The Gator pond was given its name by my friends, Loysetta and June. I don’t remember the circumstances as that is too far back in history. The likelihood of ever finding a gator in the pond is slim to none because it is roughly 10 feet by 10 feet. Certainly not big enough for your average sized Florida gator.

Normally, the Gator pond is bone dry with nothing but leaves rattling around in the basin. An abundance of rain has filled the pond to the brim.

West side of Gator pond
West side of Gator pond


North side of Gator pond. Stalks of yellow iris plants seem to float above the water.
North side of Gator pond. Stalks of yellow iris plants seem to float above the water.


North side of pond in drier times
North side of pond in drier times

GARDEN TIP: Homemade Tools

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:


Sustainability: Water Bottles

Photo borrowed from

Sustainability is important to me. Not so much for myself, as I’m getting older, but for the generations to follow me. I practice sustainability in every way that I can – placing recycles at the curb (including every scrap of paper), sending kitchen scraps to my composter trash cans, and now I have acquired glass water bottles so that I won’t be guilty of helping to circle the world with plastic water bottles.

In addition to sustainability, I went looking for the bottles for two other reasons: safety and economics.

My second most important reason is a concern about using plastics — not just plastics with BPA but any  plastic — to store food or water that goes into my body. I have removed all kinds of plastics — including plastic shower curtains — from my home after a round of chemo and radiation in 2005. I now have a kitchen full of glass for cooking, serving and storing my food.

Economically, it made sense to find a way to avoid buying bottled water because it was an ongoing expense that never went away. The average price of the bottled water I purchased most often was $3.99 for 24 bottles.  I  took myself to and immediately found glass water bottles by Aquasana. They can also be purchased direct from but I don’t know how the shipping rates compare as I purchased mine from amazon.  Immediately after acquiring the Aquasana bottles, I stopped buying bottled water. The six bottles were $19.99 and paid for themselves after the fifth shopping trip in which I did not purchase bottled water.

I’ll admit the glass water bottles are not practical when you need a bottle-of-water-to-go because of their weight and lack of disposability but for around the house they are great. They fit easily into the dishwasher although I don’t run the lids through the dishwasher because my dishwasher doesn’t have a little hamper for things like that.

I’ll also admit that I think I would have liked them better had they been smaller and designed with a curve in the middle to make them easy to hold. As currently designed, they are awkward to hold. Lastly, they are made in China, which is a bummer for the American Worker.

If you are also concerned about using plastics in the kitchen, check out  31 ways to use mason jars.

11/5/12 UPDATE: Wal-Mart has started carrying Taste of the Islands Calypso drinks for $1.47 in GLASS bottles with a metal lid that are the same size as the Aquasana. Six of these bottles would be $8.82, an obvious savings for glass water bottles.