Do It Yourself: For the Home

Dry your own flowers, make your own cleaning products, build a bird feeder and more!

Lettering and Illustration by Angela Southern

I first made this bird feeder about two years ago. It took all of 10 minutes and has outlasted several store-bought feeders—although it has gotten pretty grimy from the elements.

All you need is a 59-ounce plastic Tropicana bottle, a drill or knife, two 10-inch sticks and some twine. Rinse the empty bottle and peel off the labels. Cut two 4-inch round holes on opposite sides of the bottle, about 2 inches from the bottom; these will be the windows where birds will feed.

After you’ve cut the windows, drill or cut a ½-inch hole on all four sides. They should line up beneath the windows. Insert the two thin sticks through adjacent holes to form a cross inside the bottom of the bottle. The sticks should jut out on all four sides to act as perches for the birds as they feed. Next, drill or cut a tiny hole for the twine on opposites sides of the bottle’s neck. Thread the twine through the two holes and screw on the bottle cap.

Add a supply of bird seed (make sure it’s safe for local species) and hang your feeder on a shepherds hook or from a low-lying tree branch. You’ll get hours of pleasure watching the birds peck away.—Breanne McCarthy

Lettering and Illustration by Angela Southern

The only thing worse than doing household chores is considering the cleaning products you use. Many commercial options contain mystery chemicals and high price points. Making your own chemical-free household cleaners brings your clean routine to a feel-good place.

Here are the essential ingredients: apple cider vinegar or distilled white vinegar; distilled water; baking soda; hydrogen peroxide (3 percent); olive oil; citrus essential oil (like lemon or orange); and fresh lemons.

And here are some products you can make:

Furniture Polish: Combine 1/4 cup vinegar, two cups of water and two tablespoons of olive oil. Dampen a rag with the mixture and start polishing. It’s safe on finished or unfinished wood.

Drain Cleaner: Use equal parts vinegar and baking soda. Pour the baking soda down the drain and let it sit for 10 minutes. Pour vinegar down the drain and leave it another 10 minutes. Flush with warm to hot tap water.

Grout Cleaner: Fill a spray bottle with equal parts distilled water and vinegar. For a bleaching effect, sprinkle baking soda over the grout. Spray the grout, let stand 10 minutes, then scrub.

Multipurpose Bleach: Combine 1-1/2 cups hydrogen peroxide, the juice of four lemons (strained), 1 gallon of water and a tablespoon of essential oil. Use one cup of the mixture per laundry load. It’s safe for  most household surfaces, such as countertops and tile.

Glass Cleaner: Combine two cups of water, two tablespoons of vinegar and a tablespoon of essential oil. Put the mixture in a spray bottle and shake.—LY

Lettering and Illustration by Angela Southern

Burying a trash can in your yard is a super easy way to start a compost heap. This method is odorless, practically invisible and virtually bug and animal proof.

All you’ll need for this project is a round 20- or 30-gallon trash can, a drill or knife, and a pick and shovel. Dig a hole wide enough and deep enough to fit the trash can. Be careful to avoid areas with underground utilities or tree roots. The can should remain about 5 inches above the ground once you place it in the hole.

Drill or cut a dozen or so ½-inch holes in the lid and on all sides of the bin for ventilation. Next, place the can upright in the ground, filling around it with dirt until it is buried on all sides. Now,  start filling the can with compost material—dead leaves, grass cuttings, coffee grinds, egg shells, and vegetable and fruit waste. Keep the can covered, mixing the contents every few weeks. Within a year, you’ll be mining black gold for your garden. —BM

Lettering and Illustration by Angela Southern

There are several easy techniques to preserve that just-because bouquet of roses, corsage or freshly picked blooms. Start with flowers that are not completely open (they may lose petals if fully mature). Properly dried, they’ll maintain their color and beauty as bookmarks, wreaths or other decorations.

Here are three methods:

Microwave: Cover individual flowers with silica sand/gel (available at craft stores) or cat litter in an uncovered bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds to 3 minutes, depending on flower size. Once dry, remove from the bowl and repeat for each flower. Recommended for trumpet- or cup-shaped flowers such as roses.

Hanging: Gather the flowers and secure the stems with a rubber band and attach, upside down, to a hanger. Leave flowers for two to three weeks in a dry, dark area. Recommended for bouquets or small varieties like lavender.

Press: Line the middle pages of a heavy book with parchment or wax paper. Arrange the flowers face down on the paper so they don’t overlap. Close the book gently and leave untouched for one to two weeks. Recommended for delicate flowers like lilies.

To maintain, keep your dried flowers out of direct sunlight and away from heat vents to reduce fading. Remove dust with a feather duster or a cool hair dryer. When not on display, store in a box in a dry place.—Jacqueline Klecak

Lettering and Illustration by Angela Southern

To make a lamp, you’ll need a length of standard lamp wire, wire cutters, a lamp kit (with socket, harp and switch) and whatever you plan to use for the lamp’s body. You can build a lamp from found materials (driftwood, repurposed glass) or industrial parts (piping, copper wire). You’ll need to devise a way to attach the socket to the top of the lamp’s body, and to pass the wire through or around the body and out to the wall. When wiring the lamp, it’s essential that you follow the basic principles laid out by Underwriters Laboratories (UL.com), a global, independent safety-science company. Visit the UL website to learn how to tie an underwriters knot inside the fixture. This takes the strain off connections if someone yanks the cord. Once you’ve wired your lamp, all that’s needed is a shade for the right ambience.—LY

Lettering and Illustration by Angela Southern

Craft stores supply wicks and wick tabs (the metal circle that holds them in place). Or you can use twine as the wick: Tie it around a flat metal washer, and superglue it to the bottom of your candle container. Candle containers can be anything that’s ceramic, tin or glass, including old jars, teacups, mugs or even seashells.

Soy wax burns longer and is less toxic than paraffin, so it’s ideal for home projects. Put wax shavings (sold at most craft stores) or chopped up old tapered candles in a microwave-safe container with a spout (like a two-cup Pyrex measuring glass) and melt on high for five minutes or until completely liquified. Using an oven mitt, remove the container from the microwave and let cool. While cooling, immerse your candle container in hot water for a few minutes to prevent cracking from the drastic temperature change.

Once the wax has cooled, add essential oils of choice for scent. Other fun add-ins include lavender, rosemary and eucalyptus sprigs, citrus zest and slices, coffee beans, cinnamon sticks, flower petals, sprinkles, coconut shavings, crayons, birch-bark shavings, pine needles, mint leaves, branches and leaves such as holly and fern. Slowly pour the scented wax into your candle container. Trim your wick to the desired length once the wax has completely solidified.—JB

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