Not Your Grandmother’s Bird Bath

Last summer, a friend of mine passed on this charming, child-sized table and chairs. They sat in the front garden for a while, available to our neighbor’s daycare kids. Small children don’t do much sitting, as you know, so they didn’t get much action.

child's table and chairs white mosaic

Child-sized mosaic table and chairs

At one point I planned to use the pint-sized furniture to hold potted plants. Eventually that plan morphed out of necessity: The table and one of the chairs is now a bird bath, and a source of water for bees, butterflies and squirrels.

squirrel and bird bath from chair

MacGyvered Bird Bath and Watering Hole

We’ve had a wonderful series of storms passing through all month, but last summer was a different story. When I spotted a squirrel drinking the morning dew off of our garden umbrella, it spurred me into action. I bought a pair of heavy-duty dog food bowls, and filled them with water for all the thirsty critters that pass through our garden.

squirrel closeup on umbrella

California Grey Squirrel looking for a drink

Finding a good spot in the back garden was easy: one of the bowls sits elevated on a gardening bench out of harm’s way.

 squirrel drinking from bowl

Dog food bowl + water = happy squirrel

It was trickier in the front garden, since the planting bed at the curb is only a few inches tall.

Short term, I grabbed the small table, turned it upside down, and rested the bowl between the table legs. It worked perfectly. It was tacky, but effective.

In order to improve the look, I bought a can of Forged Hammered Spray Paint, masked off the butterfly mosaic, then painted the rest. It looks earthier than the original white paint and I really like the hammered effect. It’s also a nice match for the bowl.

DIY bird bath collage steps

Table and chairs, before and after painting, forged hammered spray paint and a large dog food bowl

I put the chair in the center of the planting bed, added the upside-down table to the chair, then wedged the bowl between the chair legs. It’s now accessible, but harder to negotiate if you’re a cat. The table After removing a drowned bee, I added a small ceramic bird so the bees and butterflies have a shallower place to drink.

Do you know the expression, necessity is the mother of invention? It would never have dawned on me to turn this charming furniture into a bird bath, but I’m so glad I did.

bird bath bowl in the rain

Rain-filled bird bath


Until recently, I wasn’t familiar with the term “macgyvering.” My sister first used it, and then I saw another reference on Facebook.

MacGyver is a fictional TV character from the eighties, known for solving problems with low-tech solutions. He carried a pocket knife and a roll of duct tape, and preferred a peaceful solution whenever possible.  Somewhere along the way, the term macgyvering joined the mainstream.  It’s used to describe creative solutions by cobbling together common, every day items.  I like it!

For years everyone macgyvered.  We referred to it as ‘making do.’ It remains common practice  in developing countries around the world.  My friend Nandini, back in India after a decade in the States, tells me that you never see things tossed on the ground, because someone else will have picked them up and put them to use.

Fashion-Forward Fruit Trees

First up, fish nets for your fruit tree.  I borrowed this idea from my friend Laura’s dad Bruce, though to be fair, he did not use the term ‘fish nets.’  Bruce cut lengths of tulle found at a fabric store and secured them around the branches of low-lying fruit. Brilliant!

He sent me home with a sample of the material, and I copied his design to the letter, cutting the tulle, then attaching it like a sleeve using nails.

Macgyvered fruit tree

Macgyvered fruit tree


All dressed up

netting secured with nails

Netting secured with nails

The birds, rats and squirrels are welcome to the fruit outside of the net, but we’re reserving a few branches for ourselves.

Staking Tomatoes

My tomatoes self-seeded this year, including the one pictured below. Most of them grew in the planter box, but this cherry tomato is growing from the bottom of my rotating composter. I wasn’t sure how long it would last, but I continued to water it and there it grows. Last week it touched ground. What’s a gardener to do? I used two stakes from a tomato staking kit, and a few strands of garden string and managed to stake the plant securely. I ran the string along the side to the back for extra support, then lifted the branches off the ground and through the supports. The rotating composter is out of business for a few months, but it’s all in the interest of delicious tomatoes.

tomato staked to composter

Tomato plant staked to the compost bin

Scooter Lift

The back of my sister’s van has a scooter lift. This lets her maintain as much mobility as possible. When the lift stops working, however, she’s left feeling stranded and vulnerable. The last time it stopped working, they told her she was putting too much stress on the cord attached to the lift. Further, the metal box that operates the switch kept hitting the pavement when it slipped out of her hand. To avoid costly repairs, this is what I came up with:

sharon's scooter lift

Fix it scheme for Sharon’s lift

I cut a length of foam to size from my son’s ‘water noodle’, a two-dollar swim float. I cut up the sides, then wrapped it around the coiled cable. This helps support the weight of the cord, and at the same time keeps it from snapping back.

To protect the switch box, I wrapped some pieces of insulating foam around the top and sides, leaving the switch exposed. The padding makes it more slip-proof, and at the same time acts as a shock absorber if it’s dropped.

Walker on the Wild Side

You knew I would eventually get around to duct tape, didn’t you? Sharon relies on her walker to travel short distances. She found that the coils, attached to the hand breaks, were fraying from the flexing of the cables. I used fashion-forward duct tape, available in her favorite animal prints. I cut the tape into small strips, then wrapped it around the cables at the base of the handles. The zebra stripe on the padded front is merely a fashion statement.

To reduce the stress on the cables, I loosely secured them to the bars with a pair of cable Velcro straps.

fashion forward duct tape

Fashion-forward duct tape

Do you macgyver? Please share your ideas in the comment section below. Photos welcome and encouraged.