Making an Inexpensive Bird Bath

If you’ve been following my blog for the past few months I’m sure you know how much I love to save a dime by making things myself rather than buying them. This is the story of my $1.25 bird bath.

I had a bird bath bowl that I didn’t much like. It was shaped like a flower and had petals that seemed to collect a red mold or fungus that tainted the water. All the bleaching and cleaning I did didn’t seem to help rid it of this invader, so I finally threw it out.

I needed a replacement bowl, but found it difficult to find something that would fit my 15 inch wide bird bath stand and was shallow enough to be a reasonable bath.

I found my solution at a thrift shop. I bought the shade from a ceiling lamp fixture for $1.00 and a glass tealight holder for 25 cents.

The light shade was just over 15 inches, so it fit the bath stand perfectly. The tealight holder had long protrusions which I thought would make ideal perches. I glued the two together using a product called Plumbing Goop, which not only sealed the two but is waterproof and winterproof.

I had collected some carefully screened pebbles from a beach in Manitoba, and I used these to line the bottom of the bird bath in order to give the birds a spot to stand if they chose to take a dip.

Overall, I think it turned out kind of cute, and at $1.25 I certainly didn’t break the bank.

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Pretty Flowers at Stoney Point Beach: June 16, 2010

Chive Blossom Vinegar

Chives blossom all summer long, but the freshest and most ample blossoms are in spring. Pick blossoms when they are young to get the best flavour.

Chive Blossom Vinegar

2 cups chive blossoms

2 cups white wine vinegar

6 cloves garlic

Wash chive blossoms and pat dry. Soak in vinegar for two weeks, then strain. Pour the vinegar into a decorative bottle and add fresh garlic cloves. Seal with cork and wax.

Chives can also be used for a punch of colour in a fresh salad; simply add the petals of  several blossoms. Or, if you’re more adventurous, try this recipe:

Chive Blossom Dressing

1/2 cup low-fat mayo (or yogurt/mayo)

1 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp chopped chives

1+ clove pressed garlic

2 tbsp lemon juice

1 tbsp cilantro (optional)

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper

1/8 tsp salt

Petals of 3-4 chive blossoms (as garnish)

Mix the ingredients and use on your favourite salad. Garnish the salad with chive blossoms before serving.

This also makes a great veggie dip or a replacement for plain mayo in any sandwich.

Growing Potatoes Above Ground

It’s not difficult to grow potatoes. In fact, they are one of the least demanding crops in my garden, requiring only a bit of dusting with insecticide when the first potato beetle appears. I grow them next to my driveway in the back lane and I barely think about them all summer. In the fall I dig up the hills (ok, I admit I only hill them once or twice) and collect potatoes as I need them.

In my never ending quest to find a way to improve production, I’m intrigued by the concept of growing potatoes above ground. Traditionally it’s been done with the use of discarded tires and straw (not terribly attractive, even in the back lane), but as far as I can see it could be done with just about any means that keeps the planter together.

The concept is that you plant the potato so that it develops roots in the soil as usual. Then, as the leaves appear you add straw to cover them, forcing them to grow taller. Each time you add straw you add another tire to hold the whole package together. When the season ends, you may have four or five tires piled up and a whole lot of straw to get rid of.

The tubers (or new potatoes) grow from the potato stalk, so they end up not in the dirt but in the straw. When it comes time to harvest, you simply remove the tires and the potatoes roll into your waiting basket. Clean and simple.

I’ve never actually tried it, but I have seen them and spoken to gardeners who’ve had some success.

I decided that this was the year to experiment with my own potato planter, but I had to build something better than a nasty pile of discarded tires.

My “All Time Best (Experimental) Potato Planter” is made from the floor of an old tent. I basically sewed a tube about four feet tall and cinched in the bottom leaving enough of a hole for moisture to escape. I put in a zipper so that I could start with the container being low to the ground and as I added more straw I could zip it up to make it taller.

I decided that I would use both oak leaves and straw to fill the planter; I just happened to have a bunch of oak leaves that I had collected last fall. Oak leaves should work well, as they are notoriously slow to breakdown in the compost pile.

As an experiment, I decided that I would also make another potato frame using chicken wire. Obviously the chicken wire planter is easier to make, but is it as good?

Finally, since I had a couple of extra seed potatoes, I tossed them in the ground and covered them up in the traditional way. These I will hill as frequently as I attend to the other potatoes, and we’ll see which of them is most prolific. Check back for an update in the fall!

Pretty Things in My Garden: June 2, 2010

It’s June and I get to finally enjoy some of the beautiful flowers in my yard. In three weeks time the days will begin to get shorter again.