Friday, July 23, 2010

FUn QuOTe oF tHe WeEk

The most serious gardening I do would seem very strange to an onlooker, for it involves hours of walking round in circles, apparently doing nothing. --Helen Dillon

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Recycle Your Old Shoes Into Homemade Stepping Stones

Between my running shoes and my husband's work boots and now with a toddler boy, we go through a lot of shoes in a year.  I have always tried to think of creative ways to reuse our old shoes.  We have tried bringing them in to hand me down stores but a lot of times they wouldn't take them because they were so beaten up and not wearable anymore.  So I hated throwing them away knowing this is not good for the environment.

Now I have thought of a creative idea for those old shoes. Making your own stepping stones from shoes just seems like the perfect solution.  I'm going to demonstrate how I have done this and discuss different ways you can use them.  

Take a trip around your house, in the closets and in the garage.  Collect all of your old pairs of sneakers, slippers, boots, sandals, crocks, you name it, that you don't wear anymore.  Ask your friends, family and neighbors if they have any laying around; it's just taking up space anyway!  If you still can't find some, you can always look for garage sales and get pretty good deals.  When you have your stack of stepping stones, you'll want to cut the top of the shoe off so it's just the sole.  

Next you'll want to wash the bottom of the shoes off real good with soap and water being sure to rinse well with water and let dry overnight.  This will allow paint to stick to the surface a lot better and last longer.  Once the shoe(s) is dry use any paint you want but I used spray paint I picked up at my local hardware store.  Spray paint all the shoes you have, using different colors if you want. 
Allow paint to dry thoroughly; read user instructions on the can for dry times.  Now you need to decide where it is you want to place your new recycled shoe stepping stones.  I placed my stepping stones on top of the wood chips in our landscaping.  I also staked them down using anchoring pins (I also found at my local hardware store).  Tip: if you plan on using two anchoring pins per shoe, poke the holes all the way through the sole for both before staking to the ground.
And that's it!  Now you have the recipe for a creative stepping stone path that you can make right from you own home and a few supplies from your local hardware store. Now, if you'll please excuse me, I have lots more shoes to recycle before these stepping stones are finished!

If you do not have time for this fun project but still are interested in stepping stones, you can always buy them instead.  There are plenty of different kinds of stepping stones out there, but these are one of my new favorites!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Bird House Basics – Do’s & Don’ts

Like weather vanes and sundials, bird houses can be as artistic as they are functional.  Bird houses come in many styles, from gaily painted wooden antiques to sleek metal models to plain old wooden ones.  However delightful they may look to you, you’ll want to make sure the birds find them attractive as well.  Learn about what birds use bird houses and how to acquire the most success in housing wild birds.

Cavity-Nesting Birds   

Only cavity-nesting birds (those that nest in tree hollows) use bird houses.  This group includes bluebirds, chickadees, nuthatches, swallows, and wrens.  The type of bird house you install determines the kinds of birds you’ll attract.  However, this is a most inexact science as a bird house may be intended for a wren or a bluebird, but it will be fair game for any birds of similar size that find it to their fancy.  This can be a fun feature to providing bird houses in your backyard.

Small Birds

Small birds, such as chickadees, nuthatches, and most wrens, prefer a hole that’s 1 1/8 inches across.  Medium-size birds, such as bluebirds, swallows, and purple martins, need a nest box with a hole 1 ½ inches wide.  White-breasted nuthatches need a 1 ¼ inch opening. 

Larger Birds

Larger birds, such as flickers and kestrels, take boxes with 2 ½ inch entry holes.  Flickers usually like to dig out their own nests, but sometimes you can attract them with a large nest box.  If you happen to fill it with wood chips, they’ll dig it right out.   

Do’s & Don’ts

To keep bird houses safe from raccoons and cats, mount the bird houses atop metal poles.  If you want to put a bird house in a tree, hang it from a branch.   If you supply bird feeders in your yard keep the bird houses away from the feeders.  Mealtime can make nesting birds nervous and scare them off.  Wherever you plan on putting your bird house make sure the entrance is facing away from any prevailing weather.  You can also remove the perch if your bird house comes with one; they are unnecessary and house sparrows may sit on them to heckle birds inside the bird house.  When choosing a bird house make sure it’s made of good insulated material.  Bird houses made out of at least 1-inch-thick wood usually is good insulation.  If you make your own bird house, steer away from using plastic milk cartons as they are too thin and have poor ventilation.  The heat created with this kind of material can bake chicks inside or make them fledge too early from your bird house.  You’ll want to make sure you can easily clean bird houses so look for an opening at the top or side of the house.  Also drain holes in the bottom of your bird houses and ventilation holes high in the sides of the house for summer heat are good things to watch for.  Bird houses should be up before migrant season begins around late February because they will be looking for nesting sites soon after they arrive.  And lastly, if you decide to put up more than one bird house keep them well separated and out of site from one another.  Just like humans, birds most like their space!

These bird house basics should get you off on the right foot.  After deciding which types of birds you want to attract and choosing the right bird house for them, you should start to see a more active wild life in your backyard.  Providing bird houses in your lawn or garden is a delightful hobby.  Enjoy picking out your bird house or bird houses because there a lot to choose from.