Bugging Out

I’ve been inspired lately to attract “beneficial bugs” to my yard. Part of the attraction has been aesthetic (bug houses just look cool), part has been my desire to reuse every little thing that I (or someone else) would normally throw away, and part has been environmentally driven.


Last weekend while wandering around the local garden center, an intensely satisfying habit of mine, I found some interesting bug homes.  Since I’m planting espalier pear trees in my front yard I thought putting up some Orchard Mason Bee homes would be a good start.

Bee House


Using the leftover bamboo  (See Thinking About Planting Bamboo? Think Again….post from last fall) and a scrap heater vent part I picked up at the Rebuilding Center last year, I set about to build my own Mason Bee home.  Some tips, try to pick bamboo with a wide hole in the middle and relatively thinner walls.  Also, avoid the section of the bamboo known as the “sheath scar“.  I found that the little bamboo tubes will not fit together snuggly if sheath scars are on the resulting bits of tube.

Bee House Contruction

And I built a more general bug house from other HVAC parts, again inspired by some pre-built products I ran across during my wandering.

Bug Houses


If you are like me you have been sucked into an amazingly successful marking campaign for Cuties, an engineered mandarin orange. What is not to love? As sweet as a fruit can get without actually adding sugar, easy to peel, and no messy seeds! BUT (and isn’t there always a BUT?) These little modern miracles are not without their issues…as noted below via Smithsonian Magazine:

The mandarin’s perfection, however, dispenses with a relationship that’s as old as flowering plants. Like all citrus, Cuties produce seeds when they’re pollinated. To produce a dependable snack, Cutie growers must protect their orchards from bees and other pollinators via nets, physical isolation, or other means. Effectively fencing out bees from huge sources of nectar, this widespread farming practice may be a contributing factor to hive collapse. Developers of the Tango, another mandarin variety, have bypassed this issue by producing a completely sterile fruit.”

Fencing off bees?  I don’t know about you, but that can’t be a good thing.  And this little snack is selling like gangbusters…which means farmers are pulling out other less profitable crops and planting these….which further reduces the habitat of our friend the pollinating bee.  Damn It!!!  I just can’t support that practice…which is why these tasty little snacks are now off my shopping list….and on my list is putting up a few more bee homes in my own yard.


Deck “Waste” Becomes New Potting Bench

After my Deck Demo project I was left with a pile of wood that inspired me to build something…what better than a potting bench?  I built the potting bench in 4 stages:

  1. Base Structure and Roof
  2. “Hidden” Sink
  3. Cable Shelf
  4. Ready to Stain!

Part 1:  Base Structure and Roof

I started without a plan, which is unusual for me, but is in keeping with the rest of my life right now, things are very  “of the moment”.

I gathered the better looking pieces of wood and then I just started building.  I built the base and put an exiting piece of lattice on the back.  Then I built a roof, of sorts, I would do this differently in the future, but it works.  The issue then was how to put to roof up.  (Most people with a plan, actually build the roof framing and then roof the structure after the frame is attached to the structure.)  No worries though, I just removed the lattice, built a frame and tossed the roof on top. 

Apologies to my Brother-in-law, I had to deconstruct part of an older garden bed he built me to get the longer pieces to build the framing for the roof.  But, I planned to deconstruct the bed anyway, there is a “new vision” for that part of the yard.

Part 2: Sink Installation

After building the base structure I then decided I needed a sink.  (Again, with an actual plan a place for the sink would have been framed into the base).   I found the sink at one of my favorite salvage places here in Portland, The ReBuilding Center, this place is amazing, I donate to and shop here frequently.  While wandering around I found some cool hinges, so why not make the sink a undermount and add a hatch?  The purpose of the sink is for soil, I’ll put potting soil in the left and pot over the right, the right will empty into a container underneath.  Brillant!

Part 3:  Cable Shelf

I then rooted around my garage and found some old dog lead, steel cable, that I wasn’t using.  Why not build a suspended shelf?  Potting benches need shelves right?  I had to buy a few part from the hardware store, cable tie-off and tensioner, but all in all it was less than $5. 

Part 4:  Ready to Stain!

And there you have it!  My almost 100% repurposed potting bench.  Next I will clean it up a bit and stain it to match the fence on the left in the picture below.  The only “new” bits were the cable tie-offs and tensioners.  All in, including the used sink and brackets, the bench costs me ~$17!  And it was fun to just start building…to organically see what would take shape.  I was never frustrated by the process, it was fine to build, take apart, and start over.

Life Lesson:  Have a general idea what I want but stay in the moment, and be willing to deconstruct what I’ve built and start over.