Monday, July 25, 2011

Recycled Cabinet - Mini Glasshouse

Remove walls and replace with glass or perspex and you've got a mini glasshouse or seed incubator. Nice one!

Recycled Gutters - Gardens

Recycled Teaspoons 2 - Coat Hooks

How To Make Your Own $35 Straw Mattress - from

Sourced from:

(This lovely DIY how-to was written by's blog author's galfriend April, who recently made a fantastic straw mattress for the cob bed. Not only is it entirely natural, it’s pretty super to sleep on, too. Read ahead!)
Living in a hand-built home can often mean making unique and non-conventional furniture choices. I recently transitioned from a tent to a cob house and ran into the dilemma of what to do about a bed. My criteria was something natural and sustainable, economical, readily available, quick and easy to assemble, and comfortable. Is that too much to ask? I decided to do some research first.

Why not to buy a conventional mattress

I looked at some conventional mattresses. What the heck is in those things, I asked. These mattresses are composed of metal coils, often plastic coated, encased in fabric and padding. As a result of their materials and manufacturing, they also contain Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), formaldehyde, and chemical fire retardants that will off-gas over time. And, with a price tag of over $350 for a full size mattress, this option isn’t particularly economical. However, there is such a thing as eco-friendly and organic mattresses. These usually contain organic cotton or wool, non-toxic fire retardants, natural latex rubber, and recycled metal springs. But with an even heftier price tag of around $1000 for a full size mattress, this wasn’t really an option for me at all.

Traditional mattress materials

What about making my own mattress? People have been making their own beds for thousands of years. The ancient Romans used straw, an agricultural by-product, to make their mattresses. Another by-product, rice chaff (the husks separated from the edible grains), is used as mattress filler in Asia and oat chaff was traditional in Scotland. At first, making my own mattress sounded too ambitious since I’ve got a minimal amount of sewing experience, but straw is natural, locally available, and at $2.00 – $4.00 per bale, it was worth a try. If it didn’t work out, disposing of my straw mattress would be as simple as reusing the fabric for another purpose, and dumping the straw in the garden for compost. (Most conventional mattresses go to a landfill at the end of their lives.)

Making a tick

I needed to make a simple sack, traditionally called a tick, to serve as the mattress cover. A sturdy cotton fabric with vertical blue stripes, called ticking, is still used for mattresses today. I chose heavy fabric woven from 100% cotton, or duck, because it appeared to be more sturdy and durable for my purposes.
My mattress would rest on a cob platform pressed against a curved wall along one side. Because of its custom shape, my first step was to lay down a sheet of paper (I used sheets of newspaper taped together) to trace a template for the mattress shape. For someone making a conventional-sized mattress, this step is as easy as finding dimensions for the appropriate size bed frame (twin, full, queen, or king).
Designing a template

Next, I laid the paper template on my fabric and added an inch to each side (2 inches added to the total width, 2 inches to the total length). I cut out the top and bottom panels at the same time to eliminate any shape inconsistencies. Mattress thickness can be based on personal preference. I chose to make the side panels for my mattress 9 inches wide (7 inches when finished) based on the height of the bed platform. I cut out rectangular side panels from the leftover scraps of my large panels and sewed them into one strip long enough to go around the perimeter of the two long sides and one short side of my large panels. (The other short side is where the button closure goes for stuffing straw – more on that later.)

Next, I pinned and pinned and pinned. Don’t underestimate this step. It takes a lot of patience, but the attention to detail mattress-pinsat this point will make sewing much easier later. I took the edges of each panel (about ½ inch) and folded them over twice before pinning to reinforce the seam and make a finished edge on both sides of the fabric. This ensures that your fabric won’t unravel and should make stuffing much easier. You can attach panels to each other by folding with the edges sandwiched together. Make sure to insert pins perpendicular to the direction the thread will be sewn (if using a machine) so the needle glides easily over the pins. This fabric is heavy and unwieldy so pinning one side at a time makes it easier to push through a standard-size sewing machine. Also, make sure to use a heavy-duty needle, made for canvas or jeans, and thick thread.

The panel for the button closure was a little trickier. I wanted the closure to button in the center of the panel rather than at the seam to help put less stress on the edges of the mattress. And they need to be strong enough to take daily abuse. So, I cut out two panels to make up the closure side (one 6 inch wide panel and one 5 ½ inch wide panel) and finished one long side of each panel (where the buttons and button holes would be sewn). After over-lapping the finished edges (about ½ inch), the panel should be 9 inches wide (like the other sides) and easy to sew in place. After sewing everything up, I turned it inside out and stuffed the mattress!

Stuffing the mattress

Stuffing is pretty self-explanatory. Make sure to break up the straw bales thoroughly and stuff evenly. Stuff more tightly for a firm mattress without lumps. You can use a stick or rake to help push straw into corners, or climb into the tick yourself to get the straw packed especially well.

The mattress looked a little absurd once I got on the bed because it was so huge, but the straw eventually settles to the intended thickness after a couple weeks of use. After about four  to six months, the straw will be replaced. This is because the straw will become quite compact after much use.
In total, I paid $29.00 for fabric and thread, and $6.00 for 3 bales of straw. All told, it took me about a week and $35 to make my own comfy straw mattress!

For more information, visit - what a wonderful site!

Spent Corn Stalks for New Pea Plant Supports

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Build a Rocket Stove - Step-By-Step - UPDATED

The best rocket stove design just got better! Airflow was an issue with the original #10 can rocket stove design. I cut some two inch wide "flaps" and pushed them over the top of the rocket stove. This helps keep the top on and allows great airflow. Now the rocket stove is really rockin'.

Recycled Bread Tags

Recycled Toilet Paper Rolls as Seed Starters

Build A Rocket Stove - Step-By-Step

Build a Rocket Stove Step-by-Step. Building a rocket stove is quick and easy. You will need one #10 can and four small cans (soup, corn, beans, etc.). Seeing how to build a rocket stove is much easier then explaining the process in writing. I recommend watching the video and commenting if you have any questions. This is a great alternative heat source and cooking option for camping, emergency preparedness and to cook your food storage on. If you can cook it on a stove you can cook it on a rocket stove.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Recycled Rake - A Rack!

If you're fresh out of pearls, perhaps try to imagine other things hanging, like your hand tools, etc.!

Eggshell Seed Starters

Perhaps use a pin to make a couple of drain holes on the bottom of the shells.

The Permanent Garden: Restore Your Yard, Sustain Your Life!

The title says it all folks! Enjoy.

How to Grow Figs from Cuttings

A really calming video on how to grow figs from cuttings. Other distractions include some lovely scenery and Spring lambs!

Pond Aquaponics Charles Bacon of Ecolicious is an aquaponics builder of pond based systems. Here we look at a couple of his installations as he explains the reason he likes to build a food production system that looks like a natural pond.

Geoff Lawton's Urban Permaculture (Trailer)

from Permaculture Guru Geoff Lawton - How exciting!! Geoff Lawton's Urban Permaculture DVD Trailer

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Recycled Teaspoons

Making a Shiitake Mushroom Log from Milkwood Permaculture

This terrific post is sourced from - one of my favourite sites. Be sure to check their site out (a special thanks from Permaculture Ideas for all your hard work - you're an inspiration!)

Shiitake mushrooms are the yummiest variety, in my opinion. They’re also the most expensive in the shops, and virtually impossible to find in an organic variety (at least where we live). Solution: grow your own.
You’ll be happy to hear that making your own shiitake mushroom log turns out to be very easy. It would make a great holiday project for any family, or a great skill-share workshop in your community. Here’s how you do it.

How to get rich quick by growing shiitake mushrooms. Or you could just eat them instead. Much better.

We made our shiitake logs as part of a workshop we ran in Sydney recently with Will Borowski, mushroom whisperer.

Making a shiitake log: materials

  • one freshly cut log (ideally 100-150mm in diameter)
  • shiitake spawn (plug or sawdust)
  • hand drill
  • beeswax (organic, if you can)
  • paintbrush
  • a mallet – preferably with a rubber head
  • heat source and saucepan

Making a shiitake mushroom log: method

Our freshly-cut eucalypt logs, ready for action. Photo by Cathy x

The log: a freshly cut log is best, as this means other fungus haven’t yet had a chance to colonize it (and less competition means more shiitake mushrooms for you). ‘Fresh’ means cut in the last 72 hours or so. Apparently 100-150mm diameter is ideal, length preferably no less than 60 – 75cm.
You can use a variety of woods. We used eucalypt, and we de-barked them as they had thick, woody bark. If you log has thin bark, you wouldn’t need to do this.
The holes: we drilled each log with 20 holes, evenly spaced around the log, width 8.5mm if you’re using standard plug spawn – the diameter of the dowel plugs increases from swelling in the moist spawn environment.
If you’re using sawdust spawn, this might be different. Will Borowski sells a small hand tool that injects a small chunk of sawdust spawn, for example, snugly into 12mm holes.

The shiitake plug spawn. Photo by Cathy x

The spawn: The basic idea here is to fill the holes in the log with shiitake spawn (mycelium). Plug spawn (shiitake spawn that has colonized a wooden plug) is one way of doing this. Colonizing sawdust with shiitake spawn, and putting that in the holes, is another way. We used plug spawn, which Will Borowski supplied.

Tapping the plug spawn into the holes we drilled. Photo by Cathy x

Inoculating the log: This was the fun part. You take a spawn plug and tap it into the hole. Ta da! One innoculated log. Repeat until you run out of holes.

Sealing each end of the log with melted beeswax

Painting beeswax onto the holes, with plug spawn inserted, to seal them. Photo by Cathy x

Sealing the log: this step is to ensure that you actually get a harvest of shiitakes, and not some other crazy fungi. To ensure that other fungi spores, which are always floating around in the air, don’t take over your carefully prepapred log and out-compete your shiitake spawn, you need to seal all open surfaces on the log.
The best way to seal the log is with beeswax, as it’s the most natural substance for the job. The mushrooms absorb whatever they come into contact with, so obviously you don’t want to use petroleum or artificially based waxes or sealants on your food.
In a perfect world you would use organic beeswax, as beeswax is a bio-accumulator for whatever toxins the bees have encountered (and most conventionally-managed bees encounter quite a bit, both in and out of the hive). If you can’t, just go with whatever beeswax you can get. It’s still the best option for this job.
So melt down some beeswax in a saucepan, and apply some anywhere the log has been penetrated. Don’t forget to seal each end of the log where it’s been cut, as well as each hole.
The knock-on effect: just before you site your log, give it a good bump and a whack. This stimulates the mycelium to proceed into a state which will result in a later ‘flush’ (blooming of mushrooms).
Which makes sense, when you think about it. This kind of mushroom grows on dead wood. Intrinsic to that wood becoming dead is it’s falling (a branch off a tree, or a trunk falling to the ground). In turn, this great big thump activates the mycelium. So you can simulate this by giving your log a thumping. Pretty cool, eh?
Siting your log: hurrah! Your log is now prepared. Now for the waiting bit. Take your log and put it somewhere with good airflow, preferably in semi-shade. Keeping it moist is good, but apparently the shiitake mushrooms will fruit even if the log is not constantly moist, it will just take longer. If you have a tree, put your log up in the branches, or close to the tree somehow. Make sure you keep it out of contact with the ground.
And in the space of 6-12 months, your log should look something like this:
The final product, hopefully. Photo by Mushroom gourmet.

Harvest: your log should yield 5-6 ‘flushes’ or harvests following its first. Enjoy.


Shiitake spawn suppliers:

  • Forest Fungi – Will Borowski’s site, supplies spawn in various types
  • Otway forest group – suppliers of shiitake plug / dowel spawn
  • – supplies plug spawn and other fancy stuff
  • Fungi Perfecti - Paul Stamet’s drool-worthy fungi enterprise (sadly doesn’t post to Australia)

Beeswax suppliers:

Many thanks to Will Bowowski for his enthusiasm and for teaching us all how to do it, Trev Bamford for the documentation and Cathy X for her photos. Big thanks to Adam Kennedy for coordinating this workshop for us. Photo credit for first image in post: Will Borowski. is planning to run more mushroom workshops with Will over this spring/summer (August - January), so if you’d like to be notified about them, join their mailing list here!

Pot Plant Trellis

Planted Recycled Pallet

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Recycled Candelabra

Recycled Candelabra

Cucumber Trellis Lettuce Shelter

When the Summer sun is too much for the lettuces to bear.

An Idea Worth Sharing

Remember - Permaculture isn't just about gardening. Make a thoughtful observation about the things around you to avoid thoughtless labour.

Organic, Bio-degradeable Seed Starter Pot

How to make a seed starter planter pot out of newspaper.

Permaculture Goat Shed

Building a Permaculture Goat Shed that also cycles nutrients? Huh? What was that? A lesson in good Permaculture design and sustainable living by Elisabeth Fekonia.

Hand Tools

They're dying out as people around the world modernise with mechanical machines - but lets have another look at their usefulness.
More info:

Compost Wheelie Bin Hot Water

Sourced from

Here’s a great tip given by a member of the Aquaponics Made Easy Forum on cheap easy to build hot water system using compost.
The original question posted to the forum was how to heat a fish tank over winter without any extra energy costs. A hard thing to do. Thermal Mass heating was one answer but a crafty member posted a very interesting solution and swears that it works a treat. We’ve illustrated his simple design.
So simple you will think “Aha! Why didn’t I think of that?”
Daryl from Windsor in NSW came up with an innovative solution using two ordinary wheelie bins that are filled with compost and a wound central pipe arrangement to turn cold water hot very quickly. How does it work?
“What I have made is a compost heater, inside a wheelie bin with 20 mm poly pipe coiled around
the inside wall of a pipe – about 8 metres in each bin.” he says.
Compost can reach a core temperature of 70 degrees Centigrade. Conventional Hot Water systems are thermostatically set to heat the water to around 65 – 70 degrees centigrade. So at it’s peak this system will create very hot water for free.

“Then I load the first wheelie bin with grass clippings and horse manure after two weeks load the second
wheelie bin with the same stuff. After four weeks I empty and reload the first bin. You can leave the system running longer but the main heat production is in the first four weeks.” says Daryl.
Sourcing a wheelie bin in the city is quite easy. The main ingredients are Nitrogen and Carbon.
Any green leafy material like fresh grass clippings is suitable as a nitrogen source.
When mixed with an alternating layer of carbon such as dry leaves, shredded newspapers or cardboard the end result is ignited by micro organisms to create compost.
Make sure the mixture is well watered as a dry mix will not work so well.
But harnessing the heat given off in the core of the wheelie bin is where this idea really shines.
The central vertical pipe could also benefit with a number of large size holes drilled into it to assist oxygenation of the compost heap core without turning the heap over as is the case with most conventional compost systems.
Daryl says you can enjoy quite a number of free hot showers before the system will eventually cool down and advocates a rich grass mixture.
“If the grass is packed in tight it should hit peak temp in about a week and hold for about 3 weeks then start tapering off.”
“Its best if you can have a second bin started and just swap from one to the other, you can use other stuff in the bin like a normal compost heap but because the grass has so much nitrogen in it it’s start up time is much faster.”
“A few years ago I helped build a large compost heap that had about 300 meters of 25mm rural pipe going through it.”
“After 4 weeks this system was providing enough hot water for 35 people to wash up and shower with.”
“I was there for 3 months and we kept adding compost onto the heap and it worked the whole time I was there, eventually you would have to dig out the pipe, use the compost, and start all over again. That’s why I used the wheelie bins” said Daryl.
The end result is an endless supply of rich garden compost and lots of free hot water!
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