Out in the garden, it is sometimes tricky to balance the ornamental elements with the functional ones when you want everything to be aesthetically beautiful. In some cases, building an enclosure to hide something like your garbage can just doesn't make sense. It would be less functional and flexible, would take up a great amount of space, and might not look very good anyway. In this case, you could try putting up a simple windscreen to distract your eye from the unpleasant elements.
Here is one simple windscreen. It's artistic, and uses very simple upcycled materials. This one uses farm fencing and fence posts, some bamboo that we cut from the garden, and an old stained glass window.
I love the bird baths in the ecovillage. They are always changing. They provide drinking and bath water for the birds and other wildlife, but they are often decorated to entertain the humans who wander through the gardens. Here are a few from my walk around the garden today.
Here is a simple project to make at home. This is a simple instructional video on how to make a potholder out of upcycled materials. If you don't have a free-motion quilting foot, then just use a regular sewing foot and sew straight lines across to create a cross-hatched diamond pattern.
What is upcycling?
Upcycling is when you use materials that had another purpose. The object they were originally put on is worn out or no longer usable, so you upcycle the materials to create something useful.
What is recycling?
Recycling is when you take an object and melt the material to create new raw material that will be used to make a new object. Glass and metal are perfect for recycling, as they can be recycled indefinitely. Plastics can be recycled, but you need to add new raw material to make the original bottle, so this is often called down-cycling.
What is reuse?
Reuse is similar to upcycling, except that you usually use the object as is, for another purpose.
Why not reduce?
Reducing your use of temporary-use objects is the most eco-friendly way to go. This reduces waste of fuel for shipping, toxins from manufacturing, and the materials used to make things.
I came across this lovely decorated bird bath and had to snap some photos. It was decorated with burlap string, iridescent glass pebbles and a lovely stone in the middle. The pebbles glisten when the sunshine hits them. I don’t know how much the birds will appreciate it, but those who pass by seem to delight in the beauty of it.
"There is nothing better for this planet than spending creative time with others and recycling rubbish into art," says Gina Sanderson of Chittering Acres Studio near Perth, Australia. Gina and her partner, Andrew Graham, completed the final touches on their new art studio (pictured above) a few months ago, and classes are now underway.
But Chittering Acres Studio isn't your usual art-making facility. This unique structure, built on Andrew's beautiful family farm in the Chittering Valley, was created using trees from the cleared site, rocks from the paddock, mud bricks made from the dam on the property, "found" windows and doors from local salvage yards, and used pallets that otherwise would've gone to the dump. (Andrew documented the entire build process here for anyone who's interested.)
The reuse doesn't end there, though—classes at the studio are geared toward projects that create "upcycled" art. For example, Gina recently hosted several art workshops where participants turned used pallets into beautiful handmade Christmas trees. No experience with power tools or woodworking was necessary; participants just needed to bring a willingness to learn and try. The end results were awesome!
But the awesome doesn't stop there. Gina and Andrew's philosophy is simple: "Dream it. Create it. Bring it to life." They commit wholeheartedly to this philosophy, with the added bonus that everything they do relates to recycling, recreating, reviving, restoring, repurposing, and rebuilding. Early in 2015, Andrew summed up the art studio project this way: "We're exhilarated and energized ... This was just a trial run to build up some skills and try out some ideas. Sure, there has been hard work, but the reward has been satisfaction and pride, not to mention that we now have this amazing workspace. We could not have achieved this result by commissioning a building company. The end result for us is far more than what you see on the ground. We will be doing this again."
Over the past few years, Andrew and Gina have made a very happy home on the farm, and they are now eager to share their eco-friendly space with like-minded folks. Visitor accommodations include a solar-powered guest cottage built from salvage, junk, and pallets; and coming soon, an eco stay, made from over 2,000 mud bricks and reclaimed pallet wood, which will host anyone looking for a peaceful weekend retreat in the woods.
Gina and Andrew also welcome WWOOFers to support their organic farm and eco-projects. WWOOFer trailers have been saved from the junkyard and turned into welcoming, fun abodes for their temporary helpers; several other new cottages for WWOOFers and guests will be made from (you guessed it) pallets.
Pallets aside, this couple can turn almost anything into art. Gina brought her quirky, steampunk A-game to Andrew's eco-friendly, hand-built farmhouse and surroundings, and the two approaches have melded spectacularly. Their "junk flowers" (pictured in the intro shot) and other welded garden art scattered around the property are made from materials including old mufflers, recycled glass, picket fences, and secondhand retro plates and bowls. This summer, they welcomed artist-in-residence Ono Gaf to collaborate on their "bird" made entirely from scrap.
Even their Mexican-themed chicken coop, "Pollo Hacienda," is decorated in salvaged materials ... lucky chooks.
My partner and I spent two weeks WWOOFing with Gina and Andrew in September 2014. We mixed mortar, laid bricks for the (in-progress) art studio, and pulled apart pallets for potential future projects. Gina and Andrew's positive energy was contagious back then, and their approach to "home" and life, in general, continues to be an inspiration from across the globe as we figure out our next "home" back in the US.
I have a feeling pallets will be involved...
Preserving and framing fall leaves is—forgive the cliché—“an easy and cheap way” to create art for your home. Last year, I took 3 different leaves I collected on a hike in New York and bought a frame and a piece of archival paper and turned it into the one piece of “art” I am remotely proud to have made. You could make it more complicated than I have, but there’s no need. For the simple way to preserve some of that fall beauty, follow these 5 (ish) steps:
Step 1: Find some leaves! Choose flat ones and ones that aren’t spotted or bumpy. Find fun colors—yellow and orange and red!
Step 2: Wrap the leaves you find in wax paper or newspaper (individually; don’t stack the leaves).
Step 3: Put the wrapped leaves inside the heaviest book you own. Then stack all other heavy books—all the ones you sort of read in college—on top.
Step 4: Keep the books/leaves in a dry location for 7 days. Then, check to make sure they’re not rotting. Leave them alone again for 2 more weeks to make sure they’re completely dry and ready to use
Step 5: Actually, this one’s not really a single step. This is the creative part. You can do whatever you can think of or Google. You can just strew them about on a mantle. You can string them together to make a garland. You can buy some acid-free paper and archival glue (Like Mod Podge or Aleene’s), and arrange them to your aesthetic liking and stick it in a frame like I did. Just be sure you don't break the glass in the frame…like I did.