Posts Tagged ‘Repurposing/Recycling’

I really enjoy giving handmade gifts (like the fabric napkins that I posted about last December.) Those gifts are usually made by me. One of my nieces has a birthday at the end of November. In fact it was just a few days ago so I had to wait until it was passed before I posted about her gift this year.

Since she was very very young I have always made her pillowcases. A pillow case for each season plus summer, winter, fall, spring themed ones as well. I can still look into my magic ball and see more pillowcases in her future, but wanted to come up with something different for this birthday.

As I was snooping around a thrift store a few weeks ago, I saw a small jewelry box. It was pretty plain (sorry, I completely forgot the “before” photo) but it had potential. I knew I could give it a facelift, but it also appealed the the frugal and thrifty side of me as well.

My original plan was to paint the entire jewelry box white and then “white-wash” it with a metallic silver to give it some pizazz and sparkle. I started with the white. I found a can of white spray paint in our garage and decided to use it to make quick work of covering the whole box. It needed two coats and even then the spray paint wasn’t covering the wood very well.

not covering the wood very well at all

I decided to get out my acrylic paints and go for better coverage with those. That worked a lot better, but the spray paint left a glossy finish and the acrylic paints left a mat finish, so I knew then I would need to apply a clear glossy top coat in the end.

Once the paint was on it was time for the silver metallic “white-wash.” I started wiping the silver on and instantly was not happy with the look at all! It was not looking all shiny and sparkly like it was in my vision. As I wipe it off for the full “white-wash” effect, it even looked worse. Again, sorry, no photo because at this point I knew I wanted to get as much of the paint off as I could and needed to work quickly.

So I just took one huge step backwards and needed to paint those surfaces white again and come up with another plan. By the way, this was Tuesday and I intended to mail the box on Wednesday. Nope, that didn’t happen! Not with another coat of white paint, plus dry time, plus what ever design I was going to paint, plus dry time, clear coat, dry time – you get the picture. I knew if I wrapped it up in one of my fabric gift bags before it was completely dry that the bag would be stuck to the box when my niece went to open it – not good.

The jewelry box did have a cut design into the wood so I felt I was a bit limited and so I decided to follow that pattern with dots. Dots are super super easy to do, if you know the trick. Use the end of your paint brush – the end without the bristles. Dip it in your paint and then touch it the surface you want the dot on. The size of the end of your brush will determine the size of your dot. Be sure to do a few test dots before you do this on your actual project and depending on the medium you are using you may get 1-2 dots before you need to reload the end of your brush, or you may only get 1 dot. The silver metallic paint I was using was pretty thin, and I wanted a substantial dots with a sparkly impact, so I needed to dip the end of my brush in the paint for each dot.

I did get the front and top of the box done and was going to move onto the sides, but time was not on my side.

I hope that my niece will like her new jewelry box.

Have you ever given something old a much needed facelift?

Sincerely, Emily

You can see what else I am up to over at Sincerely, Emily. The topics are varied, as I jump around from gardening to sewing to making bread or lotion and many things in between.




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Glass jars are one of those things that I have a hard time parting with. If I do part with them, they go into the recycling bin, but most of the time I keep them… ALL of them. I don’t buy a lot of things in cans or jars anymore, but from time to time a jarred item makes its way to my kitchen and after it is empty, that jar will be put into service in a second life storing something.

It isn’t just my own jars I keep, I have some friends that will give me their empty jars and I also have been known to lean into the recycle dumpster from time to time if I spot a jar I can’t live without. Sometimes those certain jars just call out to me.

I might as well fess up right now; I also save any lids that come my way. Why? For those jars that canning lids won’t fit on and over the years, the originally metal lids will start to rust and your just never know when you might need a new one – well, I have them in all shapes and sizes, metal and plastic. My way of thinking is (and by all means my thoughts aren’t always “normal”) that I am recycling them my way first before they end up at the recycle center later.

Back to the jars. I mentioned a rather large canning jar purchase here this past summer when I brought home a few more boxes (ok 7 boxes) of canning jars from an estate sale. I had told myself that I didn’t “need” any more canning jars and there I was piling more in my truck. Since then I have brought home 4 more boxes of canning jars from a garage sale. I have high high hopes that one day I will have more tomatoes then I know what to do with (or peppers or fruit) and I will be a canning-fool filling all those jars. I will have those jars, ready to use and I won’t have to run to the store for more jars. My jars also cost me less than half of what new jars would cost.

Again, my way of thinking is why not buy them when I see them (used, well-loved and ready for more action at a decent price) and they will happily wait on my shelf to be put into service. I haven’t counted to see how many canning jars I have now (I don’t count on purpose because that would give it a number… numbers aren’t always good to know.)

Well, numbers are good to know if you are already canning and preserving and you know exactly how many jars of tomato sauce or green beans it takes to keep your family in food throughout the winter and until your next harvest. I am lucky to live in a climate where I can have a spring, fall and winter garden, but I still want to be able to preserve some of the wonderful things like tomatoes, peppers or fruit,

Yesterday I did it again…. I came home with more jars. These are special jars though (they all are, right?) I went to an estate sale at a farm. Oh, it was a neat place. The back roads call out to me. The farm calls to me. The jars called to me. There was a small outbuilding that looked like it was used for making wine and storing canned things. There were several crocks and old wooden wine kegs (might not be the right term for them) and an entire wall made into a storage cupboard that was filled with old old canning jars with the wire bails on them. Most of them were out of my price range, but I managed to poke around and find 6 half-gallon canning jars for $1 each and a few gallon jars for $2 each. MINE!

As I left this cute farm and drove out the driveway I pulled over and just took it all in. I just filled up my soul with the scene. It stirs something in me. I gazed down at my “new” jars and smiled.

Am I the only one out there that has an obsession with jars?

Sincerely, Emily

You can see what else I am up to over at Sincerely, Emily. The topics are varied, as I jump around from gardening to sewing to making bread or lotion and many things in between.

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…you make Bucketville


My husband and I don’t think of ourselves as wasteful people, but have given more thought in the past year to reusing items we’d normally have thrown away.  I love to see our actual bagged trash diminishing more and more as the months go by and we make changes.

Maybe necessity played a role in this, since our short and longterm goals encompass increasing our independence, different ways of cost-cutting, and building habits of sustainability.  In short, we just weren’t the people who sorted trash into various recycling containers to be left at the curb…then.  In a way, I don’t know if that’ll ever be our mindset, but our old habits are being replaced interestingly enough by thinking about garbage before we even make our purchases, or acquire things.  We kind of like bypassing the recycle bins entirely, if possible.  If we don’t need to throw something away after using it for its original purpose, that suits us just fine.

I find myself opting for glass containers at the grocery store, if and when we even need to utilize a grocery store…one of our goals continues to be to use it as little as possible.  I pay more attention to packaging, amazed at how difficult it is to find anything not plastic or anything I might make practical use of after its initial intended use.  I like this awareness — the same sort of awareness we’ve developed when reading ingredient labels and noting the prevalence of preservatives, synthetic flavorings, food coloring, corn syrup, and so on.  And the absence of labeling, too, such as an inability to determine if something pre-packaged contains genetically-altered ingredients.

We’re not as quick to snag freebies unless we really need them, since we’re still in de-clutter mode with boxes we’ve hauled through several moves that we have yet to finish sorting and donating.  My personality is a contradiction to itself…I appreciate aesthetics, order, beauty, while still wanting the freedom of creative sprawl and painting life in bold strokes, somewhat messily.  As we’re doing more and more what needs to be done around here, form has bowed to function.  We cannot afford the Martha Stewart paint-chip matched sets of the practical things if we intend to make consistent forward progress in retiring our debts, organizing, repairing the home, maintaining our outdoor areas, and getting off the ground with gardening projects.  Some priorities crowd out others in the present.  We want a homestead sooner rather than later, and would rather be a year closer to having chickens than investing in the things we’d need to stay put here for the long term.  If Homestead ends up being here, even with the resulting compromises, we’ll still have a lot of To-Dos to build things up to meet our practical needs before we can indulge too many of the impractical ones.

One of the most practical items we reuse are 5 gallon buckets…

not too glamorous, are they?  But they’re serviceable…

…just not too glamorous.

You start by bringing home a few…rescued from the dumpster, or construction site.  And then you have a few more.  And a few more…and so on.  Practicality, availability, and frugality are why we now have our slightly out-of-control-and-still-growing collection of 100 5-gallon buckets which we fondly refer to as “Bucketville,” in various stages of plant propagation, cultivation, or degradation (ha!) in our backyard. 

We needed containers, we couldn’t afford to buy more than the few clay ones we already had, and we needed them to be durable and multi-purpose.  Having 100 5-gallon buckets as your starter garden isn’t exactly on par with the aesthetics and scope of the well-tended potager/kitchen garden of my dreams, but for first-timers experimenting with plants in this growing zone, they are functional for our needs.

Jack was able to score these plastic buckets from job sites where they were being thrown away.  And as homely as they are, I’m so glad we have them!  This week marked the first time we exceeded the number of buckets we needed to keep growing things.  Even when we go to raised beds or an in-ground garden, we’ll be using these humble garden workhorses for the garden, especially in growing the younger plants for transplanting. 

To date, the things that have done the best for us in the buckets are plants not needing too much root expansion.  Amazingly, some trees do quite well for a few years in such buckets, while others just need to go right into the ground.  Our citrus trees, coffee plants, papayas, and small seedlings have done very well…even the figs.  The mango is about at its limit, as is the fast-growing moringa.  Nearly all our herbs have thrived in the buckets.  The raspberries and blackberries, not so much.

Two things we learned about gardening in them — to drill drainage holes and to put the correct potting medium for the sort of plant you’re wanting to house in them — and secondly, to set the bucket lids underneath the bucket so that the buckets with holes are not directly touching the ground.  We didn’t know this last fact was very important until Jack was transferring some larger plants elsewhere and turned the bucket over to find it inhabited with termites…LOTS of termites.  Eeek! not what we wanted to see so close to our house.  We put out a frantic blog cry for help and were greatly aided by Annie at Edifice Rex, who helped educate us a bit about the habits and habitats of termites.  They are subterranean creatures who need (or will build) a path underground upward.  So far, setting the buckets on the bucket lids rather than on the bare ground seems to have solved the problem of direct contact with their underground tunnels.

Oh yeah, and a third thing we learned.   5-gallon buckets are a great publicity deterrent…ha!  I was contacted a few weeks ago by a reporter from the Wall Street Journal, who had happened upon various blogs featuring vegetables and flowers, mostly likely in a mixed planting setting such as potager/kitchen garden, and she wanted to know more about their decorative potential in landscaping.  She left her number, and when we finally finished phone tag, we had an interesting chat.  She wanted to know if I had a decorative garden featuring decorative vegetables as well as flowers.  I laughed and admitted “we don’t really have a garden this year, mostly plant starts…and they are all in buckets…5 gallon buckets.”  Needless to say we weren’t the feature of any article…I still have a chuckle over it now and then at the idea of photographers coming out to score some bucket shoots, heh heh!

Even if we didn’t utilize our free buckets so predominantly in our garden experimenting, we’d surely be using them somehow.  An overturned bucket makes a great weeding stool, and for milkers I’d imagine they’d be great milking stools as well.  They’re fine caddies for harvesting fruits, veggies, and clippings, and work well for hauling things manageably, as well.  Oh how I remember allll those trips hauling water from the pond to the fruit tree seedlings when I was growing up!  🙂

The humble 5 gallon bucket is hardly new on the scene.  In past decades, they were primarily made of metal and were put to good use both on the farm and in the cities.  Now they are mostly plastic, and have retained their longevity because of their enduring usefulness — an estimated 200 million are produced each year.  The sort my husband rescued from the construction dumpsters were mainly for paint, stucco compound, drywall, and other building uses.  Other buckets may be food-grade quality.

There are so many uses for those 5 gallon buckets, it’s hard to narrow it down.  They’re plentiful, usually free, and adaptable!  Here are a few of the many other ways they can be used:

1.  For long-term storage of staples and bulk items, such as rice, beans, grains.

2.  Livestock feeders, waterers, food storage.  Some folks use the 5 gallon buckets as chicken waterers, and they can be turned on their sides, fitted with a partial lip, and made serviceable as nesting boxes.

3.  A handy pull-out extension cord “dispenser”

4.  Hanging planters for growing support-free upside down tomato plants

5.  A single bucket or double bucket self-watering container

6.  A hand-sewn organizer, could be used as knitting/crocheting caddy, or sewn similar to this one for small garden tools

7.  A hand-washer, for camping, delicates, or regular use when you don’t want to use a washing machine.  Drill a hole in the lid, use a clean  (new) bathroom plunger and extend handle up through lid, secure lid and use plunger to agitate clothes in soap and water.

8.  As a makeshift or permanent composting/sawdust toilet.  Here are three different yet similar takes on this idea…here, here, and here.

9.  Environmental testing kit

10.  A step-stool

11.  Bucket “stilts” for kids…strap safely to feet of older kids

12.  Quickie impromptu ice cooler for icing down drinks on hot days

13.  Cover around exterior with discarded wallpaper or other material to create decorative toy, giftwrap, craft supply or closet storage containers

14.  Drums! 😉

15.  A black-painted (for heat collection) solar shower

NOTE:  One warning is worth a mention…well, maybe two.  You want to clean them well before introducing anything that might be ingested later…you don’t want roots of plants drawing chemicals from unwashed pots.

Second warning is especially important:  NEVER leave a toddler unattended near or around buckets with liquids…it is a drowning hazard.  They are just about the right height to trap any toddler that tips head-first into them and has no means of extracting him/herself.

I’m sure there are many other things to do with these humble 5 gallon buckets.  Do you use them in any of the above ways, or differently, and if so, how?  It’s fascinating to find so many ways in which they can be re-used!

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