Make A Huge Hot-Seat Reusing Styrofoam and Feed Bags

This is a triple win, and I’m so excited to share it with you! We are going to reuse TWO hard to recycle plastics and turn them into a fantastic resource so you can keep working through the harsh winter. I ran into some big obstacles with this project, so read to the end before jumping in…better to be forewarned! The first step is to save all that Styrofoam.

About 8 years ago I bought this bean bag cover at Sears on clearance for about $4 and I had no intention of paying $25 for packing peanuts. I tend to save too many things like packing peanuts anyway, so the bean bag cover became the place we ‘stored’ packing peanuts. Then I started putting other stuff in there like this random egg carton, the foam inserts out of worn out seat cushions and a “We’re Number 1” foam finger in there somewhere.

The next thing you will need for this project is a feed bag. The burlap bags of grandpa’s days would be great if you can get your hands on them, but this project makes use of the woven plastic feed bags currently used. The paper bags of my child hood won’t give you satisfactory results…especially if you hope to use this huge hot-seat to sit on the snow while working outside. Even better than burlap in that case. Just ask a friend for one. Most livestock owners have a few empty feed bags stuffed in a nook somewhere.

Wipe out your feedbag really well and spray the inside and corners with Lysol or Febreze or essential oils that mice hate. Having a mouse chew into your heat bag because it still smells like food would be disappointing. My unrealistic fear of mice is one reason I chose this white bag with very little lettering. Against the sun I can ‘see’ through the bag and most of the white foam. If you have a more colorful bag, don’t worry, it will work fine. If you are at war with rodents just be aware of how and where they might camp, just check like you would a regular hot-seat that you buy at the store.

Next, you want fill the bag with Styrofoam. No need to be picky here. You can save the good packing peanuts for your kid’s bean bag and only use scrap Styrofoam if you want. That’s what I did. When I went to retrieve the lower-quality Styrofoam from the bean bag I did run into a problem. The broken Styrofoam I had put in had made a mess…as Styrofoam does. The worst pieces were the corner blocks that get compressed for electronics or glass light fixtures. Those are pretty hard and don’t move around like peanuts and random foam does to accommodate your bottom. When they break you have a mess on your hands. This is where my project became a huge mess and took an extra day. But, I will show you what I did, what didn’t work and what you can do to get around it.

Those little static cling white dots of Styrofoam make me crazy! I realized if I could scoop the Styrofoam with a hot utensil that there wouldn’t be breakage….there would be nice, small homemade peanuts. So I looked up a YouTube video on how to make a ‘Hot Wire Styrofoam Cutter‘. I am not going to link to any of these videos because when I made mine the battery got hot but the wire did not! I put a few hours into this trying to scrounge materials from the garage, kids rejected toys, and assembling with the hardware I had on hand. The heat of the battery really alarmed me. It might be dangerous….better to buy something an electrician built.

As I put away the hot-glue gun I noticed that my soldering iron came with an Exacto-knife blade attachment. I thought that might be exactly what I needed, assuming it would cut through the foam like a hot spoon through ice cream. I was pleased at first, but after just a few minutes the wide and short blade accumulated so much melted plastic it constantly smoked/off-gassed. It was not a pleasant smell and probably not great for me to breath. An actual blade creates too much ‘drag’ which is totally unnecessary and becomes a sticky surface. So I went back to the web and tried new search terms and discovered these things that let you not only cut Styrofoam into little packing peanuts…you can carve all sorts of artistic things with them! I never knew! It seems a much safer option than my 9 volt battery DIY version that I was afraid would blow up in my hand.

The above close-up shows how a hot knife sealed the edges of the foam, whereas breaking it creates a cascade of static-charged dots. After the Styrofoam phase of this project I spent at least 45 minutes cleaning up the only way you can: a pet hair attachment for a vacuum. I don’t know any other way you can get 200 tiny charged dots of foam off the carpet, bean bag, clothes…. At this point I was mad at myself and swearing I wouldn’t do this again.

Sewing the bag together was easy using a long stich on the sewing machine though. This stich is made as near the opening as possible, with the ends folded over to match the store-sewn bottom. A second pass using the ‘tape’ that comes off when you open the bag was added about 1/2 inch in from the first stitch. Using a long stitch and adding the second stitch in a different location is important because a stitch can become a “perforation” if the tiny holes are too close together and the plastic is compromised too much.

The frustration from cleaning up Styrofoam last night is all forgotten now that I have this huge hot seat! It has been so cold in the greenhouse this winter that it’s hard to stay more than a few hours. It can take a few hours to just look over the next project and try out some ideas. If I happen to get wet during a project it’s impossible to get warm enough to continue the project. This should keep my knees and backside dry and hopefully be what I need to finish up the flashing I am experimenting with while sitting in the snow.

Brass Egg™ participates in affiliate marketing programs, and may receive compensation when you click and purchase from links to retailers. Brass Egg™ of Russell Holdings Group, LLC 2021. All content ©2021 Russell Illinois Holdings, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Best Way to Kill Flies in the Greenhouse or Barn – A DIY Flytrap

I built this fly trap just like the ones you see on the Internet all the time. I was running out of time as I left the house and mixed up the liquid lure from memory. It was not the lure I had written down. Oh well…now I can do an experiment comparing the different lures and give you the results.

Why not just buy a fly trap and be done with it? I may do that in the end, but I love a good DIY solution that lets me use up plastics in my recycling bin. By mixing my own lure I also know if I can compost the flies whereas I have to trash the store-bought lures because I don’t know if there is poison in them or not. I have heard good things about the store-bought traps that are reusable, and easy to hang, so that might be the next-best thing to making my own.

For this trap lure I mixed 1 cup of white sugar with 1 cup of apple cider vinegar. I cut the 2-litter across at 7″ from the bottom/table top. I’m going to take the plastic ring off the bottle neck of the next one just in case that is giving the fly a target to aim for, and I will cut closer to where the bottle begins to bend to see if that gives a slightly better connection point for taping back together. The next trap will use 1 cup sugar, 1 cup water and 1 teaspoon of yeast.

I have been having problems with flies for over a month. It started in the fall of 2020 just a few months after the Greenhouse was finished. I had over a hundred flies November 5th. They were all on the outside of my barn warming themselves on the dark green metal as fall began to blow in. I don’t know if they were all coming from the chicken coop or if that is normal, but I was relieved that they were outside. I shouldn’t have been so relieved.

Two weeks later on November 19 there were flies inside. Not as many as outside…I guess only a portion found their way inside.

The flies disappeared and then 9 days later they were back with a vengeance. The sunny day brought the greenhouse temp up to the 90’s even though it was chilly and windy outside. It looked like hundreds this time. The sound was disturbing. Sort of like being inside a metal bee hive, but a much softer sound…flies are lazy compared to bees!

Before heading home I placed a solar light next to the trap to make it more attractive to insects as it gets dark and cold each night. I only saw one live fly in the greenhouse, but I don’t trust that they are gone yet. It was 34 degrees outside, and inside was 46 degrees…but on a sunny day it can get much, much warmer. I don’t know where they are hiding, but I am ready for the next big fly festival.

Brass Egg™ participates in affiliate marketing programs, and may receive compensation when you click and purchase from links to retailers. Brass Egg™ of Russell Holdings Group, LLC 2021. All content ©2021 Russell Illinois Holdings, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Make a Suet Cake for Your Chickens Using Food Waste

We are used to seeing suet cakes in the winter advertised to help the birds in cold weather. Cold and wet weather means that non-migrating birds need more calories in their diets. The fat in a suet cake fills that need perfectly well. Although I love to see a red cardinal in the winter, my favorite non-migrating birds are my lovely hens scratching around in the yard.

Even if you give your hens the most beautiful and elaborate shelter, they will choose to get out in all sorts of weather. Chickens are incredibly cold hardy despite their small size and will commonly walk out into the snow to satisfy their curiosity and love of the fresh air. As long as their shelter is available to them as a free choice they will decide when they need to warm up and when they want to play in the yard.

There are lots of cute ideas on the web about how to make Suet Cakes that use bird seed, raisins, nuts and such, but I get really excited about ways to feed my chickens using kitchen scraps. [Yes, I know I need help.] For me, a Suet Cake for my chickens takes it up a notch because I am able to use the extra cooking grease that is so hard to dispose of anyway.

My husband covets bacon grease (I’m not really a fan), but beef and chicken drippings are really just a hazard to dispose of. Anyone teaching a kid to cook has probably had the fun of trying to calmly explain to the child why you told them 30 minutes ago not to pour cooking fat down the drain as you try desperately to heat up the sink and pipes before the fat creates an impenetrable clog.

Making your own Suet Cake is not only a win for your sink, a win for making use of kitchen waste, and a win for your hen’s winter diet: but I also found a grain and seed substitute that makes use of that ‘dust’ that your hens won’t eat in the feeder…quadruple win!

If your hens are like mine, they will gobble up the pellets and refuse to eat all the little crumbs in the tray. If you hang your feeder high enough they won’t be able to scratch it out on the ground, but they will still use their beaks to display their disdain for it. I need to find an easier way to do this, but this time I sifted that out and collected it. I just keep a jar under the sink with this ‘pellet dust’ and I can mix up a ton of suet cakes at once when their are left-over drippings. I’m guessing it is full of minerals the girls should be eating anyway.

Keep adding dust past the ‘brownie mix’ stage and go all the way to ‘wet sand’ stage. Press it down into your container, put the lid on and pop it into your fridge or freezer. It will harden up fairly quickly. Make them into whatever shape you can easily pop out. They don’t make my little round Ziplock containers anymore, but these Glad rectangular ones are also 8oz just like the containers I use for the whole process.

I bought this large suet cake holder that I not only use for winter snacks, but also for holding produce up off the ground to entertain the hens. It’s my favorite way to get rid of a zucchini I forgot about in the fridge. As I have been making these, I try to make them bigger and bigger because it’s a more efficient use of my time and space….and at some point I may buy a flock block if I find I fall behind in having enough snacks.

Here you can see the chickens pulling out cucumbers and then carrying them off to their own corners. They love things like cucumbers and squash! There are lots of great suet cake holders out there, but the one I have here is heavy-duty. If you want one like mine, look for an easy to fill one because the hens act like little toddlers waiting for candy. I’ve had a hen more than once jump up waist high and try to nab a treat. It’s all one compartment so you can pop really big things in. We’ve put about 10 corncobs in there after supper and watched the chickens for an hour. It’s just nicer to have it up off the ground so it doesn’t become an eyesore. They also aren’t eating dirt and other ‘stuff’ accidentally. (I’m sure they eat enough of that on purpose!) Because it swings from a chain all over the place it seems to entertain them more too, and that’s even more fun to watch.

Brass Egg™ participates in affiliate marketing programs, and may receive compensation when you click and purchase from links to retailers. Brass Egg™ of Russell Holdings Group, LLC 2021. All content ©2021 Russell Illinois Holdings, LLC. All Rights Reserved.