Saturday, January 28, 2012

Dumpster Diving vs. Dump Diving...

In St. Louis city we have Dumpsters in our alleys for trash and recycling. In addition to twice-weekly service, once a month the city comes through and picks up bulk items that have been discarded but don't fit into the Dumpsters. It's fun to drive down our city alley behind the house and discover that someone has set out for bulk pickup exactly what we "need" - and it's FREE!

Once, right behind our garage Big Daddy found a long and narrow picnic table made of thick wood planks. One leg was broken off, but a quick trip to Home Depot fixed that, and voila I had the perfect sewing room table. It's long enough to fit both my sewing machine and serger with plenty of space left over to handle big projects like duvet covers, and so sturdy that no amount of speed sewing can make it shake.

Shortly after we bought Le Rustique, we were scrounging for enough furniture to fill the farm house that came with the property. We found a few Dumpster diving goodies, including this wheelbarrow.
Big Daddy showing just how giddy he was at finding the wheelbarrow.
Thanks to our alley neighbors for providing  their garage as backdrop.

For the cost of one obscure-sized tire tube and some Gorilla Glue to fix a handle, we had a spare wheelbarrow. And since we didn't want to find ourselves needing a wheelbarrow in the city only to remember that it was at the farm, or vice-versa, a nearly free second one made us downright giddy.

It's amazing how little it takes to thrill us!

Another alley snag - still considered a Dumpster-diving find even though it never quite made it into the Dumpster - was this sort-of Morris chair. It's finish was peeling, and there were no cushions, but I figured I could easily fix those shortcomings.

The bad news is that the big, boxy foam cushions and fabric were so costly that I could save money by buying a brand new chair instead. Ah, but the good news is that a turn down the "wrong" aisle in Target took me right past a shelf with nothing on it but two clearance cushions (marked down from $25 to $5 each) - exactly the right size, and in a neutral corduroy that worked perfectly for the farm house. Obviously they were waiting just for me.

Alley Find -  barely sanded for a shabby look. Target clearance cushions for a comfy side chair next to the kitchen peninsula. Note the 1965 linoleum, probably much more appreciated in its day than I'm feeling for it now. 
There's a place at Le Rustique we call The Old Dump. For rural homesteads where there wasn't a landfill nearby, nor usually any trash hauling services, people found a place on their property to dump items that they couldn't burn or re-use. On our property it didn't take us long to find the place, because it was well marked with an old pickup truck shell.
You can barely see Big Daddy on the far end lifting the old shell to see how much trash is
underneath.  Luckily for us, there were only a couple pieces of scrap that had fallen off it.
In addition to the bigger items, we gathered a couple large bags of discarded stuff, mostly cans. The most worrisome things were odd metal parts and paint cans, and of course the more recent beer cans. Apparently a neighbor kid has discovered his favorite place to sneak away from supervision, and he may be the guy recently captured on a game camera (unfortunately too distant to make positive identification).

We found a number of Ball/Mason jars, and I brought home the ones that weren't broken. I sent a bunch of small bottles dating from mostly the 1930's to Bumper B (whom we didn't previously know was a bottle collector), but I must have inadvertently deleted the photos I had taken of them.

So which one wins? Dumpster or Dump?
There is some sort of fern towards the bottom of the bottle, and some sort of cress at the mouth.
I put the terrarium outside in the front garden where it'll get plenty of winter sun. I hope it survives until spring.


  1. This is really awesome. I need to get up the courage to go looking around here, on the days when people put things out.

    Congratulations on your finds! Have a blessed Sunday!

    1. Linda, I've never taken the time to travel around - even in my own neighborhood - but our one-block stretch of the alley has delivered its own treasures. I'm just enough karma-driven to believe it has helped to put a few treasures out there for the taking, too. Thanks for reading!

  2. Oh what fun! You're my kinda girl. I think the dump won. Love the little terrarium. I've found antique bottles and jars here too while hiking through the woods. It was like buried treasure under all the leaves and moss.

    1. Karen, thanks for reading and commenting. I think the dump won, too. The wheelbarrow and chair we could have bought, but Mother Nature's terrarium - truly a gift.

  3. I've done that so many times. It's good to see others doing it. I love the idea of redo, reuse and recycle and always have. Love the post and I will have to follow you to see what other fun stuff you are up to. :)

  4. That is definitely what I would call FUN ... the glass bottles and jars are amazing - I love the terrarium!

  5. I popped by to thank you for your visit to Mucky Boots, and what an interesting post to read when i got here! I definitely vote for the dump, too, because of that beautiful terrarium.

    I have never dumpster dived, but I used to live in Montreal, which was a prime place for curb side picking - a great way for a poor student to furnish her apartment! We used to cruise the ritzier neighbourhoods on the night before garbage day, and we scored some great finds. The downside was that because the tradition of curb side picking was so well established through the city, anything found on the sidewalk was considered fair game - including things left there only momentarily on moving day! (Can you tell I am speaking from personal experience?!)

  6. I might have been more nervous about lifting the pickup cap - what if something alive were there, angry to be disturbed? I'm glad things worked out well for you.

  7. I think the bottled fern is quite possibly one of the most beautiful things I could have imagined finding in a dumpster or possibly a waste site. It holds such a magic feel for such a place of ridden nature.

    -Land Source Container Service, Inc.
    Garbage Carting NYC


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