Friday, 13 August 2010

Salvage Operations

by Sadge, at Firesign Farm
"Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without" was the Depression era mantra. "Reduce, reuse, recycle" popular when I came of age. The idea never really goes away, and with the resurgence of the simple, frugal mindset in today's economic distress it seems more important than ever.

Salvage operations can run the gamut from huge to tiny, depending on what you have, what you can find, and what kind of space you have to store those finds. A few years ago, a 1940's-era trailer park below us was taken out in order to build a new strip mall. We watched as the residents left, and the trailers still movable were taken out. I checked with the project manager about salvaging what was left. Other than the office building, wrapped for hazardous asbestos remediation, he told me to help myself. They were going to bulldoze everything, and had to pay for everything hauled away by weight. If we wanted to "lighten their load," we had a couple of weeks to quietly help ourselves.

Wire fencing we rolled up - fencing always comes in handy around gardens and chickens. A few dry-stacked cinder block walls and cement patio blocks also found their way up to our place. The few remaining trailers, too decrepit to move, were pretty heavily vandalized by local teens, but we did find a couple of exterior doors we could use. One now graces our chicken coop, its sliding window providing welcome summertime ventilation.

Even more important, to us, were the trees in between the now-empty spaces. We gave a friend with access to a tree spade first chance at them, but he could only take out a couple because of the crisscrossed mess of electric, gas, and water pipes buried over the years. Then, it was our turn. We heat with wood - chunks of 50-year old apple, sycamore, and locust soon added to our firewood stacks.

Of course, you don't need a truck or lots of land to salvage things for reuse. Many of my canning jars came from Freecycle offerings. Mom had her junk drawer in her house in the suburbs; Dad had an old coffee tin filled with odd little bits of hardware out in the garage. When I inherited my mother-in-law's button box, she'd obviously cut sets of buttons from worn clothing, then tied them together with bits of string. Even the rubber bands from the daily newspaper and twist ties from bread wrappers have their spots in my kitchen drawer; plastic freezer bags are washed and hung up to dry over my sink.

Just a couple of caveats: anyone that's seen the reality TV shows about hoarders knows that sometimes people can go too far. Creative people are most at risk of this mindset - they're the ones that can come up with all kinds of reasons something "might" be nice to have. You have to balance what you find with what you really can use (fabric stash-busting, anyone?). And beware that upholstered piece of furniture out on the curb - it might not be such a good find after all. You certainly wouldn't want to bring bedbugs or other pests into your home just because it's free.


Sandy L said...

Great article. I just wrote one on the things my mom would save (buttons, zippers, fabric scraps, free wood) and it's nice to know that it's not just people's grandmothers who still practice this type of recycling.

You're right about it bordering on hoarding though. All that stuff is useless if you can't find it in amidst the piles of stuff everywhere.

Bel said...

I too save rubber bands, some plastic bags, buttons, some jars and other bits and pieces.

On our farm we re-use wire, posts, doors, construction-site excesses - timber, steel, pallets, crates, roofing iron and more.

In my business I re-use clean packaging materials.

Salvaging saves us a fortune each year in many of our projects around the home and on the farm.

louisa @ The Really Good Life said...

I'm a salvager too - a lot of my hobbies/crafts reuse/recycle/upcycle "trash" so I collect a lot of (clean) stuff to have on hand for when I want it, and we also obsessively collect wood (even though we've probably already got enough for two winters), building materials, jars, garden stuff... We always have our eyes open for new sources - skips/bins, houses being renovated etc.

But there are costs to hoarding - mental & physical ones, if not always financial. I recently wrote a post about it on my blog, The Really Good Life - Would be great to get some feedback on it from other hoarders if anyone has a minute to read it.

Annette said...

Great Post Sadge. My hen house was built from mostly salvadged items either from our house (the coop door) or from the dump.

Gotta love it!

LindaG said...

Thanks so much for this post. So much good information and lots of good ideas too. :)

Sense of Home said...

A Very good article. The throw away attitude that is so prevalent needs to change. I work as a children's librarian and hear the throw away attitude expressed often by children, I partially blame the cheap products at the big box stores.


Super Mom said...

Designated an area (container, shelf or box) for the items I have deemed reuseable helps me to keep from turning into a hoarder. Once the storage area is full I need to start recycling or discarding the extras. Also if I have never found a 'use' for the saved item they will make their way out of the house.