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


How to Make a Pine Needle Hand Broom

pine needle hand brooms

Pine Needle Hand Brooms, from left to right: fresh green needles, needles that have dried indoors after about three weeks, and fully dried brown needles. Photo: Fala Burnette (Wolf Branch Homestead)

Brooms can be made from a variety of material such as broomcorn sorghum, straw, and plastic. Ones that are full-sized help us keep the home clean and tidy, but what about the often overlooked hand brooms? These miniature brooms help us clean small messes, such as ash around the fireplace or sawdust on the tabletop in a workshop. A dual-purpose hand broom can be made easily from collected Pine needles, that can not only be functional, but decorative as well!

We enjoy making our hand brooms for holiday decor, with fragrantly fresh green needles pairing well with the Christmas season, and dried brown needles being the perfect color for Fall and Thanksgiving. Keep in mind, green needle hand brooms kept indoors will dry out and shrink after about 2 to 3 weeks, losing their coloring. Dried needles will be your best bet for a functional hand broom. Use caution, and keep your brooms away from any heat source, such as a heater, fireplace, or wood stove.

It takes only three things to make these hand brooms: pine needles, scissors, and twine. Alternating the color of your twine to your liking for a personal touch is a great idea, but for this example I have used a basic tan jute twine made from natural fibers.

Step 1: Collection

collected pine needles

The species of Pine trees vary across the world, but our area commonly hosts the Loblolly and the Longleaf Pine. You'll want to collect needle clusters at least 8 inches long for this project (so for instance, a species such as the Virginia Pine with a short needle length of 1 to 3 inches would be unsuitable). Dried needles are easily collected with a rake from the area surrounding your trees, especially during the Fall. For green needles, if you know someone who may be harvesting Pines for lumber, you may be able to collect them then. However, the responsible method is to simply check under the trees after a good wind, and clusters of green needles not strong enough to withstand it are often found then. You will have to strip the needles from the branch if they are still attached.

Step 2: Organize

organized needles in same direction

You'll want to your needles to be in small groups still attached by the needle's "fascicle sheath" at their base. Loose, singular needles are more likely to fall out of the broom. Face all your needles in the same direction, and line up the base of the the needles evenly. Holding the needles all together, you can give them a bit of space in your hand and pack them into the palm of your other hand so that all of them are even at the end. This allows for all the clusters to be wrapped tightly together on that particular end, which prevents pieces from falling out, while also adding to a cleaner look.

Step 3: Wrap

wrapping beginning of broom

A simple slip knot can be used to allow a tight base loop closest to the sheath of the needles, which allows for an easier time wrapping the needles the remainder of the way. When using Loblolly needles, a segment of twine about 6 feet long was needed to wrap one hand broom the desired length. You'll want to bring your wrapping tightly at least halfway down your group of needles, which supports the area that is to be held in the hand along with tightening your cluster of needles closer together for effective and practical use. Finish the wrap with a tight knot that will not slip.

Step 4: Trim and Finish

finished brooms in workshop

The easiest step of the process is to finalize the hand broom by using a pair of scissors to neatly trim the other end of the cluster considered the bristles of the broom, snipping off the ends to an even and uniform length straight across. From here, you are able to decide whether your piece will be for decoration or functionality. Again, remember to keep your needle brooms away from any heat source, and use caution to keep them out of the reach of children and pets.

For a modest decoration this holiday season, or a functional piece to help clean up small messes, we hope that you will enjoy this hands-on craft that allows you make your very own pine needle hand broom. Enjoy the great outdoors as you take the time to source these needles from the land around you.

Fala Burnette is a homesteader with her husband at Wolf Branch Homestead in Alabama. They are currently building their own log cabin and milling their own lumber, along with raising heirloom crops in the Spring and tanning furs during the Winter. Read all of Fala'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.

Replace Paper Towels with a Reusable Cloth Alternative

When I heard about "unpaper towels," my first thought was, My grandmother would be disappointed in humanity to hear dishcloths touted as a new invention.

For those who aren't familiar, "unpaper towel" are the reusable alternative to paper towels. They're the millennial version of dish cloths. And while we might be prone to blaming millennials for this idea that dishcloths are a new idea, we can hardly blame them when they grew up with parents who may have used single use products almost exclusively.

Trending Away from a Culture of Waste

I'm not blaming you, mom and dad. Toilet paper became popular in the 1920s, and paper towels followed behind in the 30s. It was convenient and "the thing" to do. For most of us (I'm nearly a millennial), our parents were the first generation raised when those products were expected to be kept in the house.

My grandma lived through the Great Depression. Her family moved back and forth between Quebec and New Hampshire, trying to make a go at farming in the different climates. They eventually settled in New Hampshire, where she raised my mom and her four sisters. She was cut-the-mold-off-the-cheese level thrifty.

By the time younger generations were born, disposable products were the norm and there was societal expectations working against reusable products. Mention you use cloth diapers? There's a good chance a friend or family member will offer to buy you disposables because they assume you can't afford them.

Despite this inclination for the convenience of disposable items, there came a push in the late 1980s to live more sustainably, and that trend has grown. Young people have certainly picked up that trend and run with it. Good for them. It's important to be concerned about the impact we have on our Earth.

Appreciating the Switch from Paper to Cloth

Paper towels aren't the worst offenders, in my opinion, for creating waste — they can be composted with the kitchen scraps, after all. But dishcloths (sorry, I hate the term "unpaper towels) are certainly convenient. We have two small drawers with folded dishcloths, a kitchen wet bag to store dirty cloths, and we use them almost exclusively. 

They're perfect when you have kids. We expect our children to help clean up messes and they frequently spill things. The absorbency of dishcloths helps clean up spills fast. Kids need a job? We give them empty spray bottles of water and a dish cloth to wipe down the glass doors while we do the real cleaning. Just don't ever give a child a full roll of paper towels. There won't be any left when they come back.

For our own purposes, cloth towels just do more work than their paper towel alternative. They absorb more. They're easy to grab. They cost less long term. And they produce less waste. While ideally we compost paper towels, realistically they end up in the garbage in most households. 

While sponges are another common item in households to clean up messes, we've replaced them almost completely. They harbor bacteria and aren't washable. As a washable product that can be used once then laundered, dish cloths don't run into the issue of spreading bacteria around, provided you don't continue to them for a week.

I still keep paper towels for guests and wince to see how many people use when they visit. Occasionally we use them for icky messes that I don't want to launder or any chemical cleaners. Chemicals can destroy the fabric, especially if it’s left on there too long before being rinsed.

Tips for Switching to Cloth Towels

When I run a load of towels, I pop our kitchen towels in with them. It's convenient now that our laundry room is right next to our kitchen. Wash the laundry on hot to kill bacteria and don’t leave your dirty cloth sit in a wet bag too long.

While I’ve found that store bought dishcloths are the least effort option, I occasionally make my unpaper towels, too. When I first started, I added snaps or hook and loop to the edges so I could roll them up like paper towels. What a waste of time! I have three kids and no time for snapping towels together. Quickly folding them makes way more sense.

I have discovered that old towels, particularly thin ones, are perfect to upcycle for this purpose. They’re not as pretty, but boy do they soak up a mess. Because I’m a bit vain, I also keep a couple of “pretty sets” made with two layers of flannel. The fabric goes on sale frequently and can also absorb liquid pretty well.

Whatever you do, don’t forget the wet bag. I made this kitchen wet bag from scrap pieces of PUL (polyurethane laminate) leftover from sewing our cloth diapers.

The main struggle with switching back to dish cloths is remembering to use them. Putting the paper towels in a less convenient spot, say under the sink, and keeping the dish cloths in a convenient basket on the counter can help.

So make grandma proud. Invest in some dish cloths. Get a few different sizes. You'll find small ones are perfect for hand washing, medium size towels for cleaning, and large ones are good for cleaning messes and hanging to dry hands. Your wallet, and Mother Earth, will thank you.

Danielle Pientka is a stay-at-home mom to three boys and a blogger at DIYDanielle.com. When she's not chasing children, goats, or ducks, she's gardening, reading, sewing, or brainstorming her next DIY project. She is the author of How to Sew Cloth Diapers, as well as a few other sewing books. Her husband and she developed a sewing phone app, Sew Organized, available for iOS and Android devices. Connect with Danielle on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube, and read all of her 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.

Nature Crafting with Children

finished seed picture 

Children love interactive projects and they love doing things with the adults in their lives. Engaging children in craft projects is a great way to connect with the children in your life. My personal favorites are nature crafts. They cost nothing or next to nothing, get children out of doors, encourage creativity, and help kids learn to appreciate the many different aspects of the natural world. Here are two nature craft projects that work well with both younger and older children.

Advance Preparation

For the nature collage, gather projects described below, gather the following supplies: white craft glue and/or hot glue gun and glue sticks; backing material (a rectangle of weathered wood siding or a piece of plywood suitable for display); picture hanging hardware (a simple hanger can be made with a pull tab and a carpet tack; for hefty pieces, use heavy-duty hardware); hammer; and natural materials, as indicated below.

For the seed picture, you will need the supplies listed above as well as the following: chalk or pencil and eraser; enough newsprint or butcher paper to cover work surface; spray shellac or similar protective spray, and natural materials, as indicated below.

Attach picture hanging hardware in the upper center of the back side before beginning your craft. Measure carefully so the finished product will hang straight.

Nature Collage

Grab a couple of paper bags and head out into the woods with your child. Together, seek out items that are relatively lightweight and have a surface which can be glued onto a backing: twigs, lichens, leaves, ferns, bits of bark and moss, small flat rocks, acorn caps, whatever. The more color and texture variation, the better.

Bits of lichen add textural and color interest to a nature collage.

lichen on tree 

Photo by Ron Wynn

Spread the findings on a table or other flat work surface, preferably outdoors (near an electrical outlet if using a glue gun). If items are damp, allow them to dry before working with them.

On the paper, draw an outline of the backing. Let child arrange the nature findings as desired onto the paper. Once she or he is satisfied with the design, it can be transferred piece by piece to the backing and glued in place.

Note: Liberally applied hot glue works best for this project because of the texture and uneven surface of the natural materials. For safety reasons, if the child if young or inexperienced, you will need to apply the glue yourself. In any case, it is a good idea to hold each item firmly in place after gluing to ensure that it adheres well.

Allow to dry. The work is now ready to display.

Seed Picture

Creative placement of seeds, cones, and other natural objects results in a striking and lasting work of art. This seed picture, made by my aunt many decades ago, is still on display. Photo by Ron Wynn.

In advance of project, collect a variety of thoroughly dried seeds (corn, squash, sunflower, pea, okra), beans (different colors and shapes), grains (rice, millet, etc.), and other natural elements such as twigs, stems, lichens, and individual scales and horizontal sections of open pine cones. You can use seeds you’ve collected or you can purchase dried beans and grains from the grocery store and a variety of seed packets from a garden supply shop.

Spread materials on a table which has been covered with newsprint or butcher paper.

Let child draw an outline of the backing piece onto a section of the paper and create a design. Consider a simple ‘floral’ arrangement, a landscape, or an animal face. The materials and your child’s imagination will be the guide.

finished seed picture

Once the design is complete, your child can use chalk or a pencil to make a light sketch of the design on the backing piece, with your help if needed.

Now, the child can transfer and glue the pieces one by one onto their permanent backing, using a toothpick to guide them into position, if necessary. For small items like grains, spread glue onto the work surface and press the pieces into place. Craft glue is usually adequate for this project. Let dry.

Apply a coat of spray shellac over all and allow to dry before hanging.

Carole Coates is a gardener and food preservationist, family archivist, essayist, poet, photographer, and 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 Choose a New Heating System: Five Key Questions to Answer

ultimate furnace guide cover 

If you live in a region that gets cold enough that your home has a heating system, that system will eventually need to be replaced. Even homes with woodstoves often still have a furnace, boiler or heat pump for really cold weather or when you’re away from home for a while during winter. And while today’s newest furnaces, boilers and heat pumps are more efficient and reliable than ever, the large variety of options out there can make it challenging to choose wisely.

Want to simplify this challenge? Read answers to the five key questions coming up and it’ll help you make the wisest possible decision. For even more detailed technical information on choosing a new residential heating system, read through a free copy of The Ultimate Furnace Guide.

When Should I Replace My Heating System?

natural gas flame close

Sometimes heating systems break in big and permanent ways. The need for replacement is obvious in cases like this. Other times the old system keeps on working, so replacement is something you need to decide to make happen. The main thing to understand is that newer heating systems are often so much more efficient than older ones that it’s actually a waste of money to keep an old furnace or boiler going – even though it still works fine for now. Depending on the state of insulation in your home, how old your furnace is, and how cold it gets where you live, a modern heating system can save more than $1000 per year compared with what you have now. As you shop, look for figures on total heating efficiency for the various models you’re considering. Overall efficiency ratings of 95% and up are now possible with the best equipment.

What Energy Source Makes the Most Sense?

Furnaces, boilers and heat pumps are all made to use specific forms of energy. Natural gas, propane, oil, coal and electricity are the most common types of energy input for heating systems. What’s not so commonly understood is that a dollar’s worth of, say, natural gas, delivers a lot more heat than a dollar’s worth of electricity. Propane and oil deliver roughly the same amount of heat per dollar (depending on market prices), but oil poses a greater environmental hazard in the event of a leak. Wood pellets offer one of the most economical sources of heat energy in regions where pellets are manufactured. You can learn more about pellet stove installation right here.

furnace modern gas 

Each form of home heating energy has unique characteristics that you need to think about. Generally speaking, natural gas offers the lowest cost energy source, but it’s typically only available in urban and suburban areas. Propane is like “rural natural gas”, but it’s more expensive than natural gas because propane needs to be delivered by truck to your home. Another issue to consider is local competition. Where I live in rural Ontario, Canada, there was only one propane supplier for years, and they charged accordingly. As soon as a second supplier arrived in our area, propane prices dropped dramatically to reasonable levels and stayed there.

Should I Stick With the Heat Distribution System I Have?

The furnace, boiler or heat pump you have now generates heat, but this is just one part of your heating system. The other part is the ducts or pipes that distribute that heat to various rooms. In all likelihood it makes sense to keep the distribution system you have as you choose a new heat source. This simplifies the selection process. If you already have a forced air furnace delivering hot air via sheet metal ducts, for instance, then get another forced air furnace and connect it to the ducts you have. Same thing for a boiler delivering hot water to existing radiators or infloor heating pipes. That’s not to say that you need to stay with the same energy source. If you currently have, say, an oil-fired forced air furnace, there’s no reason you can’t easily switch to a natural gas or propane forced air furnace. Same goes for a boiler that generates hot water for heating. There’s no problem swapping an electric boiler for another type of boiler as long as both are boilers.

One heat distribution system that makes sense to change sooner rather than later is electric baseboard heaters. All else being equal, electricity will always work out to be the most expensive home heating option because so much energy is lost in transmission from the generating plant to your home. Also, in the case of a power failure, it takes a very large generator to power an all-electric heating system. By contrast, any kind of fuel burning heat source only requires a small generator to operate because electricity is only used to power the controls, fans and pumps.

Heat pumps are the one exception to the high cost of electric heat. Instead of generating heat directly by running electricity through a high-resistance element (as with baseboard heaters or an electric furnace), heat pumps harvest naturally occurring heat from the surrounding air, soil or water. This is why heat pumps typically deliver 2x or 3x more heat than they consume in electricity. These days air source heat pumps have improved to the point where they’re very economical to operate, even at outdoor temperatures below freezing. Most heat pumps can also operate as air conditioners during the summer.

Should I Change My Thermostat?

tekmar thermostat

Probably yes. Modern thermostats are much better than older ones in two ways. Besides allowing you to save energy by being fully programmable to deliver different heat levels at different times of day, the best thermostats use both indoor and outdoor temperature levels to control the heat output by a furnace or boiler. To get the most efficiency out of modern heating equipment, they need to be connected to a modern thermostat system with an outdoor temperature sensor. Besides being more efficient, today’s best thermostats also deliver very fine temperature control. The system I installed in my own house maintains temperatures to within 1ºF of the set point.

How Do I Find a Good Dealer?

Unless you’re exceptionally handy, you’ll need a dealer to help you choose a new heating system and install it. Your main homework is to ask potential dealers for references from at least three past clients each, then call these people and ask how things went. Most home improvement disasters could have been avoided by asking for and checking references. You’d be surprised how many homeowners get lazy about this and never check references. And when you’re checking out dealers, it’s not just installation skill that matters. You’ll also need to rely on them for emergency service calls. Don’t wait for a cold Sunday night with a broken furnace to find out that customer service is not something your dealer is very good at.

Steve Maxwell is a DIY expert and longtime contributor to MOTHER EARTH NEWS. He and his family homestead on Manitoulin Island, Canada, cultivating a little patch of  farmland surrounded by a sea of forest. Connect with Steve at BaileyLineRoad.com, and read all of his 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 Built a DIY Solar Panel Generator Trailer for My Homestead

solar trailer

Over the last 5 years as homesteaders, we've built many outbuildings and projects. First came the chicken coop and then a greenhouse, garden, dog kennel and even a small ice skating rink last winter! Each of these projects have one thing in common, then need electricity. We've used a small gas powered generator but it is loud and expensive to run. For this reason we decided to build a portable solar panel generator/ trailer for our homestead. We documented the entire project, step by step on instructables.com.

We also made an entertaining and fun video on YouTube showing the project and the final result and tests!

We tried to re-use as many materials as we could from our homestead. We had an old garden trailer, wood, wire, insulation from a past project and most importantly we had four 12 volt, 40 amp hour sealed batteries from an old electric scooter which no longer worked. Thanks to Amazon, we purchased 2 solar panels a 1600 watt power inverter a charge controller and a few other items and we built the entire setup on our homestead.

We completed the build several weeks ago and we've been using the solar generator every day since. It's nice to be able to have a full 115 volts at any location on our 20 acre homestead. We simply hook up the Portable Solar Panel Generator Trailer to our ATV and move it where needed. We've used it mainly to power our dog kennel which includes 4 lights a ceiling fan, radio and large exhaust fan. Over the last 7 days we've used it fairly regularly and it's absorbed enough sunlight to not only sustain the power that we needed we are up 1/2 volt over the course of the week!

We will see how well it functions throughout the cold Wisconsin winter! We insulated the battery bank fairly well and when not in use we plan to store it in our heated (by wood) garage.

Kerry W. Mann, Jr. moved to a 20-acre homestead in 2015, where he and his family use modern technology, including YouTube and Instructables.com, to learn new skills and teach homestead projects. Connect with Kerry on his Homestead How YouTube page, Instructables, Pinterest,  Facebook, and at My Evergreen Homestead. Read all of Kerry’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.

Replace Wrapping Paper with a Reusable Alternative

Homemade Fabric Wrapping Paper 

I think over the past seven years, I've learned a lot about how wasteful I am. Over time, we've done a lot of transitioning from disposable products to reusable ones. We occasionally still use disposable items, but I've tried to do my best to limit how much garbage we create. After all, the garbage situation can get out of control with a family of five.

One of the most satisfying transitions to reusable products that we've made has been to switch from wrapping paper to reusable gift bags.

I'm not talking about the paper gift bags that you fill with tissue paper. Those survive a few rounds, but in the overall scheme of things they don't last very long. If your family is rough on them, they might not even last one holiday.

What I'm referring to is a reusable cloth gift bag. Often they come with a drawstring that you can close, eliminating the need for tissue paper or anything to cover up the gifts inside.

If they get wrinkled, they can be laundered and/or ironed. Usually this won't be necessary. They don’t tend to get dirty and if you pick your fabric wisely, they won’t wrinkle much or at all. Canvas (or using a drop cloth) is a good wrinkle-free option.

They're the perfect reusable product because they don't require much effort at all.

While I know many people use the paper for burning, reuse it, or recycle it, wrapping paper creates a lot of waste, and for many people on the homestead, disposing of that waste costs extra effort, time, or money.

I've bought reusable gift bags to use, I've made my own from scratch, received some with gifts that others have sent off Amazon, and I have also embellished bags like these canvas laundry bags. We keep quite a few bags that we use for all the holidays, but in particular Christmas.

Tips For Making DIY Bags

Upcycle old pajamas, linens, or other seasonal decor items to sew your own bags — or cut the fabric to wrap the gifts “the traditional way.”

Some fabrics, such as fleece and knits, don’t fray (you can cut them and they don’t have pieces of fabric falling off them) so they don’t even need to be sewn. You can simply cut a large square and wrap the present with the fabric. If you use a fraying fabric, such as quilting cotton, it’s a good idea to finish the edge so there won’t be strings hanging off.

Nothing to upcycle? Hit up the thrift store or the craft store while holiday fabric is on sale. I stocked up after Christmas one year and that allowed me to make bags to add to our collection!

I use a lot of scrap fabric left over from making other Christmas and holiday items, such as tree skirts, winter pajamas, and table runners. This allows me to make a lot of smaller bags. Usually I try to find discount fabric for the larger bags.

I’ve been adding drawstrings to mine, but in the future I think I’ll lean more towards tying them with a ribbon. It looks pretty and it makes sewing the bags a couple steps quicker and easier.

Wrapping Gifts with DIY Wrapping Paper

My favorite part about using reusable gift bags is how quick it is to wrap everything on Christmas Eve — or before. As I make or buy gifts for my family, I generally put them in a bag, add a tag, and hide them from the kids. We leave out our Santa bags empty for Santa to use, like you would stockings.

My second favorite part about these gift bags is how easy they are to clean up.

On Christmas morning, after a gift has been opened, I fold the bag and set it aside. All of the bags are stacked to be put away later.

When we go to wrap up our seasonal decorations, I often use those gift bags to wrap around fragile items to protect them in their storage bin.

Those gift bags work for us all year long.

On the homestead it's really important to work smarter, not harder. While hard work is encouraged and admired, there's a deep satisfaction to finding a new trick to make life easier. This opens up time to do the things we love and to be with the people we love.

Danielle Pientka is a stay-at-home mom to three boys and a blogger at DIYDanielle.com. When she's not chasing children, goats, or ducks, she's gardening, reading, sewing, or brainstorming her next DIY project. She is the author of How to Sew Cloth Diapers, as well as a few other sewing books. Her husband and she developed a sewing phone app, Sew Organized, available for iOS and Android devices. Connect with Danielle on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube, and read all of her 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 Way with Willow: Basket-Materials Farmer Howard Peller’s Handcrafted Willow Structures

Multicolored Willow Stacked sticks

 “Farming willow and making baskets exemplifies the way I personally link an agrarian way of life with an artisanal handcraft. I use the willow I grow on our farm in Roseville, Ohio to make baskets and garden structures that serve as useful and purposeful objects in everyday life.”

Willow farmer Howard Peller not only grows 20,000 plants in over 100 varieties of willow on his 140-acre farm in the center of Ohio, he creates with the willow as well. His play structure installations for nature playscapes, arboretums, and children’s gardens can be found throughout the United States. Peller’s Central Ohio designs close to the farm can be enjoyed at the Children’s Garden at Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus, Dawes Arboretum in Newark, Ohio, and the nature playscape at AHA! A Hands-On Adventure Children’s Museum in Lancaster, Ohio. Howard provides willow for nature playscape leader Rusty Keeler’s Earthplay online store. His willow also became part of the woven structure of the Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus.

Willow Archway Garden Path

Franklin Park Conservatory Columbus, Ohio

Using Willow for Arts and Crafts

“Basic metal tools of billhook, knife, shears and awl allow me to harvest and create wonderfully useful articles for personal living.”

Basket Materials Farmer Howard Peller

Basket-materials farmer and willow artist Howard Peller

At the Muskingum County farm, the plants are cut in late winter near the base, called coppicing, causing them to regenerate for continual future cuttings. Dried for two years, the willow bundles are then sent around the world for use in baskets or furniture or woven by Peller into structures and baskets and sold on his website. Live cuttings are put into cold storage for spring planting, used for living structures designed and installed by Peller or sold for individuals creating their own willow tunnels and structures.

Peller’s work is informed by extensive travel throughout the world, working side-by-side with weavers in South America, Europe, India, Jamaica and Haiti. His experience as Longaberger Basket Company VP of design and product development for all product categories and Founder of the Design Center to prototype new concepts promoting the handcraft legacy story influence his vision — as well as experience as a product designer and model-maker for Wilton Armetale, Anchor Hocking, Bloomer Chocolate, Burley Clay, Restoration Hardware, Martha Stewart, Tiffany, Block China, Bath and Body Works, and Portugal Ceramics.

Willow Archways In Garden

AHA! Children's Museum Lancaster, Ohio

Willow Applications for Small Homesteads

While willow farming and producing on the scale of Peller’s operation takes a dedication, passion and lifetime of creative experience, small homesteaders can use willow as hedges, fences, walls, wind barriers, and for erosion prevention as they typically do in Europe.

A small patch of 200 to 500 willow plants can be used to make baskets or willow structures for personal use or small-scale sales and they can also be used as fodder for sheep and goats. Cutting takes place in January and February on Peller’s Ohio farm and he sells the willow sticks for planting in March and April nationwide.

Willow Farm In Winter

Peller’s farm in Roseville, Ohio

Wendy Gregory spent her career working with children as a culinary and gardening teacher in an arts-based summer camp for at-risk children in Nelsonville, Ohio, and as the director of a children’s museum in Lancaster, Ohio. She is a freelance writer exploring the ways seniors can contribute, grow, and reinvent themselves in a new chapter of life. Read all of Wendy’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.






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