Creative Upcycling

Read letters from readers about upcycling projects, rediscovering GRIT, winter gardening, and more.

| Jan/Feb 2019

  • Doug Stallard used designs from a previous issue of GRIT to create this outdoor work station.
    Photo by Doug Stallard
  • In her first year as a winter gardener, Susan Ganzel learned quite a bit about hoop houses.
    Photo by Susan Ganzel
  • Michake Pierce has dreams of turning his homestead into an area that hosts parties and weddings.
    Photo by Getty Images
  • Mike Pilvinsky wants people to know the benefits of foraging for kudzu.
    Photo by Mike Pilvinsky
  • Many years ago, Mildred McMurphy and her husband found joy in canning their own fruits and veggies.
    Photo by Getty Images/iStockphoto

Creative Upcycling

My wife and I really enjoy your magazine, and we loved the DIY article “Potting Bench Plans” in the July/August 2018 issue. Connecting a faucet to a garden hose and using a 5-gallon bucket as a drain to reuse the water was such a genius idea, and we decided it was something we had to try.

The article said that finding a granite countertop would be rare, and even if you did, it’d likely be too heavy to use. However, after a recent remodeling of our laundry room, we found ourselves with a perfect slab of granite to use for our project, as well as some cabinets to upcycle.

With a lot of effort, we were able to get the granite outside in one piece. I then reframed the bottom to account for the unevenness surrounding our mountain home. I added aluminum panels to give it a nice backsplash, and then gave the cabinets a fresh coat of green paint to match the house. The hand sink that was originally built into our granite counter wouldn’t work for a potting bench, so I added a small sheet of acrylic over the old sink hole, and then we installed a laundry sink next to the counter using the plumbing plans from Grit.

I wanted to share some photos of the results, as we’re very proud of the project. It felt great to salvage so many materials from our home remodel, and to complete such a project on our own. We probably wouldn’t have even thought of trying something like this without seeing the article in Grit, so thank you, and please keep up the great work.



Doug Stallard

Bonny Doon, California

Rediscovering Grit

I recently picked up a copy of Grit while at the grocery store. Seeing this magazine again brought back a flood of memories of reading Grit many years ago, back when it was printed like a newspaper. At the time, I was a teenager working in my grandmother’s café in Portales, New Mexico, as a dishwasher during the lunch and dinner shifts. I had about four hours off between my shifts, which I typically spent perusing Grit. I picked up many tips during those few hours to myself.

I’d recently been looking for a recipe for black walnuts. The issue I grabbed at the store (September/October 2018) happened to have just what I was looking for in “Get Crackin’.” It was such perfect timing and reminded me that Grit has never let me down in the past and continues to deliver imperative information to this day. Thanks for the memories.

Lea Taylor

Colorado Springs, Colorado

Winter Rewards

This is my first year as a serious winter gardener. I was finally able to invest in a hoop house to cover my garden in winter. I also have heavy plastic for the days or nights when a little extra protection might be needed. I put posts on each end of the hoop and strung electric fence wire between the two posts so the extra plastic covers could rest upon that instead of adding extra weight directly to the hoops.

I started my seeds inside as I always have. I decided to grow some classic winter crops for my first real winter gardening attempt; I planted cabbage, kale, collard greens, and leaf lettuce. I can’t wait to go outside this winter and grab a head of lettuce for dinner when the temperature drops below freezing — it’ll be such a surreal feeling for me!

For the past couple of years, I’ve also grown garlic, and it’s been a huge success so far. Just being able to grow this one plant gives me confidence that I can become a serious and successful winter gardener.

I’ve already learned so much in my first season of winter gardening. When I transferred my seedlings outside, I planted the collards too close to the outer cover, and my leaves began pushing up against the sides of the hoop house. Some of the leaves were damaged from not having enough room to grow. Though I was disappointed, now I know not to make the same mistake next year.



It’s been difficult so far, but gardening has always been my therapy, so I’m willing to take on these new challenges. I feel at peace when I’m out there working in my plot, even when everything doesn’t go according to plan. I wouldn’t trade my time in the garden for anything!

Susan Ganzel

Toledo, Ohio

Getting Back to Simpler Times

I read the note about technology on the farm from editor Rebecca Martin (“Our View,” November/December 2018). I can relate to folks who would rather do everything the old-fashioned way. Short of my old cellphone, I couldn’t care less if I ever see any modern technologies again. The simpler way of life has called me since childhood, and I see no reason to upgrade now.

At the beginning of this year, we were finally able to start our farm, Hawkeye Ranch. It’s been a hectic year, and running a farm comes with a crazy amount of work, but I see it as a labor of love.

Our end goal is to build cabins on the farm and open a bed-and-breakfast-type retreat for folks who are looking for the peace that comes with authentic country living. Eventually, we’d also like to rent out our farm for larger events, such as weddings and parties. This place is truly magical, and I think that when others begin to visit and see it for themselves, they’ll think so as well.

It’s ironic to think about now, because before we started the farm, I sold and installed the latest in high-tech home electronics. My job was essentially to help people create their “smart homes.” Now, instead of helping others upgrade their lives, I’m spending all of my time creating a home that focuses on traditional country living, and getting back to nature. What I’m doing with my life now feels so much more rewarding.

Michael Pierce

Piedmont, Missouri

Fascinating Forages

I enjoyed the article on edible wild plants (“Edible Invasives,” November/December 2018). It made me think of my recent trip to China, where I ate egg pancakes made with kudzu flour ground from the kudzu root (pictured below).

I’d never before considered eating this eyesore of a plant that I commonly drive past on the highway, but my kudzu pancakes were quite good. When I returned home, I was surprised to discover that a friend of mine right here in Georgia also uses the flowers to make kudzu jelly.

It would be wonderful if everyone saw this plant as a source of food. Then, we could eliminate the ubiquitous kudzu plant from our roadways by harvesting this eyesore and using it in our food.

Mike Pilvinsky

Ellijay, Georgia

Gardens Gone By

My husband and I used to have a huge garden with fruit trees. Every year, we would either can or dry the fruit, preserving it for the rest of the year. I’d also make our own bread, cakes, pies, and cookies. I enjoyed baking and cooking for us, using the food we grew on our own land. I miss the feeling of pulling something fresh from the oven that I’d created myself from start to finish.

We also had professions outside of our hobbies — my husband was the chief of police, and I was a beautician with my own shop and a string of loyal customers. We loved our work, but gardening was always our real love; it fed our family with food and joy.

After spending many years together, my husband passed away at the age of 73. Now, many years later, at the age of 101, I’m living in a senior retirement center. I can’t garden and cook like I used to, which I miss dearly. Nevertheless, I still carry on, and I continually find new hobbies to love.

Mildred McMurphy

La Grande, Oregon

Looking For

Cactus Cuttings

Does anyone have cactus cuttings they’d
be willing to share? I’ve had trouble
growing them myself.

Kathy Starkey

P.O. Box 76

Crown City, OH 45623-0076

Costume Jewelry

I’ve recently discovered the costume jewelry realm and am quite interested in collecting pieces from days gone by. Before you toss that box of unwanted jewelry, consider sending it my way! I’m also looking for books about costume jewelry.

Anna Bulcher

17224 404th St.

Bertha, MN 56437-1135

 Jean Jacket Knitting Pattern

I’m looking for a vintage 1970s or 1980s women’s jean-jacket-style knitted sweater pattern. I’m willing to pay for the pattern, as well as any shipping fees.

Martha Austin

223 F St., Apt 607

Marysville, CA 95901-5843

Strawberries

I’m looking for ‘Midway’ strawberry
plants. I have years’ worth of memories of picking them from my grandmother’s garden. I know they aren’t available
commercially anymore, but I’m hoping someone might have a few plants they
would part with. I’m willing to purchase the plants and pay for any shipping.

Josh Mak

1005 Washington St.

Three Rivers, MI 49093-1049

Stamps

I love collecting and displaying stamps in art projects, which I give as gifts. I’d love any stamps, any condition, from any country. I don’t damage the stamps I use in projects, as I feel the stamps are too precious to cut or glue.

Sandra Margolies

1724 Kendrick St.

Philadelphia, PA 19152-1816






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