Introduction: A Re-Purpose Driven Life

About: I'm an artist, environmentalist, animal lover, gardener, recycling nut, a high school teacher, crafter, Mom, Christian and widow who reads a lot in between figuring out how to do things.

I do the three r's: reduce, reuse, recycle but I add re-purpose for a 4th R.

I just can't help myself. It all started with my grandfather. He kept all kinds of things and remade-reused them on his farm. (Back then they called it junk collecting.) My mother also did this. We spent one summer when I was a teenager going to a granite dump site and loading granite and marble pieces that were broken or damaged and taking these back to my mother's yard where she made stepping stones, garden edging and benches out of the stuff. So I come by it naturally, and then I add my own artistic bent to it.

While I'm recycling my things at the local drop off point,  I also check out what has been tossed in the bin to see if I can re-purpose it. And yes, I belong to "dumpster diver anonymous." I also belong to freecycle, which is another movement to keep things out of the landfill. I've gotten many things from there, and also offer things for free to others that I no longer want. (Think: "one person's trash is another person's treasure".)

This instructable will show some of the projects I've re-purposed.

Step 1: Garden Waterproof Totebox

Clumping cat litter container ( I got the container from the recycling dumpster because I don't use that kind of litter, not biodegradable) made it into my garden box where I put my clippers, twine and etc. and it has a nice closing lid so things don't get wet and I don't have to run out and gather all the stuff I've left hither and yon. I painted it green so it blends in with the landscape. I actually had two of these, one with a lid, one without. I painted the other green to put under a faucet I have that has sometimes a drip so I could catch the water and use it.  Used Krylon fusion spray paint for plastic.

Step 2: Compost Bins

PVC pipe and chicken/rabbit wire fencing = compost bin #1 Now the first bin ( I admit ) just had white PVC pipe because I was a lazy girl and didn't care whether the neighbors objected because it was hidden behind some bushes. But then I thought: I could put this in view by painting the pipe green and it would be less objectionable and maybe compost a little faster because it would get more sun/rain, etc. Of course it hasn't rained in 4 months, but what the heck- I'm ready if it ever does.

I like my bin because to turn the pile (for aeration and to help compost faster), all I need to do is pull on the pipes with the wire attached and the pile is left underneath. Then I just re-shovel the pile and it is turned.

I made another bin from some left over deck wood. The deck was getting pretty splintery and when I pulled it up I had all this left over lumber. I gave some of it away on freecycle, but there was a lot left. So I chopped into 3 foot sections and nailed together the sections in a simple box like shipping pallets. Three of the boxes make a bin when stacked together. To turn this bin, I pick up the sections and again re-shovel back in. Why three feet sections? Seemed a good measurement? Wasn't too big or too small. And it was easy to cut using my yardstick as the measuring stick.

Composting: There are many really good guides out there. But I go and pick up my neighbors grass clippings to add to my compost. I compost my coffee grounds daily (the worms really like the coffee grounds and so do the azaleas), shredded paper (would like to see an identity theft person dig into my compost!!) vegetable scraps,  leaves (use your lawnmower to go over your leaves and chop them up!), pine needles, etc.  And then you need to turn it occasionally to add air and mix up stuff. Since I'm adding to my compost all the time, turning is really necessary for me.

Step 3: Ugly Into Beautiful

Plastic pots: some of them were from the garden center- they give you these horrible black pots, but some are really sturdy and you'd like to keep them if they weren't black (because I live in HOT TEXAS- black pots mean cooked plants). The other pots were just ones that I had. I tried painting with leftover latex paint (brown to match the house) and it worked OK, but wanted something a little better. I have an instrucable about this:

I took an old wheelbarrow that the tray was getting too rusty and made it into a garden planter.

When we had a tree come down during a recent hurricane, the stump was left. As the tree had a large rotten place , instead of letting the trunk just sit there, I planted stuff in it.

Step 4: Fabric-holic-ism

Fabric. I guess I'm a fabric-holic, but I like to make quilts and even reuse old clothes for scrap quilts. My grandmother made quilts using scraps left over from making clothes and linens. I have some squares she made and never used for a quilt- eventually I'll get around into making a quilt with them.

As an art teacher (my real job), I use fabric scraps at school. If you have a box of scraps and you don't know what to do with them, please consider donating them to your local school- ask for the art teacher.

And the quilts when they get too ratty to put on the bed, go to the dogs for their beds or are used outside to wrap up the plants when we have that rare cold snap.

Step 5: Jug Masks

Jug mask: take an old milk jug - wash it out and cut apart. Cover with papier mache, paint. add other stuff...presto mask.

Step 6: Ladder: Plant Stand/trellis

Ladder: Made this into a plant stand, and trellis for vines  Got the ladder for free from freecycle. It isn't sturdy enough for people use, but perfect for plant use.

Basically I added some green paint to make it blend in better with the landscape, but left some of the paint splatters showing because I liked it that way. I put a plastic screen on one side so that vines could grown up either the steps or the wire side.

The flip down stand for putting your paint cans and stuff was rotten and I pulled that off, but wanted to still have that stand. I got an old board that I'd saved from ripping out the bathroom cabinets and took the nails out- marked where the rails were and drilled holes so that I could lace up the board with some zip ties. I didn't think the wood would take new nails or screws without splintering, so the zip ties were a perfect solution.

Then I added some tent stakes to the bottom so that when it is windy the ladder doesn't tip over. (I'd had it in the garden originally and it kept blowing over, so I knew I needed to secure it somehow.) I attached the tent stakes with some zip ties figuring I'd want to move this ladder around- maybe next summer I'll use it under my cucumbers. So I can cut the zip ties and then pull up the ladder and then get up the stakes.

I'm going to put some morning glories in a planter at the bottom of the ladder. I'd grow right on the fence if it was my fence, but since it isn't- I'll just grow on my ladder and hopefully the neighbor will like so much that I can grow on their fence.

Step 7: Cardboard

Cardboard from mailing, gardening, hardware stores, and what ever...(did I mention dumpster diving?): I regularly fish out strong, clean cardboard and take it to school or re-use it at home. I did an instructable about sketchbooks using cardboard. I make cardboard baskets to store little things. I'm using some cardboard that I painted while spraying the PVC pipe into maybe some lap drawing boards for my students. Will test this will real kids this fall. I used the chalkboard paint. Will see how this works with middle school clumsy behavior and hormones.

For my garage chalkboard,  I used chalkboard paint and painted directly on the wall in the garage, then used some cardboard to make a frame and tacked it up. The cardboard was some that I used as a "drop cloth" when spray painting another project. I thought it had an interesting pattern, so I used it to make into the frame for my chalkboard. I put some chalk in a bag and thumbtacked it to the cardboard so I could write down the list of stuff that I need (when I remember that I need it.) Or if I'm measuring something, I can write on this chalkboard so I don't have to fish out a piece of paper.

Step 8: PVC Pipe "bamboo Tripod"

So while I was painting PVC pipe for my compost bin, I thought I should paint some more. Then afterward the idea came. I took the pvc pipe and tied it together at the top with twine. I don't have any bamboo in my garden and wanted to make a tripod for things to climb on. I wrapped some twine around the poles because the poles are too slippery for the plants-- the twine gives a little traction. Then topped it with a glass jar leftover from a candle.

Step 9: Boots

A few years ago I was given an assignment to make some table displays for a conference. There were something like 40 tables that needed to be decorated and of course the display should be something that was related to Texas (where I live). So I went to several thrift stores and begged and got about 20 pairs of old boots. The boots were painted with gesso and then painted with acrylic paint by some student artists. The boots were a complete hit and beautiful. The picture shows a few of them painted and a pair of boots I saw at a neighbors house next to their garbage. So I picked them up for use at school for drawing, but later I thought about turning them into a couple of planters.

So I primed them with exterior primer like you use for your house. Then painted them with some brown and green-- I'll keep painting but for this re-purposing, I'll show you the "finished" product before I'm finished.

I drilled some holes through the sole of the shoes so that they would drain. I put Styrofoam packing noodles that I save into the toes and the bottom of the boots- they are light, yet will let the water drain. Then some clay pots I had were the perfect size for the top part of the boot.

I am going to add some "gardening quotes" to these boots, but haven't the time to finish this instructable before I finish the boots. And to be honest, I need a little more moodling before I'm done.

Step 10: Moodling

I've got a great quote:

So you see, imagination needs moodling - long, inefficient, happy idling, dawdling and puttering. Brenda Ueland

This kind of says it all for me- in that I pick up stuff that I think has great potential. I re-purpose things when my brain happily puts it into some kind of efficient use.

And the puttering part is so important.

If I say to my beloved husband of almost 30 years, that I'm puttering. He knows exactly what I'm doing...that inefficient happy idling thing that will mean that sometime later some kind of invention will occur!

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