Big City, Little Homestead

Living rural in the city is hip and urban – and you can, too.

Category: Arts, Crafts, and DIY (page 1 of 2)

New project: build a nest box for bluebirds and chickadees!

It’s been on my todo list for a few weeks to build a couple of bird houses with the scrap wood I have leftover from other projects and so finally I did the job JUST IN TIME for spring migration.

In fact, almost too late – except that some species breed more than once. Those birds who are have been sticking around or arriving earlier already have young, and and some just arriving are getting ready to find a nest box. AND that’s what I’m going to provide!

And so can you. Do it this weekend!

Resource: NestWatch’s All About Birdhouses has everything you need to know about different birdhouses and nest boxes for different types of birds, and also how to set them up with a nest camera!

Cornell Lab of ornithology

I turned this into a new kind of post called a Portfolio post. I decided it was a nice way to do it with a picture gallery, and I could create a series of DIY projects that way. Go check it out. It’s called “Using Old Wood To Build A Birdhouse.

Leave a comment if you do get this project under way / done. I’d love to see the results!

#ThrowBackThursday: a creative display of random collected objects

Spring is in the air, the first migrating birds (red-winged blackbirds!) have reportedly arrived, and I’ve been remiss in giving you interesting things to read over the winter months. But take heart! I’ve been reconsidering the writing and content I’ve put forth over the years in different places, to collect what’s worth your time, and what’s still inspiring to me.

In fact, thinking of old pics and posts as “content” at all was a change in perspective for me. A few times I thought “but didn’t I share it on my blog?” Nope, oftentimes I did not – we often under-appreciate our shares and creations, unless they go viral. And one of the things I thought reshare-worthy was something I did three years ago.

This was a case – I bet you have a case too! – of having a collection of random objects you don’t know what to do with, but can’t let go. Many of mine are rusty, some of them farm-related, some not – and I had no place but a shelf in a closet and a box in my garage for them. Until I suddenly had a lightbulb about it. They’re now what I call my…

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My quilting-from-scraps project

In 2011, when I lived at the cottage on Sand Lake,  I started reading up on patchwork and cutting up blocks of cloth to make a queen-sized quilt for my bed. Ever since, usually over the winter months, I put in a few hours here and there stitching it together. It’s made from honest-to-goodness scraps made by my adorable pets: non-reparable, almost-unforgivable holes in various sheets sets and a duvet cover. There was nothing to do but quilt them. Though I did make a hot plate pad out of turning scrappy cloth into “yarn” and then knitting it. That was hard on my hands – the knitting was tougher work than with wool.

So I turned the scraps into a pattern and stitched it all together. As soon as I had the top layer and found a bottom piece to match, I ordered a wool batt from Cedarview Farms in southwestern Ontario. I’ve “bagged” it, though it won’t be a complete bag where all seams are sewn, like a duvet or sleeping bag; instead I might need to create borders on two sides. As my theme is a windmill, I’ll use the border called “Flying Geese.”

I’m getting ready to start quilting it. This is where the handy book The Quilting Bible, and a website called Quilting Made Easy, come in handy. I have a quilting wheel I inherited from my grandmother, which I can use to perforate the copies of the stitching patterns I’ll use. Then, one rubs coloured chalk into the pattern to transfer it to the area for stitching.

Thanks to the help of the ladies in the Westmount Quilter’s Guild, I’ve tacked the quilt. I’ve partly quilted it too, along the seams, and as soon as that’s done, I will finally be able to quilt it by machine. I’m looking for a long-arm sewing machine, because it’s going to be hard to feed a queen-sized quilt through any other kind.

I’ll show pictures when I’ve made more progress. It’s been six years since I started it. The going is very, very slow.

Christmas decorations: a mostly homemade wreath

Here I was wondering “what the heck am I going to write about this week?” and then… the clue comes in: it’s Christmas! Time for the decorations. I’ve hung the string of lights in the window, and a wreath by my front door.

The wreath is one of my favourite things ever. I made it five years ago (which accounts for the dim quality of the photos I took from PhotoBooth on my iMac). Here is the play-by-play:

It’s made out of  Virginia creeper, which, if cut fresh, will be pliable enough to weave. Otherwise, if it’s a little aged, it can be softened up in a hot shower, and then wrapped around and twisted into a wreath.

Then I wrapped it around again with be-buttoned burlap ribbon, bought at the dollar store many years ago, and tied with a complicated bow. Off now to find out what else is suitable for decorating it. I know I have cranberries…

Using the plastic mistletoe and a foil ball spray with a ribbon from the trove of Christmas decorations:


How about with a rat? Too cute, especially with his cheek spots. 

My dearly departed Benjamin, AKA Beelzebubbles.

Well, I can’t hang it outside with Benjamin, but I can use IKEA rats or mice:

Mice work better. The brown mouse on the right has a ribbon around its neck. The white mouse swinging on the mistletoe keeps the mistletoe in place. Because of the lopsidedness of the wreath, I re-centred it to the left – as you will see in the next pic. 

I even had a red-anodized-coated copper wire in my tool box (I love it when the things I keep find a great purpose!) from which to hang the wreath outside. 

In the past year the wreath has one small addition that is perfect: the trapeze mouse has a little bell on a red cord around its neck.

I hope this post inspires you to make use of nature’s materials and your own hoarded craft parts to create a work of joy and fun.

As an aside, one of my European friends  who saw my wreath pics wrote to me:

Our neighbours didn’t take their wreath down after Christmas one year because they liked it so much. When they finally wanted to put it away in spring, they found that a robin had built a nest in it. They had to use the back door for months, until all the nestlings had left…

Older posts

Rewilding is about converting your lawn to groundcover (bit by bit!) to native species. This fosters biodiversity. It also creates habitat for urban wildlife. Finally, you'll only trim it 2-3 times per season rather than every 7-10 days!

The green driveway gallery shows you how you can DIY a driveway conversation using my first model as an example. There are other ways to do it, and things I learned in the process and afterward. Please call me at 514-815-5163 for my landscaping service, or to discuss upgrading your driveway.

The work season is April 1st through June 30th, but I install bird strike prevention (to stop birds from crashing into windows and glass balconies) whenever the temperature is above 5ºC. Call the number above or email. It's important to do this earlier rather than later,  in time for bird migrations in late April to end of May, and late August to mid-October.


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