Monday, April 1, 2013

New life for old shoes

Begonias and dusty miller plants take root in a pair of outgrown children's boots

April 1, 2013

If the shoe fits, wear it. 

But what if it doesn’t? 

What if your kids have outgrown their shoes or if that designer pair of heels simply hurts too much to wear?  What about your favorite sneakers with the worn out soles and dime-size holes or the snow boots that made sense when you lived in Massachusetts but haven’t touched ground in years? 

Well…the closet is always an option.  But even after the door is closed, you’ll still know you added to the mound of unused items in your already cluttered house. 

If the shoes are still usable, you could donate them to a thrift shop – that’s a worthy thing to do.  And for really old, worn out pairs, the trashcan sits ready.  But don’t rush to discard those tired treads!  Other options – equally as worthy as donating to a thrift shop – also exists. 

I have two suggestions that promise a great deal of satisfaction especially if you’re a gardener or a person who enjoys watching birds. 

Take out that pair of unwanted shoes, boots, sneakers or clogs and pour a light mixture of potting soil in the space where your foot normally goes.  Then, take a young start of a favorite plant and push it into the soil.  Succulents work especially well as “shoe-ins” as do small flowering plants like impatiens, begonias or low-growing herbs like thyme or oregano.  

Succulents work especially well in planters made from refashioned high heels

After giving them a good watering, place your new planter in a spot where all can enjoy their repurposed glory.  It always makes me smile when I look out at some of my favorite “shoe-ins” made out of sneakers our grandchildren outgrew, laced-up shoes I no longer wear or worn out boots my kids left behind when they moved away.

A pair of outgrown kid's sneakers finds new life as a container for impatien plants

Nesting season is upon us.  As one who has watched baby birds hatch, develop and eventually fly off on their own, I can attest to the deep pleasure derived from observing this most exciting and endearing of wildlife encounters.  But enticing birds to build nests in a place where they can be easily observed isn’t always as simple as it sounds.  In addition to costing money, most store-bought birdhouses require time and effort to set up.  There’s hardware to purchase and install, tall posts to erect or chains to hang.  Even when mounted, birdhouses require a seasonal cleaning that involves taking them down and, after emptying out the detritus, climbing up a ladder to reattach.

A Carolina wren feeds its babies in a repurposed shoe nest
A boot-nest is so much simpler.  The only necessary items needed are one (free) unwanted boot, lace-up sneaker or shoe, a screwdriver (or hammer if a nail is used instead of a screw) and a tree, fence or wall upon which to attach the refashioned footwear.  Using one screw (or nail), secure the boot-nest to the surface with toe pointing down.  If the footwear has a tongue, pull it outward to make the available nest space as roomy as possible.

Before long, birds will stop by to check it out the new fixture.  Most likely, Carolina wrens will be the first to take up residence.  These feisty, tawny-colored flyers with a white stripe above each eye are curious and inventive nesters.  When wrens settle upon a location, the male and female birds work together to build a nest of tightly woven fibers.  In less than a day, a bowl-shaped nest will be “shoehorned” in, transforming an unwanted piece of footwear into a cozy shelter for a clutch of baby birds.

Some people say, “If the shoe fits, wear it,” but I prefer the adage, “If the shoe doesn’t fit, find a new use for it!” 

Imagination and creativity go a long way to turning the unwanted into the welcome.

I just found this great image online, an apt way to end this post 


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