Saturday, September 02, 2006


Foraging – Part 2. We’re re-roofing one of our barns at the moment. Christophe, an estate agent friend of ours, helped me to strip one side last Sunday. We threw the slates directly into a trailer I’d borrowed from our neighbour Alan, who helped again by coming to the municipal tip with me on Monday morning to unload into the huge bin. Whilst there, I spied a dead washing machine lying on the top of the almost full bin for metal waste. I have two uses for the stainless steel drum inside and asked the guy on duty if I could recover it. With a nod and a quizzical smile he assented and, with Alan’s help again, in I jumped to wrestle the heavy appliance out of the bin and into the van. Next to the bin where we dumped the slates was the wood bin, where I noticed a solid oak table top in three sections and I couldn’t resist asking if I could grab that as well.


So, what can one do with a dead washing machine, he asks rhetorically? First idea comes from Bob Flowerdew’s No Work Garden, p.125. He says that if a fig tree is planted in the stainless steel drum from a washing machine, its roots are restricted, thereby encouraging it to fruit well rather than producing “masses of long soft growth and little fruit.” It’s a method of keeping other plants small as well. We want to plant a fig tree, so a washing machine drum became a must-have accessory. Second use is as a brazier or fire pit. It’s an idea I saw on a gardening programme on the TV some time ago. The drum had been removed from the washing machine and mounted horizontally on a solid support, whilst retaining the bearing. It contains the fire—much safer than a bonfire—the perforations allow air in for good combustion and also sparkly orange and red glimpses of the fire, which become spectacular when the drum is spun (some sort of stick or fire proof glove would be useful!)


I’d removed the drum, which wasn’t desperately photogenic, and was searching on Google/Images for something to illustrate this blog, when I came across a great site dedicated to making fire pits and ovens out of old washing machine drums. Check out the galleries and Indian tandoori oven! And for the oak table top? It’s just a great piece of hardwood to hold onto until I’m making something and which will then be dismantled, cut to size, planned, sanded and ultimately oiled to make beautiful furniture costing nothing and saving on hardwood resources. The off-cuts will make great burning in our soon to be fitted wood stove, which will replace our current electric heaters to heat our home this winter.

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