Thursday, September 27, 2007

Yesterday's Big Haul: Free Squash

I went to a big lunch at the small liberal arts college where I taught until recently. The theme of the lunch, served outside under tents, was local food brought in by local farmers. Every ingredient, other than the salt, was locally procured. The farmers brought in tons, and I do mean tons, of various squash that were used to decorate the grounds and, I suppose, illustrate the bounty of our local farms. People were allowed to take squash home, and here is what I carried back to my car: While we were eating, my friend Katheryn commented on the tendency to eat to excess at buffets, and wondered why we do this. We all agreed on the general explanation that we are disposed to eat, and keep on eating, whenever we find ourselves in situations of bounty, as a disposition, perhaps even genetic, left over from our hunter-gatherer past, when such a dispositon would be crucial to survival. Eat when there is lots of food available, and you are more likely to survive the periods when there isn't enough. If that explanation is right, and does explain our tendency to gorge ourselves when surrounded by piles of free, ready-to-eat food, then I think that it may also extend to my disposition to take as much free stuff as I can fit into my hatch back when I'm surrounded by free, good stuff! After I got all this squash home, I regretted that I hadn't gone back for more.... I wish I had more of the butternuts, and the carnevales, which you see in front, especially since squash stores well. Now I've got a nice store of squash in a basket in my basement, covered with one of these towels.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Free Foraged Food - Part 2 - Green Beans

Fall is the time to put food up for the winter, and I'm doing my part. My neighbors, Sam and Marcia, are good scavengers, and yesterday they brought me these green beans, gleaned from some farm up in Poland, NY, which had been a bit mangled by the harvesting machine: I washed them off, cut off the damaged parts of the bigger beans, blanched and froze them. Here's what I ended up with: I'm glad for the beans, and glad to have kept them from going to waste.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Terracycle - Reusing Plastic Bottles

My friend Frank recently told me about this company: Terracycle. These guys are making plant food by feeding organic waste to worms and then packaging these gardening products in old soda bottles, which would otherwise enter the waste stream. Pretty clever. Of course what we really need to do is to produce far fewer of these plastic bottles in the first place - reusing just isn't enough of an answer to our waste problems. I also would like to know how much fossil fuels these guys are using to make their products. But in any case, there is some clever thinking going on here.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Creative Use for Plastic Bags

I took some pictures for this blog while travelling in England and Scandanavia this summer, but did very little blogging from there, so I have a little catching up to do. I saw this clever reuse of plastic shopping bags (what the Brits call "carrier bags") one evening while killing a little time before I went to see a play at the Old Red Lion pub, near the Angel tube station. (Pub theater is great. This place was a nice pub downstairs, with a tiny, tiny theater upstairs. You buy your ticket, get a pint, and when the bell rings to let you know to go upstairs, you bring your pint along. I didn't love the play, but I did enjoy the overall theater experience.) So, an empty storefront window had been artfully filled with crumpled plastic bags, affording privacy to whatever was going on behind the window, I suppose. Of course it's too bad that there are so many plastic bags in the world to begin with, but I liked this clever repurposing of them. There are some movements afoot to ban plastic bags, such as this one in San Francisco. Here is another story about the international movement to get rid of them. I'm all for such bans. Here is another site to get you acquainted with the issue.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Old Blanket = New Curtain

Well, it's coming up on two years since I bought my house, and I'm finally getting around to putting up curtains. (Mr. Happy says that being at my house is like hanging out in a fish bowl...) The first project (first because it was easiest) was to put up a curtain on the one smallish window in my guest room, site-of-my-future-sewing-room. I was rummaging through my not unimpressive fabric collection when I came across a pile of nice old Indian-style woven blankets (all acquired for a mere $5 at an auction a few years ago). And one was just the right size for the window. It doesn't look great when it is down (meaning providing privacy), but I like how it looks swagged, which is how it will be the vast majority of the time. I couldn't get a good shot of the whole window, but here are some pictures that give a good idea of how this little project worked out. It couldn't have been easier: I folded it across the top and put in a seam to create a pocket for the tension curtain rod, then put a simple brass hook to one side for swagging.
Just this morning I finished a set of simple sheers for my bedroom, which I'm very happy with. (But I made them with fabric bought (the-shame-of-it) in a retail store, so I won't include them here.)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

What Do Towels and Scissors Have In Common?

You just can't have too many! I found these four perfectly good towels in the Spring whilst scavenging outside the dorms of my local college after the students had absconded. They leave piles upon piles of good stuff outside the dorms. And I extracted this towel from a snow bank last winter: All these have been added to my pile of what I call "dog towels", i.e., towels too good to throw out but not quite up to my standards of what I'm willing to dry off with. With this many towels, I should think about getting more dogs... maybe big ones who like to swim...

Monday, September 10, 2007

Last Week's Treasures from the Trash

I got a few good things out of a neighbor's trash last Tuesday. Here's what I came home with: a bunch of nice, new fake flowers. (Fake flowers are very much not my thing, but my next door neighbor likes them, so I picked them up for her. I do, however, feel a little conflict over this, since the detritus of various fake flowers end up migrating into my back gardens. Oh well - she does lots of nice things for me, so it will be nice to do something she will appreciate.) I also got a bunch of file folders, which I don't need, but oak tag paper is so handy to have around for making tags, etc. I also got a brandy new box of push pins, a nice old pair of scissors (can you have too many scissors? I don't think so), a little plastic tray, a box of pearl costume earrings that I will add to my yard sale, and a small spatula. Not bad for a few moments picking. And, on the same day at another house I got another one of these. So that brings the count of perfectly good, white, plastic, kitchen trash cans to four!

Friday, September 7, 2007

More Art on Reused Paper

I've twice before posted about art on old paper: on newspaper here, and on old book pages here. Well, here is some more, by Susan at Artstream, which I found on her blog, Art Esprit. One of these days (like when I'm once again in possession of an income other than unemployment insurance) I'll have to get one of these pieces.

Would you throw this mug away?

I found this very nice, handmade mug in the trash of the old woman who lives across the street from me. It was still wrapped up in what I took to be its original wrapping paper. Maybe someone gave it to her as a gift. Mugs are a standard issue, generic gift. Which made me wonder why she, or some member of her family, didn't just regift it. What a waste to throw it away!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Do you have 188 bowling balls that you don't know what to do with?

My father and I took a trip to Vermont's 'Northeast Kingdom' last week. We had a great time driving around the beautiful countryside. We drove by this one day, and I just had to turn around to get a few pictures. What a great idea! And it really looks terrific. It was on Rte 58 in northern Vermont, a few miles east of Lowell. I checked, and it is bowling balls all the way through. I did the math, and there are 188 bowling balls here. Wow!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Finding things along the road, too!

I was up in Nottingham, NH last week, visiting my father and other such things. I went out into the woods one day and pulled a few things out of an old dump in the woods, but I left them in a pile by a tree, intending to pick them up with my car later, and then never did get around to getting them. I'm pretty confident that the pile will still be there the next time I go up, when I'll retrieve it and post about that stuff. But, on my way home, walking along the road, I found this dog comb. It is just what I needed. When I came home from England this summer, my dog was in the middle of a major shedding, and I was too cheap to go out and buy a new dog comb, so I used a nice, old wooden comb that I wasn't using anyway. But now I have a real dog comb, so hopefully less of Lu's hair will end up on my couch! We'll see about that, but meanwhile, this little find really does reinforce my view that most things you need are in fact just lying around waiting to be picked up...

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

A great table straight from the trash

I just got this table out of the trash, just a few doors down from my house. It has a wooden top and the metal base folds up very easily. I will repaint the top, with an oil-based enamel, and make one very small repair to the hardware on the bottom, then I'll have a brandy new, great little table. It will make a perfect addition to my porch, which I am in the middle of painting, and which I'm looking forward to decorating when I'm done. It is just the right size for playing scrabble, which should convince a certain someone (we'll call him Mr. Happy, 'cause he's a pretty upbeat guy) that dragging things out of the trash isn't quite so awful after all...