GARDEN TIP: Homemade Tools

Post last updated: January 7th, 2019

Shannon Hayes in her book Radical Homemakers quotes author Erik Knutzen (The Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-Sufficient Living in the Heart of the City) as saying “For me, it’s the difference between being a citizen and being a consumer. A citizen is someone who is self-actualized. A citizen is someone who can do things themselves, maybe not be self-sufficient, but can actually make something or manipulate something, and I take a lot of joy out of being able to do things myself… being a tinkerer.”

In the U.S., most people are consumers. I became very aware of this as I entered long-term unemployment and consumption was no longer a part of my lifestyle because I couldn’t afford to be a consumer. I started to notice the ways in which people around me were “citizens” as I moved in the direction of being more self-reliant.

I didn’t have to go far. One of the first self-reliant homemade tools I noticed was Poppie’s claw.

According to Poppie, this handmade tool started out with a much longer PVC pipe and a different purpose. He used it to clean out the dryer vent hose. When pine straw became a problem on the mower leaf-bagging unit, the “claw” was repurposed. He sawed off the PVC end affixed to the claw and used it all last winter as he vacuumed the yard of leaves and pine straw. It was used to clean out the hose shaft between the mower blades and the catch bins behind the mower. After the claw fell out of the PVC pipe and we had to walk the entire property looking for it, he reworked his homemade tool. He drilled a hole in the metal handle of the claw (that is normally hidden inside a plastic handle), drilled a hole all the way through a small PVC pipe, lined up all the holes and then inserted the smaller PVC pipe into his original PVC handle. Lining up all the holes was a bit of a challenge but once aligned, a screw was inserted, a dab of glue applied to the screw right at the PVC pipe and a nut fastened onto the screw.

While duct tape was not a long-term solution for his claw, it is generally recognized as a miracle product. I have also used duct tape to cover the holes in the garbage cans I use for collecting landscape debris thus extending the life of our light-weight solid plastic garbage cans (flat bottoms, no wheels). Using garbage cans is a very convenient way to collect landscape debris because you don’t have to transfer the debris from a buggy to the trash can. You drag the garbage can behind you to pick up limbs and pinecones then drag it out to the street for the garbage collectors. I don’t compost limbs and pinecones because they take too long to break down and we would soon be over-run with them.

All of this reminded me of other things Poppie has made. Back in 2008 when I first started vegetable gardening in containers, I wanted to keep bugs off my lettuce. I asked him for ideas and this is what he fashioned using rabbit cage wire, screening and a wire thread:

Then the wheels fell off my trash can and Poppie resurrected it as a regular trash can for his garage by sawing the bottom off and making a plywood bottom that he placed inside the trash can and attached with screws into the side of the trash can:

Poppie’s most innovative recycling involved my old pressure washer (don’t ever run bleach through them). He took the engine off and built a box on the pressure washer’s platform. He keeps his trash can in the box using a series of bungee cords and uses the pressure washer’s handle to roll it out to the street on trash day:

Trash can carrier
Base of the trash can carrier
Base of the trash can carrier
trash can carrier underneath-1893
trash can carrier connected to pressure washer platform

Mr. Golf Cart is also self-reliant. His pitchfork was wider than mine and I asked about it. It seems he wanted a wider pitch fork for collecting pine straw on his five acres so he gave his pitchfork a “room addition”. He found a pitchfork in the trash on a job site before he retired then took both pitchforks to the local welding school and had an apprentice fashion this custom-made pitchfork:

On the ladder I got from Mr. Golf Cart, he had made a ladder hanger around one of the top rungs of the ladder with a wire coat hanger:

When Poppie and my brother were repainting the yellow trim on Poppie’s house this year, my brother brought his homemade paint can holder for a ladder:


8 thoughts on “GARDEN TIP: Homemade Tools”

  1. I loved reading this article. I don’t remember if my Daddy came up with unique ideas to keep from spending $, I feel sure he did but he has been in heaven a long time. My Mother was always doings things to extend the life of things or making them work better for her. It goes back to a day when “putting your thinking cap on” and being frugal was necessary. I feel those days are here again for many people. There is a lot of satisfaction found in doing so, I think.

    1. Farmpest – I found a lot of satisfaction in making my perennial garden markers with el cheapo PVC pipe and those square caps I made in Poppie’s shop. It gives me immense pleasure to withhold my $ from corporate america since they are withholding jobs from 23+ million of us because they sent so many jobs overseas.

  2. Love this! At our house, we call it ingenuity! My Dad is very creative in re-purposing things, too. I especially love the pitchfork and the paint can holder. And I agree – everything can be made new again with a little duct tape! 🙂

    1. Holley – I can remember the day I was telling Mr. Golf Cart that I wasn’t buying anymore cars; that I was going to hold mine together with duct tape, bubble gum and bailing wire. Wellllll, a few hours later, I was rear-ended by an old geezer going 50 mph and he totaled my car beyond what duct tape, bubble gum and bailing wire could hold together.

  3. I’m not going to tell you what we call it but when you speak to Dudley ask him. Dudley is the genius and master of repurposing things. I’m printing this out to show him and David because it makes a heck of a lot of sense.

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