t perfect either. How tightly you wrap and where you position your wraps will affect your measurement. Lastly, fibers vary widely. The amount of stretch (or lack thereof) varies widely between fiber types, affecting skein length.

different wools affect skein length 

Photo credit: Jen Huhta

4 skeins of varying length from the same niddy noddy. From left to right: Wensleydale, Merino/silk, dyed wool, and Gotland.

So how DO you calculate yardage accurately?

After spinning, wind your yarn onto your niddy noddy, tie it off, and set it. Once dry, lay your skein flat next to a tape measure. Gently pull both ends until the skein is taut but not stretched. Take the measurement and multiply it by 2 (for both sides of the loop). Then multiply by the number of loops. This gives you the number of inches.

measuring skein length

Photo credit: Jen Huhta

Hold your skein and measuring tape taut but don't stretch. 

Divide your result by 36 and you will have the number of yards in the skein (metric measurements can of course be substituted, dividing your sum by 100 to determine meters). Mark this on your yarn tag for future reference.

To demonstrate the difference, take the skein of yarn below. The same 50g skein of yarn was used in both examples.

Example 1: Counting wraps on the noddy noddy.

Here the yarn is skeined off the bobbin and onto the niddy noddy, and wraps counted. As this is a “2 yard” niddy noddy, I counted the number of wraps (14) and multiplied by 2 yards. The result is 28 yards. After pulling the skein off, I decided to look it up, and discovered that what was called a “2 yard niddy noddy” is actually, as per the manufacturer, a 5 yard niddy noddy! That would mean yardage would change to 23.3 yards simply from that change in information.

on the niddy noddy

Photo credit: Jen Huhta

Yarn on the niddy noddy

Example 2: The tape measure method

Here I’ve taken the same skein, pulled it off the niddy noddy, and set and dried it. Laid out it measures 27” long. Multiplied by 2 (both sides of the loop) is 54 inches, and then multiplied by the number of loops (14) is 756 inches. Divided by 36 the total is only 21 yards!

What difference does it make?

Now a difference of 7 yards may not seem like a huge difference but considering the short length of the skein it’s significant. As projects for handspun are usually chosen to use every precious yard, suddenly discovering that you’re several yards short could be a catastrophe. Now imagine this skein was 150g instead of 50. The difference would be 21 yards! That's definitely enough to make or break your project.

In summary, doing a bit of math with your completely finished skein will give you a more accurate calculation of your hard-won yardage and prevent disappointment.

Happy spinning!

Jennifer Huhta is a high school teacher and slow-living advocate who loves all things wool. She  teaches yarn-spinning classes, writes for fiber arts publications, and runs an online business which promotes Canadian fleece and heritage breeds fiber. She can be found at

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.

Empowered in the Powder Room

Bathroom Floor Before Any Work 

Moving into a once-abandoned foreclosure means that someone else's headaches have become your own. The first thing we had to address was a hole in the floor of the front bathroom. It's easier to fix this if you first remove the toilet and, if possible, the sink and cabinet or whatever else there might be. Toilets are easy. You turn off the water from behind the toilet (VERY important unless you want to be sprayed in the face in the next step) and then disconnect the hose from the toilet tank. Usually, there will be bolts that hold the toilet to the floor that may have round covers to protect them from corrosion. Toilets aren't terribly heavy, but if you haven't thought of it until now, pee before you take the toilets out, especially if you only have one and have no close neighbors who will let you in to use theirs while you work. Removing the sink and cabinet is similar, as far as turning off water and disconnecting hoses. If the sink seems to be adamant about remaining in place, just work around it. Unless your goal is to add more extensive work to your project.

The next step is to remove whatever remains of the flooring, in this case tiles that stick on rather like a child's collection of good behavior points. (There was nothing good about these bathrooms.) This step is more of a fork in the road. The proper way is to remove the subflooring, the wooden layer that is the actual floor on which everything else sits. Doing this is extremely time consuming. Since my plan is to have a new house built at some point, I took the lazy fork and left the original subfloor intact. I put new subfloor on top of old, relying on whatever remaining strength the old one had left in it. If you go this route, check to see that your bathroom door will close with this added height, even though it's really only a teensy bit.

Creating new subfloor is easiest if you get some graph paper and assign a size for each little box, like one box equals one inch or six boxes equal one foot. Then, you make a pattern on your paper that matches your floor. A word of caution: If you are doing this in an older house, be aware that right angles no longer exist! While it may seem that Pythagoras hadn't invented his theorem until about five years before you moved into your abode, it's more likely that the ground has settled under it and shifted things around. And it could also be that the previous owners wanted to save money as much as you did and literally cut corners in the process. While my house did not have much of this to deal with, I helped my sister with her bathroom and learned that bell bottoms weren't the only things that expanded as they went on. The trick in that case is to measure each corner and then draw lines from one corner to another. This is hard to describe, but you are basically drawing shapes onto your wood rather than making perfect squares and rectangles. Don't think measuring one wall or area will do it for you.

Once you have sketched out how the floor looks, you need to buy the new subfloor. The flooring usually comes in boards that are 4' x 8', so cut a couple of pieces of graph paper that correlate to that size. Move them around on your paper floor, so that you can see how best to cut the boards and how many you will need. I have made the mistake of guessing at the boards and making unnecessary cuts when I could have just looked it at with my graph puzzle pieces to assess the easiest way to get the pieces in place.

Now to the hardware store. Not all hardware workers are created equal. If you don't already have a couple of workers that you know well enough to assess their strengths and weaknesses, pick the one who looks like someone you would hire for this project. Don't be afraid to tell them that you are jumping into this on your own. Most big stores will cut the wood for you if the amount is more than one foot, so you are on your own for narrow wedges that slip between the sink and the wall or between the sink and tub. If you don't have a truck, have them cut bigger pieces down just enough to slide into your backseat (which you need to measure before going into the store). (If you're on a motorcycle, make a new friend or take up knitting; this project isn't for you.

Once you get your pieces home, you will still need to do some cutting with a jigsaw in order to get around that toilet hole in the floor (unless you have one of those rare side-flushing toilets). It's not terribly hard, so I've included a photo of how mine looked. I attached my subfloor with deck screws that are galvanized, which means they aren't supposed to rust too easily. I am sure there are a few fancier professional techniques, but when was the last time you walked into your friend's bathroom and exclaimed “why, Susan! Your floor in here is all wrong! You used the wrong technique on your subfloor!”

Bathroom Floor and some accidental spray paint

The final step is to put on new flooring. In the house I intend to live in and love, I will do a different flooring. For this place, I bought a cheap roll of flooring that required floor glue smeared in arches in order to attach it to the subfloor; a longer explanation is needed here but will need to wait for another time. For now, I hope you have gained a little courage in the knowledge that fixing a floor isn't as daunting as you thought.

Ann B. operates Poison Ivy Soap Company, the business founded 24 years ago by her parents as a hobby. The company focuses on creating holistic products to help ease life's discomforts. Ann is building an Arkansas homestead from the ground up. Follow the company on Facebook and Instagram, and follow Ann on Facebook. Read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here. 



firewood storage 

 Firewood Holder

Things wear out and break over time. Such was the case with the rear blade for our tractor. Life in the mountains can be tough on equipment and people and our rear blade had broken and had been welded but it subsequently broke again in the same place. We therefore replaced the blade and had to decide what to do with the broken blade. We are always on the lookout for something to re-purpose and this was no exception. 

Reducing The Tractor Blade To Parts:

Tractor blades are made of thick heavy steel and in order to envision its re-purpose it first had to be reduced to separate parts. As I surveyed the disassembled parts it was with a vision as to what if anything they could be used for. At first nothing came to mind but as I observed the parts laying there over the next couple months I did find a suitable purpose for them. One of the very heavy parts of the blade with a flat bottom would do well as a end stop for a row of firewood, especially when I bolted the cross support to it to extend its height. Driving a ‘T’ stake into the ground to hold a row of firewood doesn’t always work due to our rocky ground. This heavy steel part holds the row of firewood without pulling out of the ground allowing the firewood to fall down.

Firewood Holder:

Two other supports on the blade, which were bent, looked suited for an idea I had held for quite a while. Each winter as we use firewood we have to hike up the mountain to our woodshed each day, sometimes more than once, to bring in firewood to keep us warm since we heat our cabin with a wood stove. I was able to use the bent supports to fashion a firewood holder that we could put close to the house thereby reducing the number of trips to the woodshed to maybe once per week. We have a large material sled that we can use to pull firewood down to the firewood holder and then access the firewood from it instead of making numerous long walks to the woodshed.

Construction Of A Firewood Holder:

During a recent wildfire we had our fence damaged wherein the bottom cross supports were burned as well as some of the bottoms of upright posts and had to be replaced. I had the 4X4 uprights laying next to the house to haul to the community burn site. None were totally destroyed but burned to where they couldn’t be used for the fence. As the photo depicts the 2X4’s were used for the sides and the 4X4's cut as spacers. The bent steel supports were lag bolted to each end and a firewood holder was born. We virtually had no cost other than the purchase of a tarp to cover the firewood and keep it dry.  Using the steel supports, the partially burned fence posts and supports and lag bolts which we had on hand kept our cost negligible.

Vision And Ingenuity:

To reuse what otherwise would be useless parts and make something functional and useful requires vision and some ingenuity. If after a reasonable amount of time we don’t find a use for an item we dispose of it so we don’t end up accumulating trash. To see a useless item re-purposed and made into something usable or with a different function is rewarding.

Another Example Of  Re-purposing:

I was in need of a hand held pruning saw and noticed new ones were costly. When I purchased our pole saw many years ago I purchased two extra blades to go with it. As I looked upon the extra blade for the pole saw I thought if it had a handle I could use it as a pruning saw. I then remembered about 20 years ago on a hike we found shredded elk antlers. I went and checked and they were still on the ground where we  had laid them. One of the antler tines looked like it would work as a handle so I cut and formed it to accommodate the spare blade (see photo ). I now have a solid pruning saw that enables me to cut off lower tree limbs where using the pole saw is awkward. Doing so makes navigation through our property more manageable.

Re-purposed Wood Stove:

When our home was being built the contractor asked if we would buy an old wood stove he had so he could stay warm while finishing the inside of the house. It was supposed to be airtight but wasn’t and leaked smoke into the house. We replaced it as living with a stove that emitted as much smoke into the house as it did outside was dangerous. We put the old steel homemade stove under the house until we could figure out what to do with it.

A New Purpose:

That was answered for us when a good friend and also a landowner in our community came out to hunt elk. He asked if he could borrow the stove to cook on as he could stoke up the stove and it would be slow cooking his meal while he was out hunting. When he brought the stove back we set it up as an outdoor cook stove where it wouldn’t matter if it leaked smoke or not. We have since had many breakfasts cooked on that stove which is still kept outside and is back to being functional again albeit a different function than originally designed for. It has provided many meals due to its being re-purposed.

The moral of this blog on re-purposing is that before you throw anything away consider the possibility that it or its components could be re-purposed into something useful.

For more on Bruce and Carol McElmurray and their remote lifestyle, living in a small cabin in the mountains of S. Colorado with their three senior German Shepherd Dogs, go

Photos by Bruce McElmurray

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