Urban Homesteader For those who are handy

In my last column I wrote about the wonders of rain barrels and how to make them on the cheap via the use of water softener tanks.

This time let’s talk about another great urban homestead recycling project using windows.

It never fails that someone somewhere will be replacing their old house windows during this time of year which means plenty of opportunities to stock up.

Several summers ago a neighbor to the north had replaced every window in their older home and left them in an enormous stack by the curb.

Yours truly showed up on their doorstep with my daughters’ plastic wagon in tow.

I’m not above and beyond looking ridiculous if free comes into the equation and after asking if it was all right that I mooch, proceeded to stack a half-dozen, various sized plate glass windows on the wagon.

It wasn’t pretty; in fact, it resulted in a rather precarious pulling of said wagon not meant for carrying such awkward weight for two blocks down the center of the street so as to keep the windows perfectly balanced.

Not only am I not above looking ridiculous; I work on the cheap and also consider anyone living within two blocks a neighbor.

Anyway, I made one extraordinarily noisy trip to the house, unloaded and headed back, where someone else in the neighborhood had asked to partake, as well.

Sure, I’d age on my side in comparison to this older, free window seeking gentleman, but he arrived with one of those real-deal steel garden carts and heavy-duty work gloves.

Show off.

As I started to load up my kids’ wagon with windows, the two of us taking turns pulling from the Leaning Tower of Pisa stack, I couldn’t help but picture us racing one another up and down the street for as many windows as we could cart.

Whether either of us was privy to pretend heart attacks and sprained ankles to gain an edge, I didn’t want to know or find out and silently went home after my second trip.

The windows I managed to collect were good enough. Even though I really, really wanted every last one of them. As my goal was to actually have enough on hand to build a full fledge greenhouse. I’ve seen it done before in many a garden magazine to fabulous results.

It’s not that I’m a fantastic carpenter. I consider myself mediocrely handy. Maybe not so handy as to build a greenhouse out of old windows all by myself, but I was game to try.

However, rest assured, if you are not comfortable building an entire greenhouse out of old windows there are many other uses to be had, such as mini greenhouses and coldframes.

Coldframes are very simple, dig a shovel-deep hole in the ground, slightly smaller than your window, the bottom flat and place the window over top.

Perfecto! You’ve got a method to heat seedlings during the spring, just don’t forget to vent by propping the window with a rock or other wood.

There’s also an above ground coldframe that requires the use of a single window and some wood cut at slants. This calls for some hinges and other methods of venting, but these plans and so many more are available online, with a few simple Google searches.

Garden magazines and your local library will have them, as well.

However, if you are of the extremely handy sort, or up for a little adventure, I say collect as many old windows as possible. Then offer a twelve-pack to your handy neighbor or best bud in exchange for a Saturday afternoon, or six, to build a full-scale greenhouse.

I’d like to show you a picture of my own handiwork but alas, I never made it that far with the windows. My collection was left behind last summer after my split, but I fully intend to start over again in time to come.

Course, my salvaging adventures will never be the same since I left the girls’ plastic wagon behind, too.

• Bethany J. Royer is a reporter for the Piqua Daily Call and wanna-be urban homesteader. She blogs prolifically at motherofthemunchkins.blogspot.com and can be reached at bethanyroyer@yahoo.com.

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