Our main focus on the village homestead is to reduce consumption of stuff we don’t need. That doesn’t include what we eat though.
We are actually increasing the amount of vegetables, including herbs that we grow ourselves. This means we need more containers for planting, growing medium and trays to put the containers in. We also need more space.
This year we decided it was time to have a greenhouse to support these plants. Since finally starting a business dealing with herbs and garlic, I felt it was now unavoidable to build one.
Ernie drew up a couple of plans and looked in a few books and we designed a greenhouse based on where it will be situated and the materials we had. We wanted to use as much of what we already had as possible.
Using What We Have
Over the years, Ernie has saved old windows that were replaced on the house, all kinds of wood, pieces of siding, nails and screws, and many other things that might come in handy for building. The only things that we were missing for this project were the concrete for the footing (which we didn’t really need), the roofing, which will be purchased fibreglass panels and some miscellaneous pieces of wood like some studs and a piece of plywood.
The door is even the old front door from the house. Nothing goes to waste.
We chose a slanted roof because it would be more efficient for collecting water. The tall side is north facing and has the door but no windows. There will be enough light from the other three sides. Rain water will be collected on the one side or go into the raspberries in the ground around the greenhouse. Water will not collect on the north side where we will be entering.
My plan is to grow certain plants in the greenhouse all summer. These will be the tomatoes that I want to save seeds from in particular (heirloom), and some herbs that need the heat.
Since the building is not completed yet, I will be posting again on the progress and then on how I am filling it up with plants. Ernie figures it should be done over the weekend.
I am currently collecting our garbage. I know that sounds weird but I hope to show that it will be useful and creative.
The Project Material
The stuff I am keeping from the garbage is anything that is plastic or ceramic and occasionally very small bits of metal. This includes plastic bags, packaging, anything that is ceramic and has broken or things that don’t work anymore.
I am also keeping plastic packaging from food like the wrapping from sardine or salmon cans, as long as it does not have food particles on it.
All of our wood is used for burning or is reused in another project and paper is recycled so there are never any of those materials. Also, some of the plastic we have can be recycled so I won’t be using it if it can be taken to the recycling depot.
There are many others who do junk art with plastic garbage, namely from the project “Washed Ashore” who collect plastic garbage from the ocean and create amazing sculptures with it. Check out their website.
The plastic they use has mostly been broken up from larger items from sun and water exposure. They also have a larger supply to collect from.
I am simply going to use what we ourselves throw out and in the state that it is currently in for the most part. Though if I think I can make use of something by breaking it up I will do so.
The Result So Far
What I have noticed is that our garbage cans have hardly anything in them. Actually, it’s mostly dust. There are the occasional food wrappers that can’t be cleaned as well because I can’t use those in junk art.
The point of doing this is that I no longer want to participate in throwing out as much garbage as we do. We have already reduced our trash by a huge amount since we compost and recycle, but for me it is not enough.
I just can’t do it anymore.
The main thing that annoys me about garbage or things that we throw out is that a lot of it is good stuff that stops working. You can see in the box two flashlights – both in good condition – but neither work. Ernie tried to fix them but can’t.
Also, the green strap belongs to a headlamp for camping that now will only flash it red light. It won’t work properly. Very, very wasteful.
I am hoping that saving “useful” garbage will actually produce a good result – a nice junk art sculpture – but I really have no idea if it will or not. Either way, I am going to have a nice collection of stuff and keep it out of the dump for now.
I also hope that I will inspire myself to reduce what I buy and use even more. Since I am focusing more on experiences in life rather than things, this might help.
Oh, and this exercise (or blog post) is in no way trying to criticize anyone who doesn’t feel the same way I do about garbage. I don’t think I need to say anything because the amount of garbage speaks for itself.
Happy Reusing and Recycling.
Ernie put the finishing touches on a new pine shelf for the dog food bowls and utensils. This one was, of course, made from left over or scrap wood. It was stained with leftover stain and the varnished with water-based varnish.
I wanted a shelf there to keep the top of the washing machine clean. I have been putting the dog bowls there are preparing their meals there which usually makes a mess. Then it becomes difficult to clean when there are a whole bunch of things on top of it.
This will solve a whole heap of problems, and hopefully won’t create any!
Anything that we do here in our little urban homestead we try to do as eco-friendly and as frugal as possible. I know it’s difficult to be truly “eco-freindly” but one has to give it a good go anyway.
So for my new hobby, as I have said in a previous post, I have started learning to paint in both watercolour and acrylic. This requires some supplies like brushes, paint and some other tools. Not exactly your most eco-friendly stuff.
One of the things that I can use junk as a substitute for is my painting palettes. Right now I am using two different pieces of junk. One is half of an egg carton lid, which an be used over and over for acrylic paint. The other is a old plastic makeup kit box, likely from the 1960s, that Ernie found in the back shack. I pulled the mirror our of it and use it for mixing watercolours.
The third thing that I am using as canvases is scrap pine panelling cut into small pieces as a sort of canvas. Using acrylic paint, I am making scenes of local landmarks and plan on using them as tree ornaments. Rather than buying canvases I am making my own and produce unique, local art that has appeal to the local tourist market.
We also use thin sections of tree branches – maple, birch, even poplar as painting canvases. These are taken from either dead fall trees or trimmed branches both from our own property so nothing is wasted or cut down unnecessarily.
As a final canvas idea, which I can’t take credit for because it was my cousin’s, are smooth stones. Here are some of my cousin’s (who’s name is Rocky of course 😎 – seriously it IS), creations. I have started doing this as well but I’m not as good as this yet.
So there you have it. Several ways to save money, reduce waste and be creative at the same time.
Recently, Ernie did some work on the bathroom. Our bathroom has been in pieces for 2 years. It has taken us that long to dismantle, design, choose, and buy the stuff we needed to finish the project.
Actually I am not really complaining. Our favourite thing when doing a project is to do it slowly. And that we did. We did that because we didn’t want to make any mistakes.
In the picture below, Ernie is varnishing the sink stand. He made it out of Maple plywood. We stained it with dark stain and then varnished it with water soluble varnish.
The next picture is the bathroom mostly done. The sink was purchased at a hardware store and was really the only choice we had and it was in stock in the store. If we had to do it again, I would either order one that we knew was eco-friendly – if such a thing exists, or we would make our own out of something recycled. The plumbing is not done i the pic that is why there is a rag hanging out of the wall. Obviously the sink tap is not cheap. We have found that often you get what you pay for so we spent some money on that.
The ceramic wall tiles were left overs at the store and they had enough for this surround. Ernie bought pine panelling for the wall behind the sink and a small section on the other end of the bathtub. This will be varnished with the water-soluble varnish as well. Just as an aside, the mirror in the picture was salvaged and Ernie made the frame from scrap wood. I varnished it.
So from a homesteading perspective, I feel we did the best we could on the recycling/reusing side and the not spending too much side. Ernie did all the work himself and did it at a relaxed pace, not stressing himself out at all. It took several weeks but was worth the wait.
Recently, my homemade dryer arm was completed with the help of several reused/recycled metal and plastic parts – and a new grooming arm that was purchased 2 years ago that I have never really used. Ernie pieced together the contraption so that I could brush out a dog’s coat while having the air blow on it without having to hold it myself.
The dryer sits in a piece of plastic that came from the back shack and is attached to an old plastic tripod. The arm moves in and out and turns from side to side, so I can adjust where the air is blowing. This frees up my hands to hold a dog and brush at the same time. Works great. Many things were saved from being chucked in the garbage.
My 4 HP High Velocity dog dryer is outrageously loud. I bought it when that was all you could get. In fact, they now make HV dryers that hardly make any noise at all – at a nice high price. I am not going to throw this dryer out and buy a new one. The noise however is unbearable and in the winter I can’t put it outside to dampen the sound.
So Ernie and I came up with a way to save the dryer. He cut a hole in the drywall that separates the workshop from the dog room and put the dryer hose through the hole. The dryer now sits outside the dog room and only the hose comes through.
Imagine having to have a motorcycle or snowmobile revving its engine in the same small room as you. This is what it was like before this change.
Ernie found some old vacuum hose at the dump and that’s what is used to go through the wall and attach to the original dryer hose. The dryer and hose is now out of sight and in a contained area so it is not an eyesore.
We used electrical tape to secure the hose to the hooks on the wall but I will be covering that with something a bit more appealing to the eye.
Finally the hose is long enough now that I can use it properly. The pic below shows it hanging from the ceiling onto the grooming table.
So, all of this is just really the start of changing over to a more eco-friendly business and way of living. Some may think it looks cheap and crappy but I believe it is a state of mind. We take our time to finish projects and eventually it will look better. If we expect everything to be new and cookie cutter, then old buildings will be torn down and good stuff will be shown in the garbage. Not here anymore.
I have been using the tray below for my shoes and boots for several years. It was here in this house when I married Ernie and moved in and is likely decades old. I shaded out the insides of the shoes to prevent you from seeing the dog hair there although it is all over the tray!
A few weeks ago, (we have been married for 9 years) he told me that it was a drain tray for washing dishes – I had not noticed and had no idea. You can clearly see the place where the water is supposed to drain out. Umm, so THAT was why the water drained onto the floor when it was facing towards the door!
Anyway, I love my boot tray and will use it until it is unusable. It looks like someone even repaired a crack in it with some kind of sealant – probably Ernie’s dad many years ago. Not everything has to be new and perfect and colour coordinated to be used. By using this tray I am saving it from being put in the dump. This is worth more than any fancy new boot tray to me.
The first project for the tree decorations this year are pine and spruce cone “ornaments”. I feel these are appropriate because they are part of a tree (obviously) and they bring the outdoors inside without make much of a mess. They are already dry, don’t fall apart and can be used year after year.
All you need are pine and/or spruce cones, (the ones I have here are Norway spruce), and some thread or if you want to use something fancier, you can use ribbon or glittery gift tying ribbon. I am using sewing thread because it is not too noticeable when hanging on the tree, and also because I will not be spending anything on this project and I don’t have any ribbon I can use.
All you do is tie a piece of thread or ribbon around one of the cone “branches” near the top. Try to make it balanced by placing the thread closer to the centre of the cone. Tie the end into a loop and hang on the tree.
The other ornaments are crocheted snowflakes that my mom made about 30 years ago. They were hidden away in an attic in a relative’s home and we finally found them. They are a little yellowed but look great on the tree.
This is truly an homestead craft project as it costs nothing to make, if you get your cones from your own trees or some that you find.
Our Christmas tree is unconventional to say the least. I decided to make this one so that we have a unique looking tree as well as celebrate the beauty of nature. Yes, green trees are beautiful too, but this one lasts for years and is also super earth friendly.
It also cost nothing to make.
I found the branch on our 2 acre property. It was deadfall from an old plum tree. Ernie made the stand out of scrap wood, 1X2’s and 3/4 inch plywood. You don’t have to be a woodworker to make this base or one like it.
We cover the base with fabric that we already have. You could use anything really that goes with you decor and I’ll bet you already have something in your house for this.
This tree could even be made with a small branch from any tree that has fallen onto the ground. You can likely find branches like this anywhere, even in the city. In fact I think a tiny tree made in this way could look extra cool for an apartment.