Sunday, July 02, 2006

One Man's Trash Another Man's Treasure

As I've mentioned before and if you keep up with this blog you know that besides homesteading we have our own trash route. It is our main source of income. Pretty much the only money we get from the farm is the sale of chickens and eggs. And that is just enough to pay for itself. So, if you don’t count the labor that goes into it you might say we get our meat and eggs for free.
But, back to the trash business. During last weeks Energy Fair I went to a workshop called “Stuff You Can Do With Junk”. The young people who presented it showed us some interesting and clever ways to take items that you might ordinarily throw away and turn them into something you can continue to use. We have come up with many of our own ways to reuse and recycle discarded stuff ourselves.

When trying to live a more “basic” lifestyle being thrifty isn’t just a fun and entertaining thing to do it actually becomes something of a necessity. Since we don’t make that much money at our business all the good stuff that gets thrown away always gets set aside to see weather or not it is something we can reuse or recycle. And when it turns out to be a good find we always feel it is a blessing that comes right from the hand of God, either for us or someone else who can use it. So recycling all the stuff seems to go right along with our values of trying to be good stewards of what the Lord has given us. Many times He gives us not just things we need but, also things we like and enjoy.

For instance last year a man threw out a black bear hide complete with head and feet that he had stored in a freezer in his garage until he could get a chance to have it made into a rug. Well, little did he know until it was too late that his freezer quit working and everything in the freezer including the fresh bear hide had gone bad. And boy did that hide smell terrible. I encounter lots of bad smells in the course of my week and I can tell you with all honesty that a rotting bear is something better left alone.
Anybody who knows me is aware of my tendencies be a bit of a pack rat so naturally my wheels were rolling as to how I could salvage something from our customers unfortunate loss. It was a beautiful hide and was a crying shame to have to throw it into the dump. But, the smell was just down right awful. So I thought well at least I could salvage the skull.
My Dad happened to have a pair of disposable rubber gloves on hand for a painting project he was doing so I put those on and promptly went to work on that bears head. The thing had one of those smells you could almost taste so if I could have figured out how to breath through my ears that would have been fine by me. As I pealed off the hide I was quite taken back by how much muscling was all around the head and jaw. There was no doubt this was a very powerful animal and by the looks of those heavy muscles I found an even greater respect for these magnificent creatures.
There are several ways of removing the flesh from a skull one of them being to cook it off in boiling water. But, in this case I didn’t want to go anywhere near any of our cooking utensils with that smelly head so I buried it. Our friend Ken told us about how to do that sometime ago which is a method I have used to clean various skulls. If you leave it in the ground long enough the worms and bugs do the work of cleaning off the flesh. In this case I left it in the ground all last year and just got around to digging it up a few days ago.

Bear skull and table.

Judging by the wear on the bears teeth it was an older one and it even had a broken left fang.

So there it is in the photo which happens to be on a table that I rescued from the landfill. I saw that table and didn’t think we would want it in the house but, I thought, hey why not use it as an outdoor table by our fire pit. We never have anything to set our drinks or smores making supplies on so it worked out great.

Earlier this year our friend Kristine told us about the idea of taking an old mini blinds and making garden markers out of them. I regularly get mini blinds in the trash so this year we are loaded with markers. We should never forget what we planted. All you do is write on them with a permanent marker and there is plenty of surface area to write other useful information like, when it was planted.

Here are some that we cut up that I set on this lawn chair which is another garbage find. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the chair.

The marker in use. Made from a mini blind.

Here are some other recycled items. Empty laundry detergent containers make great grain scoops. This one has been in use for about 8 years. An empty apple juice container is what we use to water the rabbits with. We have to replace those once in a while especially if we forget them outside in the winter and they freeze. And of course we always have a never ending supply of 5 gallon buckets. People throw those out all the time.

And we are also blessed with things to spruce up the yard. The concrete goose was also something saved from the landfill.

Americans throw out an awful lot of perfectly good stuff. If a person wants to take the time and doesn’t have any hang ups about using “trash” there are literally tons of things you can save from being tossed into the landfills.

One idea I heard from the Energy Fair was to take old windows and make them into picture frames. Now, for some reason I have a fetish about windows and it almost pains me (no pun intended) to destroy them, so one of these days I think I’ll dig through some of the ones we have laying around and see if I can come with a suitable one to make a gift for Kelli. The older the window the better. I like the ones with wavy glass. Those ones kind of take you back in time before everything became so cookie cutter perfect.

The past couple weeks have been full with family and friends and we even had back to back guests in the cabin. My Aunt Marcia from Florida was here with her daughter Colleen, they left this morning . Our friend Pina is here right now. Pina is originally from Italy and usually treats us to her authentic Italian cooking. She is a great cook. Today we had authentic American cooking, brats burgers and hot dogs over a gas grill. Also Kelli’s sister and her kids helped us eat all that food.

Come to think of it today has been about as full as it gets. Local friends and neighbors Bob and Lenore came to borrow our trailer so they could go get hay and stayed for awhile. Then two friends Joanna and Dan’s wife Stephanie came up to bring my Mother in-law flowers for half scaring her to death from a pulling prank phone call last night while we were gone. We were down watching fireworks in Rhinelander. Actually Stephanie pulled the prank all the while being coached by Dan and Joanna’s husband Phil. They thought we were home but, it was just Kelli’s Mom and Pina who were here. Anyway I won’t go into the specifics but we all had a great big laugh about it all.

People sometimes joke that we are running a commune here. My parents live here in their own house. Kelli’s Mom is with us and Kelli’s sister Doreen lives in a camper right next to where we live. Kelli’s other sister Karen lives less than a mile down the road with her family. Then throw in cabin guests and more friends and family and you’ve got quite a bunch of people. So, I can see why there’s the jokes. But, to me when it comes down to it, that’s all that counts. Being surrounded by people you care about. Material things come and go but eternity is for people.

Until Next Time


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Russ!

I sure do agree with you about how many useful things that people throw away. I'd have a hard time working a trash route cuz of all the things that I'd want to salvage. I'm a big packrat too.

You are so very blessed to have friends and family around you. Sad that our modern society values possessions over people---soooo very sad.

May God continue to guide your steps!

11:42 PM  
Blogger Leslie said...

You have a creative mind to think of all those alternative uses for things. My favorite is the garden markers made out of mini blinds. Pure genius!

1:56 PM  
Blogger Emily said...

Hi Russ! Great post! I can just see it now if we had a trash route. We'd have to build another barn to hold all the "treasures" we would bring home. Not that we're hard-core pack rats, mind you. We have an eye to the value of junk, that's all. You never know when you'll be able to make a profit off it plus many of our furnishings and decorative embellishments around the house came from out on the side of the road. Some of them are even antiques! It's that disposable mindset people have I suppose, but honestly, I can't believe the perfectly good items that get tossed in the garbage. Like bear skins....sheesh. ;^D

10:47 PM  
Blogger RL said...

Yes we are very blessed with good family and friends.

Thanks for the comment.
Our friend Kristine told us about the garden markers. They do work very well.

One note of concern that I need to look into soon. A reader emailed me and told me that there is sometimes lead in mini blinds. I don't know if it is something that can leach into the soil or not. Nor do I know if it is in all blinds.

Hi Emily,
Thanks. I got a good chuckle out of your last comment,"bear skins....sheesh". Before we started hauling garbage we always tended to find "stuff" too. Always figured it to be a blessing from above.

11:42 PM  

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