Recycled compost bin

compost bin

A friend offered me some crates recently which came with a delivery of garden slabs, suggesting that I could make my own compost bin. So I said yes, of course, and the image above is the finished item. Thanks Mike!

I’m quite pleased with it. It’s rustic and functional, and is made from the crates along with some old broken lap panels from a fencing reclamation project. The panels would have ended up at the tip, so finding a new life for them was satisfying.

Originally, I had planned to make a hinged lid, along with splitting the front panel into two horizontal slotted pieces which could be removed when taking the composted material out. Mike tactfully suggested that I was over complicating things. Why not just tip it over when you need to? He had a point – sometimes simple is best. So I screwed up the sketches I’d made and got to work.

I hadn’t realised how liberating it can be to cut wood without worrying about accurate measurements or using a try square. Perfection wasn’t my goal, and trusting your eye and lifting one piece to judge against another was quite relaxing. Too small? Cut another piece, or live with it. Too large? Cut off a little more. I re-used as many nails as I could, and wood screws where necessary. Making the outer cladding was like a jigsaw, as some pieces were warped, or wider at one end than the other. The inside is clad with lap panels, and some were also used on the makeshift lid.

The hardest thing was disassembling the original crates: whoever put them together had done so skillfully, and with no intention of them ever coming apart. Wrecking something is easy. It’s a more delicate job when you plan to re-use everything.

It’s great to make things with your own hands. Even better when you are recycling stuff. So after I’d finished and taken the picture, I treated myself to a nice cup of tea. Ok, I lie. It was a cold beer.




Quilt – part 1


Over the years I’ve accumulated a pile of old shirts with nice fabric in the cupboard. I struggled to throw them out for some reason – sentiment, or just plain hoarding, who knows? – so with a vague notion of making a quilt from them, there they stayed until recently.

I had no idea how to make a quilt. But decided to go ahead and make one anyway. It’s good to create things. And it’s even better when something destined for the bin is being re-used.

After all, how hard could it be to cut out a few squares and sew them together? Haha! Harder than I thought, as it turned out…

…will post again with a progress report soon.


Not shiny…



saw…but reliable and effective.

I needed to cut some fence panels the other day and was thinking of buying a new saw. We had an old one in the shed but I had written it off as it looked rusty and tired: I assumed it wouldn’t be good enough to do the job.

I was wrong.

It did the job perfectly. Then I noticed how well the handle fitted my hand, and looked at the shapes a little closer. I love the fact the handle is made from wood (not plastic), and also the attention to detail guiding where your thumb will sit and be best positioned depending on the force required.

I think it’s about time I cleaned and polished up this old friend as there is life in him (or her) yet.

There’s a moral in this somewhere…


The perspective of the picture looks a little strange as it was shot from the handle end

The perfect Chapati?

Puffed_up_chapatiI’ve been trying to make the perfect chapati for a few years now.

I remember watching a documentary years ago showing Indian people make them. It looked so simple: some flour and water into a bowl, some mixing and kneading then rolling them out. And there you have a big pile of about 20, ready to feed the family. It’s not that simple though…

There’s an ongoing debate about the best method and ingredients. Some say to put oil in, some say no oil. Others say that you need to add yoghurt (or curds as it is often called in India), some say not….

The first batch I tried (ok, the first few batches) were like cardboard, some were more like shoe leather – some an unpleasant combination of the two. Aside from reminding me of the Charlie Chaplin film where he eats his own shoe like a delicacy, it was an unpleasant experience.

The batch I made last night went better than some of the ones before. Will post the recipe if anyone is interested. Don’t get too excited, but there’s a link to the movie of the chapati puffing up if you want to see it here. It’s a proud moment for me!

Decisions, decisions


Tiny decisions can make such a big difference.

I’ve been thinking about the everyday choices we make, pretty much automatically, which have the potential to change our whole direction in life.
Not whether we choose coffee or tea (although now I come to think about it, this also could be important – oh dear, he’s going to start rambling again), but very slightly larger ones: when I leave the house, do I turn left or right? Which side of the road do I walk on? Today if I decide to turn left for a change, I could meet someone I may not have met had I turned right. They might want to mug me/offer some work/just want a hug*.

So the result could be good or bad, but it will have an impact, however small.

Then there’s the knock on effect to the next decision, and so on. And there’s no way to see the impact of these decisions until after they have been made. And no way to know what the alternative would have been, as there’s only one future; and a multitude of possible futures. That’s just for one person. When you add everyone else into the mix, the possible futures are too hard for a small mind like mine to calculate.

Whenever there is a major event or accident there are stories from people afterwards who would have been on that train/plane/street, at that particular time, on that particular day. And for some small reason they walked the other way, picked something up, missed a bus, ran out of coffee or whatever. Otherwise they would have been there. And then there are the people who were there by accident, for similar reasons.

It’s not a new subject, it’s been covered in books and films alike many times (Sliding Doors, Limitless and The Butterfly Effect to name a few, and I’m sure there are loads more I’ve forgotten) but I find it intriguing that it doesn’t get discussed more often. Maybe it’s just me – why am I thinking about this? – why do I find it such a compelling and enchanting prospect? It could be that we just don’t like to think about how deciding to turn left or right could have such an impact? Or perhaps our brains just can’t cope with the limitless possibilities that accepting this scenario will bring?

What’s my point? Well I just find it a scary prospect that, even with planning, we may well have no real control of the path which our life takes.
Or more positively, small things we do can have a big positive impact on others as well as on ourselves.

*select as appropriate for your frame of mind today. Random acts of kindness including hugs are always a good thing I reckon.

Talk doesn’t cook rice

IMG_2069‘Talk doesn’t cook rice’ is an old Chinese proverb. My brother said it to me a few years ago while we were painting his house. I guess I was spending too much time jabbering (or smoking, or just plain procrastinating). Took me a few seconds (ok then, minutes) to work out what he meant.

Sometimes we spend too much time talking, and not enough time actually doing. Well some of us do anyway.

I have a friend who completely changed his career to become a cake-maker/chocolatier. He creates the most amazing chocoates from scratch. It’s hard going, but he’s determined and passionate about what he does, and is starting to enjoy the prospect of some well earned success. (The definition of success deserves a blog of its own…).

I remember the day we met up in town, and over a pint he talked me through his plans. How many times do you hear people talking about something they are going to do? Especially in a pub. And how many times do they actually do it? Many times, and not often in my case.

I’m impressed with him, and by his success, but it does make me question myself.

Am I all talk, or can I do something similar?

Rice is a wonderful thing. Especially when it’s cooked.

Perspective and dots


Sometimes when you’re too close to something all you can see are the dots. As with the picture of the old CRT television screen above*.

It doesn’t matter how intently, how long, or how hard you screw your eyes up. From this distance you’ll never see the full picture.

So far, so obvious. But when we look at ourselves or those near to us, doesn’t the same thing apply?

Perhaps it’s a matter of perspective?

How we judge others actions is generally from our own perspective. Quite naturally so. But do they themselves always understand their own
actions and reactions, or are they too close to their own screen? I think we know the answer to that one.

Idealism increases in direct proportion to ones distance from the problem
John Galsworthy

This quote is a truism.
You could easily swap the word idealism for objectivity, calm, clarity or many others and the phrase would still be true. Apart from compassion perhaps which would be the opposite.

So it might be best to suspend judgement on others. And on ourselves. But that wouldn’t be easy, nor practical.

Taking a step back to get a better look can sometimes be a good thing.
My new business idea is a metaphysical (would that be right?) camera where we could take a perspective shot of life/ourselves, then come back and view the detail alongside this. It would be very handy. How do I make one? Where can I buy one? Would you like one too?

*by the way, it’s really hard to take a good picture of something like this. A camera can’t do what our eyes can: compensate for movement or subtle changes in light. A little like the shift in hue in the sky before it snows. You can see it, but a camera will produce a flat and lifeless rendition. So the eyes win.