We aren’t quite up there with junkers. But scroungers and scavengers we are

Created Thursday, 03 February 2011 14:48

Sidewalk Scrounging

Yeah, I know – embarrassing to admit: we’re scroungers and scavengers. We’re not quite up there with the junkers in pick-up trucks who circulate in ours and other neighborhoods during that week when householders are putting out items for bulk trash pickup, but heaven knows, my daughter and I have staggered home of a morning, burdened with discarded but perfectly good pottery pots, with revivable plants, garden knick-knacks, a twelve pack of brand-new canning jars (as if someone got the urge to make jam or something, and thought better of it), and a chaise-lounge made of two-by-fours which may have had a leeetle bit of wood-rot on one leg . . . oh, the list is endless.

I suppose I hit some kind height – or nadir – when I was surveying one large curbside mound outside a home from which someone had evidently just moved and had hit that ‘oh, s**w it, I’m gonna throw it away rather than pack another thing!’ wall. There actually was one of the professional scroungers with his junk-laden van parked by the curb, industriously rummaging through the pile – a lot of cheap knock-down furniture and faintly dingy electronics, IIRC – and I very politely asked him to hold the dog’s leashes, so that I could retrieve a large and slightly wilted Brugmansia (Angel Trumpet) from a position on the very top of the pile. He did – apparently having no interest in slightly past their-best-if-used-by-this-date garden plants. (The Brugmansia has done pretty well, by the way – a little nipped by frost now and again, but it always comes back.

The trick to making them thrive, by the way, is using plenty of the fertilizer designed for hibiscus.) And then there was a pile of discards by a house undergoing renovation . . . we scored a replacement sliding screen door out of that. A pair of dogs that my daughter had decided to shelter in a fit of noble high-mindedness had thoroughly shredded the previously existing screen and bent the heck out of the metal frame. What does it say that a construction discard was a step up, quality-wise? At least, the price was right.

Plants and pots – especially pots: those are the most excellent finds in my neighborhood. Not quite sure about why that should be so, except that the turnover during the PCS season in our neighborhood is pretty brisk. Heavy pottery pots just don’t transport well . . . not to mention the plants in them. In a military move, that tends to be the kind of thing given away or discarded, right off the bat . . . so they wind up on the curb, in spite of being in perfectly good shape and even rather expensive to start with. So – when they finish up in my garden, it’s just karmic payback for all the plants and their pots that I gave away, upon departing assignments in Greece, Spain and Utah.

I do wonder now and again, what the pickings would be like in other neighborhoods – those which reflect a higher socio-economic level than mine. That is to say, the rich ones. Probably some very nice things, if the experience of one of my mothers’ neighbors in California is anything to go by. He’s a building contractor, who does very high-end renovations, and his own house and garden is almost entirely fitted out with materials that were excess to the needs of various projects, or perfectly good and salvaged from them – even the tiles on his roof were from a job.

On the day when someone in my neighborhood replaces a granite countertop – I will be so there.

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