Simply Resourceful

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

How to Make a Leaf Lampshade

Instead of spending a lot of money on a fancy new lampshade, I made my own using an old lampshade and a few materials.

Materials: lampshade, rice paper, craft glue, and pressed leaves.

Step 1: Remove material on lampshade.  Be careful not to put too much pressure on the hard plastic or you can crack the shade.

Step 2: Cut out rice paper to fit the lampshade with about an inch of excess on all sides  You want excess paper so you don't come up short!  A helpful hint is to make a pattern by rolling the lampshade on a large piece of packaging paper. This way you have a pattern for future projects and you don't risk wasting the rice paper in case you trace incorrectly.  For large lampshades, you may need to have 2 pieces of paper because the rice paper roll is narrow.  Rice paper can be purchased at craft stores such as Michael's. 

Step 3:  Apply the glue.  In the picture above you can see globs of glue; it doesn't take much to cover a large area. 

Step 4: Smooth out the glue and add leaves.  If the glue isn't spread out, there will be dark areas on the lampshade when you turn on the light.

Step 5: Lay the rice paper over the leaves and lampshade.  I like to crinkle up the paper a little bit to give it texture.  Note: glue is not put on top of the leaves. 

This is what it should look like before the top and bottom paper is trimmed.

Step 6: Cut off excess rice paper on the top and bottom of the lampshade leaving a little excess.  Apply a little glue along the edge and then wrap the paper around the ring.  Don't leave too much paper on the inside of the shade because it will show when the lamp is illuminated.  In the picture above you can see the strip of tape that was removed from the bottom of the lampshade.  Most shades come with tape because it holds the hard plastic to the metal ring.  You don't have to remove the tape but I do because it gives the shade a cleaner look (in my opinion).   

Resawing/Milling Walnut Logs

A few months ago Jon found a large walnut limb that had fallen in the Derecho storm this summer.  It was a dead limb and was completely dry.  Jon was really excited to find wood on the property that was dry and bug-free!  In the second picture Jon is scraping off the bark and some rot with a draw knife.

The logs have been laying on the garage floor for months waiting to be cut into boards. The plan is to use some of this walnut wood with the aspen to make a hutch for the dining room.

Jon feeds the log into the bandsaw and I am on the receiving end making sure the log stays flush along the guide.  Walnut is a hardwood so together we must feed the log at a slow and steady pace through the blade.

The planer was used to smooth out irregularities caused by the blade and uneven thicknesses.

Paul really enjoys playing in the sawdust!

Here is the stack of finished boards that we cut from the walnut logs!  This wood is beautiful---it's dense with very few worm holes.  I'll make another post when the hutch is complete!

Keeping Fresh Eggs Throughout the Winter

It's December and my three Golden Comet chickens are still laying eggs each day.  My family manages to keep up with their rigorous laying with baking, noodle making, and omelets so we haven't put any away for a later use.  I was curious how other chicken keepers keep eggs fresh throughout the winter so I did a little research and came across these books and their tips:

Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits and Vegetables by: Mike and Nancy Bubel
The Joy of Keeping a Root Cellar by: Jennifer Megyesi
  • The idea is to keep the eggs cool and somehow seal their pores or protect them from air.
  • Never wash eggs before putting them away.  Washing removes the natural protective coating (called "Bloom") that helps to prolong their storage life.
  • If you are unsure whether an egg has gone bad and is safe to eat, put the eggs in a pot of cold water.  If they float, they should be discarded.

Here are a few methods to keeping eggs:

1. Pack them in crocks full of waterglass---a thick, slippery substance that effectively encases the egg and keeps out air.  Eggs can keep in usable condition for up to 5 months.  Make a waterglass solution by mixing a pint of sodium silicate (available at your drugstore) with nine quarts of boiled, cooled water.  Scald your crock or jar with hot water, pour in the waterglass solution and then carefully put the eggs in, always keeping a good 2 inches of waterglass above the top layer of eggs.  Keep the crock in your root cellar or cold pantry and add boiled, cooled water as needed during the winter to keep the eggs well covered.

2. In a covered container at 33-40 degrees F and 70% humidity, eggs can keep 3-4 months.

3. To freeze eggs, break them into a bowl and scramble them lightly.  To prevent the yolks from turning gummy, add 1 teaspoon of honey for each cup of eggs destined for use in desserts, or 1/2 teaspoon of salt for each cup of eggs to be used in general baking or breakfast dishes.  Pour the prepared eggs into labeled containers.  To use, thaw in the refrigerator for 24 hours and use right away.

Preparing for Maple Syrup Tapping

We are really excited to finally live in an area where we can tap maple trees for syrup!  We are doing a small operation here with maybe 2 dozen taps and we are boiling the traditional way over an open fire outside.

In the above picture I am measuring the circumference of a tree and recording it in my notebook.  I am still learning tree identification without relying on leaves so I wrapped pink surveyors tap around each tree.  The circumference tells me if the tree is large enough to tap and how many taps I can drill.

I sketched maps showing the location, size, and species of each maple tree.

We are using traditional metal buckets with lids for our small-scale operation.

I found several maple trees on the property that have large splits in the trunk.  From what I could find doing a general Google search, these splits are caused from drastic freezing and warming temperatures.  I won't be tapping these trees because I consider them wounded and/or stressed.  Perhaps they are also diseased?

We used bricks left from the previous owner to make the fire place area.  We are still working on the design but this is our first try.

My dad found this kettle at an antique store for $55.00.  It holds about 25 gallons and will be used for boiling the sap. 

To support the kettle, my Dad welded a stand for it to sit on. The stand can also be used as a grill.

We are going to need a lot of wood to burn for the sap boiling.  This is a snapshot of what the woods looked like after the Derecho storm and Hurricane Sandy.

These 4 gallon water jugs are thrown away at Jon's work because there isn't curbside recycling pickup here. These jugs will hold the sap we collect from the trees before boiling over the fire.

Resourceful Gift Giving

It's that time of year when we are looking for the perfect holiday gifts for our family and friends.  Listed below are a few guidelines I try to follow to make gift-giving meaningful and resourceful.

Give gifts of experience rather than stuff:

  • Tickets to an event such as a concert, sporting event, etc.
  • Gift Certificates for a massage, pedicure, or spa
  • Gift certificate to a local restaurant
  • Admission to the ice rink, zoo, aquarium, art museum, play or a movie.
  • Paid lessons for music, yoga, dancing, cooking classes, etc.

Thoughtful gift purchasing:
  • Durability: look at what the product is made of (plastic vs. metal vs. wood)
  • Origin: Is the item made in the USA?
  • Practicality: How many candles and snow globes does a person really need?  Give something they could use.
  • Wear: Not everything has to be purchased brand-new

Handmade Gifts (Made by you or someone else):
  • Art
  • Pottery
  • Sewing
  • Baked, canned or pickled gifts
  • Homemade Soap

Wrapping Gifts:
  • Reuse gift bags, ribbons, and bows from previous years
  • Reuse holiday boxes that are already printed with decorations and don't need wrapping paper. 
  • Put your gift in a reusable cloth bag to encourage others to use cloth bags when they go shopping.

Canning Shelves and 2012 Harvest

Considering this was our first summer at our new home and we didn't realize how different gardening here was in regards to climate and pests, we still preserved a lot after fresh eating and giving away to friends.  As always, we grew everything from seed; and this year the only produce we purchased was peaches which cost $50.00.  In the picture you see a snapshot of what I canned this year, but listed below is the more thorough list.  Obviously we need somewhere to put all of these jars so Jon built a really sturdy shelf to hold everything.  

Applesauce: 21 quarts
Apple Cider: 19 quarts
Beans: 39 quarts
Beets: 6 pints
Carrots: 30 quarts
Okra (pickled): 3 quarts, 10 pints
Okra (with Tomatoes): 6 quarts, 4 pints
Okra (for frying): 3 quarts
Peaches: 19 quarts
Peach Pie Filling: 5 pints
Pickles (Dill): 11 quarts, 41 pints
Pickles (Bread & Butter): 13 pints
Squash & Orange Jam: 7 half-pints
Pumpkin & Orange Spiced Jam: 2 pints, 7 half-pints
Tomatoes: 9 quarts (a lot went into the freezer)

Butternuts: 19
Pie Pumpkins: 22
Acorn Squash: 22
We originally wanted to use large logs from our woods for the 4 corner posts of the shelf, but we discovered termites in one log after we chiseled out the holes.  We didn't want to risk the other 3 logs being infested with termites so we looked for 4x4s at the lumberyard to only discover that only treated 4x4s were sold locally.  We certainly don't want treated lumber next to our food and in our basement so we went to plan C and put two, untreated 2x4s together for each post. 

 To cut out the holes, we used a jigsaw.

It was a good feeling when the holes lined up because there were a lot of holes and consequently a lot of error involved.

Stepping back to look at progress...

The skeleton shelf is now complete!  Measurements (in inches): 96w x 81h x 26d

Two of the shelves were made with pallets that we salvaged from a free wood pile.  This wasn't necessary, but since we have the tools, we decided to put the boards through the planer to make them smooth and the same thickness. 

We designed this structure so it can be easily disassembled.  The boards for the shelves aren't attached but they are sturdy enough that they won't slip off the support boards.

We still have a wine rack to build for last year's mead, maple syrup to tap, and future honey to extract!  These shelves will be filled soon!

Update: Within 3 years I ran out of space!  Each shelf holds about 150 jars.

Pirate Birthday Party

Being a parent of one child, I understand how fast a child grows up and how I only get to experience the milestones one time.  For instance, Paul just celebrated his 4th birthday and to make it special and memorable we made it pirate-themed!  Paul has been building pirate ships with Legos for about 6 months now and is really into pirates, treasure, and cannons.

Jon and I try to keep things simple around here and birthday parties are no exception.  It's easy to fall prey to all of the disposable decorations and fancy store-bought cakes; but in our house, we find ways to make the day memorable and fun without all the waste and extra spending.

For the treasure hunt, I made a map out of a piece of scrap curtain lining fabric.  The fabric was dyed to give it a more worn look by soaking it in a bucket of hulled walnuts.  Black tea can also give a similar effect.  With crayons, I made a map with a dotted line leading the way to the treasure; landmarks such as the house, barn, and chickens were included.  To finish the map, I burnt the edges to give it a more authentic look with jagged and curled edges.

Our birthday gift to Paul was a treasure chest.  I found the building plans in a book that a friend lent me.  The chest was filled with chocolate gold coins, party favors, and a few gifts from friends.

This treasure chest is unique because to open it, you have to pull out the handles that lock the lid onto the bottom.  There are no hinges.  I purchased the handles from a flea market.

The treasure chest was hidden behind this log along with a pirate flag.  This log has been Paul's "pirate ship" all summer.  This is where his imagination goes wild and cannons and masts materialize out of branches and bark.  We have spent hours up in the woods playing at Paul's pirate ship and having picnics. 

Paul requested a pirate ship cake for his birthday.  It was a little difficult to make but the end result was priceless. Paul helped with the cannons (chocolate-covered pretzel rods) and building the plank (it's on the other side of the cake and it was also made with pretzels).  Paul kept turning the cookie sheet around and around to look at every detail.  The masts were chopsticks with construction paper masts. 

Treat bags included homemade pirate patches, chocolate coins, and Halloween stickers.

Handmade Mummy Costume

Making Halloween costumes can be fun and very affordable.  A friend requested I make her son a mummy costume after seeing the two I made for Jon and me 2 years ago.  The mummy costume is very easy to make and utilizes fabric you probably already have in your home.  I also want to mention that I am not a seamstress.  My sewing abilities are very minimal---mainly mending and the occasional curtain here and there. This project is great for beginners because lines don't have to be straight and there isn't a complicated pattern to follow.  

All you need is a pair of pants, a long-sleeve shirt, and some strips of white cloth.  I used a pair of pants that have been patched numerous times and a button-up shirt.  It's best if the clothing is light in color but I didn't have any light-colored pants so I used what I had on hand.  In the end I couldn't tell what color the pants were underneath all of those white strips anyway.

In the past I used a crew neck shirt and a turtle neck.  What I had on-hand this time was a button-up shirt with a collar.  The buttons were removed for a later project.  To fasten the front I used Velcro.  To sew the sleeves and pant legs, I cut the seams so they lay flat for sewing and then they are sewed back together once all the strips are on. 

I have an older sewing machine that doesn't handle thick layers really well so I removed pockets, hammer holds, pocket pouches, and belt loops to reduce the bulk. 

When sewing the pants I remove the thick inner seam and...
add a strip of cloth to replace the original bulky seam so it's easier to sew closed at the end.  With all
of the overlapping white strips the layers get thick.

These pants were getting a little short for my son so I added 2 layers to the bottom.  There's not much you can do wrong with this costume...uneven lines, zig-zag cuts, frayed edges,'s supposed to look scrappy and unshaven...that's what makes this project stress-free and fun!

I like using several shades of white for a unique look.  I used two different t-shirts (stained with holes) and an old curtain.  I try to  hide the stitching by overlapping the layers (kind of like laying roof shingles).  Leave some strips dangling.

I added a hood to complete the costume by using an adult-sized t-shirt.  I traced a hood from a sweatshirt onto the t-shirt, cut it out, sewed white strips on it, and sewed it to the collar of the shirt. 

One unplanned bonus of this costume is how warm it is.  If you live where it's cool at the end of October, you won't have to worry about wearing long underwear or a coat.  It's insulated already with all of those overlapping layers!  

Jon and I go as a bride and groom mummy couple.  You can't see it in the picture, but I have on an old veil.  I still have to finish my gloves but other than that, the costume is complete.  We competed in our first Halloween costume contest this past weekend and won $1,000 cash in the largest costume contest in WV!

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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