Over Ten Things You Should Never Throw Away (clever tips to reuse ordinary items)

I am cleaning out the junk drawer today.  It is a little packed in there.  I am trying to get my home organized and cleaned out before the fervor of gardening season begins.  Because then I’m not gonna want to come in the house!

I am probably not going to throw away much in the junk drawer, just organize it.  There are some things that a lot of folks would throw out that can be brilliantly reused on a homestead.  Here are my top ten things you should never throw away!

#1 Twist ties– They come on bread, produce, and in every package of toys and small appliances, and you will want every last one of them this summer!  Not only do twist ties make the very best cat toys, they have another use, training and holding plants up.  Tie one loosely around a branch of a tomato plant and secure to the cage to help give it stability and to help it branch out more.  Use for anything that trellises; tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and roses to name a few.

#2 Rubber bands– Also a desired cat toy, though they shouldn’t be swallowing them.  When you have a nice fresh bundle of beets or collard greens in your hand, it is quite handy to reach in your apron pocket and grab a rubber band to hold the stems together.

#3 Clothes Pins– Well, this is a no-brainer, obviously we need it for our clothes line!  But these gems also keep tops of flour bags closed.  They can be used to label plants by pinning the marked paper to the side of a pot.  (I have exciting news y’all might appreciate.  I had to stop using a clothes line last year (after fifteen years) because a very large and rambunctious puppy moved in and used the hanging clothes as toys you could shred.  I am having new areas of my yard fenced off this month and can start reusing the clothes line!  That dryer just shrinks everything anyway.)

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#4 Jars– Glass jars are always in use around here.  Large glass juice jars get washed and refilled with water and placed downstairs in case of an emergency.  Smaller glass jars and every sort of canning jar are used to hold odds and ends and dried herbs and teas and spices and coffee and seeds and more!  The canning jars are obviously also used for canning.  Nothing like opening fresh produce in February.

#5 Chop sticks– use these to stir oils and infused honeys.  Use to label plants.  Stake a small house plant.  Use to eat Chinese food.

#6 Plastic baggies and produce bags– Every bag around here gets washed and reused a zillion times.  We go months and months without buying sandwich bags or freezer bags.  A produce bag can hold a half an onion in the fridge or three sandwiches for a picnic.  Ziplock style bags can be reused many, many times.

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#7 Wine corks– Use these for crafts (glue them together in a metal ring to make a trivet or build a birdhouse).  My favorite use is to pile them into the bottoms of large pots for drainage when repotting plants.

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#8 Salad containers– Plastic salad or deli containers with lids make perfect mini greenhouses to start seeds in.

#9 Nursery pots– You never know when you might want to pot up some of your aloes or need to move seedlings into larger containers.

#10 Twine and bits of rope and ribbon– Fix a fence, tie a plant to the cage, tie around cheesecloth to secure to mouth of jar, tie up your hair, or wrap a presen

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In a canning jar, add a few inches of sand then a votive. When the votive melts just pop it out and add another candle in! You can melt down candles and remake them as well.

Other things we have done over the years:

Paint wine bottles with chalkboard paint and make cute little blackboards.

Use paper grocery bags, newspaper, and cardboard in the garden to suppress weeds.  Cover with straw to hide.

Repaint old furniture to make new pieces!

Use old dinner plates to catch water under houseplants.

Use egg cartons as paint palettes.  Or to start seeds.

Half of a pop or water bottle becomes a funnel.  Or a cloche.

There are lots of ways to reuse and repurpose ordinary items!

Living Space Makeover- Part 2 (after photos!)

When we moved into this house two years ago (my goodness, time flies!), the walls were a dingy, rental white with chipped grey trim.  I have never been a fan of white.  I rarely utilize white.  I adore color!

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Before

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After

I have kept a notebook of magazine clippings of loved décor for the past fifteen years or so.  As I flipped through the worn pages I discovered something; every single room had white/cream walls.  All of them.

“I’m surprised you are painting the walls white,” Shyanne responded on text after I sent her the first wall completed.

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Before

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I am still working on organizing this corner, but it will be a sweet little space for writing and dreaming.  I moved the desk so that I could put up a folding table to hold more plants under the window.

As soon as we moved in two years ago, I painted the walls warm yellow with a library brown trim and they were lovely.  This house is nearly one hundred years old, adobe, build in a proper style where the windows and eves are set just right so that in the summer the sun is above the house and in the winter, the sun floods through the windows.  I can touch the ceilings.  This house wasn’t built by tall people, y’all.  The result is that it feels almost cave-like sometimes and remarkably cozy.  With all my bright colors and plants though, it felt cluttered.

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Before

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So, what the heck, right?  I went and chose a crisp with a touch of cream, white paint and set to work New Year’s Eve.  It is amazing how dirty walls get over the years and the white paint was like a cleansing.  All of the colors of my southwestern things just pop against the new gallery walls and the space feels bright and wintery.  Cool and enlivening.  New and fresh.

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Finances and a very large puppy mean that we aren’t getting new furniture very soon but these pieces, dingy and a bit torn as they may be, become transformed with a few bright blankets.

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“What do I want to devote space to?”  A very good question for the new year.  For me, it is my work.  With all my beautiful items at the ready, I don’t have to be digging through closets and bags to find what I need for ceremony!

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Next to it I placed a table with my curiosities.  My bird nests and feathers.

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Before (found my husband!)

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After

With the house nice and bright and filled with southwestern color and all my bright paintings displayed, I feel light and calm, happy and inspired.  So white was the right color for me all along!

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With a bit of paint, some blankets to use as throws, and a rearrangement of furniture, you can have a whole new living space designed for what you want to make space for.

 

Happy New Year everyone!

 

DIY and the Three R’s

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Homesteaders old and new must be so busy we had to find acronyms for everything!  DIY-Do It Yourself.  So, when our friend, Ingrid, said to look up videos on YouTube to see how to fix the fridge, we wondered why we didn’t think of that!  We are homesteaders after all!

Armed with a drill and some online videos, Doug set to work.  Back panel off, fought the shelving unit, removed the ice maker, tried to get the inside panel off.  I went and did yoga in the living room.  Too much for me.  Then I got the phone number for an appliance repair.  Here’s where the Reduce, Recycle, Reuse comes in!  We got ourselves a refurbished fridge.  It’s ugly as sin, shorter than me, and needs a paint job (can you paint refrigerators?), but it will do the trick.  They will take ours, fix it, and resell it.  We keep a small business busy, kept a fridge out of the landfill, saved money, and Thursday we will have cold food.  All in a day’s work!  We didn’t need new.  Just a little thinking through.

How to Become a Homesteader-Part 4-Thrift, Bartering, Splurge

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Finding balance is one of the things we all strive for in every aspect of our lives.  Becoming a homesteader is about living the life you want, that you dream of.  It’s about taking chances and knowing you can live on less.  It is about spending time in the gardens and with animals and friends and not giving our life to a corporation, who will have you replaced by the time you hit the parking lot, or grave.  This is about relationships; with community, with friends and family, with nature, with God.  This is about freedom.  When we are living on less, we need to know when to be thrifty, when to barter, and when to splurge.

You can find tops for empty wine bottles to turn them into lanterns at Lehman's or kitchen stores.  Just fill with lamp oil and whallah!

You can find tops for empty wine bottles to turn them into lanterns at Lehman’s or kitchen stores. Just fill with lamp oil and whallah!

Being thrifty means that we reuse a lot of things and we don’t produce a lot of waste.  This is helpful on our pocketbooks and the earth.  We find we need less.  We don’t go to an office job so we don’t need really nice clothes, nor do we worry too much about our appearance.  We use our clothes until they are torn.  Our cars have to be practically falling apart while driving before we get a “new” one.  We read books from the library and rarely purchase new.  We reuse rubber bands to fasten stems of greens together to sell.  We save all of our twist ties and use them to stake plants to trellises and tomato cages.  Wine corks can be put in the bottom of pots before filling with soil for drainage.  Boxes that are too small to put in the garden or use to store canning jars get torn up and are used as fire starters.  Wine bottles get turned into oil lamps.

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Bartering is imperative in the homesteading world.  Being able to trade for services that we cannot do ourselves helps us live on a small income and helps connect us to others.  Rod put up a screen door for us and Doug cleaned up his computer.  We are trading one of Elsa’s kids for one of Jenet’s Nubian kids.  Last year Joan and I traded canned goods so we would have a bit of variety.  We barter herbal medicines for a lot of things!

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When to splurge?  Buy good quality feed for your animals.  Buy organics for yourself if you didn’t produce them.  When buying tools, buy the best you can so you don’t have to repurchase.  Buy quality seeds.  Not everything need be cheap.  Sometimes a bargain costs much more in the end.

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Then there are other types of splurges.  We live this way to enjoy life.  My post about boxed wine gave folks a good laugh around town, I’ll tell you.  I received large boxes of wine and funny comments.  I bet knowing my affinity for good wine that you can guess that it wasn’t long before I was darn sick of boxed wine!  If it’s under $15, a bottle is worth it.  One can find a great deal of fabulous wines in that price range.  And if Doug and I aren’t running around wine bars all week like we used to, you can bet your overalls that I am going to enjoy my glass of single vineyard, estate grown wine with dinner!

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This weekend we are taking Emily, Bret, and our sweet Maryjane Rose up to Boulder to celebrate Emily’s birthday a bit early.  I bartered for the rooms at a gorgeous Bed and Breakfast.  We will splurge on great meals and make fond memories with our children.

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Enjoy the good life today folks.  Life is sweet.