Category Archives: crafts (recycled materials)

Making Fun Gourd Bird Houses

Attract birds to your yard with home-made environmentally friendly gourd bird houses. You can make several in an afternoon and have fun doing it. You can keep it simple or you can tap into your playful side.

How to:

Getting the gourd

Ask around at local farms and farmer’s markets. There is a good chance that you will find some already dried. If so, you can start making your birdhouse right away.

If you plan ahead, you can grow your own gourds. How cool would that be?!

Drying the gourd

The easiest way to dry your gourds is to spread them out in a box and place them in the garage for the winter. They are going to mold on the outside a bit no matter what you do: no worries. Check on your gourds: if a gourd is rotting (i.e. the shell is getting soft), you should discard it so it won’t spoil the others.

Cleaning your gourd

Some people soak their gourds in a bleach solution to remove the mold. I don’t like to use bleach more than necessary and I find it isn’t necessary here. Either way you will need to scrub and wash and even scrap your gourd clean. It takes a bit of elbow grease. Don’t you like the patterns left on its skin? 

Drilling the holes

Use a drill bit for the size you want your birdhouse hole to be. You can find suggested birdhouse hole size for specific birds online. I used a two inch (diameter) hole for the birdhouse seen here.

I also drilled small drainage holes in the bottom of the gourd just in case rain should get inside.

Finished birdhouse has linseed oil applied.

Finishing the birdhouse(s)

Find salvaged paint (your own or someone else’s leftover paint). I found a small container of exterior paint at the Restore and used that to paint one of my birdhouses. I also used the two hole pieces, from the door openings which I painted white, for the eyes of this amusing birdhouse. I used Gorilla glue to attach them.

For my other gourd, I applied linseed oil. Linseed oil is a natural oil used as a wood preservative and is made from flax seeds. Use a rag to rub on a thin layer of oil. If using multiple coats, allow to dry between applications. The linseed oil will give the gourd a polished look and will help repel the rain. Linseed oil doesn’t preserve your birdhouse for as long as other products but you can compost the old and make a new.

Hanging the gourd birdhouse

Use a piece of scrap rope/ string or even an old shoe lace to hang your finished birdhouse. If you want to be fancier, you can bend an old coat hanger into a hook. First drill two holes to slide the wire through.

This purchased birdhouse has an orange stain on it. Stain is nice because it gives the birdhouse a color but the natural look of the birdhouse shows through. The diameter hole for this birdhouse is 2 inches. I placed this orange gourd birdhouse outside my front door where it is sheltered by our house roof. It is hanging on the wall of our house. Despite the fact that wren birdhouse hole sizes are recommended to be much smaller, a pair of wrens moved into our gourd birdhouse and successfully raised six chicks last summer (2009).

 I hope they will be back, I do love wrens. On a side note, I’ve seen wrens go in/ out of our gourd birdhouse in the winter. I assumed that it or they were seeking shelter from the cold. This is one of the baby birds that left the nest that day. So cute!

This is a snapshot of the mother or father wren that worked tirelessly feeding all those babies!

Tree Coin Necklaces: Beautiful All Natural Jewelry

I rubbed mineral oil on this one. As you can see it darkens the wood.

Tree coin necklaces are so pretty yet are very easy to make. I call them tree coin necklaces because they are disk shaped pieces of wood cut from tree branches. Children will need to have parents do the prep work on this project but will enjoy putting the necklaces together and decorating them.

How to:

Coin shaped pieces are cut from tree branches. I use a miter saw to do this job. If you want to make many coin pieces of the same thickness, clamp a piece of wood onto the saw leaving the desired distance from the cut.

A hole is drilled into the “coins”. Place a scrap board underneath your coin while drilling to protect the surface you are working on or place the “coin” in a vice while drilling.

Use string, yarn or ribbon to tie around the neck.

They are lovely plain (I love the circular wood grain) or you can decorate with stamps or personalize with a “green” message.

St. Patrick’s Day Rainbow Mosaic

This project is simple enough for even very little hands, although, you might need to draw out the rainbow strips in which they are to fill.

For a more tile-like look use thin cardboard which is thicker than tiles made from regular paper.

For more information on paper mosaics see my post: Recycle Your Cereal Boxes and More Into Pretty Paper Mosaics

Recycle Your Cereal Boxes and More Into Pretty Paper Mosaics

You probably have all the supplies you will need for this project right in your recycle bin. Cereal boxes and salvaged note book covers become art when cut into pieces and cleverly arranged.

How to tips:

Design your mosaic and sketch it lightly on a stiff piece of paper. I use foam board pieces and mat board scraps from a framing shop. These scrapes would otherwise be wasted. Call around to see what might be donated to you.

Save scrap paper (such as colored handouts form school, phone book covers, magazine pages…) or thin cardboard (such as cereal boxes, crackers and other food boxes, non-food boxes, notebook and coloring book covers…).

Cut the boxes in strips ½ inch thick. Focus on the parts with the most pure color. I like to use a paper cutter. More advanced students might want thinner strips in order to achieve finer details.

Here I have organized the scraps by setting ice cream containers into Clementine boxes.

Artists will cut up the strips to make their own mosaic tiles. It isn’t necessary to cut all the pieces in squares. Sometimes you will need more of a triangular shape to fill the space. Besides, you want to have a broken tile look.

Work one area at a time. Fill in the areas by gluing your “tiles” on one by one. Paste works well and is environmentally friendly. Glue sticks work nice but create a lot of plastic waste. If using white glue, I recommend using an old paint brush to apply the glue.

When done and the glue/ paste is dry, apply a layer of Modge Podge or an equivalent product.

*The butterfly mosaic above was a collaborative effort by young artists whose ages ranged from 6 to 11.

To see an example of a paper mosaic made from recycled thin cardboard such as cereal boxes, see my post: St. Patrick’s Day Rainbow Mosaic

Bedroom Blizzard: Paper Snowflake Decor

Paper Snowflakes; Snowing in bedroom.

 

Add a little fun to your life by making a winter wonderland in the comfort of your own home.

Pretty Paper SnowFlake

This snowflake was made from an invoice I received. I’ve been collecting these invoices and instead of sending them to be recycled (which is good too) I saved them to make a blizzard. Invoices work because the little bit of writing on the back isn’t overly noticeable. Also, I try to work with the whitest parts.

Paper Snow Flakes

Put a few of the snowflakes directly on the wall. Also, you can hang one snowflake under another.

Bedroom Blizzard: Paper Snowflakes

Hang snowflakes at different levels for a more natural snowing affect. I used salvaged fishing wire to hang some of the snowflakes. I have some fishing wire found during beach clean-ups. Parts that aren’t too tangled can be washed and reused.

Falling Paper Snow Flakes

It’s so lovely to go in that room and look up (or if you are lying on the bed and looking up); it makes you feel like the snow is really falling down all around. I couldn’t capture it in a picture so you’ll have to make it to see for yourself.

How to tips:

Paper snowflakes can be made with scrap paper, invoices, and used printer paper that still has a lot of white left. Have you ever printed stuff from the internet and the last page that prints only has the web address on it?

I save my favorite snowflakes to use again. Store them where they can stay flat such as in an unwanted (salvaged) book. The added benefit is that pressing them in a book flattens them out nicely.

Note: I tried ironing my snowflakes. (That’s not a sentence you see too often.) What I discovered is that some invoices such as from Amazon are printed with a heat printer of some kind; thus, rendering one side of the snowflake black when ironed. Best to test your paper first if ironing.