14 Creative Ways To Reuse Empty Wine Bottles

I guess it’s not every day you pop up in the Huffington Post  14 Creative Ways To Reuse Empty Wine Bottles.

Some nice ideas in here but really, do I need instructions on how to make a wine bottle into a rolling pin??

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‘Bootifully’ Easy Boot Projects

The wet winter months usually mean a return to more sturdy footwear for gardening, and quite often a return to not-so-stylish muddy platform heels!

I wouldn’t describe ourselves as being particularly house proud, in fact with the number of children, chickens and a messy collie dog, its like shovelling snow in a snowstorm trying to keep the place tidy. We do however try to avoid traipsing in half the garden on the bottom of wellies and the like and this is where these two for the projects come into play.

Both are very simple, very easy to make and cost pratically nothing! The boot scraper is a pleasantly rustic design built of a log from the wood pile and a roof slate, both appearing for free in the garden following the recent high winds blasting in from the Berwyns. The boot pull, or boot jack is an age old idea yet one that is seldom seen in a average porchway, surprising considering its efficiency in not only removing a wellie boot but the fact its completely hands free.

Both the projects can be completed in a spare hour at the weekend, and need very little in the way of DIY skills. The simplicity of the build also means you can go to town decorating them if that’s your thing, alternatively you leave them with the rough rustic look.

20 Complete

What you will need

Boot Scraper
• Saw or chainsaw
• Chisel and mallet
• Glue
Boot pull
• Power drill
• Jigsaw
• Countersink drill bit
• Screwdriver
• Sandpaper or electric sander

Materials
Boot Scraper
• A reasonable sized log
• A old roof slate
Boot pull
• A short length of board or plywood
• A couple of screws

Boot Scraper
Step 1
Using the saw or a chainsaw remove one third of the diameter of the log in order to create a flat surface

Step 2
Using a saw make two cuts a couple of millimetres apart along the length of the log and chisel out the waste. Alternative make a single cut with a chainsaw.

20 Step 2

Step 3
Slot the roof slate into the gap leaving about 10cm to stand out from the log. Use small chips of wood to pad the gap if the slate wobbles at all.

Boot Pull
Step 2-1
Using the cutting template, mark out the design and cut it out using a jigsaw. Cut the rest section out also, allowing for the slight angle.

20 diagram

Step 2-2
Using sandpaper or an electric sander smooth the edges down, pay particular attention to the mouth of the pull.

Step 2-3
Drill and counter sink the main pull just below the mouth. Attach the rest using a couple of 40mm wood screws

 

Job done. No need for mud or muddy hands thanks to a couple of chunks of wood and a bit of roof slate 🙂

Green Roof for the Chicken Coop

Every now and then I’m given a chicken house to put through some field trials and as a consequence I can end up with quite a few ‘buildings’ covering the field. It was on one such coop I figured I try a different kind of field trial by sticking a green roof on it. Why not, after all it’s a roof like any other so it would provide “the environmental benefits of having a living, breathing space where once there was nothing, transform an otherwise dull space into something aesthetically pleasing AND provide you with more growing space.”

This project will take you through how to go about constructing a simple and effective green roof on your chicken coop. There are options to buy ready-made matting that can be rolled out and attached to a roof but at over £20 a metre this can prove a little prohibitive, especially as this whole project costs less than £20 if you sow or propagate your own plants. Better instead to build your own, that way you can decide the planting plan and over the years it will pad out and provide the same effect as the matting. It also enables you to create your own personal blend of weather-hardy plants such as sedums, alpines, mosses, grasses, seasonal herbs, and house leeks.

In fact you could apply the same design principles to a shed, log store, over even a bird box!

What You Will Need:

  • An offcut of pond liner or damp proof liner
  • Geotextile membrane or some old blankets
  • Sufficient Yorkshire board to go around the perimeter of the roof
  • Screws
  • A sack of 10mm gravel
  • Peat free compost mixed with sharp sand
  • Drill
  • Saw
  • Screwdriver

Step 1

Identify a suitable roof structure ideally with a 9-10 degree pitch on it. Check it’s strong enough to take the weight of a saturated green roof and add supporting framework (crossbeams attached to the side supports & roof will help) if necessary.

Step 2

Attach the section of pond liner or damp proof membrane and make sure it overlaps the edges so water will run off and not seep into the roof. Staple into position and trim off any excess with a knife or pair of scissors

Step 3

Cut lengths of board to ‘box in’ the roof. This will stop the planting medium from simply washing off. Allow a 5mm gap between the board and the roof on the lower edge. This will help with water drainage.

Step 4

Staple the geotextile member (or old blanket) to the box sides. This layer will help retain moisture and reduce the need for frequent watering.

Step 5

Add a 2cm layer of the gravel to the roof. This layer will aid water dispersal and drainage.

Step 6

Finally add about 5cms of the compost and sharp sand mix and level it out. You are now ready for planting it up.

Fence Pole Table (to go with the Fence Pole Bench)

A bit ago on this blog I showed you how to knock together a cheap but very weather resistant garden bench using fence poles and some yorkshire board using nothing much more than a chainsaw, a hammer and some nails. Well heres another simple DIY job with more fence poles & board, again using little else then a hammer and nails, and also incorporating a bit of green wood.

 

If, like me, you try to make a habit of actually getting to sit down and enjoy your garden, but equally, like me, you are outside in all weathers, then there is a need for something to put your gear on, or your cuppa, that can cope with the elements. This simple table design provides a good all year round solution, and because of the simplicity of its build, it can be more or less scaled and adapted to fit whatever space requirements you have.

 

Like the garden bench it requires limited woodworking skills and can be built in under an hour and costs around £10 if you have to buy in the materials. If you have more wood available then you can make a larger table if you want, the same basic concepts apply.

 

One of the great things about creating rustic looking garden furniture like this is that even a novices work can provide a sturdy and satisfying result which can be very easily personalised. You never know, you may even find friends and family placing orders!

 

What you will need

Tools

  • Chainsaw or Bow saw
  • Hammer
  • Drill
  • Tape measure

 

Materials

  • 125mm nails
  • 30mm nails
  • 70mm wood screws
  • 20mm wood screws
  • Fence poles cut as follows:
    4 x 450mm (Legs)
    2 x 750mm (long cross piece)
    2 x 600mm (short cross piece)
  • Green wood cut to same lengths as cross pieces above
  • 2 x 500mm baton
  • 4 x (150mm x 800mm) board (reclaimed pallet or floorboards work well)

Step 1

Using a chainsaw or bow saw, cut the fence poles to the required lengths.

 

Step 2

Construct the two end sections by first drilling and then nailing the legs to the short cross pieces. The legs should be positioned 5cm in from the end of the cross piece and its top should be flush with the edge of the cross piece

 

Step 3

Position the short green wood sections 10cm from the base of the leg and with a 5cm overlap. Drill and nail into position

 

 

Step 4

Tie the two end sections into place using the long cross pieces and long green wood sections. Drill and nail into position as above, again using a 5cm overlap and butt up to the end cross sections.

 

Step 5

Line up board sections, ensuring they are square and secure together by screwing the batons in to position 15cm in from the ends and 5cm in from each edge

 

Step 6

Attach the table top to the table frame by drilling and screwing into position through the short cross pieces. For a better finish do this from the underside of the table.

 

Job done, now you have somewhere to put those killer courgettes!

....the 'forgotten ones.."

 

 

 

Wheelbarrow compost riddle & drying tray

With having a fairly large productive garden and more chickens than you can shake a stick at, we create quite a bit of garden waste, though far from ‘waste’ it is, as we compost just about everything we can. We do this not only to supplement the vegetable plot but also to create our own potting medium.

 

We’ve found that mixing our home-made compost along with some of the composted PAS 100 green waste we buy in, and a bit of loam, creates a great recycled growing medium for a number of the pot plants we grow. The problem is though that whilst the green waste is screened, our own compost can be a bit lumpy, and needs riddling. The trouble is though that with the quantities the small hand-held riddles aren’t quite up to the job hence this simple device, a large scale compost riddle.

 

This design means I can riddle large quantities of compost directly from the compost bins and into the wheelbarrow.  I can also put the larger bits of compost that didn’t pass through the riddle straight back on to the cooking heap for further decomposition. You’ll be surprised at the quality of the riddled product.

 

The other useful element of this large scale sieve is that when it’s not in use it doubles up as an excellent tray for drying out onions and garlics, or ‘hardening’ pumpkins and squashes before storage. And when it’s not doing anything at all, it can be easily stashed away in the potting shed. The project will take no more than 30 minutes to produce and costs a few pounds

 

As a riddler...

 

...and now a drying frame

 

What you will need

Tools

  • Saw
  • Screwdriver
  • Drill
  • Tape measure
  • Wire cutters/Pliers
  • Staple gun

 

Materials

  •  Approximately 6metres of 25mm x 50mm treated timber batons
  • 1m x 0.5m sheet of weld mesh with 1cm holes
  • Wood screws

 

Step 1

Measure the width and length of your wheelbarrow to get the dimensions for the compost riddle. Ideally you will need either (or both) the sides or top and bottom of the frame in contact with the edges of the barrow.

 

Step 2

Using a handsaw or table saw cut the baton lengths according to the required measurements to make two frames. Sand off any rough edges.

 

Step 3

Drill and screw together each of the two frames using 2.5 inch wood screws. The joint need only be strong enough to hold the frame roughly in shape so a single screw will be sufficient.

 

 

Step 4

Using the wire cutters or pliers, cut the weld mesh to fit the frame. Make it a couple of centimetres smaller than the outside edge of the frame so as to avoid any sharp ends protruding.

 

Step 5

Lay the weld mesh over one of the frames and staple into position. If you don’t have a staple gun powerful enough then small U nails can be used but be sure to hammer them fully into the wood. 

 

Step 6

Place the second frame over the top of the frame with the weld mesh attached and sandwich the mesh. Drill and screw the second frame into place.

 

Job done, have a sit down and a brew now

 

 

“California Dreaming” – the Californian Compost Bin

Good soil can produce good crops, but being able to make good compost can create great crops! I’ve always had a bit of a fascination with the ‘dark art’ of good compost making, and whilst what you put in is key, there is also an important element in terms of what you put it in. We have all seen the many containers available on the market with their various claims, however composting has been going on long before plastic moulding was invented.

I’m also a bit of squirrel when it comes to gardening books, and regular browse the second-hand book shops looking for something different. It was whilst in such a shop at Whittington Castle I stumbled upon a 25-year-old copy Lawrence D. Hills “Month-by-Month Organic Gardening”. Inside it was a short section describing the Californian cylinder, and so curiosity got the better of me and I bought the book.

The Californian cylinder is an American invention as the name would suggest and was created by a keen organic gardener who had to work with poor soil conditions, he went by the name of Captain James Macdonald. It’s a simple concept, and perhaps not overly different from some designs at first glance, however its very quick to construct and very cheap to build, with practically no woodworking skills needed and the majority of the materials being available in the dark corners of most gardeners potting sheds.

This cylinder is 4 feet in diameter and about 3.5 feet tall so will hold a serious amount of waste. Use some chicken muck or a bit of “Chairman Mao’s Special” as an activator, and, if my maths serves me well, and reluctantly stepping into metric for a moment, it will, when full, create around 1000 litres of compost. Not a bad return for a couple of hours work and at best, a fiver of cost!

The Californian Compost Cylinder

What you will need

Tools:

  • Saw
  • Mallet
  • Border spade
  • Measuring tape
  • Drill
  • Screwdriver

Materials

  • Feather board (4-6 inches wide) 4 x 5 foot lengths
  • 2×1 batons  12 x 8 inch + 4 x 16 inch
  • Stock fencing 3-4 feet tall x 13 feet long
  • Garden wire and twine
  • Cardboard or carpet for lining

Step 1

X marks the spot. Select the location for your cylinder and lay two of the planks in an X on the ground. Cut the outline using the border spade

Step 2

Using the border spade dig out the air channels, these need to be 5-6 inches wide and the same again deep

Step 3

Cut the planks to length and line the channel, use a mallet to knock in the end sections on plank. Be sure to have them overlapping the side planks for support

Step 4

Using the mallet again, knock in the short pegs to support the lining planks. These should 10-12 inches from the centre point of the cross

Step 5

Now hammer in the outer support pegs, one short one long. The diameter of the cylinder is 4 feet so these need to be 2 feet from the centre of the cross. Drill holes in the longer pegs.

Step 6

Put the length of stock fencing in place and shape to a cylinder. Secure the ends using garden wire.

Step 7

Now attach the edges of the cylinder to the longer pegs using garden wire. This will hold the shape and anchor it to the ground

Step 8

Line the walls of cylinder inside with old carpet or cardboard. Using a screwdriver, poke holes in the lining and tie it to the cylinder using garden twine

Step 9

Cover the bottom of the cylinder with twiggy material. This will help keep the air channels clear. Your compost cylinder is now ready for filling.

Once full the waste will take around 3-6 months to rot down depending on the weather. Emptying it is simple enough, just remove the ties holding the stock fence in place, peel it back and dig the compost out. Once emptied simply re-attach the stock fence, re-line it with cardboard and away you go again.

Make more of your chicken ark

Theres quite a wealth of chicken houses out on the market and if you are reading this then you’ll know thats quite probably because keeping poultry at home is a booming hobby/ lifestyle choice. The thing is, it’s also rather an addictive thing is poultry keeping. I know, I started with a flock of half a dozen spent Black Rocks that a friend gave me and now have somewhere in the region of 200 breeding head of stock, not to mention the growing stock and chicks that are produced each year.

And so the inevitable happens, the flock expands and so does the housing requirements and this can be quite an expense. Here however is a simple method of hugely increasing the space available for your poultry by simply modifying an ark.

This ark would probably cost around £150 to buy, a little less if homemade, and would house a trio of bantams fairly comfortably.

Bantam Ark

As with a lot of arks though it’s missing a trick. Ok the ark concept (eg not being a square box) came into being to stop lambs or sheep climbing on top of the house and damaging the roof, hence its triangular shape, but it there is still scope to add at least £100 more in price tag to it by spending a few pounds on timber and weld mesh, whilst at the same time doubling the ground space AND creating an outdoor shelther for the birds which is also ideal for putting feeders and/or a dustbath…. which ultimately means it can accomodate a few more chickens.

Stilting the ark up is simple enough to do. Don’t think angles, think flat panels, simply measure up and build two panels that can be attached to the side of the ark and then look to box the ends in which can be done with either wood fence panels, scrap ply or more weld mesh, or any combination. Next add a ramp for the birds to be able to get in and out and in the end you end up with a far more functional ark.

Stilt it up - making more of your poultry ark

Chainsaw, fence poles, six inch nails = garden bench

In retrospect I should have used nine inch nails for this blog post as it would have given me plenty of opportunity to put sneaky NIN quotes & references in it – a cracking band and to tenuously link them to a blog about building a garden bench would have meant an enjoyable evening listening to their back catalogue. Alas, six inch nails it is and a nod in the direction of Johny Cash for his cover of Trent Reznors “Hurt” which has no doubt served to introduce a few more folks to Nine Inch Nails. 

 

So, cut to the chase and back to gardening…. one important thing to remember when gardening is that you are meant to stop and enjoy efforts you have put in. It’s easy to get so wrapped up in what needs to be done that you forget to find time to stop, sit down, and relax in your surroundings. (Or in fact just chill with some tunes)

 

An all weather seat or bench is an ideal solution but a good one can be quite pricey and sometimes the more rustic the design, the bigger the price tag. This project is possibly one of my favourite build projects, not only is it scandalously cheap to make but any project that needs little more than a chainsaw, a hammer and a fist full 6 inch nails doesn’t imply or demand intricate DIY skills. And most of all once you have the general idea of the frame you can modify or tart it up as much as you would like

 

The bench frame is built from fence posts, the more rough and uneven the better (and also the cheaper) with the seat platform made from lengths of Yorkshireboard. There is the minimum amount of jointing work on the main seat supports and other than that it’s all held together with six inch nails. That may not sound like the strongest structure but it is actually very strong, and because all the wood involved is pressure treated agricultural timber, it survives the weather too. I have a number of these benches dotted around the garden and year on year I’ve done nothing to them in terms of repair or treatment. They are still as good as the day they were built, they just look a bit more weathered… but then don’t we all.

 

The material cost is well under £20 and it can be built in under an hour leaving plenty of time to sit down on it and enjoy a beer, providing the dog doesn’t hog the whole seat!

 

 

Materials

  • 8 x 5’ 6” (2-3) fence posts, even width
    Cut as:
    Front legs – 2 x 64cm
    Rear legs – 2 x 90cm
    Seat support – 2 x 43cm, 2 x 114cm
    Arm rests – 2 x 52cm
    Back rests – 1 x 114cm, 1 x 138cm

 

  • 6 x 56cm lengths of yorkshire board or equivalent 150mm wide plank
  • 0.5 kg of 6 inch nails
  • 2 inch nails (for attaching seat planks)

 

Step 1

Using a chainsaw or bow saw, cut the all the main frame sections from the fence posts. Arrange them Ikea style!

 

 

Step 2

Cut the joints for the seat supports in both the front legs and the back legs 38cms from the base of the legs. A chainsaw makes simple work of this however if you are using a bow saw then a chisel may be needed in order to remove the waste.

 

 

Step 3

Build the two end sections by nailing the shorter seat supports and arm rests into place. Drill pilot holes through the first post in order to avoid the wood splitting and ensure a snug fit.

 

Step 4

Nail the longer seat supports into place. Again drill pilot holes. The seat should now be taking shape.

 

Step 5

Using the off cuts from the posts, saw four frame supports. These need to be at 45 degree angles in order to fit snug with the main frame. 

 

Step 6

Now drill and nail the frame supports into place on the front left and right, and on the sides at the rear. .

 

Step 7

Attach the back support 10cms down from the top of the back legs and then nail the top rail in to place making sure its central. Thats a young New Hampshire Red pullet just in the background there 😉

 

 

 

Step 8

Cut the lengths ofYorkshireboard and arrange them evenly on the seat supports. This is probably the only element you need be fairly accurate with otherwise the design will go from rustic to untidy..

 

Step 9

Using the 2 inch nails attach each of the seat boards to the front and rear seat supports. Rub down any splinters or rough cuts and stain if you want to colour the seat.

 

 

 

…now have a sit down.

Leaf Mould – excellent source of soil conditioner

Leaf mould is one of the simplest things to create yet its source, dead leaves, are probably one of the most wasted sources of lasting humus. Come the autumn time I’m horrified to see people burning leaves, when I would without hesitation, happily take them all. In fact I might even venture to offer to clear them up!

 

A very quick, simple, cheap and ultimately effective way to compost down the leaves is by creating a leaf mould bin in a corner of the garden. It costs around £7 if you need to buy in the materials and will take less than an hour to make.

 

Leaf moulding is a way of creating excellent soil enhancer or mulch and is the one of the best ways of improving your soil structure, be it sandy soil or clay. Left to their own devices leaves will break down over a period of a couple of years however by heaping them in a bin (and adding some ‘household activator’ – read tiddling on them) you can accelerate the breakdown to around a year. This method was said to be pioneered by Dr Peggy Ellis of the HDRA and to some is known as a ‘Peggy Pile’.

A simple wire frame 1mx1mx1m will do the job

 

When collecting the leaves don’t worry about mixing up leaves from different trees, they will all rot down in the end, although where possible avoid those from holly trees, in my experience they take much longer to rot, and come the following autumn when you want to use the resulting ‘compost’ you’ll find their spiky leaves will still provide an unwelcome jab to the ungloved hand.

 

Once the bin is full put a bit of old carpet over the top just to weigh it down. The pile will shrink over the year as the leaves rot down, but in the end you will be left a valuable dollop of material which will benefit your garden no end.

Insect Hotel

Having once being a little boy who, by rights, was into all things creepy crawly, and then later in life becoming an avid ecologist and nature lover, I have come to understand the importance of food chains from beginning to end. As a gardener I’ve also come to appreciate that not all that flies, crawls or slithers is necessarily bad for the garden, in fact some are positively essential. Many insects in the garden are not only needed in terms of pollination but are most definitely a gardener’s best friend, acting as a predator to the many ‘nuisance’ pests that plague our crops throughout the growing season.

Whether you operate a spotless, regimented garden, or like me, head for the more naturalistic plantings in both flower beds and vegetable plots, there can never be enough hiding places and hibernation spots for our useful insects, and this is where this quick and easy project comes into play – a homebuilt insect hotel. Its also the ideal time of year to build one!

The project takes approximately an hour to knock together, and ‘knock together’ is the right term for it, the more rough and ready, the better. It’s made from materials you will find languishing in most potting sheds. Mine here is made of an old skirting board, some off cuts from the veg bed edging, old bamboo canes that had seen better days and a couple of roof slates that had come off the house during the recent windy days. And if you have children around, get them involved, my own daughter found a whole new interest when helping me and I wonder if there’s another ecologist in the making!

What you will need

Tools:

  • Saw
  • Drill
  • Screwdriver
  • Mallet
  • Chisel
  • Hammer

Materials

  • Old planks, skirting board, pallet wood 200cm x 15cm
  • Old bamboo canes
  • Straw
  • Old roof slates

Step 1

Cut the 4 box sides (30cm each) and drill both the ends of two pieces. I’m using an old skirting board I found in the workshop

Step 2

Screw the four sections together. Don’t worry if its looking a bit rough – the more ‘rustic’, the better!

Step 3

Cut the centre inserts, one will be 30cm long, the other 30cm minus 2x the width of the wood you used for the outer box. Use a saw to cut the sides of the slot and a chisel to remove the waste

Step 4

Slot the two centre inserts together and insert them into the box frame. The fit should be snug and may need a mallet to knock it into place

Step 5

Hold the centre inserts in place by drilling and screwing through the outer box. Again don’t worry about how rough things might be looking

Step6

Cut lengths of bamboo approximately to the depth of the box and pack them into one of the sections. Use a mallet to ensure a tight fit

Step 7

Stuff the next door section with some straw before then filling the opposite cell with further bamboo off cuts

Step 8

Before filling the final section attach the box to a wall, fence or side of a shed. A hook or mirror fixing can be used

Step 9

Deploy a small person with a hammer to break up some roof slates (my kids loved this bit!). Keeping the pieces reasonably large, stack them into the remaining empty section

And there you are, one hour, one plank, one pile of rubbish, one fine insect hideaway.