Complimentary Curbside Conquests

Yesterday I happened to be in a neighborhood that is having bulk trash collection this week. Although I’ve previously found bulk collection to be a great source of treasures, I was feeling a bit under the weather yesterday and was only up for walking eight or ten blocks before heading home to rest up again. Fortunately, in just those few blocks I discovered a nice metal plant stand to liven up my living room with the pots I’ve collected previously.

But this morning I was feeling better again and decided to explore another part of that neighborhood. There were lots of cardboard boxes in front of houses as usual, and I had to go up to each one to see whether it was full of junk, a plastic christmas tree (it’s amazing how many plastic trees get thrown out in January!) or something more interesting. Just when I thought I wouldn’t find anything interesting, I noticed a long box that said Everlast on the side. Could it be?

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Heavy bag

Yes! It was an Everlast canvas heavy bag in good condition. Usually people buy exercise equipment at this time of year, not throw it out. It would have been such a shame for it to take a trip to the landfill. And lucky for me, a friend with a car was available to give me a ride home with my newly acquired toy.

But this was especially great because I had also found a heavy bag during bulk collection last year. That heavy bag came with a stand but unfortunately was never used because the bag wasn’t in good condition and at least needed to be thoroughly cleaned out. It was full of tiny scraps of fabric that had gotten wet, making the bag even heavier and gross enough to encourage me to tackle any task other than cleaning the bag during my free time. Just this morning, I cleared out yet another small chunk of the inner gunk before giving up again for the day. In the meantime, the heavy bag stand has also sat there unused. Until today. The chains for the bag were also in the box, and this bag was not so heavy as the other bag. Between two people it was easily raised onto a stepladder and then attached, followed by a few light punches to test it out.

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Heavy bag on the stand in the garage

We already have bag gloves, so the only things left to do are to put some weights on the stand to make it a bit more stable and replace the one remaining lightbulb in the garage with two new ones before it goes totally dark. Oh yeah, and punching. There is still much punching to do. ūüėÄ

Neighborhood Swap Day!

Twice a year everyone in the neighborhood takes all the stuff they don’t want want or need and sets it out for neighborhood swap day. Like the large metal milk jug that my aunt gifted me because she didn’t want it. Someone else loved it and took it away, while I strolled around and got my pick of the other goodies folks have set out.

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I didn’t take this burger pi√Īata, but isn’t it cute?

Well, technically it’s called Residential Bulk Collection, and it’s for bulky items that folks consider trash and just want to get rid of. The scrappers get a lot of the good stuff, too. There’s constantly another scrapper trailer driving around looking for metal pieces they can collect. It’s kind of disappointing that they end up recycling some items that could be reused, but at least it keeps things out of the landfill.

And it’s a great way for much other stuff to find new homes also. Need a new-to-you dresser or table? How about a book to read? This is a perfect time to get something for free and to save stuff from the landfill.

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Many goodies collected this weekend

Here are the various treasures (and less treasured items) I collected:

  • (Ignore all the grey bricks. I did pick those up from the curb, but it was for a nearby multi-family residence that doesn’t have the same bulk service.)
  • Blue shelf – Not pictured since it was set out earlier and grabbed earlier. It’s already in the garage happily organizing pots, trowels, and other garage-dwelling items that were previously scattered on the floor or resting somewhere inconvenient.
  • Hanging pot – There were two of these and I was only interested in extra ingredients for the compost, so I dumped the soil from one into the other to tote it back more easily. Folks must have thought I was crazy carrying around that thing, but they don’t know what they’re missing.
  • 6 light grey ceramic tiles – In retrospect, I’m not sure if this is enough tiles to be useful to me and I may keep passing these along.
  • Citronella candles – To discourage mosquitoes. They’re probably not too effective, but I’m sure I can find someone who wants them if I decide not to keep them.
  • Wide-ruled paper – I know plenty of people with school-age children.
  • Fabric adhesive – I’m second-guessing this now, but no matter. Even if I can’t find a new home for it, I haven’t done any harm by delaying its trip to the landfill.
  • Christmas greeting cards – I’ll use these next year.
  • Card games rule book – Mostly so I can learn another type of solitaire sans computer.
  • 12 brick pavers – I can always use more brick pavers for my garden. This was a perfect find for me.
  • White marble chips – It says erosion control on the bag, worth a try.
  • Pink ceramic pot – Which will be perfect for the previously neglected snake plant that a coworker passed on to me recently.

If I had a truck, I would also have grabbed the three or four Christmas trees I saw while out. They’re going to be turned into mulch so it’s not a bad future for them, but they’d be even better as mulch in my yard or protecting the area by the creek from erosion. Well, that’s okay. I can share.

Of course my favorite find ever from a bulk collection week was Free Serenity, still hanging serenely on my bedroom wall. Has anyone else scored something great from what other folks considered garbage?

 

Things I bought in March

March wasn’t so bad. I’ve enjoyed spending time in the garden rather than at the shops. I bought a couple of items from my wishlist and bought fewer plants than in February, but¬†did acquire¬†more free stuff than expected. And my wishlist is getting longer with big ticket home improvement purchases coming up. Maybe someday we’ll get a boarder for the extra bedroom so at least these costs wouldn’t be for just the two of us.

Check out previous lists from January and February.

Plants

The days¬†have already been starting to feel hot, so my plant purchases are finally dwindling down a bit. (Maybe next month they won’t require they’re own category?) I did buy yet another citrus tree as a splurge purchase. After all, the kumquat is¬†the one tree that I really wanted to buy but hadn’t been available in the nurseries every other time I checked. Other than that, just a couple of small potted plants and a couple of seed packs. Unfortunately,¬†I’m almost out of seed starting mix (it goes fast once you realize that using fresh mix every time really does prevent damping off) and may have to get some next month.

  • Meiwa Kumquat tree – yay! kumquats!
  • Chili pequin – because what could be better than a perennial pepper plant
  • English thyme – to see how well it spreads for groundcover potential
  • Lemon balm seed (already sprouted)
  • Lemon grass seed (sprouted in under a week¬†although the pack said 3 to 5 weeks) – because lemon grass is reputed¬†to repel mosquitoes
  • Succulent pieces (orphaned pieces that I hope to propagate into full plants)
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How could I resist?

Not New Stuff

Wow, this list is fairly long this month. I went to Goodwill and found exactly what I was looking for early in the month, but the other things just happened.

  • Rain boots – I now have no fear when trolloping around the poison ivy-infested side yard (from Goodwill).
  • Mini-blinds for the front¬†window for extra privacy. These were kind of new but I found¬†them at Goodwill so close enough.
  • 3 Shirts ‚ÄstSwapping out shirts I like less at the¬†Really, Really Free Market. I know it’s meant to be free stuff but I participate like it’s a swapping party.
  • Patio chairs ‚Äď I didn’t even ask for these but my mom dropped off a couple of old patio chairs one morning. They’ve actually been quiet convenient as a sort of shelf in the garden.
  • Plants¬†‚Äď I’ve been doing some research online, and of the plants already in my yard, I may just have wild onions, wild blackberries, wild Muscadine grape vines,¬†and a Mulberry tree. I’ll definitely¬†be paying close attention to see if my identifications are correct!
  • Soil – From a neighbor doing some landscaping.
  • Mulch – well, grass clippings and leaves collected from sidewalks, as well as a few lawn bags set out on the street that I furtively made off with.
  • A book – one of the other book club members gave me an extra copy of the book for next month, so I don’t even need to wait for it at the library.

New Stuff

  • Lawn bags¬†‚ÄstI’m not sure if these count because I bought them at my mom’s request (I don’t count the tons of stuff my husband chooses to buy), but I did buy them before helping her rake up some oak leaves in early March. (My mom’s composts¬†many things but the oak leaves just don’t seem to be breaking down.)
  • Line for the weed eater – The lawn (and weeds) that are already wide awake. My husband is happy to help out as long as it gets a clean trim, so weed eater it is.
  • Toilet paper

Things I didn’t buy

  • More tomato seeds – Even though I have only two tomato plants that survived this year, it’s already getting hot out and may be late for Spring planting. I may consider starting fresh tomato plants for the fall garden, though.
  • Machete – I was looking at these on Etsy but it’s too soon to determine if it’s worth purchasing. It’s on my wishlist below though.
  • Fast food –¬†I gave up fast food for Lent as well as eating out in general for the most part, but I’m ready to have pizza again. ūüėõ
  • Seed starting containers – In addition to the plant pots I’ve saved from previous nursery visits, working in an office means I have access to plenty of food to-go containers. It’s not hard to find on the perfect size and even with an already vented lid.
  • Esperanza – The one I bought last year is definitely dead, but I’m going to¬†give seed starting another try for this one. There are plenty of Esperanza bushes in the neighborhood to grab a few seeds from later this year.

Wishlist

Super long wishlist too! Fortunately, I know I won’t be indulging in all of these things in April.

  • A new roof! I finally got around to mucking out the gutters, and those shingles don’t look like they’re protecting our home that much anymore. Time to start checking out the roofers in this area. My goal is to get this done in the next month if possible.
  • Rain catchment system — gutters around the rest of the house and rain tanks. This is less about saving water than it is about saving my soil and preventing further erosion. (This has always been part of the post-new-roof master plan, but now it feels close enough to put on the list.)
  • Machete – My favorite lawn tool so far is definitely my scythe. It’s one of the most effective tools, the easiest, and hardly requires any storage space. With no lack of weeds, I’ve been considering a machete, grass hook, or other implement for the smaller spaces where I just can’t control a scythe with enough precision.
  • New tub? I’ve sealed up the crack again for now and caulked around the edges since the roof is first, but someday…
  • Bricks/pavers ‚Äď Am still collecting the rogue brick for use in the garden whenever I come across it.
  • Seed starting mix – As I mentioned above, I’m almost out and I’m trying to reduce how many seeds I’m starting inside¬†but will probably need more before long.

Things I bought in February

I managed to stay away from the thrift shops all of February, so this shouldn’t be as long a list as last month.

However, one of the things I noticed was that last month I was eating out regularly — three or even four times a week. It’s hard to resist. Therefore, I’m giving up eating out for lent. All the food I purchase will be basics (maybe a jar or two of spaghetti sauce in there though), and I’ll be doing more cooking next month. That should get me back on the right track.

Plants

My plant-buying spree continued this month–a couple of fruit trees, some onion transplants, and a handful of small (perennial) plants to experiment with and see what grows well/easily here (I’m hoping for some of these to expand quite a bit). Fortunately, it’s already getting fairly warm out, with highs frequently in the 80s, so from this point out it’s mostly about keeping these alive. No more plant spurges until fall.

  • Fig tree, Texas Everlasting
  • Autumn Sage
  • Onion transplants
  • Mexican honeysuckle
  • Satsuma mandarin tree
  • Santolini
  • Dichondra
  • Sedum
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Fig tree, already leafing out since I brought it home a few weeks ago

Not New Stuff

Toward the end of the month, I stopped at the Really, Really Free Market again to drop off a few items and scored some great finds.

  • Shirt – I’m slowly refining my style, replacing one shirt at a time.
  • Pair of jeans – Not needed yet, but I’ll stash these as a backup pair. They’ll need hemming before I wear them anyhow.
  • Couple of bras – This is the first time I’ve found a bra secondhand which actually fits well, and there were two of them. So excited! Don’t worry, I did wash them.
  • Lentils & spices – Another rare find. Someone apparently cleaned out their panty, and I grabbed what I expected to use. Very glad to get some marjoram as I’m out of oregano, and marjoram will do in a pinch.
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Lentils and spices from the RRFM

New Stuff

  • Kitchen lights –¬†These are the long tubes and I’d like to switch to smaller LED lights at some point but that can wait a while longer
  • Bar soap
  • Toilet paper
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One of the two dead lights replaced in the kitchen

Things I didn’t buy

  • A new mailbox – Early in the month ours was hit by a car and it doesn’t quite close properly anymore. But after being re-erected, it’s functioning well enough.
  • Mulch – I can always use more mulch, but I stole a couple of leaf bags and an xmas tree left on the curb on lawn-waste pickup day. We’re rich with organic matter now.
  • Even more plants – Yes, I¬†could have gone much further.
  • A new umbrella – I left my umbrella one day and got rained on slightly. It wasn’t horrible.
  • Shampoo – I’ve been doing water-only hair washing for several months now and am never going back.

Wishlist

There are a few new items on the wishlist. I may be hitting the thrift stores in March for those first two.

  • Rain boots or other tall sturdy boots for gardening by the creek, now that the poison ivy is starting to spring¬†back to life.
  • Mini-blinds for the dining room window, for more privacy than the current curtains offer. (We’re right on street with high pedestrian traffic to look in.)
  • Fresh¬†tomato seeds if I keep killing off my tomato attempts ūüė¶
  • New tub? I don’t know who invented these cheap plastic tub-like shells. Not sure if this one can be saved.
  • Bricks/pavers – This one is difficult to score second-hand without a car, but I’ve been very slowly collecting the rogue abandoned brick for the garden and would like to pick up the pace a bit.

The Literal Windfall

Thursday morning was windy here in Austin. For a few hours, the winds averaged 20 miles per hour, and as I worked at the office I’d often stare out the window for a moment to watch trees swaying in the wind. I was mostly excited about the cooler weather that was on its way in, but when I got home Thursday evening something even more exciting happened. My back porch was sprinkled liberally with pecans! I greedily gathered as many as I could from the porch and surrounding yard and ended up with this large bowl of pecans before having to leave for other obligations.

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Pecans! Beautiful pecans!

There may be some undesirable pecans in that batch as I learned soon after by reading some pecan-gathering instructions from another windfall recipient. I’ll sort them out at some point, but in the meantime I gathered two more bowls full of pecans and have them all hanging out in an extra produce bag. Waiting a couple of weeks for them to cure will be difficult but so worth it.

I’m full of gratitude at the moment:

  • That the house we got earlier this year already had a couple of mature pecan trees. It had been a dream of mine but I was uneasy about the ten years or so that it would take for a newly planted pecan tree to start producing.
  • That some other folks for whom a yard littered with pecans would have just been a nuisance didn’t get this home. ūüėõ
  • For being healthy enough to go outside and pick the pecans from the ground one by one without pain or too much effort.
  • For the extra exercise opportunity. My thighs may have been a tiny bit sore today, but it felt good.
  • That there are now more pecans at the farmers market. While I already had my bags full of good stuff today, next time some of those are sure to go home with me. Have to stock up while they’re in season!
  • And finally, for the cool weather that the wind helped bring in. It was in the 40’s this morning, which for Austin is true Texas weather. It won’t get that chilly again for a while, so the brisk air was savored while it lasted.

And that, my friends, is what a windfall is. ūüôā

Yet Another Way to Prevent Food Waste

At my office, on most days there is some kind of a meeting with leftover food. It usually winds up in one of the kitchen areas for people to randomly find. Some gets eaten, some ends up in the trash. At my office, we also use¬†a¬†chat program for communicating, so¬†I created a chat channel called #free. This has worked great for not just meeting leftovers, but has included some items culled from folks’ pantries at home, personal lunch leftovers, non-food items, and a successful call to eat (or take home for banana bread) the very ripe and spotty bananas in the kitchen one day before they would have been¬†thrown out. This has to be one of the easiest ways to keep food out of the landfill in an office. We’re up to 59 members now who¬†share info on food that needs saving or at least will happily eat some of it. ūüôā

Here are just a few of the many recent postings with successfully adopted items:

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Eat Your Weeds – Purslane

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Fresh-picked purslane

I’m not an expert forager. The only plants that grow in my area which I know are edible are pecans, dandelions, and purslane. Edible pecans are super rare in my experience thus far. And I still haven’t eaten dandelions because I haven’t yet gotten past the fact that they’re dandelions. But purslane? It’s like a dream.

I was very careful the first few times, checking the smooth petals to make sure it was really purslane and not the poisonous spurge or some other unknown. Once reassured, I pulled off a leaf to try it out. Purslane tastes more like spinach than anything else, with just that little bit of tang in the crisp succulent leaves. Now it sticks out like a sore thumb whenever I pass a bunch, and if the area looks safe (not subject to chemical treatments, too much car exhaust, etc) I’ll grab a bunch and pluck off a few leaves at a time to drop into my mouth and savor during my walk.

Purslane is¬†a true superfood, too. Iron. Magnesium. Omega 3 fatty acids. So many vitamins and other minerals. People have been eating purslane for thousands of years and praising its health benefits, so you know it can’t be all bad.

After discovering this bunch on the way home yesterday with lots of fresh growth probably due to the recent rains, I hurried over to my side yard where a few purslane plants were already growing. Unfortunately, they did not fare as well with the rain. A mold or some other disease got to them and they had started turning whitish at the edges. One side of the purslane patch still looked pretty happy, but upon further consideration I just left them. There’s plenty of other purslane. It grows all summer here, and summer isn’t over quite yet.

A Happy Day: Library + RRFM + ZW Food

Sunday I made my regular monthly trip to East Austin for the Really Really Free Market. I dropped off a couple of items I decided not to keep from my last trip and just a couple of other things I no longer needed. Fortunately, most of the crowd had already been through all the bins to find their treasures so I had plenty of space while looking through the tons of clothing to see if there was anything I wanted to salvage.

This month turned into a fairly large haul and I went home with:

  • a new-to-me pair of jeans that fits me properly (finally!)
  • tshirts for Wheatsville and local bakery¬†Easy Tiger¬†(they make delicious pretzels)
  • a polo-style shirt to try out
  • one extra pair of socks to replace the one I’ve just worn big holes in (the socks aren’t exactly the same length but close enough)
  • some lovely fabric for my yo-yo quilt or another project

The Wheatsville shirt is a cotton-poly blend, and I’ve been trying to stick to natural fibers. But, hey, I’ll take it because Wheatsville is awesome!

Unfortunately, this also means I now own 23 shirts! Sounds like this weekend it’ll be time to pick out a few to get down to my limit of 20 and decide whether they end up going to the next free market or recycled into tshirt yarn. It’ll be nice to get back that little bit of free space in the closet again. A few shirts can make a world of difference.

Also this month, I finally realized that in.gredients is only a 15 minute walk away from Chestnut Pocket Park where the RRFM is held, so I wiped off some of the sweat dripping from my face and headed over for some zero waste and local foods. Another dragon fruit, a canary melon, some walnut bread (from Easy Tiger!), dark chocolate discs from the bulk bins, and more. Total success!

Combined with a stop at the library and some engaging reading on the bus, this was my idea of a divine weekend. This’ll definitely be a monthly zero waste tradition for me now that I know how easy (and satisfying!) it is to do both.¬†Sorry for all the exclamation points in this post, but I had a great day and can’t help it. ūüôā

Gratitude Journal #2

It’s been a little while since Journal #1, so¬†I’m sharing just a few more of the things that I’m grateful for. The first brightens my day every time I walk up to the front door.

Zinnias

When this flower bloomed recently, I was really surprised how a weed could be so beautiful. As it turns out, these are from the zinnia seeds that I planted months ago and which I had given up on. They look totally different from the picture I remember on the seed packet, but no matter, these are stunning. More are just starting to bloom now.

Our New Air Conditioner

When it’s really hot and humid out,¬†the cool air in the house feels so good. It should be saving energy compared to our old unit. And it definitely helps me sleep better, which is worth anything. I’m also really thankful that we were able to afford it without having to borrow money.

A Backyard Bounty

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So many tomatoes!

There’s not as much going on in the veggie garden at the moment, but I’m still harvesting a bunch of Roma tomatoes. We’ve been slicing them on pizza and chopping them up into chili and spaghetti sauce. It might soon be time to make some salsa.

Turtles

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Our neighbor, Leonardo

For a while now, my husband has occasionally been seeing a turtle or two in the creek near our house, but today was my first sighting. I’ll call him Leonardo, after my favorite ninja turtle. ūüôā

The Library

Because in addition to everything else they recently got new copies of The Monkees on DVD, which I’ll be enjoying over my summer vacation.

Curbside Free Piles

Because I was able to get rid of the dirty and not needed yet fully functional ice chest from the back yard (that came with the house) without doing anything more than dragging it over near the sidewalk out front.

Free Paint, Recycled Paint

In Austin, anyone can stop off at the Recycle & Reuse Drop-off center to pick up some totally free ReBlend paint. Paint isn’t supposed to be thrown out in the trash, so people who have left over paint take it down to the Drop-off center, where it’s blended into one of three color combinations and repackaged for anyone in town to pick up. The blending process releases any VOCs in the paint, so while it may have had VOCs originally at least they won’t be released in your home. And did I mention that this paint is free?

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In April I made my way out there to pick up paint for some ugly walls in our new house. Taking the bus was a bad idea because it was a lot further to the bus stop carrying a few gallons of paint, and my carrying bags weren’t quite right for the job. Fortunately, by walking I had the opportunity to enjoy this railroad to nowhere.

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Nature victorious!

When I visited only the dark beige color was available, but any paint would have suited my needs. While there, I checked out the Reuse Store (free stuff that other people dropped off but still has a lot of use in it) and got a hammer, screws, a nice Italian planter, and possibly other things that I don’t quite remember.

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Recycled paint!

My mom had given me a few paint roller supplies, but I made a trip to the hardware store and picked out a couple of quality brushes that should last the rest of my life–a 1.5″ angled brush for detail work and a 3″ paint-all-the-things brush. (I had been hoping the Habitat ReStore would have some used paintbrushes, but sadly it only sells them brand new.)¬† Plus, I picked up a short ladder at a yard sale in my neighborhood because I had no other good way to reach near the ceiling. Holding the small amount of paint for each day was simple with a reused plastic container. I’ll probably give away the paint roller supplies on Freecycle in the near future.

(Note: If I had decent carpeting I would probably need to invent a dropcloth also but fortunately, or unfortunately, the carpet that came with the house is permanently stained and at some point in the non-distant future should be removed.)

This is the closet in our guest bedroom before it got its new paint job. It was off-white and doesn’t look too bad there, but the other walls had many spackle spots and smudges which didn’t make it look very friendly. I couldn’t bear to take a picture of them.

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Before

And here’s our happily repainted guest bedroom.

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After. Non-nasty walls!
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With contrasting white trim

My husband was so happy at the improvement. At some point I’ll probably be making another trip to the Reuse Store to pick up a small jar of white paint to touch up the trim. (They have so much free stuff!) But in the meantime I have a half a bucket of paint left and will be working on the hallway and bathroom cabinets, which are the two things that most need it.

At this point, even though I have several other rooms that could benefit from it, I’m not sure whether or not I’ll be getting another large bucket of paint anytime soon. While working with this stuff I’ve realized that I’m pretty much just putting a layer of plastic on my walls. Not sure how I feel about that. The greenest solution is obviously to live with smudgy walls, but nope. This warrants further investigation. Do you know of any good alternatives?