Repurposing Milled Lumber, Tractor Implements, Fire-Damaged Trees and More

Reader Contribution by Bruce Mcelmurray
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On our homestead, we repurpose whenever we can. “Repurpose” is utilizing something for a use other than what it was originally intended. After something can no longer be used for its original purpose, the user envisions putting it to another use where its function can be renewed in a different form. Our homestead is far from hardware stores, so we are especially attentive to possibilities of repurposing.

Small or Large Items

We repurpose coffee cans to hold nuts, bolts, nails, screws and such. We have also found that dog biscuit plastic containers can be reused for the same items that coffee cans are repurposed for. The clear plastic ones are especially valuable to reuse because when the label is removed I can see what is stored inside. From cans to tractor implements that are broken and not repairable, we repurpose whenever possible.

Broken Tractor Rear Blade

One example was what to do with a broken rear blade for our tractor. It had broken at a critical point and I had it welded back together. Regretfully, the second weld broke at the same place and that was the last that the implement would see any service. I disassembled the blade and found a use for most of the parts. The blade is used as an anchor to hold down the end of the tarp that covers our tractor. Another piece was used as a stanchion to hold firewood at the end of our woodpile.

New Portable Firewood Holder

The remaining pieces were used to fashion a portable firewood holder (see photo). In the winter when the wind blows and the snow accumulates and gets deep, getting to the woodshed can be difficult. Now we can locate the repurposed firewood holder close to the back door. That way we have a reserve stash of firewood close to the door where it is more accessible.

Wildfire Damage

I have written in the past that we had a major wildfire two years ago. (Spring Creek wildfire, the sixth largest in Colorado history). The heat was so intense, many trees were incinerated; however, some aspen trees, being mostly water, were spared albeit the bark was burned. The wood under the bark was heat dried and can still be used as excellent firewood if you don’t mind the mess.

 Burned Aspen Trees Still Have Value

The bark is burned and has an alligator-back appearance, but we found the underlying wood makes excellent firewood. (See photo) That is repurposing something that appears to be totally worthless due to wildfire damage into something that is still useful. Most people avoid this wood as it is dirty to handle but we wear gloves and use pulp hooks in handling to avoid the mess. It is thoroughly dried out and cuts and splits easily. It provides excellent heat and does not burn faster than undamaged trees. It has also had most insect activity removed by the intense heat.

Lightning Damaged Tree To Doors

In another instance we repurposed a tree that had been struck by lightning just outside our back door. A very large chunk of the tree was blasted out but the tree was approximately 22 inches in diameter so some lumber was a good possibility. I used our portable wood mill to mill lumber from the tree. I then used the lumber to make two interior doors to replace existing doors with a better quality door. After milling out the lumber to 1-inch thickness and squaring up all edges, I used a biscuit joiner to line up the pieces and then glued them together.

After I cleaned up the glue lines, I then cut the doors to size. I applied two coats of oil and wax finish when the doors were dry. I attached the bathroom door to the door jamb with self closing hinges and added a door handle. The pantry door was mounted with door hinges and a closing spring. We now had two interior doors that matched and were attractive.

Repurposed Glass Trinket

I had an oval beveled glass ornament with an etched hummingbird that we picked up from a craft show long ago. It was repurposed and mounted in the bathroom door so we would know when someone else was using the bathroom. (See photo)

Woodstove Fence to Gate

Another repurpose project was making a gate to keep the dogs from trying to climb the spiral stairs that go to the sleeping loft. German Shepherd dogs look at those stairs as a challenge. Some years ago we ordered a fence to go around our wood stove to keep the dogs from accidentally getting bumped into a hot stove. We ended up with two sections of fence that were unneeded. To keep the dogs from using the spiral stairs we repurposed one of those unused panels of fence. (See photo.) It serves as a gate that keeps the dogs downstairs to avoid the dangers of spiral staircases.

Sliding Glass Door To Functional Window

The contractor who built our cabin shell put a sliding glass door in the loft wall where there was only a one foot ledge to step out on. We took the sliding glass door out, framed in the wall and put a conventional window in its place. Subsequently, I used the glass from the sliding door to put a window in our breakfast room (see photo). Our A-frame cabin doesn’t have many windows for light and this new window was very beneficial to allow much more light in.

Giving New Life to Old Trash

Repurposing items that have lost their initial function or would otherwise be thrown away is a very useful tool for homesteaders. We do it often and the practice has benefited us immensely. Before tossing something into the trash or dumpster, it may be worthwhile to consider if it can be repurposed.


Bruce McElmurray homesteads at high elevation in the Southern Rockies with his wife, Carol. For more on their mountain lifestyle and their observances of animals coupled with their strange behavior, visit Bruce’s personal blog site atBruce Carol Cabin. Read all of his MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


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