The Repurposed Homestead
Using What You Have To Build The Life You Want
If you follow any type of homesteading or gardening content on social media, you’ve probably heard the following trending audio…
“If you think your lady’s expensive ’cause she likes shoes and clothes you better pray she never finds gardening or farm animals.”
In my experience, homesteading newbies are under the impression that the ability to collect your own eggs and tomatoes from the garden each day means you will save yourself a ton of money. While this may be true in some areas, this is largely a misrepresentation of the truth.
By the time you factor in dirt, fertilizer, straw, pest repellants, feed, fencing, and back breaking work, those “free” tomatoes don’t seem worth the eighty nine cents you may have saved yourself. However, a homesteader’s goal is not typically to save money. A true homesteader’s goal is to grow healthier food while becoming more self sufficient. Plus, it’s incredibly rewarding!
The homesteading process can rapidly become very expensive and overwhelming. Fortunately, there are ways to repurpose things you already have to ease the financial burden. There are also ways to find salvaged materials that you might not already have in your garage. In this post, you’ll get sneak peek into the repurposed projects we have going for Back Acres. Let’s get started!
Project #1: Umbrella Greenhouses
Cost to me: FREE
The first thing I want everyone to remember, is that your repurposed projects aren’t going to look the same as anyone else’s. You will not always have the same materials available or be able to find them for free. These projects are meant to inspire your own, not be an exact guide.
For example, I am a certified wedding and event planner. I have collected random items over the years that have turned out to be useful, such as these umbrellas. Not everyone will have a dozen clear umbrellas laying around to turn into mini greenhouses. For me, chopping off the handle and popping them over my plants was a great solution! Enhanced growth, better water retention, natural pest deterrent, and free for me…major win! What do you have laying around that work the same way? Get creative…
Project #2: Raised Garden Pallet Beds
Cost to me: FREE
Pallets, pallets everywhere! It’s hard to deny the potential of a pallet in decent condition. While I’m not a big advocate for projects that include breaking pallets down (if you know, you know…whew!), but I can get behind something that’s as easy as a sand and stain.
We were lucky enough to discover these beautiful behemoths in a local factory’s “free” pile. These monster pallets are in great shape and perfect to repurpose into garden beds. Lay them on the ground, fill them with dirt, and plant away! I plan on making them look a little nicer with a fresh coat of wood sealing stain that I purchased for another project.
I’m a repeat “free” pile customer of our local company and have amassed quite the collection of repurposed treasures. Copper wire spools, tires, lumbar, and these beautiful pallets. However, if you’re not fortunate enough to have a local company with a marked “free” pile, that’s ok. Many companies will gladly let you sift through their junk materials with just a quick phone call. If not, there’s always dumpster diving, construction/remodel sites, or Facebook marketplace. You’d be amazed at the random things you can find!
Project #3: Rhonda The Garden Bench
Cost to me: $50
Before you get freaked out that I named my garden bench Rhonda, let me give you a little backstory. Many, many, many back breaking hours went into bringing this garden bench to life. This is the first piece of furniture I have ever built completely by myself and it was not an easy task.
By the time she was complete, she felt like a loved member of the family. This was further confirmed when my 13 year old daughter laid verbal claim to her after my future death (yep…that happened). Though I plan on outliving Rhonda, it’s sweet that she’s become a valued heirloom.
To make a sweet story even better, Rhonda was built from wood collected from the aforementioned local “free” pile and screws I had in the tool chest. The only cost to me was the black tub ($8), wood putty ($12, optional), and stain ($30, optional).
We added in a bonus repurposed item, a plastic bowl and strainer set, that we had purchased for my daughter’s previous school project. These will come in handy when it’s time to pot new plants or harvest produce from the garden. The dirt mess can be washed away outside, without using my nice bowls, before coming into the house. Win, win!
Project #4: The Water Mobile
Cost to me: $60
While not quite as cool as the Batmobile, this make shift portable water contraption turned out to be a serious lifesaver! If you’ve been following MMB on Facebook, then you probably know that my husband and I recently planted 125 saplings on the land that will be our homestead. If you don’t, you should probably go do that…WINK!
Several days following our mass planting spree, the weather was wet and dreary. This was great news for our new tree babies, but our excitement quickly faded to dread. The following two weeks were HOT and DRY…leaving our poor saplings at the mercy of the sun. With no water currently on our property, we had to find a way to give all 125 of them a drink or else they were going to die. Cue the creativity!
I took two 55 gallon drums that a friend gave me from their factory, cut the tops off, and power washed them out several times (*Side note* -The barrels that we got were not previously used for toxic chemicals, so don’t panic. The chemicals inside had an equivalent toxin rating to shampoo and dish soap. Though I still wouldn’t use these as drinking water containers, or to water my vegetable garden, these were perfect for transporting water for our saplings). After washing them out, we put them on our utility trailer and filled them up.
In order to get the water flowing from the barrels through the hose, I purchased a submersible water pump ($60) and hooked it up to our generator. Another bonus repurposed item was a plastic spool we received from the same place we got the blue barrels. This spool acted as a fantastic make shift hose reel on our trailer. This made the repeated reeling and unreeling easier as well as prevented kinks in the line (since our pump was not powerful enough to undo them itself).
Did It Work?
In every way but transportation. Strapping down two jiggly barrels with lids that don’t screw on was a huge challenge. We made several stops along the 15 minute trip to adjust the straps. Even then, we still watched the lids go airborne at one point when we popped the top of a big hill. Fortunately, we were in a great area with friendly folk who helped us hunt down the missing lids down (story for another time…lol). Though the transportation method is still a work in progress, our trees got a drink and the pump/generator method worked like a charm! We will definitely be using the water mobile again soon.
Repurposed projects #5 and #6 are already on the books. Number five is to refinish a heavy duty bench for extra garden seating on our acreage. I found this bench for $50 at a garage sale and it has a sweet story. It was actually made out of repurposed wagon wheels, horseshoes, and wood by an older couple who can no longer move it around. They hated to see it go, but were happy it was going to a good home. I can’t wait to see it finished!
Number six will be the transformation of my kids’ old playhouse into our outdoor quail aviary in preparation for next spring. In order to do this, we will need to purchase roles of hardware cloth, solar lights, and habitat materials. This can get kind of pricey, so I’ve been watching for sales or other repurposed materials that will work the same.
Though the process of starting a homestead can seem like an impossible feat, it’s really just one problem to solve at a time. Even while writing this post, I’m amazed at how much we’ve already achieved this year. Does it feel like it? Not really…but that is just further proof that little steps add up to big progress. Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed by everything all at once!
If you’re looking to boost your project list with repurposed items, start asking around and researching your local area. You’ll be amazed at the vast amount of treasures you can find for little to no money. With a little bit of work and a whole lot of creativity, you’ll be well on your way to making your dreams come true!
Are you interested in taking on the repurposed challenge? MMB wants to hear all about it!
Head over to the MMB Contact Us page now to tell your story!