A Recycled Post about Recycling for Earth Day

Today is Earth Day or for many Earth Week.  I like to think that every day is really Earth Day.  In honor of the day, I’ve decided to do a bit of recycling.  The following is a post I wrote way back in 2010, but I think it still works.  I’d like to share a bit about how to recycle in the garden and even how to use recycled dishes to create art in the garden.

Actually, Recycling, could be the main theme of our lives.  Now it’s called thrifting too.  We’re a couple of old Hippie artists, who were there for the start of the recycling movement. For us it’s just a way of life. We buy everything used and we also get a lot of “good stuff” as I like to call it, absolutely free. Best price there is. And as I mentioned in other posts, it’s a pretty abundant lifestyle too.

Of course we compost. Every scrap of banana peel, tea bag, coffee ground and egg shell is collected in these recycled coffee bins that I brought home from a job. The tiles on the backsplash behind them are all recycled. In fact every tile was actually free and found at garage sales or from sample boards thrown out by tile stores.

Kitchen Compost saving
The composter the food scraps go into, was also free.  Someone in the neighborhood was tossing it. Our rainbarrel is a recycled drum formerly used for soap.

black-composterIn the green house, I recycle too. Every pot from years past is saved to be reused, trays are sometimes taped up to plug leaks but are still put to work. These Black eyed Susan vines are sprouting in cookie packaging.


The seeds for the Purple Cone flower, which I am rather impatiently waiting to see sprout, are planted and living under the protection of packaging, which in its previous life housed a cake bought for my birthday a short while ago.

In it’s next use it may become storage for broken dish shards in my studio, like the many, many salad green containers already put to a second use.

Out in the garden we have, now wait a second, I have to mentally count, at least 4 wheelbarrows. Only 3 are shown here.  All free or almost free. All recycled. I have an abundance of wheelbarrows you could say. I think they are kind of beautiful, in a sort of colorful, shabby, knocked about and used, way.

Wheelbarrow collection, summerhouseart.com


Now that I’ve reached the garden with my recycling theme, I’d like to show you a few pieces of our garden art. Now maybe art for the garden is an odd sort of theme for Earth Day but a lot of our art is made from recyled materials. The mosaic in the herb garden is a recycled chimney covered in old dishes and tiles.

Mosaic Chimney by Helen and Will Bushell, summerhouseart.com

The stepping stones are all made using recycled dishes and tiles, a type of mosaic art called Pique Assiette. In fact, all of my mosaic artwork is made from recycled dishes, tiles and ornaments.  If you would like to see how to make them check my post Creating a Mosaic Stepping Stone Helen’s Way.

Stepping Stone mosaic, by Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

Stepping Stones by Will Bushell, summerhouseart.com

And old sink found in, I must admit, unashamedly, a dumpster dive, is home to our succulents.

Found Basin for the garden, summerhouseart.com


The chime that Bill fashioned out of an old anniversary cup found at a garage sale and hung with flattened silver cutlery is another recycled artwork. There’s much more art to see on one of my previous posts about garden art called Bill’s Driftwood Chair and Other Garden Art Whimsies.

Wind Chime by Will Bushell, summerhouseart.com

Here is another great little chime that Will made as a gift, with a metal tassel from a chandelier now no more and few beads and pieces of flattened cutlery.

Tassel Chime by Will Bushell, summerhouseart.com

There are so many things that we can recycle and reuse for our gardens from artwork to garden furniture to garden tools and implements. There really is no need to go out and buy new most of the time. I always like to say the world is an abundant place as long as you don’t mind second hand. Not buying new saves resources and cuts pollution. Buying used saves more stuff from ending up in landfills too.  And the best thing is getting out and about on the weekends looking for deals at garage sales ( we always plot the most efficient course to save gas), enjoying the  sun at a beach on the way from one sale and the next.   Life is good.  So that’s my little, I hope, upbeat, message in honor of Earth Day.  Even the post is recycled.

(BTW, if you’d like to make a comment, just click on the title.  It’ll take you to comments….and we do appreciate comments )



Earth Day – Optimism Required!


Earth Day has been on my mind a lot. My last post was about Earth Day from a Gardening Artist’s perspective. But today I realized that I’m not done with Earth Day yet.

Our sons are all grown up now, but I can remember a particularly black day back in the early 80’s when one our sons came home from elementary school very upset and very depressed. When we tried to find out what was the matter he finally answered.

He said, and I paraphrase here, but you’ll get the gist, “What is the use of anything? We are all going to die in a polluted stinking world, with no water, and food full of pesticides. The air is going to be unbreathable and there will be too many people to be able to feed them all. Why am I even going to school? What is the point of going on?”

To say that I was appalled and shocked, would be an understatement. I knew I had to think fast. This son of mine was truly in a state of deep despair and very very pessimistic for his future. The schools and the teachers, having finally latched onto ecology had pushed all the negatives way too hard. But they had forgotten to temper all that bad news with some good news. I had to suddenly come up with as many things as I could to convince him that all was not lost. I had to think of things where pollution had been turned around, like the fact that the Thames had been cleaned up from a stinking cesspool to a pretty respectable river. That people like Green Peace were out there fighting for the ecology and making a difference. That a lot of people were conserving water and not polluting in all sorts of ways. I won’t go into all the things I had to come up with that day but hopefully you get the point.

I know why he felt this way. I get pretty down about the future just watching Nature shows. In fact, no disrespect to David Suzuki, but I quit watching his shows years ago. I renamed those shows, Guilt with Suzuki. Each show made me feel so sad, hopeless, guilty and despairing. And that is what my son faced, complete despair. And with that was a sense that all was lost and why bother? Keep in mind that this exchange with my son happened in the early 80’s. There was a lot less going on out there to show that we could turn it all around.

That day I had to convince my son that there was hope for the future. Although I also had to tell him that while the future of the Earth might not be perfect, we could each of us make a difference by doing little things. And all those little things would in the end make a huge difference.

And I look around today and I see lots of little things to be positive about. Like the fact that we have Blue Boxes here as part of the municipal services. We even have a garden waste compost program for our municipality. Ok, these are actually, in my mind, BIG things.

We and lots of other people recycle. We carry our own bags to shop. Lots of people buy second hand like we do. We are not the only people who don’t flush for every use and turn off the tap when we brush our teeth. Ok, all little things but everything counts when more and more join in. We even spend a lot of time making sure our cast stone sculptures are as green as possible. So I’m not going to list all the little things we can do and try to do. Besides I like to keep my posts to around 500 words. It’s a blog after all, not a book or an essay.

Nowadays, I look for positive signs. I look for optimism for the future. I have not seen Al Gore’s movie, feeling that it will probably be more of the same old pessimism and will also not add to my sometimes tenuous feelings that there is actually hope for the earth. And with that, I’m not saying, put your head in the sand and forget about the bad things. If anything, my plea is to see the bad things but balance them with remembering and celebrating the good things we are doing for the Earth.

The point I want to make here is that by remembering the good things that we can do and have done, and by being optimistic, we redress the balance of hope and despair. Like my son back there in the 80’s, totally blown away by a black and polluted future, if we concentrate only on the bad and the negative, we will lose one of the most important things that we need for change and that is hope. And if we lose HOPE we will lose the most important thing of all, the WILL to make it better.

So this Earth Day I hope, there’s that hope word again, that you will tell your children or grandchildren (if you are a boomer like me) about all the little things that are making a big difference. And also think of and celebrate all those who have helped to make significant changes to our thinking about ecology. Ok I’m going to get off this soap box now. I’m going to end with two photos taken here in Victoria, my own personal symbols of Earth Day.

Happy and Hopeful Earth Day Everybody!




Abundance in a Recession

Every night the news is full of one word- recession. So many people getting laid off or downsized as they called it in the 90’s when Will got laid off from a very nice job as a Graphic Designer for a big Oil company in Calgary. We’d gotten used to living a comfy life with savings and holidays and money to buy things. It can be hard to make that transition to not having that nice paycheque with the perks thrown in. But luckily, we’d had practice. We were children of the 60’s and were well into being green and recycling even then.

When Will was still in Art College, we had to make a student loan last forever with little kids growing up and needing lots of stuff. I had a little sign on the kitchen wall then. It said “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”. Today I’m not so sure I’d say “do without”. I have found over the years that the world is a pretty abundant place – as long as you don’t mind second hand. We haven’t been in a mall for years. We rarely buy anything new. We find more than everything we need at garage sales and thrift shops. It’s not a hardship, it’s actually a pretty nice way of life. And did I mention really cheap?

The other day I was reading an article in the neighbourhood paper about a couple who had taken a pledge not to buy anything new for a year. I applauded their newfound enthusiasm for being green consumers, but I had to chuckle a bit since it’s something that has been such a part of our lifestyle for so long that it’s just not news to us. It’s just something we’ve done since the art college days.

We look forward to garage sailing season. We’re ready to go by at the latest 9 am Saturday, with our thermoses filled and muffins packed. Part of the fun is finding a great place for a coffee break, in a new park we’ve discovered or by the beach.

We’re very conscious of wasting gas in our little Subaru station wagon. And yup, it’s second hand too, what I like to call pre-dented, so we don’t have to worry about every scratch or mark as we would on a new car.

An Abundance of Vases
An Abundance of Vases

Last weekend we went to a flea market, one stop shopping. Our favourite is a street sale, when a whole street has a neighborhood garage sale, because it saves gas and we can visit a whole lot of front yards looking for the perfect bargain in one stop. Another way to save gas is to decide from the ads where the most sales are in town and mark out a route, so that we’re not crisscrossing all over. And of course, we always visit the ones that weren’t advertised on the way. You have to keep your eyes peeled for those. Speaking of which, why can’t people make signs with big letters so you can see them as you drive by.

Baskets Galore
Baskets Galore at the Flea Market

I have a real belief in abundance and that all you have to do is want or need something, and somehow the universe delivers. Call it flakey but it works. Odd things happen. A couple of years ago for instance I decided we needed one of those black barrel composters. A couple of days later, I’m out for a walk and not even a block away there is a black composter and a whole bunch of other good stuff on someone’s front lawn with a “FREE” sign on it. I, of course, wasted no time getting it home. Another time we needed a door for our studio, with a window, preferably steel and practically the first garage sale we went to had the exact thing for $10. We got them down to $5, hey, we’re cheap! The door had been cut down but even that was ok because it was exactly right for the space we had. And it came with the door frame. Perfect!

Don't you love the kischy reindeer? (no I didn't buy it)
Don’t you love the kitschy reindeer? (no I didn’t buy it)

If you want to get a sense of abundance, even in a recession, just start garage sailing or as some say, thrifting. The savings are fantastic, lots of good things that you can really use are even free and hey, everything is getting a second lease on life and not going into the landfill. What could be better? or greener?

Who knows what we’ll find tomorrow?


A Bit of Magic

Today, a bit of magic happened. I was out walking, with my little digital camera in my bag, getting some exercise. I’m sorely in need of exercise and walking is my favorite.

I like to take photos of whatever catches my eye as I walk. Today it was a little grouping of daffodils and polyanthus in a front yard. As I was bent down framing the shot I heard someone singing in Italian. I looked up and on the roof were three roofers, one, the singer, a young man in a hoody and baseball cap was singing in the most beautiful tenor in Italian, as he handed the tiles to the other fellow who was nailing tiles down. I stood and listened until he finished the song. It was beautiful! I applauded when he was done and he bowed to me from the roof and said “Thank you”.polyanthus

I walked on and thought how wonderful, what a gift I had been given on my walk.
As I continued further around the corner from the roofers, I found, all nicely stacked, a group of long twigs, cuttings from someone’s pruning. Perfect for making obelisks to hold the garden plantings we are planning. We have little room left and we want to grow things like melon and squash and have decided to grow up instead of letting them sprawl all over the lawn this year. I had just thought of needing some good supports and here they were, stacked and ready for recycling pickup by the municipality. Free for the taking!

So now that I am home again, with my cup of Typhoo tea, I need a bit more Italian music so I’m listening to Andrea Bocelli, a lucky CD find at a garage sale last summer. Italian is such a wonderful language, musical already. I wish now I’d said “Bella, bella” to the singing roofer.

I feel lucky today and rich. I’m rich with all the things I find on my wanderings and our summers garage sailing. The digital camera was a $20 find, actually the second one we found at garage sales. I love digital cameras! No longer bound by running out of film or the cost of developing, I am now free to take photos of whatever I fancy. I now have a photo journal of walks. I like the idea of recycling and finding everything I could possibly need at a fraction of the price and very often free. The world is an abundant place I tell everyone, as long as you don’t mind second hand.

And now, accompanied by Adrea Bocelli, I am about to start a new sculpture. I’ve been inspired by plant life and especially grape leaves. I’m planning an architectural detail that I will sculpt and then have my son Eric cast it in cast stone. And today, thanks to the singing roofer, I’m feeling lucky and inspired and abundant!