Ed and I were sorting our recyclables at the dump on a frigid day recently, when I stumbled on two boxes of what looked, under a thick layer of greasy dust, like old canning jars. I peered closer and sure enough, there must have been over a dozen in all, both clear glass and blue, their metal bails and glass lids intact. Some were “Lightning,” a brand I\’d never heard of before.
How could anybody throw out such a treasure? Didn\’t he know how fabulous old canning jars look filled with dried red peppers, or pasta, or dried rose petals? I asked the attendant if it was all right to take some of the jars, and he said yes, grinning at my excitement. And I was excited, sort of the way I imagine morel hunters feel when they come upon an especially good patch. This was my first experience with what I believe is called “dump diving,” and I loved it.
I got into this something-for-(almost)-nothing mode in the fall, when the economy was worsening and everyone worried about the cost of heating oil. That prompted me to attend the rummage sale at a nearby village, where I purchased a collection of thick woolen sweaters, for an average of $1.50 apiece, that are seeing me through a cold winter in a chilly house.
The first frosts came around Halloween, and the chickens ran out of bugs and grass to forage as the cost of store-bought chicken food rose. Everywhere I looked, though, people\’s porches were festooned with carved pumpkins destined for the compost pile, or worse yet, the trash. So we got permission and scavenged a bunch of jack o\’lanterns that kept the chickens happy, and their egg-yolks bright orange, for weeks.
Again, it was the chickens who inspired me to ask for my first “doggy bag” at a restaurant, something that, much to Ed\’s amusement, I had always considered declasse. Now, if even a single french fry remains on my plate, I ask to take it home.
Ed and I were in the truck this afternoon and heard a woman on NPR who had furnished and decorated a 3,000-square-foot McMansion with items from thrift shops, from furniture to toys to clothing hanging in the closets. She did this to support thrift shops that give their proceeds to charity, and to demonstrate that you can have something for almost nothing.
And where were Ed and I going while listening to this? We were on our way to a place that makes wooden pallets and lets us scavenge discarded sticks of wood to use as kindling for our stove.
A friend and I are collecting instances of our grandmothers\’ thrifty arts, long forgotten ways of making-do that are now being, or should be, resurrected. Here\’s an instance from my own grandmother: when bottom sheets got worn in the middle (these were the flat kind that you had to tuck under the mattress), she would cut them in half longitudinally and sew the original edges together, so that the fabric that was still in good shape was now in the center of the bed. I still have the remnants of one such sheet, made of homespun. (I were to weave a sheet with my own hands, I too would be extremely reluctant to throw it out.)
Women used to spend lots of time darning, especially socks. I\’ve said in an earlier post that I\’m too impatient to darn socks. But I did once make a terrific sweater for my small dog , Mojo, out of an old sock.
There\’s a substantial collection of wine corks in my kitchen drawer. I wonder what they might be good for? I can\’t bear to throw them out.
If you have any old, or even new, grandmotherly tricks, pass them on!