Category Archives: energy/recycling


I took this pile of scrap wood (the old railing from the back patio)…

… and turned it into THIS: a new bench for the garden! Really!

Just to show you it’s real, here’s the bench in it’s raw form. You can still see the old paint on the side rails and stretchers. The legs were made from the posts and the rest was cut from the top and bottom railings that held the trellising. I had just enough usable material.

I haven’t done a woodworking project in a long time. It’s tremendously satisfying. Now I can’t wait to see what I can do with all the material I’m taking from Jan’s old house.



I mentioned in a previous post that I would be starting a salvage operation. Well, it has begun.
The little parsonage house was built in the late twenties or early thirties. It’s been abandoned for roughly 21 years. If the cottage had had a septic system, it might have been worthwhile fixing up. But as it is, the flush toilet drains to the creek.

It’s a remarkably sturdy house despite the neglect. Sturdy wood floors despite some roof leakage. The ceiling in the bathroom has collapsed, but there’s nothing worth salvaging in there. The sun porch at the back has collapsed, floor and ceiling, but I might be able to save some windows. Inside, the walls are wooden, covered with drywall. The exterior was also wooden clapboard, covered with aluminum siding. All the trim boards are solid wood. The baseboards are 8 inches wide. The doors are all solid wood. The kitchen sink is cast iron.

Along with the house are several outbuildings. A little garage, with the same siding as the house which is difficult to remove. The boards are 4 inches wide but they’re grooved down the middle making them look like 2 inch wide overlapping boards. They’re very vulnerable to splitting and I couldn’t use them for anything else but siding. I’ll probably take trim boards and the doors.

The barn wood siding is more useful, and I’ll be removing all of it. I was hoping the hay loft flooring would be salvageable but I think they’re rotten. They were much too light when I lifted them. I might try to salvage some of the metal roofing, if I can do it safely.

The little coop or garden shed doesn’t have a lot to salvage either. It has the same siding as the house and garage. But I might salvage some of the support boards and the door.

The last outbuilding is another barn, squeezed into collapse by a growing tree. Those boards are under a lot of tension. I may not mess with any of it.

The first load wasn’t big. But I spent a lot of time exploring and testing. I had taken out quite a few trim boards when the elastic on my mask broke. Believe me, you don’t want to do any salvage work in an old house without a mask, especially overhead boards.

I did snag one of the doors to experiment with. I wanted to make sure I could get the hardware off of it, and to see if there was some nice wood under the layers of moldy crackled paint. There are three coats of paint on the doors plus a varnish and a stain, but the wood is pretty underneath and nicely distressed. I only need a couple of doors for my projects, but I’ll take all the doors. What I don’t use as doors can be cut down into beautiful antique boards for possible furniture making.

Saving energy!

We’ve just recently had an electricity monitor installed in our electrical box. It’s a wonderful little monitor, called a TED. Hopefully Peter will tell you more soon about what it can do. In the meantime, I’ve been enjoying figuring out how much energy we’ve been saving now that the TED can tell me how much energy our oven uses.

I’ve talked about my Sunoven before. I use it more often in the summer when full sun is more consistent, but it can certainly be used in winter on clear days as well. It’s a wonderful moist heat as you can see by the condensation on the glass. You can’t burn anything in a solar oven.

I spent an afternoon, baking up a storm, making muffins (cranberry banana) and energy bars. Baking time in the oven would have been one hour using somewhere between one and five kWh, depending on the heating element cycling, there would also be additional energy used to cool the house by a degree or so, from the heat added to the air, another 1.5 kWh for a few minutes. Instead, I used no watts, even though baking time was twice as long. I love that!

Nothing wasted, a lot gained

You may recall that our back patio had a trellised wooden railing around it, as seen in this photo taken at the back of the house.

Well, no more! The railing was deteriorating rather quickly after many years of neglect and the posts were rotting in the soil. So, I removed it. With the railing gone it affords a much better view of the yard from either the patio or the kitchen table. Now we can see the birds foraging along the edge. (This photo was taken before we installed the rain barrel.)

But I was left with a pile of debris, and it goes against my grain to send to the landfill. So in my never ending quest to reduce, reuse and recycle, I took the railing apart piece by piece, saving any good screws and stacked all the salvaged material in separate piles. The trellising will be reused as trellising, probably as a screen for the pipe stack on the east side of the house. With careful cutting, I was able to salvage just enough of the lumber for a lovely garden bench (I’ll post a picture of it as I progress). In the end I was left with just a small pile of scraps, which we’ll probably burn sometime when we’ve built our outdoor fire pit. Nothing wasted, and we gained a better view, a garden bench, trellising for plants, and some firewood.