When I first got into model railroading, i was very surprised how quickly I was spending money in this 'hobby'. So, like everyone else whom is budget minded, I started looking around for alternatives. I noted that buying commercially available 'ballast' that what I actually got resembled the contents of my own garden. On closer inspection - yep, that was it for sure ! So - armed with some of my wife's kitchen's utensils, I dug up some of the dirt from my garden and took it up the shed. Of course, it was full of leaves and other garden refuse, but I had an answer for that too ! So, here is what you do:
1. Get yourself - a 30cm square piece of flyscreen (flywire), three old ice cream containers, an old plastic cup and some old newspaper.
2. Use first ice cream container to scoop up some dirt from your garden
3. Hide back in your garage... sit on the floor and put the newspaper down in front of you.
4. If the dirt is wet or damp - simply pour it out on the newspaper and spread it out and allow it to dry out (usually overnight)
5. Grab your other empty ice cream container, your plastic cup and your flywire.
6. Scoop up some dirt with the cup and whilst holding the flywire over the empty ice cream container, pour the dirt onto the flywire. Don't pour too much, or it will 'collapse' under the weight !
7. Ok, time for some exercise.... with the sand in the fly wire - start sifting, or shaking the flywire around and like magic, the dirt filters through to the container underneath and very quickly you are left with some 'refuse'.
8. Put the 'refuse' from the flywire into the third container to keep (you would be amazed at how realistic this looks on the layout as ground cover)
Ok, that is it - in a very short time you'll have some very nice sifted dirt - ready to go on the layout.
See my other guides for other super cool ideas !