Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Never Buy Potting Soil Again

This is the new thing I've recently started taking out of the trash: abandoned planters with soil still in them. The big square one has pretty nice potting soil in it, which I'm going to hold on to for the next time I need to repot a plant, or something like that. The other two are going to end up in my compost pile. I've thrown some other abandoned soil in it already. All of which brings me around to pointing out that my compost piles (there are in fact two), are in serious need of expansion...

Sunday, May 27, 2007

My sister Martha makes all sorts of great assemblage art pieces out of various kinds of found objects, scrounged materials, and recycled stuff. Her art is a little hard to describe, but Joseph Cornell's boxes come to mind as a comparison. Here is a little piece she made that I have and love. I think the scene in the background and on the back is The Flume, or at least I like to think so. She has a studio in her basement full of great materials for her art, lots of stuff that I covet.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Recycling Old Shirts into Baby Clothes

My friend Tina just sent me these pics of clothes she made from recycled clothes for her new baby Tycho (I just saw him last night, and he is cute, cute, cute!). Here's what she wrote: "I'd like to make some stuffed toys for Tycho out of old clothes. I've been making him pants out of old shirts--I've sent along a picture of the latest pair and the onesie I raw-edge appliqued a matching patch onto. Despite my poor seamstressing skills, I persevere because I know soon he'll just want to wear jeans and spiderman t-shirts." Tycho's Dad calls them his 'clown clothes'. I think these are great, and her seamstressing skills are much better than she thinks! She suggests this post from another blog for advice on how to make kid's pants from your own pattern.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Fallen Fruit - Saving Good Food

I just finished The Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollan (Penguin Press 2006). This book is a must-read for anyone interested in food, sustainability, the environment, and so on. I learned a lot about how food is wasted, and how to be a less wasteful eater. Anyway, towards the end of the book, he mentioned the legal principle of 'usufruct' in the context foraging food either from public places or where fruit was going to waste. I like this idea - that if others are allowing something perishable to go to waste, then you may have the right to take it and use it yourself - very interesting. In that context, he gave a footnote to this site: fallenfruit.org. The website is devoted to the idea of foraging fruit in the city (of LA, but they would like to expand their mission across the U.S.). I am very taken with the politics of this idea (I like any idea that keeps private property in its proper place), and the fallen fruit website is very much worth looking at, including the manifesto and maps. There are some apple trees on the edge of a public recreation center a five minutes walk from my house, which I noticed last Fall, and which did have edible apples growing on them. And then, walking my dog, I've discovered an old empty house lot that I think has apple trees. This Fall I am definitely going to go back, pick a bunch, and put up apple sauce. So now what I need to find in the trash is a good old fashioned apple picker! What fruit do you have growing near you that you can collect?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

More Trash to Buy (and cheaper this time)

My friend the Lynneguist just sent me this link to a post on Boing Boing. Here is some more trash you can buy - a smaller and cheaper version of this trash-qua-art that I posted about some time ago. Thanks Lynne!

Great New Found Object Straight from the Trash

I was walking the dog on a trash night, when I spotted this great old column in front of someone's house. (My dog knows it's trash night, because we go out over and over again - he loves trash night almost as much as I do.) At first I thought it was a log, but as soon as I poked it with my foot, I discovered that it was an old column. It was carved from single piece of wood (so, it was a log, once upon a time). It is about 4 feet high, slightly tapered, with a decorative carving along the top. It has some very old white paint on it, and inside you can see the screw-like carving marks. I wonder how old it is? In any case, I think it's just great, and once I get my porch painted later this summer, it will make a great found object decoration. At the end of summer, I'll move it inside.

Why Do People Throw This Stuff Away?

I have to admit: I don't get it. Why would someone throw away something as basically useful and necessary as a kitchen trash can? I found each of these in the trash within just a few houses of where I live, over the course of just a few months. Each time, I assumed that it was broken or cracked, but I went to check it out anyway, because I'm always on the lookout for trash cans in which to pile up my 'green waste' (yard clippings, tree limbs, leaves, etc., that the city turns into compost). But each of these trash cans is fine. I just kept piling them up in my garage, and yesterday I gave them a pretty perfunctory cleaning, and so here they are: 3 perfectly good trash cans. Each one is made by Sterlite, which says something about just how ubiquitous their plastic products are. So, what do you think? Why do people just throw stuff like this away?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Recycled Monsters - Great Idea, Great Gift

I just read this post on Whip-up, about Cotton Monsters, great, one-of-a-kind stuffed monsters made from recycled clothes and linens. Go to the Whip-up post and you find links to her blog and to her site. These would make great, sustainable gifts for children. (Kids get all the good stuff!) I wonder where she gets all her materials - thrift stores, I hope?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A Little Revolving Gallery

A few months back I posted about how I reclaimed a dirty old box that I found in my basement. It was just right for displaying a few of the smaller pieces from my collection of green handled kitchen utensils. But I also had in mind that I could rotate various things through it: use it as a little revolving gallery of things I collect. So the other day I took out the utensils, threw (well, lightly tossed, really) them back in with the rest of that collection, and then put into the box a new collection that I just started when I was in Brighton, England recently: old b&w photos of people with their dogs. Dogs can make people very happy (mine makes me happy), so I love these photos because they capture a happy moment in the lives of people I'll never know. I'd like to someday have enough of this collection to fill up a small wall with them. You have to look carefully to find the dog here: because the dog blends in so well with the uniforms!. And in this photo I can imagine that the dogs are tired because they've just returned home from a good walk.

Monday, May 21, 2007

My Bulletin Boards are Better Than I Thought!

A while back, I wrote about putting up multiple bulletin boards around my house, making some of them myself from Homasote. I've just read at Apartment Therapy, via this post on Not Martha, that homasote is a recycled material, made from old newsprint. Cool!

Two of My Favorite Things Come Together: Jewelry and Recycling

Check out out this post on Inhabitat, about jewelry made from reclaimed and recycled textiles. I went to the artist's site (you can get there from the Inhabitat post linked to here), but alas, my Spanish is way too rusty to be able to read more than the occasional word... I love the necklaces, though I'm not sure I could really pull off the look.

Institutional Surplus - Great Source of Great Stuff

Various institutions, such as schools, hospitals, etc. sometimes have great stuff that they need to dispose of. I got these crocks from my college's 'barn sale', where they sell the furniture, etc. that come out of building which have been renovated: I paid $5 each. My friends Julie and Joe got a great set of oak chairs to use in their dining room for only $12 each: They are good looking, comfortable chairs, and as you can see, they came from Ohio State University: I heard recently that Colgate University, about half an hour from me, has a regular 'store' for their surplus stuff, so I have it on my already-too-long list of things to do to go there and see what they've got. And I've also heard that somewhere in Boston is a regular surplus sale of Harvard's leftovers. What surplus furniture have you found in your area?

Sunday, May 20, 2007

A Use for Vintage Suitcases: Sidetable w/ Storage

The top suitcase in this photo did come straight out of the trash. Some neighbors were cleaning out an attic when I spied it on top of the dumpster. I asked if I could have it and they gladly handed it to me. (That I didn't get in on the ground floor and get things out of the attic before they were put in the dumpster is a long, sorrowful story...) But the other suitcases I've bought at various thrift stores and garage sales over the last few years. Stacked together they make a cool looking bedside table, and they offer some extra storage space for sheets, towels, etc. And I don't know about you, but I am always in need of extra storage space. (The only thing is that I suggest only using them to store things you don't need very often, since you have to unstack them to gain access. They would work great for holiday decorations, for example.) This is not an original idea, I know, but I think it's good enough to bear repeating.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Bye Bye Clothes Dryer!!!

So, as I said a while back, my dryer broke about a year ago, and as I was broke myself, I decided to get by with just a washer. (Though this is where I draw the line. I won't be doing my laundry in the sink, or at a laundromat.) For the last year the old, broken dryer has been just a waste of space in my basement, where I need all the space I can get. And one of the many things I love about my neighborhood is that on trash day, there are guys with pickup trucks making the rounds looking for scrap metal. (I love it because it means that all that metal won't end up in a landfill, and won't get wasted.) So, I nabbed one of these guys yesterday, and he took down my address and came back this morning to get it. He took it apart, and it looked to me like he was salvaging all of it: the metal for scrap, the heavy duty cord, the motor. So, here it is in my driveway: And there it goes! Next, I'm going to have him come back and get the old oil tank taking up space in yet another corner of my basement!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

What a Waste

This is the kind of thing that drives me crazy. I bought some new underwear a few days ago, and when, at the cash register, I went to remove them from their little plastic hangers, the cashier said that they would just throw them out, not reuse them. I assume that the manufacturer puts them on the hangers and doesn't want them back. They are recyclable, but still! It is such a waste for all those hangers to get made, and then to have to recycle rather than reuse them.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Thrift Shopping = Green Shopping

So, I went to the Sal Army in Lancaster, Ohio yesterday with my friend Julie. This store is well worth the visit. If I were you and I were anywhere in the vicinity, I would go out of my way to go to this particular store. (I don't understand the great differences in quality between different Sal Armies. They must have some sort of distribution system that accounts for the fact that some of the stores really suck,as does the one where I live in Utica, NY, and others are great. It is not that they depend on donations from the place where they are located. There is a more complex distribution system than that.) Anyway, spending a couple hours in this store was as close to a religious ecstatic experience as I am likely to have, although nothing compares to the Garage Sales held at the Sal Army in Cleveland. Back on point, (I can stick to a point, I swear), I spent $54 and change, and here is what I got: All together, my $54 got me: a large bag of candles, which one of these days I'm going to recycle into candle cup gifts; a vintage wool blanket, with someone's name tag on it (love that!); a nice old Boater's straw hat, in great condition that I'll put up on Ebay; 2 cool vintage dresses; a very nice antique ironstone serving bowl in great condition; a little old-fashioned nightgown; a pair of brand new tights (I do draw the line at used underwear); a very cute polka dot lightweight jacket by French Dressing; a very cute reversible wrap skirt WITH ITS TAGS STILL ON IT (I swear, buying clothes and giving them to Sal Army without ever having even bothered to take off the tags strikes me as very weird behavior - wouldn't it be simpler just to burn your money from the comfort of your home?); an oldish white cotton slip (no, slips aren't underwear); a nice queen bedskirt, which I very much need; 5 large men's cotton shirts, which I'll use for more of these; 2 old silk scarves; a Texas Ware sugar and creamer, also destined for Ebay; a little white tea cup, which I'm going to use for those candles gifts I mentioned above; a pair of socks (no, socks aren't underwear either); 2 stretchy tops; 2 sleeveless blouses; a basket ware cup; 2 long linen dresses that I'm going to turn into skirts; 2 long linen skirts that I'm going to shorten; a Flax linen shirt I bought just because I like the fabric; and a matching linen skirt and top set. Not bad for $54, huh? Here are some closeup pics:
I am, as you can probably tell, pretty pleased with this score. I spent as much as I could have easily spent on a single thing, and got over 30 things instead. And, given that a few of those things will end up on Ebay (the hat, the sugar & creamer), I may in fact break even or make a little money. But as pleased as I am for myself, I am also disturbed by how much we overproduce in this country. Most Sal Armies have to regularly take things off the racks in order to make room for the enormous quantities of stuff getting delivered daily to their stores. (All the shirts I bought yesterday were 3 for 99 cents, because they are desperate to get rid of inventory. So at the last minute I scooted over to the men's section and quickly picked up the 5 men's shirts I bought.) I'm not sure what happens to all that stuff, but at least some of it simply gets thrown out, or so I suspect. And, it isn't true, as some people assume, that the clothes in thrift stores are worn out, or cheap, or hopelessly stained, and so on. The wrap skirt I bought was brand new, and I saw lots of other things still bearing their original tags. I always carefully look over what I buy, and nothing I bought yesterday is obviously worn, or stained, or torn, etc. Why waste $54 on a single skirt, when you can spend the same amount and get this much instead? So, my suggestion to those of us who are concerned with such issues as sustainability and are distressed by the extent and ubiquity of waste in the world, I say "Thrift Shopping is Green Shopping!" We all have to consume, but we don't have to do it in the 'normal' wasteful ways.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Friends Helping Friends Get Good Stuff from the Trash

I am visiting friends in Athens, Ohio this week. Yesterday we were sitting in the yard, with the kids (their kids, not my kids) playing in this great sandbox: I asked if Joe had made it, and Julie (my friend Julie, not my sister Julie who I've referred to in these pages before) said that no, a friend in town had called when they spotted it along the road with trash, and they had gone right out to get it. That, and a new cover and bags of sand (replete with shells) from Lowe's, and they had a great new toy in the yard, and a shady spot at that! I love the collectivity of this: not just the actual saving of a thing from the trash, but one friend calling another to tell them about the great thing waiting to be rescued.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Creative Uses for Corks!

I started saving my corks, mostly champagne, as I don't drink much wine but do occasionally throw big parties where I serve a lot of bubbly, after my contractors pointed out that I could use them to repairs the holes in my baseboards that some lazy person drilled in order to run cable. But now that all those holes are filled, I have at least a large coffee can full of those nice, plump champagne corks. So, here is a great post from another blog about some projects for all your left over corks. Personally, I like this one best:Thanks for sending this to me, Lynneguist!

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Some Great Art on Nice Old Paper Book Pages

I love this art, and if I was more fiscally inclined to spend money these days, these really lovely drawings would make a happy addition to my home (they are quite affordable, but I'm quite broke these days). What appeals to me, if you haven't already guessed, and in addition to their general loveliness, is that they are on old book pages! I love that - what a clever idea. You can check them out here. They are showing in a gallery in NH, which you can check out here.

Another Great Post on Recycling from Boing Boing

My friend the Lynneguist sent me this link to a post about how to make a play kitchen for kids from an old unwanted entertainment center. I love it! It was posted on Boing Boing, a site I should look at more often. This seems like the very best thing anyone could do with such a thing, better even than oh, I don't know, putting a television in it.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

A Great Use for Plastic Containers - Mini Greenhouses!

I came across this very clever idea at a blog I keep on my bloglines. I think this is a great idea, and I am definitely going to try this next year, when I hope to grow some tomato plants from seed.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Keepin' it all in circulation - A big unexpected gift

I got one of those little notices from the post office telling me that I had a package to pick up last week. I had to pick it up because it was insured, which meant that I had to sign for it. I wasn't expecting anything, so my best guess was that it was from my brother and sister-in-law. A few weeks back I had sent them some empty glass paperweights, and they were to pick out photos and send them back to me so I could put them in. (Don't know what I'm talking about? Check out this post and see what I'm referring to.) But when I got to the post office, it was from my sister Gwen, in New Mexico. Look what she sent me! Tons and tons of books on dvd. I haven't added it all up, but there is somewhere in the vicinity of 100 hours of books here. I am bowled over. I am driving to Athens, Ohio next week, so the timing is perfect. I mentioned my great good fortune to my friend Frank, and he said he'd like to borrow them when I'm done, so that will mean at least three people will use them. Then, unless I find someone else who wants to borrow them, I will pass them along to the Blaisdell Memorial Library. Let's keep as much as we can in circulation. Thanks Gwen!

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Ode to Spring and Clothespins

I am so happy that Spring is finally upon us. Here in upstate NY we had to wait a while, and grin and bear it through some unseasonably cold weather in April. But now it is reasonably warm, and the daffodils I planted in the Fall are up, and my gardens are beginning to get green. But the best thing about Spring for me is laundry - yes, laundry! My dryer died just about a year ago, and I decided not to replace it. So I resurrected the old clothesline in the yard last summer and used it into the Fall. I had thought I would use it all winter, but it extends out from under the eaves of the back of my house, so once the snow arrives it gets ice bound, along with the rest of the world around here. All winter, then, I hung up my laundry inside, using a wooden rack and radiators - not a good way to do things like sheets and bedspreads. I'm getting all caught up now, though. So the other day I cleaned my clothespins which I had left out all winter. (I soaked them with a little bleach, then rinsed them with a little vinegar). And I finally got around to attaching my clothespins holder to the house next to where the clothesline begins its descent into the yard. I picked up this cheap, aluminum, old colander at a yardsale last summer for a quarter (still a deal at twice the price!): Then I squashed it a little and screwed it right to the side of the house. It sits under the eaves, so it should stay pretty dry, but water will drain out in any case.I find that on a warm, breezy day, laundry dries in less than two hours (except for towels). I do miss the way that the dryer gets rid of lint, though. But in general, not having a dryer hasn't been that much of a sacrifice. I managed without it all winter, except for once when I needed to wash my duvet cover and put it back on my bed on the same day, which I brought to a friend's house to dry.