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Front Page » May 10, 2012 » HOME AND GARDEN FOCUS » YARD JUNK; DIRT DIVAS AND MISTER FIX-ITS COME TOGETHER TO...
Published 897 days ago

YARD JUNK; DIRT DIVAS AND MISTER FIX-ITS COME TOGETHER TO MAKE AN INTERESTING MIX IN HOME LANDSCAPING


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By Richard Shaw
Sun Advocate publisher

As anyone who has ever lived with the opposite sex can tell you, men and women don't think alike.

When we moved in our house almost 14 years ago, there was a lot of stuff in the yard my wife wanted me to haul off to the dump.

Problem was, where she saw junk, I saw treasure. Since then I have also developed a propensity to bring home more stuff that fits the bottom of her classification system too.

We made a pact. The property was basically divided in half by a ditch and a line of trees. We agreed that in front of the ditch (where the house was) we would do what she wanted. The backside of the ditch would be my realm.

Well while that line in the sand still stands to a large extent (she still won't let me park an old car up on blocks in the front yard) the borders have blurred a little. That's because she has come to realize that some of the ideas that we have both hatched about some of "my stuff" on the south side of our property is actually kind of charming.

To put it simply, she lets me have some creativity when it comes to decorating flower beds, tree lines and the paths through the plum tree lines that surround our place.

She has also come to appreciate the fact that the "stuff" sometimes comes in handy for a lot of other things too.

I have a hard time throwing anything away. I don't know it that is a genetic thing handed down to me from my farmer father (where we kept everything and reused it over and over again until it rusted away) or if my Depression Era parents just instilled that everything you have in life is valuable, but that's the way I am.

Not everyone loves junk in the yard no matter how creative it is. I totally get that. In my opinion there are basically three kinds of yards that surround houses anywhere.

There is the manicured to a tee yard. Often these people have gardeners or if they don't they spend every living minute of their lives out there being sure every blade of grass is just so. These yards are immaculate and showplaces

There is the industrial yard. You know the one, where they cut the lawn once a week, have some perennials but few (or no) annuals they must maintain. Plain and simple; lots of lawn and lost of concrete. No bells and whistles.

Then there is the farm home yard. It can be charming, or it can be junky looking or anything in between. Lawns aren't all manicured, but usually cut. There are dandelions and there is crab grass.

I say to each his/her own. That's at least one right we all still have with our private property (if you don't have a homeowners association to contend with that is).

With that in mind I set out to make mine the farmyard kind of landscaping. A few years ago I had someone come to my house that looked around at all the trees and bushes and the large expanse of grass and they said "You could do so much with this." My answer? "I have done a lot with it, not just what you would have."

The blurred borders I talked about earlier came as a result of study and experience. Both of us have visited all the kinds of yards above many times. We found we like that homey look. We didn't want it to look like the grounds at Caesars Palace, nor did we want it to look like the yard of a tract home with a quarter acre outside of Des Moines.

Yard junk is one way to make a yard yours. If you didn't buy your house new, there is a very good chance that a lot of what is there you inherited. Despite how much you liked or disliked what they did, without a complete tear down, you are going to have to live with some of it. And it takes time to do that, that is unless you are loaded.

So even if the garage is in the wrong place, the pavement winds differently than you wanted it to, the storage shed is turned the wrong way, or any other myriad of things, you can take what you initially perceive to be liabilities and turn them into plus by redecorating your yard.

And for most of us that doesn't happen overnight.

Using junk to make your yard, more like you, is fun. Generally people want to reflect something or some idea when they start placing yard junk. In my case I like the idea of charm and humor in the things I do. Secondly, I want to reflect a cleverness about how either the piece is posed or the parts of other things it was made from. There is no formula for this, and I consider that a most fortunate thing, because your imagination becomes your drawing board.

There are a lot of good ideas out there. Many of them can be found in a number of books that have been written on yard junk or you can get on the internet and see all kinds of things people have done. Some of what you see through these sources have come from professionals in the field, who have all the time in the world to hunt for just the right materials to use. Others have spent some real money on their projects.

I have often seen things I would like to do, but despite my fairly vast array of junk at the back of my pasture, I don't have everything I need. So unless I can improvise, I spend a little money too.

But ideas always are the mother of invention when it comes to yard junk. Personally I begin with what I have and see what I can create from that, rather than taking an idea and trying to copy it. While there are many kinds of yard junk ideas, I think many of them fall into a few categories.

Semi-living creatures

I think most people spend their life using things and assign personalities to them. Every vehicle I have ever owned had a personality. So have many other things I have used or owned.

With personality comes a look. We see something that no one else might see. I have always found myself looking for living faces in things around me. All the grills of my cars have always generated a face in my mind. Those that were lemons usually seemed to have some bad grill and headlight layouts. My happy cars, seemed happy.

In yards junk can be used to create all kinds of creatures. From aliens to bugs to bi-pod beings that can either be funny or sympathetic.

I usually start out with something that will make a body. I find starting at the core is a good way to begin. Then I start to look through junk to find parts for appendages, eyes, ears, antennea, etc. For me coming up with arms and fingers or claws is the hardest part.

Also think about materials you are using. Just because the bulk of a piece might be metal, other parts could be wood, rubber, or any number of kinds of things. Just remember that unless you are going to put them away each tion becomes your drawing board.

There are a lot of good ideas out there. Many of them can be found in a number of books that have been written on yard junk or you can get on the internet and see all kinds of things people have done. Some of what you see through these sources have come from professionals in the field, who have all the time in the world to hunt for just the right materials to use. Others have spent some real money on their projects.

I have often seen things I would like to do, but despite my fairly vast array of junk at the back of my pasture, I don't have everything I need. So unless I can improvise, I spend a little money too.

But ideas always are the mother of invention when it comes to yard junk. Personally I begin with what I have and see what I can create from that, rather than taking an idea and trying to copy it. While there are many kinds of yard junk ideas, I think many of them fall into a few categories.

Semi-living creatures

I think most people spend their life using things and assign personalities to them. Every vehicle I have ever owned had a personality. So have many other things I have used or owned.

With personality comes a look. We see something that no one else might see. I have always found myself looking for living faces in things around me. All the grills of my cars have always generated a face in my mind. Those that were lemons usually seemed to have some bad grill and headlight layouts. My happy cars, seemed happy.

Yard junk can be used to create all kinds of creatures. From aliens to bugs to biped beings that can either be funny or sympathetic.

I usually start out with something that will make a body. I find starting at the core is a good way to begin. Then I start to look through junk to find parts for appendages, eyes, ears, antennae, etc. For me coming up with arms and fingers or claws is the hardest part.

Also think about materials you are using. Just because the bulk of a piece might be metal, other parts could be wood, rubber, or any number of kinds of things. Just remember that unless you are going to put them away each winter, the non-metal parts will deteriorate quickly in relation to the metal parts. But all those things add character to the piece too.

Size is also important. Mortimer, whose face is portrayed above, is over eight feet tall. Ask yourself the question of whether you want something to be overwhelming or subtle. The bug on the page 1A is subtle, because he is only about 18 inches long and high. He is also hidden in some trees.

Planters

There are all kinds of ways to make various kinds of planters. I have seen everything from hub cabs to semi-truck wheel hubs used. Once while in North Carolina I saw an old Model T with flowers planted all over it.

A popular thing to do is to use old beds to plant flowers in. People either used the end boards for the base or the sometimes even use old springs on which to set pots or a large planter box. It brings a whole new meaning to "flower bed."

The pot idea in combination with a creature or some other kind of junk is a good one. Currently I am in the process of making a flower planter out of an old V-8 engine block (as pictured on page 2B)). The block will be tipped on its side, with the four cylinders of one side horizontal. In this case five inch flower pots fit right in the cylinders. The other row of cylinders are level with the ground. I thought and thought about what to put in there and then as I sat there looking at all the engine parts it only made sense that the pistons could reinserted back into those cylinders but backwards. I took the rings off the pistons and took out the bearings from the piston shafts and widened them to hold a three inch pot. The photo illustrates two of those in place while the other two still need to be inserted. We plan on growing some kind of ivy over the block to cover where the intake manifold on the engine went. Because of the small size of the pots that will set where the crankshaft bearings used to be, we will put in flowers that don't need a lot of moisture and put the new planter back in a very shady spot.

Signs

There are all kinds of ways to use signs, even ones you make yourself in connection with your yard.

The pot idea in combination with a creature or some other kind of junk is a good one. Currently I am in the process of making a flower planter out of an old V-8 engine block (as pictured on page 2B). The block will be tipped on its side, with the four cylinders of one side horizontal. In this case five inch flower pots fit right in the cylinders. The other row of cylinders are level with the ground. I thought and thought about what to put in there and then as I sat there looking at all the engine parts it only made sense that the pistons could reinserted back into those cylinders but backwards. I took the rings off the pistons and took out the bearings from the piston shafts and widened them to hold a three inch pot. The photo illustrates two of those in place while the other two still need to be inserted. We plan on growing some kind of ivy over the block to cover where the intake manifold on the engine went. Because of the small size of the pots that will set where the crankshaft bearings used to be, we will put in flowers that don't need a lot of moisture and put the new planter back in a very shady spot.

Signs

There are all kinds of ways to use signs, even ones you make yourself in connection with your yard.

First of all there are signs you can find at yard sales, flea markets or antique shops. Some are very cool, but also very expensive.

You can also make your own. Painting, wood burning, or stenciling, it makes no difference.

Another way to make signs is to take old license plates and cut out letters and numbers from them. If you like it colorful, use various kinds of plates from different states. You can find these at yard sales and don't worry, we won't run out of them. The prisons are stamping more of them every day.

Machines

For those that are mechanically inclined yard junk can also produced some pretty cool moving machines as well. While static displays are easier to make, sometimes pieces that move by the wind or water power are great in the yard too. Many people have a windmill that came from a box store in their yard, but one that powers something often will catch the imagination of people who come into a yard.

Of course water features are good for atmosphere and as conversation pieces, but what about one that used the water to move a number of wheels or gears that does something else such as make a circle of small creatures march around a wheel. Or a wind powered machine that turns the propeller of a home made small junk airplane.

Moving devices outside, even if powered directly by an electrical motor are often great conversation pieces. The key to making them work aesthetically is that with wind and water the power to drive the devices is part of their charm. When driving something with a direct electric motor, often it is best to hide the source of power.

What you need

Some people see all these kinds of things and for many of them they think you need specials skills to build them. What you really need are three things; imagination, some patience and finally a good pile of junk. It certainly doesn't hurt to have some mechanical ability, and if you have a welder (whether it be stick, TIG or MIG) and the skill to use it that doesn't hurt. But many of the projects you build, if you find the right junk, can be made with little cutting, grinding or melding together. Nuts and bolts suffice for many projects, so a good electric drill with the proper bits, a hacksaw, and a bench grinder can take care of many a situation.

The best thing about putting things like this together is that they are unique to your yard. A fountain you build is not the same as the one the neighbor bought at the store.

It is also very satisfying to have people say things like "That's cool!" or "How did you build that?"

Editors note: If you have photos of yard art and junk you have built in your yard, send them to gm@sunad.com and we will look to publish them an upcoming issue of the Sun Advocate.



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May 10, 2012
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