Make Do With What You’ve Got CHALLENGE

Happy Tuesday, everybody!

I continually go back to your wonderful comments on making your own daily necessities at home. What great ideas!

Today I want to propose a challenge in the same direction with a little twist…what is your favorite way to make do with what you’ve already got? Is there something you up-cycle, re-purpose, or substitute that turns out fantastic?

Two of my personal favorites are…cutting pictures out of magazines to make greeting cards:

…and making homemade ricotta/cottage cheese out of slightly old milk:

And let’s make this fun! I will pick my favorite comment (based on most creative) and send you a prize in the mail. Winner will be announced in my post next Tuesday…let the comments roll!

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About Brie Aronson

Brie Aronson came to Polyface from southern California. During college, she was diagnosed with food allergies and had to begin asking about the source of every single thing she put in her mouth. This led to an interest in all things food and she sought out a way to learn how it can be produced ethically and sustainably. Her desire is to help people shift their focus from counting calories, being intimidated by their kitchens, and being disconnected from the land to one that experiences the life-giving enjoyment of food. Having completed the internship in summer 2010, she now assists with the buying clubs and sales building, leads school tours of the farm, and will be the summer 2012 farm cook.

30 Responses to Make Do With What You’ve Got CHALLENGE

  1. Sandy says:

    This Spring I turned the kids old swing set into a chicken coop! By far my best repurpose yet! I also had an old craft fair EZ up canopy that had been through the war. That has been turned into the giant chicken big top that can be moved around the yard.
    The place is starting to look like Green Acres and I am feeling very Ava Gabor-ish. 🙂
    I posted pix on my blog..

  2. Sally Smith says:

    I have recycled so many things. Broken ceramic dishes are pieces of mosaic on a table or bottle. Broken bricks are too. Leftover pieces of fabric are more than quilts. They are pot holders, Christmas decorations (angels, bells, etc.), styrofoam peanuts strung together are great garlands for a Christmas Tree.
    Plastic 2L soda pop bottles are wonderful planters or molds for things that go around the garden. You pour your concrete mix into the bottle. When it sets but is not too hard, you can cut off the plastic and decorate around it if you like. Each one becomes like a piece of edging around a garden spot.
    But, my favorite is when I have a styrofoam cooler that has a leak. Depending on its condition, it is a homemade incubator, or a wonderful planter that you put a bigger hole in the bottom for drainage. The tiny pieces of foam that flake off when making the hole (or holes)can become fiber for planting medium.

  3. I agree here, make your own and have wholesome genuine fun doing it with your family.

    This is definitely a challenge from today’s world. Especially since much of my blog recently has exposed the horrible flaws of industrial science-based world Joel always hits on. This failed Society is all around us. I need a possitve break here and you gave it back to me.


  4. Lyndsey says:

    We had to replace our refrigerator a couple years ago & moved the new one to a different wall (because the existing spot only fit a tiny 50’s era fridge). We shopped all last summer for some kind of cupboard or pie safe to fit that hole. Nothing was the right size. I suddenly got a flash of genious. An antique chest of drawers my grandmother gave me was sitting in the back of my closet unused. Perfet dimensions for the hole. I picked out a beautiful chunk of leftover countertop at a store and my husband attached it to my dresser top. It sits nearly flush with my existing counter. The drawers are in rough shape, but I filled them with all my kitchen appliance instruction manuals, plastic containers, and other things not used often. My new counters pace? Now my stand mixer and food processor have a home actually in the kitchen where they are always ready to use!

  5. I re-purposed old jeans and made a quilt. 🙂 (don’t put me down for the win though, k?)

    • Shannon Thompson says:

      I’ve been collecting/saving my husbands old jeans for this very thing!!! I love the weight of jean quilts =o)

  6. Kelly says:

    My next-door neighbor is a deer processor, so he is continually replacing chest freezers when they burn out. So, we put any he wants to get rid-of behind the greenhouse and fill them with my bags of chicken feed. It keeps the rain off of them and no mice!

  7. Kait Palmer says:

    This may sound silly but we keep reusing the same desk I bought right out of college. I’ve moved seven times with it, each time thinking I might get rid of it because I don’t know where it will go. Every move I find a good use for it. It’s been a desk, a sewing table, TV stand, entry table, changing table, a table over laundry hampers, and now it’s back to a desk. Glad I haven’t gotten rid of it yet!

  8. Andi says:

    My husband is a pro at repurposing. He’s taken old irrigation pipe and turned it into a set of corrals and used some leftovers to make a frame for a tire swing for the girls. He also thought to save a old sink out of the house that was falling down on the old homestead not knowing why. Four years later, he turned it into a work station for when we process chickens. =)

  9. Amy G says:

    This is fun!!! I constantly reuse glass jars for my ferments. I have a gallon pickle jar with kombucha in it, a glass cookie jar holds some sauerkraut, half gallon maraschino cherry jars hold my water and milk kefirs, and quart-ish jars hold ginger carrots.

    Like a previous poster, we have an old chest freezer that holds our chicken grain.

    I use a lot of white vinegar in our laundry. So, I cut the bottoms off of the jugs, rinse them out well, and have some nice plant protectors/mini-greenhouses. That is probably my favorite, though I’m not using them right now since it’s hot summer.

  10. Nita says:

    I’m in between cabbage harvests right now and getting low on sauerkraut – but my bok choy and lettuce is going crazy, so I am fermenting those greens Japanese style. Delicious and a good way to add something new to our list of ferments and give a break from regular kraut 🙂

  11. jordan ayers says:

    In my journey to become more self reliant and overall sustainable with my house hold I began using cloth diapers when my first child was about 2 months old. The waterproof fabric and my sewing mistakes could get really expensive, so at this house we save torn t-shirts even old dish cloths to become diaper inserts.

  12. Persis Chase says:

    Our best “recycle/repurpose” so far has been the 1963 Caveman travel trailer that some friends gave us when they moved. It needed a bunch of TLC, and we needed a new chicken coop as we tripled our flock size. It isn’t very pretty, but the girls (hens) LOVE it! And it is mobile, so we can move it to different areas of our property as needed. We stripped the inside, put hardware cloth over the windows, lined it with plastic sheeting, put in some nest boxes and roosts and have a predator proof, rainproof chicken coop with great storage for their food. The only thing we had to buy was the plastic sheeting! Everything else was recycled, the lumber for roosts & boxes came from an old deck that a friend dismantled and gave us. This summer my daughter and I are going to paint the outside and make it pretty!

  13. Leilani says:

    Repurposing is an old art in much need of more use…….

    The ladder style frame from an old metal gazebo shaped screened room that was damaged in a storm became trellis’ in my garden for peas and beans etc.

    I try to never trow out gatorade and soda bottles. The two liter bottles I lop the bottoms off, use a hole punch to put holes in the sides and twine and make hanging planters out of them. The smaller bottles get their tops lopped off and holes in the bottoms for starter planters for seeds (and last week I came across a whole stack of rigid plastic soda bottle racks that are perfect for putting these grow out planters in).

    Gallon vinegar bottles become many things, one is hanging from the clothesline now with clothes pins in it (cut a slit in the handle and round whole opposite near the top big enough to stick your hand in.

    Large glass jars always get saved for dry storage

    Cracked or wholly tubs and pails become small herb planters. A rusted out metal garbage pail is my kitchen back door composter.

    There is a truck topper in the grow out piglet pen as a house ( I know not very imaginative but darn it works well)

    Small batches of wee chicks go in a large round defunct garden tub shell. It gives them plenty of room and is easy to clean.

    I made my chicken butchering cone out of two vinegar jugs….. cut the neck just above the cap and the bottom out of one and cut the bottom and top out of the other so it was a sleeve, fit the two together and riveted them.

    We love old pallets and repurpose them into all types of things both whole and disassembled. The most recent are planter beds. You staple weed cloth to the back then fill them with soil. You can use them flat or standing on end. Here are some great ideas. Just by searching pallet planter

    We never throw out the cardboard bottoms from cases of new canning jars they come in handy for so many things. There are a bunch of them with ripening tomatoes in them all over my kitchen right now.

    Most of our repurposing is pretty mundane but anything that we can keep out of the landfill is a triumph.

  14. Shannon Thompson says:

    We save the net bags that bulk popsicles come in to reuse them as produce bags.

    We save all of the ketchup/mustard/mayo squeeze bottles to reuse them for ointments for our livestock.

    We save all of the glass jars and reuse them for herbal tinctures (I like to cover them with old magazine pictures to mimic the light protection of an amber jar).

    We save all of the flavored waters/soda bottles to fill them with water and freeze them, then put them in our rabbits cages to help keep them cool during the summer heat.

  15. Carrie says:

    Wow this is great! I have enjoyed reading the comments above and saying “hey we do that too!” Great minds think alike!

    To add a few more ideas of recycle, reuse, renew! I love using the 15 gallon barrels of iodine teat wash (used on my parent’s dairy) for rain catch barrels on my egg mobile (with a gutter that fills the barrel) and for my meat chicken water barrels. They also make great covered mineral tubs (for loose mineral or graziers choice) on pasture for my ruminants by cutting out the front, they hang great on fence posts! These barrels also make fabulous composter that spin for airation. I have also used them for nesting boxes for chickens and my meat rabbits!! Can’t put a price tag on them!

    Mentioned above, I also love to use old pallets for everything from chicken roosts to storage shelves for grain!

    Plastic coffee cans are used as feed scoops, nail/tool storage and for kitchen compost to be feed to the chickens!

    So many great ideas!

  16. Jill says:

    We run a deer processing business and I noticed last year how much tallow was just getting thrown out. So, I asked my husband to start saving it for me. We kept bags and bags of it and rendered it all over a few months. I’ve been using the tallow to make soap (which I also turn into laundry powder). Also after the rendering, we were left with lots of meat that boiled out. My husband had the great idea of bagging it and putting it in the freezer. We will use it as dog food when our lab pup gets a little bigger.

    We built 3 raised garden beds this spring out of old wood from a broken, useless fence.

    We’ve acquired a bzillion plastic produce crates from Hispanic grocery stores–they seem to just toss them out the back door and leave them. We have used them for so many purposes…moving boxes (twice!), storage in the basement, pantry, and barn, and even moving chicks. They’re great because most of them will stack neatly. We gave a bunch to our neighbor to dry her garlic in–she has a large market garden.

    I get meat packing boxes from my father-in-law who works at the meat dept. of the grocery store, which I’ve been using as the base for my no-till garden. I’ll never buy that weed-block fabric again!!

    Great to see everyone’s ideas! Keep them coming:)

  17. daisyglitter says:

    Can you teach us how to make cottage cheese? Or do you have a link to it? I have been wanting to do this but am clueless as to how to do it. Do you have to use non-homogonized milk?
    I don’t have any super creative ideas for repurposing, I have a penchant for throwing things away to keep things minimalistic. I do collect the water from a leaky faucet in the basement to water my garden and save glass jars like they’re rubies and diamonds. I use them for everything: my cupboards are filled with them so I can just keep the same amount of square-footage inside and refill everything, the kids have rock collections in ‘,them, I concoct lotions, toothpastes, facial scrubs and house these in glass jars.

    • Brie Aronson says:

      Hi Daisyglitter – I’m not sure about cottage cheese, but here’s what I followed for ricotta/paneer (I’m so sorry, I can’t cite where I found this because I forgot where I found this!):
      2 quarts whole milk (NOT ultra- pasteurized)
      3 tablespoons white distilled vinegar
      1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

      In a medium pot, warm the milk over moderately high heat, stirring, until the surface becomes foamy and steamy and an instant- read thermometer inserted in the milk registers 185 F; do not let milk boil. Remove the pot from the heat. Add the vinegar and stir gently for 30 seconds; the milk should curdle almost immediately. Add the salt and stir for 30 seconds longer. Cover the pot with a clean towel and let stand at room temperature for 2 hours.

      Line a large colander with several layers of cheesecloth, allowing several inches of overhang. Set the colander in a large bowl. Using a slotted spoon, gently transfer the curds to the colander. Carefully gather the corners of the cheesecloth and close with a rubber band. Let the ricotta drain for 30 minutes, gently pressing the cheesecloth to drain off the whey. Transfer the ricotta to a bowl and use at once, or cover and refrigerate. Makes 2 to 2 1/2 cups.

  18. We always try to repurpose (we built our Ohio brooder for free with our scrap wood pile and recycled wiring), but this one is my favorite!

    My beloved husband built me a canning shelf to store all the jars of food that I was canning. Let me just say that he is a master with metals (he is a machinist and rebuilds cars as well as a grass farmer), but not-so-good with wood. He used 2×6’s and it weighed over 100 pounds! It was wobbly and the shelves weren’t straight and I told him that although I greatly appreciated his effort, it wasn’t going into my house. So I added dividers and made it into next boxes for our hoophouse!!

  19. Mrs H says:

    Re-purposing is fun but it is also very useful when you’re working on a small budget and trying to be gentle to the earth!

    I went to our local bakeries and gleaned empty buckets from them, and my husband drilled holes in the bottom. We filled them with 50/50 mixture of topsoil & compost from our CSA, and planted our tomatoes in them!

    Pictures are here 🙂

  20. Cheryl says:

    I’ve been thinking about this all week. One of our “use what we have” moments was this winter. We were trying to find something thick to cover the windows with but couldn’t spend the money to go buy fancy curtains. So one day I got blankets down from our closet and hung them up in all the windows. Not especially pretty but functional to help insulate and also double as room darkening.

    Also, we needed a watering can to reach a few new plants further out in our yard. Yesterday cleaning out our garage I discovered an empty kitty litter bucket…in big bottle format…and have now happily repurposed it into my far backyard waterer!

  21. Lyndsey says:

    I have to wear scrubs for work. I’ve turned old ones into drawstring bags to organize little toys (all patterns and colors are happy and bright). A pair of drawstring scrub pants I was able to refashion into a big, long bag that holds balls!

  22. Caitlyn M. says:

    I made a chicken tractor entirely with materials found on our property! The base wood from an old bunk bed that was in the dump pile, the supportive arches are made of juniper branches that I cut down, the wire was a jumbled mess that would have otherwise been thrown away had I not straightened it out, and to top it off, the entire tractor is covered with empty feed bags! 😀 Pictures can be found at:

    I also made a hay manger for my goats, using an old crib side! It works great!

  23. Jonelle Rosin says:

    We salvaged an old pie safe from my in-laws back yard and sanded and painted it to use as a shoe holder on our front porch.

  24. john says:

    id like to know more of your experiences i have been trying to get back to the farm for awile and i enjoy reading the few post i have seen keep up the good work