Paper Bag Cast Iron Skillet Cleaner

We stopped buying paper towels years ago. Never really needed them.

And since we were eating mostly vegetarian meals, we rarely had the dilemma of what to do with a greasy cast iron skillet. Now that we eat bacon occasionally, because we’ve reintroduced a little locally-produced organic meat now and then, we have to contend with the leftover grease. We’ve used a few rags on the grease and just wash the rags, but that isn’t the best use for the rag.

And then, one day a week or so ago, I posted a dozen lunch-bag size bags to give away in my local Buy Nothing group. (I save these little bags whenever they somehow make their way into our house, and the kids use them when they go on school field trips.) A member immediately posted a comment explaining that he uses those thin lunch bags to sop up his bacon grease. It was an “aha” moment for me.

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Here’s what he wrote:

“If you have a new, or not-so-well-seasoned pan, a thicker bag will leave little micro fragments of paper. So generally, the smoother the pan and the finer quality of the bag, the better it works. Newspaper is completely unworkable because it’s such lo’grade.”

I decided to keep the bags, and now I have a small stash of little brown bags I can use to clean out my cast iron skillet when it gets a little too greasy. The thin bag is pretty darn absorbent.

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I throw in a little Celtic sea salt to scrub the bottom of the pan with the crumpled up bag, and the salt acts as a perfect scrubbing agent.

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No need to run soap and water over the well-seasoned skillet. And the pan is ready for its next job.

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The greasy bag goes into our next fire as fire-starter or we just toss it in our compost.

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Save those little bags for jobs like this!

Give Your Used Clothing Directly To Those In Need

 

Separating clothing into equal piles for 17 families. © Liesl Clark

Separating clothing into equal piles for 17 families. © Liesl Clark

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Giving used clothing away to the poor here in North America is often a strangely disconnected experience. I’ve donated clothes for years to local charities, but it’s always, sadly, an anonymous gift. There’s so much joy in connecting directly with the people who need your clothing! Putting a human face on poverty and need should not be shameful. What’s troubling to me is that most charities in the US act as a buffer between you, your stuff, and the people who could use your stuff. If we could connect with those in need more easily, I believe we’d all give more freely. The more we can put a face on those who are in need, the less taboo the subjects of homelessness and poverty will become. A recent trip to Nepal compounded these revelations for me.

“Divide the clothing into 17 piles.” We had brought 4 duffel bags filled with socks, jackets, pants, hats, all the clothing necessary to keep a family warm. What we didn’t anticipate was that the clothing would have to be divided into 17 equal shares. This village has 17 households. To keep it fair amongst all families in the village, the decision was made that no matter whether a family had children or not, all the clothing would be divided evenly and the families could then trade amongst themselves for clothing based on need.

IMG_0703 © Liesl Clark

We put 17 pairs of pants, shoes, socks, shirts, jackets and hats, even stuffed animals into discreet piles. A lottery was then devised where a name was pulled out of a hat and that family could pick up a pile of clothing. I saw no bartering or trading after each family received its pile, everyone received their share happily and a little shyly.

© Liesl Clark

What amazes me is that the clothing from my family and my daughter’s best friend’s family, plus some shoes from The North Face and socks donated from a shoe store could clothe an entire village, or keep them happy for a few months with some new things to keep family members warm. A few distributed toys, too, brought joy to all ages.

The women of Samdzong enjoying a kaleidoscope. © Liesl Clark

If you have worn clothing, please don’t throw it away. Your clothes could make a mother or child happy, help keep them warm or even provide material for new clothing that they’ll make from your old ones. I’ve seen my old pants cut up and used as patch material for a child’s pants here in Nepal, or a T-shirt worn by a lama as an under-layer of clothing for months.

© Liesl Clark

 

Socks, shoes, shirts, pants: It's all needed in the village of Samdzong. © Liesl Clark

As we walk away from villages here in Nepal, we take what we can from our personal duffel bags and hand them to those who could clearly use a better pair of shoes or a warm jacket. The more contact we have with those who are in need, the more we can help address all of our basic needs and ultimately share resources, re-allocating our excess clothing and food into the hands of the needy — rather than throwing it away.

Even the pencils our children’s school was throwing away made it into the hands of school children today who will use them until the pencils are mere stubs. If this is all that we do: turn people’s thrown away items into gifts for the poor, we will have done a small bit of good for children and families that have so very little here in the high Himalaya.

Are you looking for a way to donate your clothing so you know it gets to those in need? You could give it away in your local Buy Nothing group. Chances are, if you’re observing in your group, when you post your clothes, you’ll find plenty of families that could use a boost of free clothing, rather than having to buy it all new. These are your neighbors and it’s so easy to do person-to-person giving right in your own ‘hood.

 

Use Crayons For Dry Erase Boards

We ran out of dry erase markers and made a discovery. You don’t need to buy more of those plastic markers! Large crayons work just fine on dry erase boards. Simply use a soft cloth to wipe it off, with a little extra elbow grease.

 

Crayon going onto a whiteboard…..And crayon coming off the same whiteboard with an old sock eraser. This really does work, and it does wipe clean! Just sayin’.

How To Reduce And Reuse Chip Bags

Potato chip bags are something we’ve all handled and then thrown into the trash.

If your conscience has you wondering if there are alternatives to sending that bag into the landfill, you’ve come to the right place.

If you simply want to try to reduce your chip bag footprint, just make your own easy microwave chips using Rock Farmer’s simple method. If you want an oil-free recipe with a few more steps, give this one from the Kitchn a try.

Reuse and Repurpose:

1) If you’re not able to resist purchasing snacks in crinkly bags, then use your bags as gift bags! It’s easy to do: Turn your chip bag inside out, wash it with dish soap to get rid of any grease. Dry it out. Then reuse the silvery or white side as a mylar-style gift bag. We do this all the time and reuse them over and over. We just attach some pretty ribbon like these pictured here which we found on the beach (no kidding) hanging beneath a deflated helium balloon all twisted up in seaweed. These ribbons last forever, they’re made of plastic, and look as good as new even after years of floating in the open sea. I’ve picked up so many of them on the beach, I’ve had occasion to give a bag of them away on my local Buy Nothing group, with the caveat that the person agrees to keep the ribbons on indoor gifts and not set them free with a helium balloon. When you’ve seen them wrapped around the necks of baby seals and sea turtles, you can’t help reconsider why we risk sending them into our seas via floating balloons in the first place. But I digress.

2) Make a shoulder bag. Some chip bags have a cool vintage look to them and could make a great shoulder bag.

3) Make a gum wrapper-style chain bracelet. Remember making paper chains from gum-wrappers? If you employ the same method with chip bags and candy wrappers, you can craft some amazing things. First step is making a bracelet.

4) And when you’ve mastered the gum wrapper-style bracelet, you’re ready to move on to the purse.

5) Craftbits has a tutorial for a nice clutch.

6) Make a potato chip bag mini scrap book. At making-mini-scrapbooks.com, you’ll learn how to make your own cool books that would also make excellent gifts for friends.

Mini Potato Chip Bag Scrapbook, Photo © making-mini-scrapbooks.com

7) Instructables has a tutorial for a chip bag wallet.

8) Craft a baby crinkly square to appeal to baby’s need for tactile and aural stimulation. We think a snack bag would make some good crinkly sounds for your little one.

Baby Crinkly Squares Can Be Made With Potato Chip Bags, Photo © Joy’sHope.com

Remember the Sunchip compostable bags and how loud they were (95 db)? Maybe stay away from those. They’ve been discontinued, apparently, but consumers certainly had fun with the deafening chip bags. Even a Facebook group was started, called SORRY, BUT I CAN’T HEAR YOU OVER THIS SUNCHIPS BAG. We were excited to see that compostable snack bags were being tested on the market, yet when we did our own compost test of the Sunchip bags in a commercial composter for a month, the bags, surprisingly, were still intact — no decomposition visible.

9) Make an adorable robot from the silvery side of your bag.

10) Yet another Instructable. This time it’s a pencil case. Who needs Terracycle when you can upcycle your own stuff?

11) Cover over an old bracelet with delightful snack bag colors to make a new one!

12) Make party tassels!

I figure that’s enough to keep you busy with your snack bags, but let’s face it, all of this will end up being tossed in the landfill eventually. Although my kids love to occasionally have a junk food fix of chips, we’re continuing to do our best to stop buying foods that come in unrecyclable bags. Until chips can be sold in something a little more sustainable, we’ll do our best to just say no, or make our own.

How Toxic Is Your Garden Hose?

Think Twice About Your Garden Hoses And How Toxic They Might Be. Photo © Liesl Clark

One of the cheapest, happiest forms of warm weather play for children is a garden hose with a sprinkler hooked up to it. For our children, it means hours of joyous play.

Sprinkler Fun. Photo © Liesl Clark

The challenge for us is the knowledge that most hoses are made of toxic chemicals and hence are full of pthalates and Bisphenol A. Both are known endocrine disruptors and if children drink from a hose their BPA levels will rise significantly.

Be Sure to Play in a BPA-Free Garden Hose Spray. Photo © Liesl Clark

Lead has also been detected in most garden hoses. It’s unknown what the effects are to the soil and plants, but what’s clear is that the next time we buy a hose we should be aware of studies on the chemicals hoses can leach and which hoses are safest. Here’s a 2016 study on the toxicity of hoses done by the Ecology Center.

Photo © Liesl Clark

We do have one PVC-free hose and that’s the one we use for kid water-play. In fact, we use it as often as possible, as we phase out our other old hoses. An irrigation project we’re longing to do is a hose-free drain system from our pond to the vegetable garden so we can skip the hose quotient altogether. No wonder our waters are full of estrogen-mimicking chemicals that are affecting indicator species like fish.

Photo © Liesl Clark

If you’re interested in phasing out your old hoses or reusing one that’s broken, we’ve seen them sliced lengthwise in small sections to be used as blade protectors for hand-saws, or used on the side of a garden shed for wall-art, or woven on an old chair to create some cool outdoor furniture.

But, for the purposes of watering our garden or for kid-play, from now on we’ll be seeking out BPA and lead-free hoses.

8 Plastic Kiddie Pool Reuses

After years of summer aquatic fun in 6 inches of baby pool magic with toddlers, my conscience took over and had issues with the unsustainable reality of the kiddie pool: Most inflatables get holes in them and whether they’re air-filled or hard plastic they’re made of PVC and laden with Bisphenol A, a toxic cocktail for earthlings just starting out on the planet.

We recently found a kiddie pool under our guesthouse deck, left behind by our renter, a mass of vinyl, pine needles, and hidden slugs. We cleaned it up with some high powered squirts from the garden hose and some serious scrubbing. I started inflating the thing by mouth in that way that Moms, Dads, and loved ones dedicated to preserving summer bliss can do, only to find that there was a small leak. Summer bliss had hit a road block.

Repairing inflatables is as simple as fixing a bike tire tube or Thermarest for camping. We got out the tube repair kit and made a quick patch and the inflating resumed. But it got me thinking. How many plastic kiddie pools are thrown out in our community each year? Likely hundreds. All that vinyl, headed to the landfill because someone didn’t have a patch kit or couldn’t deal with the gross slug slime-n-pine grime.

 

When you’re done with your pool, hopefully it’s still in working order for you to pass your pool on to another family that will frolic freely in their BuyNothing-ed frog pool. Or, if you have a hard plastic kid pool, donate it to your nearest animal rescue center for use by aquatic birds, fowl, and domestic animals escaping summer heat.

You might want to hang on to it, however, when you discover some of the upcycle options for that prized pool.

Hard Plastic Kiddie Pools:

1) Turn your pool and a few others into a raised bed garden. Wandering Chopsticks has a simple tutorial for you to follow for adding some green (and veggies) to your backyard.

Wandering Chopsticks’ Kiddie Pool Raised Bed Garden, Photo by Wandering Chopsticks.

2) If you have a party coming up and need to keep a lot of food cold while serving, Thrifty Fun’s wading pool cool food server might be just what you’re looking for.

3-6) Here are 4 more great ways to reuse your hard plastic kiddie pool, presented by Hint Mama. Among them are a ball pit, a beach playpen, and a toy bin.

Inflatable Kiddie Pools:

 

7) Turn your deflated pool into a slippy slide! Just turn it upside down on a little slope and add a trickle of water.

8) Then add a few drops of environmentally-safe liquid soap and watch the fun and bubbles explode!

Our kids are now older and I can proudly say that we never had to take a kiddie pool to the landfill. The reuses were too good and then the pools were passed on to others. Do you have a reuse we haven’t mentioned here?

Plant An Extra Row

Extra Romaine Lettuce is Easy to Grow For the Hungry. Photo © Liesl Clark

“Do You Have Any Leftovers?” was written on the sign next to the man sitting humbly on a street where popular cafes and restaurants have sidewalk seating on a Boulder, Colorado street. We were struck to the core by these words.

He wasn’t asking for money or even for “food.” This street beggar simply wanted what we were going to throw away, reminding passers-by that if they had a few morsels they weren’t going to eat at that streetside cafe, he’d be happy to gulp it down. My son had half a bagel wrapped in a napkin that he was going to eat for lunch. He promptly put it in the man’s hands and they smiled at each other as the man gratefully ate the food.

Potatoes Harvested For the Hungry. Photo © Liesl Clark

This direct experience with someone whom we knew was hungry got us thinking creatively about our food and where we have leftovers that might help others. If you have a garden, you’ve likely experienced the good fortune of excess produce to share with friends and neighbors. Why not share it with neighbors who are in need of food? Plant a row for the hungry, and at harvest time take your produce to your nearest food bank to augment the traditional canned goods people donate. A box full of lettuces, tomatoes, squash, or carrots will bring joy to those who might not have had a fresh locally-grown vegetable for months.

Digging for Treasure. Photo © Liesl Clark

My friend, Rebecca Rockefeller, and I planted a garden together with our children that donated over half the produce to our local food bank, Helpline House. Potato harvest was particularly fun for the kids. It’s like digging for treasure. I always make room for a few extra rows of greens, too, to share on our local Buy Nothing group. Anything we can’t eat is shared with our neighbors. It helps us to meet new people who have moved to the neighborhood.

Children Love Harvesting For Others in Need. Photo © Liesl Clark

The children enjoy bringing the boxes of produce we harvest into our local food bank. Last year we donated 148 lbs of food and hope to double our contribution this year. Of course, potatoes and zucchini do add up! Planting an extra row or 2 has helped us rethink our bounty in general. When we have the time, homemade yogurt is donated, along with extra eggs from the henhouse and a loaf of fresh-baked bread shouldn’t be too hard to contribute once a month or so. We’re shifting our food-production model to include more hungry bodies. And we’ll think of the man on the Boulder sidewalk happy to eat our half-eaten bagel because he simply was that hungry. Imagine if we could’ve given him a handfull of fresh strawberries, apples, and carrots picked minutes before.

These Greens From My Garden Went to Helpline House. Photo © Liesl Clark

If you can’t plant a row for the hungry, you can find edible bounty around you to donate. We’re looking forward to doing some foraging for our less fortunate neighbors for watercress and blackberries when the season is right. There’s plenty out there, so why not take a little time out of your day to provide for a few more mouths than your own? It brings joy and a feeling of connection to those around us through the food we grow and harvest with our own hands.

Nasturtiums and Peas. Photo © Liesl Clark

DIY Scrap Wood Chickubator

By Pete Athans

Chickubator? That’s my name for a wooden box used to house baby chicks until they’re ready to hang with the big girls in the coop.

Little Peeper in the Chickubator. Photo © Liesl Clark

Day-old chicks arrive weekly at our local feed store come early spring and every other year our children get to pick out 6 new chicks to add to our flock.

4 Little People Holding 4 Chicks On the Way Back Home. Photo © Liesl Clark

It’s a special time for them, fluff balls peeping in their hands and laps as they all bounce in the backseat of our truck on the way home.

IMG_3507 Photo © Liesl Clark

Some people put the chicks in their bathtub — no water included of course — but the thought of 6 chicks in the tub for a couple of months and the cleanup required might deter our kids from taking baths in the future.

The Chickubator. It needs a new floor. Photo © Liesl Clark

Enter the chickubator. I’ve constructed a simple 3 ft. X 4 ft. wooden box from our old decking material that’s lasted 6 years so far. I don’t have the photos to give you a full tutorial, but here’s the basic sketch: Build the walls and end pieces first, or use scrap plywood. My side walls are 4′ X 3′ and end pieces are 3′ X 3′.

Then, use 1″ X 2″ strips, the same height as your chickubator walls, as your corners to add stability and a nailing surface.  Using 2 1/2″ wood screws on the corners and screw your walls and end pieces together.

After 6 years, our chickubator was ready for a new floor.

IMG_3466 Photo © Liesl Clark

I got out some scrap 1″ X 4″ cedar planks and cut them to size.

IMG_3468 Photo © Liesl Clark

You can see, above, that I reinforced the end wall with a 1″ X 4″ due to Northwest rains and subsequent rot. We store our chickubator under our deck during the chick-raising off-season. This isn’t fine home-building, folks.

IMG_3470 Photo © Liesl Clark

Screw the floor pieces to the bottom walls.

IMG_3552 Photo © Liesl Clark

The box is set up in our laundry room atop 1″ X 1″ wood strips atop a tarp to protect our cedar plank floor.

IMG_3519 Photo © Liesl Clark

Throw some shredded paper in there and you’ve got a chick home. A red heat lamp keeps them warm and apparently deters the chicks from pecking at each other. Be sure to put chicken wire over the top of your chickubator. The little peepers will start to fly in a matter of days and could get out. Or, Willa the cat could get in. I built a frame that goes around the top of the box and stapled scrap chicken wire to it. It’s easy for the kids to take on and off.

IMG_3568 Photo © Liesl Clark

Nothing cuter than baby chicks — except maybe a puppy doting over his brood.

IMG_3538 Photo © Liesl Clark

50 Garden Hacks From Your Trash

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There may be items in your trash that could help you with your gardening. Check out this list and see if any of these great ideas resonate with you, helping you pull a couple things out of your trash and, well, into your garden to green up your world. If you don’t have these items in your trash, ask for them on your local Buy Nothing group. I’ve categorized the ideas by item, and each one links to a unique reuse. Enjoy!

Plastic Bottles:

1) Plastic Bottle Mosquito Trap: This one is a trick using yeast and a cut bottle glued together. Read on and try it.

2) Plastic Bottle Cloche: It’s as easy as cutting a plastic bottle in half and sticking it upside down over your seedling or plant.

3) Plastic Bottle Self-Watering Seed Starters: These plastic bottles, cut in half and one inverted inside the other have a wicking system worth checking out.

4) Plastic Bottle Drip Irrigation System: 4 small holes in your 2-liter bottle that’s buried in the ground provide excellent watering for your plants.

5) Plastic Bottle Greenhouse: A greenhouse like this is a true inspiration.

Milk Jugs:

6) Milk Jug Scoop: Milk or OJ jugs make easy scoops.

7) Milk Jug Cloches: Use Milk Jugs to protect your larger plants. Just cut the bottom out of the milk jug, turn it upside down and it’ll protect your plants.

8) Milk Jug Mini Greenhouses: These mini greenhouses in gallon jugs can prove useful.

Clear Plastic Containers:

9) Plastic Container Mini Greenhouse: Just turn it upside down and you have a mini cloche/greenhouse.

Winter Squash Seedling Basking in the Heat of a Lettuce Box, photo by Rebecca Rockefeller

Cereal Boxes & Cracker Boxes:

10) Cardboard Weed Block: Take your cereal boxes and cracker boxes to the garden and use them as weed blocking.

Bike Wheels:

11) Bike Wheel Trellis: Bike wheel trellises are beautiful.

DVDs/CDs:

12) DVD/CD Bird Scaring Trick: Birds don’t like reflective stuff. It scares them off. Put a few around your berries and you’ll keep those peckers away.

Mailboxes:

13) Mailbox Garden Tool Cache: Post an old mailbox up in your garden, and you have a water-proof place to store hand tools, planter markers, and your notes.

Make a garden tool cache out of an old mailbox. Photo © Liesl Clark

Drawers:

14) Drawer Seedling Starter: This one’s easy. Just use an old drawer as a seedling planter box.

OJ Cans:

15) OJ Can Plant Labels: The can tops make pretty labels for marking your rows.

Rain Boots:

16) Rain Boot Planters: Save a few pairs of the kids cute rain boots for whimsical planters.

Plastic Plant Pots:

17) Plastic Plant Pot Flowers: Add a little flair to your outdoor space with these plant pot flowers.

Trash Cans:

18) Trash Can Root Cellar: I’m interested in trying this for storing our potatoes, carrots, daikon radish, turnips and cabbages next year. It simply requires digging a deep hole.

Tupperware Tubs:

19) Tupperware Worm Farm: Make a few holes in your old Tupperware bins, order a few hundred red worms, follow the instructions here and you’ll have a worm farm.

Plastic Bottle Caps:

20) Plastic Bottle Cap Lawn Flowers: Michele Stitzlein creates beautiful blooms from plastic caps. She’s published a couple of books on plastic cap art, too.

Glassware:

21) Glassware Flowers: These bowls and dishes are all the rage.

Garden Hoses:

22) Garden Hose Flowers: If you have space on a wall, you could create flowery art from your old hoses.

Twist Ties:

23) Twist Tie Plant Trainers: Save your twist ties to use for training plants to fences and stakes.

We reuse twist ties for training our espalier fruit trees. Photo © Liesl Clark

Soda Cans:

24) Soda Can Planters: In a pinch, soda cans can be used as planters and seed starters.

25) Pop Can Plant Markers: With a little effort, you can make some pretty markers for your garden.

Styrofoam:

26) Styrofoam Planter Filler: Fill the bottom of your large plant pots with styrofoam so they don’t get too heavy.

Styrofoam Planter Filler, Photo: Liesl Clark

PVC

27) PVC Garden Tower: Drill holes in a PVC tube and you have a strawberry planter

Coaxial Cables:

28) Coaxial Cable Fence: Who knew that a coaxial cable could look so pretty with bamboo?

Tie a Bamboo Fence Together with Coaxial Cable

Wine Bottles:

29) Wine Bottle Waterer: Turn your empties upside down (with H2O in them) in your plant pots and go on vacation!

30) Wine Bottle Garden Edging: Wine bottles can make colorful garden edging.

31) Wine Bottle Hose Guard: A wine bottle and a stick are all that’s needed to keep your hose out of your garden beds.

Empty Bottle Hose Guard Hard at Work photo: Rebecca Rockefeller

Clementine Boxes:

32) Clementine Box Planters: Clementine boxes make excellent seedling starter boxes or planters for forced bulbs.

Blue Jeans:

33) Blue Jeans Garden Apron: Sew yourself a simple garden apron from an old pair of jeans that can hold your garden tools.

Plastic Mesh Produce Basket:

34) Plastic Mesh Seedling Saver: We use these baskets to prevent slugs and birds from destroying our seedlings.

Turn your trash backwards: Place mesh produce baskets over seedlings to protect from birds, frost, and really big slugs.

Windows:

35) Windows Greenhouse: This is a simple design for a small greenhouse made from windows.

36) Window Frame Trellis: An old window frame with mullions makes a pretty trellis.

Broken Ceramics:

37) Broken Ceramics Pot Drainage: Put your broken ceramic pieces in the bottom of plant pots for added drainage.

38) Plant Your Broken Dishes: Plant your favorite broken dishes in the garden and enjoy them throughout the growing season.

Carafe and Pitcher under the Bean Trellis photo by Rebecca Rockefeller

Broken Pot Planter: When our ceramic pots break, I plant them in our garden along with something planted to look as if it’s spilling out of the pot, having grown there over time.

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Paint Cans:

39) Paint Can Planters: I love these paint cans turned planters at my friend Maya’s house in Tsarang, Upper Mustang, Nepal.

Even Paint Cans Add Flowery Color to a Household, Photo: Liesl Clark

Laundry Hampers:

40) Laundry Hamper Potato Planter: I planted potatoes inside an old laundry hamper and the harvest was easy.

Potato Leaves Begin to Poke Out, Photo©Liesl Clark

Skis:

41) Ski Fence: If anyone lives in the Seattle area and wants to make one of these, please contact us as we have several hundred skis at the end of our Rotary Auction.

Window Blinds:

42) Mini Blind Plant Markers: These look really easy to make.

Panty Hose:

43) Panty Hose Deer Repellant: If you place a bar of soap inside the foot of old panty hose and hang it from your apple tree, it should deter the deer from nibbling on your tree. You can also use a single child’s mitten for this, as it looks cute and either put the perfumed soap inside or human hair (they don’t like the smell of humans.)

Headboards:

44) Headboard Trellis: A headboard makes a beautiful pea trellis.

An Old Headboard from Freecycle Makes a Perfect Garden Trellis, photo by Rebecca Rockefeller

Newspaper:

45) Newspaper Garden Uses: There are many reuses for newspaper in the garden.

Cassette Tapes:

46) Cassette Tape Bird Deterrent: Pull the tape out of your cassette and string it over your garden. Birds hate the reflective quality of the tape.

Pet Food Bags:

47) Feed Bag Tarp: Sew your plastic woven pet food bags together into a tarp for garden needs.

Toilet Paper Tubes:

48) TP Tube Seedling Starters: Start your seeds in a tube filled with soil.

Sponges:

49) Sponges in Plant Pots: Cut up your old sponges and place them in the bottom of plant pots. They’ll hold moisture for a long time.

Kiddie Pools:

50) Kiddie Pool Raised Bed Garden: Hard plastic kiddie pools make excellent raised bed gardens.

What do you reuse in your garden? Help me add to the list.

Random Acts of Reuse In The Kingdom of Mustang

In Upper Mustang, Nepal, there is an ethic of reuse that has changed my ways. Few things are consumed and then simply thrown away, except for candy wrappers, plastic packaging like biscuit wrappers, ramen noodle packets, and plastic bags holding washing powder. These, sadly, are found underfoot in nearly every village.

Plastic Packaging Used for Irrigation:

But most plastics in Mustang are put to use in innovative ways. Take the plastic lining for water diversion in irrigation ditches. Rather than using jute sacks filled with sand, a readily available material is plastic packaging and bags layered with mud, unwanted clothing and textiles to create an impermeable dam for irrigation ditches. The plastics, unfortunately, often break free and are carried downstream into the Kali Gandaki River where all water flows.

Potato Sack Turned Horse Feed-Bucket:

One of the most innovative Mustang-style trash hacks is the method by which local horses are fed their grain. Potato sacks made of woven plastic are sewn into a configuration that fits easily around a horse’s muzzle, with long string handles that hang over the horses’ ears. Corn is measured out and put in the potato-sack-turned-feed-bag, the chaff blown by hand from the corn to prevent the horse from inhaling it in the bag, and the bag is hung from the horse’s ears: a muzzle feeder that’s a brilliant light-weight way to feed one’s horses while traveling. No need for heavy buckets. Whether on-the-go or at home, these muzzle feed bags are the preferred feeding bucket for Mustang equines.

When one becomes worn out and a hole develops, they’re quickly patched up, as this one was mended by a talented tailor friend in the village of Samdzong, utilizing his son’s worn out sweat pants.

I grew up with horses and we went through plenty of buckets, some made of PVC and plastic which when broken became yet another hefty item in the landfill. The potato/rice sacks turned into horse feed bags are one of the best reuses I’ve ever seen in a remote part of the world that could easily be adopted world-wide!

Planted Pots in Buckets, Paint Cans and Tins:

Anything that is a receptacle is used in Mustang until it can no longer hold anything, disintegrated by sun and wind to the point of uselessness. In the topmost photo of planters, below, you’ll see a plastic bucket that developed a crack and was then sewn back together with plastic twine. Potted flowering succulents are such a valuable addition of organic color to a household, taking the time to repair that heavy-duty plastic pot is clearly worth the effort. If we treated our own plastic pots and buckets the same way, there’d be a significant reduction in the production of these plastics in the first place, and a renewed ethic which the Lobas, the people of Upper Mustang, haven’t lost, of repairing everything again and again until its useful life is truly over. Now that’s reuse!