Simply Resourceful

Simple ways to be more conscious about how we use our resources.

How to Make a Bat House

If you're needing some indoor winter projects, bat houses are quick and easy to make.  When most people think about bats, they conjure up scary stories and cover their heads, but they should really be welcoming them into their yards because bats are a natural pest controller!  A single bat can eat up to 1,000 mosquitoes in one hour!! 

I did a bit of research about bat houses and found a lot of information.  I can't site one particular source because I gleaned information from about a dozen different websites. 

Here are all of the pieces.  I painted everything brown with exterior water-based latex paint.  It is recommended that you use water-based paint because it has less odor than oil-based paints.  A strong paint odor can repel bats.

Staple plastic screen or cut grooves on the back board.  Do not use metal screen because it will rust over time.  The screen (or grooves) gives the bats something to cling to. 

Caulk around the edges before attaching the 3/4 inch furring strips.  Attach the furring strips with screws.

Add more caulk on top of the furring strips. You want a tight seal---no light should enter the bat house.

Attach the front pieces leaving a 1/2 inch space between the two boards.  The uncovered space at the bottom of the house is a landing board---very important to have.

The 1/2 inch space allows the bat house to vent---a necessity in every bat house. 

Attach a roof to the house with a minimum 1.5 inch overhang.  This will keep the inside of the house dry.  The finished dimensions of my bat house are 18 x 20 inches.  Bats like a dark and airtight house so I caulked around the edges once more after screwing the house together.  

I added some bat stencils for an extra touch!

  • The wood I used came from scraps leftover from the solar food dehydrator project. 
  • The plastic screen came from an old window that a friend gave me after she used it to make homemade paper. 
  • Brown exterior latex paint came from leftover paint we had in the garage. 
  • Screws---who doesn't have a box of screws lying around.
  • Caulk was found in the garage, leftover from a project years ago.  Surprisingly it wasn't dried up. 

Placement of bat houses: 
  • Bat houses need a minimum of seven hours of morning sunlight.  Bats may not like the sunlight, but they need warmth to raise their young.  They like it to be 80 to 100 degrees in July when they have their young with them. 
  • Place bat houses near a water source if possible.
  • Bats will evacuate the home if it's in a place prone to vandalism where people are shaking or knocking on the box.
  • Do not place along a busy road where dawn and dusk traffic can scare bats.
  • You may place your bat house on a tree, pole, or a building; however, boxes mounted on poles or buildings tend to have a higher occupancy than those mounted on trees. 
  • Be careful when placing them under the eaves of a house---they may not receive enough light.  
  • The bat house should be mounted 15-20 feet above the ground (away from predators).
  • It should not be in a place lit by bright lights at night.
  • Place the bat house where the bats can fly to it freely without obstruction. Obstructions will make their flying difficult and will block the sun’s rays as well. The greatest percentage of occupied houses have flight obstructions no closer than 20 feet away.

Growing Mushrooms on an Urban Lot

Jon really likes mushrooms, but they have to be fresh---not the canned variety.  His first attempt at mushroom growing was this weird "log" that was a dense chunk of sawdust inoculated with mushroom spores.  This variety was shiitake.  It was a fickle thing to work with and went dormant several times which required a rest in the refrigerator followed by a full soaking in a rain water bucket for several days at a time.  The log also had to be sprayed daily with water to keep things moist.  Overall, this method didn't work well for us for unknown reasons.  The mushrooms would blossom and then dry up or rot before they were picked.

The chopsticks are stuck into the "log" so a plastic bag could be placed over everything to create a humid environment without touching the mushrooms. 

After the first attempt at growing mushrooms inside the house, Jon decided to grow mushrooms in the backyard using oak logs we trimmed from our tree this fall.  We ordered 300 dowels from the same place we ordered the inoculated sawdust pile from, Fungi Perfecti.  These wooden dowels are inoculated with shiitake and oyster mushrooms spores and are placed in pre-drilled holes in the oak logs.  If all goes well, these logs should fruit mushrooms for a couple of years.

The inoculated dowels.

Using a rubber mallet, the dowels are pounded into pre-drilled holes.

The dowels were placed about 4 inches apart in a diamond pattern.

This wax came with the dowels.  

Using my beeswax melting pan and pastry brush, I painted wax over each plug, wound, scrape, and cut on the logs to keep bacteria, bugs, and other fungi from going into the logs. 

We then elevated the logs off the ground in a semi-wet environment.  The instructions suggest placing a moist burlap bag over the logs, but in this northwest climate, we're opting for open air because it's damp all winter and spring and too much moisture could potentially be bad.  These logs were placed in the northwest corner of our property next to the house under a magnolia tree.  One thing we have to watch out for are slugs because they love mushrooms...another battle against those pesky creatures!!!

How to Make a Christmas Wreath

Making a holiday wreath is a craft that I have enjoyed doing for three years.  I enjoy it so much that I made one for a friend this year!  To make a wreath, you need: 

  • A solid ring; it has to be a sturdy ring (sorry a clothes hanger won't work because it's too pliable).  I purchased a 12 inch non-bendable ring at a fabric store for a little under $3.00.
  • Florists wire.  One spool of wire will make several wreaths.  Cost: ~$3.00
  • Greenery boughs
  • Decorative items such as pine cones, holly, ornaments, bows, etc.
To keep the costs low, I reuse the ring and wire.  After the holiday season, the wire is wound onto a piece of scrap wood and packed away for the following year.  I also trim the pine tree in our yard (and neighbor's yard) when it's time to make wreaths rather than trimming them in the summer or fall.  I also use the pine boughs that are removed from the base of the Christmas tree.  Christmas tree lots also have piles of boughs.  The pine cones I use are picked off the ground in our yard and the holly branch was pruned from a bush in a nearby park.  The holly berries are plastic berries that I can reuse next year.  For wreath making instructions, watch this video:

Moving Bee Hives and Saying Goodbye

Today one of our beehives was adopted by a new beekeeper because Jon received a job in West Virginia!  We have been searching for a job closer to our families in Wisconsin and Minnesota so a move has been planned for about a year now.  Work at the new office begins at the end of January so we are getting our home ready to sell and looking for a new place.

We have been discussing at length what to do with the bees in the event that we move.  At first I thought I would put them in the back of a rented pickup and drive them across the country; but when I considered the resource use for transporting them and the time commitment, I figured it was probably best if they stayed here and I bought new ones wherever we went.  I also didn't want to risk spreading diseases or exposing the colonies to new diseases (if disease exists which is hard to know sometimes without lab testing).  There's no guarantee if they would even survive past spring since it's early winter, so a lot of work could be invested with a depressing result.  So...I posted my hives on a bee list serve, Craigslist, and talked with a few friends.  In only a few days I had a few bites.  Here's how we transported the first hive:

I shoved the entrance reducer in the opening as far as I could without it getting stuck in there.  Then we wrapped a few layers of duct tape around the hive to hold the entrance reducer in place.  The buyers were only transporting them about 4 miles away so there wasn't a concern of a lack of air flow.  If the hives were being transported in the summer, then we would place window screening across the front.  Both hives have screened bottom boards to help provide ventilation. 

It was 34 degrees when the hive was moved.  The hives haven't been opened since September so everything is sealed together really well with the bee propolysis.  For added precaution, duct tape sealed the crack between the 2 boxes and boards were screwed on both sides to help keep the supers from shifting. 

The hive was quickly loaded into the back of a truck and strapped down.  Moving the hive was actually pretty simple.  I think moving them in the winter when the population is small, the supers are sealed together really well, and the bees are less active is the best time of year to relocate a hive.  

And now only one hive rests in the backyard waiting for the next owner.  It is sad to look out my window and see the empty spot.  I will never see that hive again, but I know that it is in good hands (see pic below).  This is what happens when a move takes place----decisions must be made and the results are permanent.  I am sad to part with my bees, my friends, our home, and all the fine details that have made our life here special.   I will shed a few tears once the second hive is gone, our entire home is in a moving van, and last minute hugs are given away; but I continue to remind myself that life goes on and an adventure is out there waiting for us!  Our family will find a country home with a perfect bee hive location and new faces will greet us.  We will continue our homesteading adventures wherever we go and continue sharing it with our friends, family, and surrounding community.  

This is where the hive now rests.  It looks so cozy among the chickens in this suburban lot.  

About this blog

A weekly update on our adventures of trying to be more self-sufficient by using resources wisely. We explore a variety of topics that most broadly fit in the "Homesteading" category, i.e. beekeeping, organic gardening, edible landscaping/fruit forest, food preservation/canning, woodworking, soap-making, and environmental stewardship.

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