recycling for the apocalypse: the bottle fence

My first thought when I saw this photo could be visualized in the form of a very large black exclamation point. Then, returning to the English language, I thought: well, shit, why didn’t I think of that?

The picture arrived in an e-mail from blogger Nim of Nimcraft: Geekcrafting and Ueberdorking, who said: “This is nothing new to the world, but I pounded bottles into the ground to form flowerbed-esque borders and also to line walkways.” New or not, I was impressed, and rushed off to Click Clack Gorilla in my recycling for the apocalypse superhero cape to share the idea with you.

I asked Nim to tell me more about the process of collecting the bottles and putting them in the ground. “It took about a summer to collect the bottles,” Nim said, “But I got a whole army of drunkards to help.”

“I started out saving beer bottles, but here in the States they make them way too flimsy (in the 6-pack sizes. Once you get up to larger sizes, the glass gets thicker, like wine bottles). That plus the hard ground made for a lot of broken shards I had to dig out with a spade. I switched to wine and liquor bottles only (and softer ground) and it made all the difference in the world.”

“Around my tree I think it took about two dozen wine bottles, if memory serves. The ring is about two meters in diameter. However, the bottles are spaced with rocks, since many a root came into my way. I put the rocks in the spaces the roots caused and called it done.

“A word of caution: if your soil is baked and hard (I live in Texas), wait for a rain or give the ground a good soak before proceeding. I used a rubber mallet to hammer the bottles in, but watch out for pinching the skin of your bottle-holding hand under the hammer. Free tips, those!”

This idea couldn’t have landed on my doorstep at a better time. The same morning that I heard from Nim, I had been gazing out my window at the patch of ground that will become my garden come spring, and wondering if I would be able to find enough bricks laying around to make a little mini fence around the beds. Looks like it’s time to start collecting bottles and soaking off labels.

Have any of you tried this before?

Monday February 28th 2011, 7:20 am 6 Comments
Filed under: conspiracies,diy,freegan,recycling for the apocalypse

and the joke’s on me

Erm. What was that I just said about being able to smell spring in the air? Touche, weather patterns, touche.

Just Wednesday I took this picture of my tulips, heralds of spring:

And now they are covered in snow. Does anyone know anything about tulips? As my ill-timed end-of-winter layering landed me with yet another cold, will this cold spell break the spirit of my lovely dumpster-dived tulips?

Friday February 25th 2011, 7:15 am 3 Comments
Filed under: conspiracies,daily life,wagenplatz

soup season: the grand finale

Yesterday evening I cooked what is likely to be the last wood stove-top soup of the season. The tulip heads in the garden are over an inch tall, and though the weather has taken a decided turn for the crisp, I can smell spring in the air.

In the last couple of years I’ve gotten out of the habit of cooking a lot—laziness, plus a realization of how good I feel when I eat a lot of fresh salads and raw vegetables, plus the fact that the Beard is an amazing (and frequent) cook having staid my enthusiasm—but when I do get to it, I approach the matter as if I’m a witch stirring potion in her many red cauldrons, a maker of alchemous elixirs whose ingredients fall from hand to pot from the lips of glass vessels of all shapes and sizes. Cooking is magic, and cooks are the witches and wizards we overlook in the real world, overlook because we have already closed the pages of our favorite science fiction and fantasy novels.

Though I love reading cook books (sweet inspiration!), when I cook I don’t use recipes. Baking is another story, though in the case of baking I still like to modify recipes, and the handful of cookbooks I do own are filled with handwritten notes about additions, subtractions, and modifications. The way I approach it, cooking is a matter of general methods. It does not involve complications or exact details. And when I pass recipes along, they generally involve only vague measurements and a lot of tasting along the way.

In the matter of soups, I always start in the same way: a heap of onions simmering in oil sprinkled with salt. While the onions simmer I slowly add a heap of parsley root (pictured above) which is, in my humble opinion, the crux of getting a good flavor in your soup without using any sort of vegetable broth, powdered or otherwise. After that comes whatever I have on hand: broccoli, carrots, fennel—it’s all fair game—which I simmer with the onions and parsley root until my patience runs out, at which point I add a couple of jugs full of water (depending, of course, on how many people I intend to feed over how many days).

At some point after that I’ll add a heap of garlic, more salt, pepper, and whatever else fits with the vegetable combination I’ve picked out. Today it was a bit of coriander, a bit of cumin, a bit of chili, and a bit of tomato paste, as the goal was to have a red-ish three bean number at the end of all the sizzling, simmering, and bubbling. Though last week’s corn-bread-baking bent (three loaves! mmmmmm) would have fit well with this concoction, today’s draught was sided with a fresh salad and bread courtesy of the Gemüsemann (vegetable man) from our local vegetable market.

What’s your secret to a good soup?

This post was a part of Fat Tuesday at Real Food Forager.

Thursday February 24th 2011, 7:30 am 4 Comments
Filed under: conspiracies,daily life,food,recipes

dumpster find of the week: pharaoh, pharaoh

“A Cairo teenager found a priceless statue of Pharaoh Akhenaton near a garbage bin after it was stolen from the Egyptian Museum during anti-regime protests, Egypt’s antiquities chief said Thursday,” reported an article on last week.

Dumpster find of the week indeed! (And many thanks and high fives to the reader who e-mailed me a link to the article.) Upon taking the statue home, the un-named teenager’s uncle recognized it and returned it to, according to the article, “the authorities,” by which I hope they meant “the museum.” (And Harrison Ford’s stubborn Indiana Jones voice echoes in my head: “This belongs in a museum.” Heh.)

The second pharaoh in question, and the one in the picture crowning this post, was found on the streets of Amsterdam, Holland. I occasionally organize concerts in the venue at the front of our Wagenplatz, and two weekends ago we played host to Dagora and Ti Femme. They had brought it along for the ride, taped blue, blinking lights behind the pharaoh’s eyes, and it had become part of their stage set up for what I hear turned out to be a very strange tour.

Speaking of Ti Femme, she’s a dear friend of mine who makes fantastical accordion music, peppered with really fucking great lyrics. I didn’t find her in a dumpster, but she and I spent a good deal of our late nights having baguette sword fights with dumpster dived bread and hopping around in clothing we found in plastic bags behind a senior center once upon a time in college. Though I had dabbled in dumpster diving with my dad as a kid, my career dumpster diving for food began in the passenger seat of her beat up station wagon, which makes her, in some small way, responsible for my dumpster jabbering.

So, if you fancy a little background music while you continue on your merry way, I’ll make it easy for you:

This particular recording lacks the haunting beauty of her voice live (and on other recordings), so by all means, visit her website Unfinished Business and check out her CD.

Wednesday February 23rd 2011, 7:30 am 1 Comment
Filed under: conspiracies,dumpster diving,dumpster finds,freegan,music

slaying dragons, colds

From my bed I watch a tiny brown bird dropping its beak again and again into the white plastic container that has filled with water, and now ice. The sky is gray, has been gray for weeks, threatening, but never delivering on the promise. One of my housemates walks past rubbing the sleep out of his eyes on the way to the bathroom wagon, and a blackbird lands heavily on the narrow end of the white bin, scaring the small brown bird into flight.

The log I’ve just dropped into the wood stove is crackling softly, and I drink cup after cup of sage tea in bed in an attempt to tame the cold I feel starting in my throat and nose. First I was sick, then the Beard was, then just about everyone else we knew was, and every time one of us thinks we’re healthy, the other one re-catches it and passes it along before we’ve had the good sense to quarantine ourselves. The temperature outside oscillates wildly, and I always seem to be under-dressed, laying myself bare to another bout of the it’s-almost-spring cold in optimistically light layers.

And so, it seems, it is a good time to discuss DIY cold remedies. It takes a hell of a lot to get me to a doctor these days, which means I treat all the little colds and fevers and aches at home. The simplest trick, of course, is to rest as soon as you feel yourself in the downward spiral and to make sure you’re eating well and drinking a lot of water and tea.

My favorite remedy for any kind of sickness is the Dragon Slayer, which consists of a shot of lemon juice, garlic, and chili powder (recipe details at the bottom of this post). It might sound a little gross, but I promise it is not, and it will keep you from getting sick, cure you if you already are, and, if you aren’t, wake you up quicker than a cup of joe (though, of course, not for as long).

The lemon provides the vitamin C I once took in big grainy tablets, the garlic strengthens your immune system (as well as being generally full of health-giving magic—for other garlic fanatics, check out this article about all the crazy super powers that garlic is accredited with), and as for the chili powder, I have no idea what health benefit it offers, though drinking a shot involving it does make me feel like a pirate drinking gunpowder, and I like to imagine that the infusion of bravado adds a little something to my body’s strength.

German homemakers’ lore says that those with a light cold should drink a glass of warm beer before bed. Supposedly this makes you sweat a lot, and in turn speeds up the process of sweating your ills right out of your system. But as drinking a glass of beer right before bed means I will spend more of the night getting up to pee than I will sleeping, I’ve never tried it. But now! On to the recipe!

The Dragon Slayer

1/2 fresh lemon
1 medium-sized clove garlic, minced
a dash of chili powder

Squeeze out the lemon and place juice in a small cup. Sprinkle in minced garlic and top with chili powder. Down in one go and marvel at the force of nature that is vitamin c mixed with garlic and sweet, sweet (spicey) chili.

What are your favorite home remedies for coughs and wheezes and winter colds? I’d love to add a few more to my personal arsenal, so please, let the commenting begin.

This post was a part of Pennywise Platter at The Nourishing Gourmet, Simple Lives Thursday at GNOWFGLINS, Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist, Real Food 101 at Ruth’s Real Food, Make Your Own Monday at Nourishing Treasures, Market Yourself Monday at Sumo’s Sweet Stuff, and Fat Tuesday at Real Food Forager. Photo (cc) flickr user CocteauBoy

Tuesday February 22nd 2011, 7:30 am 13 Comments
Filed under: conspiracies,daily life,diy

recycling for the apocalypse: shower bed

Recycling for the apocalypse is something like recycling for mad scientists. It’s been called “upcycling” and it’s been called “extreme recycling,” but the punchline remains the same: reinventing items in unexpected ways otherwise destined for the trash. You’ve seen old kitchen bits turned into wood stove bits and old bike wheels turned into chandeliers. And today I present to you: the shower bed.

The house at the front of our Wagenplatz has a bathroom in it, but in my time here it has never been hooked up. Several weeks ago a few folks, tired of having to visit their friends’ apartments to shower, re-attached the shower to the water line. The boiler is ancient and the water is pretty cold, but the shower runs.

But there was a problem. The tub no longer had a curtain around it, and any sign of a shower curtain rod was long gone. Several of us watched from one of the kitchen trailers as two of the folks we live with examined the scrap metal pile. Eventually they selected a metal folding bed and carted it off. When they carried it past the kitchen window a second time, the metal netting that had previously supported a mattress had been cut off, and now the frame hangs above the tub, a perfectly shaped shower curtain holder:

It might be a bit hard to make out in this small of a photo (and without having seen the bed in its original state), but the bed frame is hung upside down from the ceiling, the single-mattress-sized metal frame providing the track for the shower curtain.

Calling all mad scientists…

I’d love to make “Recycling for the Apocalypse” into a weekly post, but I need your help. Have you reinvented any objects that had outlived their original uses into solutions for other projects in your home? Send me pictures and stories of your up-cycling, extreme recycling, and mad scientist-esque projects, and I will share your glorious inventions with the Click Clack Gorilla world. E-mail submissions to nicolettekyle (AT) yahoo (DOT) com.

Monday February 21st 2011, 7:40 am 3 Comments
Filed under: conspiracies,diy,dumpster finds,freegan,wagenplatz

oh crap, my roof is leaking

To my horror, removing a bowl from a shelf the other day revealed stains on the light colored wood. Water stains. Oh crap. A leaky roof is one of my worst building nightmares.

But! Panicky though this discovery made me, I am already fairly certain as to the cause. You see, I never entirely finished battening down the roof onto the siding, and this corner is particularly exposed to the elements. (I know, I know. All the builders out there are shaking their heads and asking why I didn’t get this done last fall. I am asking myself the same thing.) Below is a shot of the same corner from outside. No doubt rain water has just been dripping out of the rain gutter and blowing right in.

Looks like I have my first spring building project. Luckily I still have a bundle of wood from the time we dumpster dived at the building supply store, and it is probably just the right thickness for screwing onto the top of the siding and then screwing the metal roof onto. Or so I hope. Next up: coating the siding with another layer of fuck-off-rain-water and finishing the floor insulation.

How do all you people with houses manage it? It’s all I can do to maintain my little ship, and as you can see, I barely keep up. This fact, above anything else, is what I imagine will keep me in a Wagen for years to come. There is a lot to love about this Wagen life: how much time I end up spending outside, how little I need to spend on heating and rent, how cozy and flexible the space is. But in the end what really seals the deal is that the scale of the building allows me to—more or less—handle all the maintenance myself. The thought of dealing with a house (and having to learn about things like septic systems, plumbing, and stone walls) is intimidating to say the least. Three cheers for the diy house folks!

Friday February 18th 2011, 7:45 am 7 Comments
Filed under: conspiracies,daily life,diy,trailer rennovation project,wagenplatz

fun facts for grammatically neurotic dumpster divers

Did you know that the word “dumpster” is technically supposed to be capitalized? Like “Kleenex,” “Styrofoam,” and “Xerox” before them, the mighty Dumpster is actually a patented product name.

I don’t bother capitalizing it here because sometimes I care more about consistency (in proofing) than in correctness and because I kind of feel like product names don’t really deserve capitals. Too bad the irritating red underline that lurks from the center of my spell checker doesn’t agree. But shhh, it hasn’t heard about the word “Dumpster” just yet.

Thursday February 17th 2011, 7:10 am 4 Comments
Filed under: conspiracies,dumpster diving,freegan,words, writing

dumpster find of the week: chocolate lovers eat your hearts out

This week’s delectable dumpster find comes from a Montreal dumpster diver with a side of hilarious. This is what Nokizaru had to say about his dumpster diving roots, and that time he turned a dumpster into his own office/fine foods distribution center…

“I’m from Brooklyn, NY and originally came to Montreal for school but dropped out and am currently studying permaculture design. I downloaded Evasion during my first year while cruising the internet for information relating to evasion, escape, and parkour. I didn’t think much about it, and it sat inside my computer for a while until I actually started reading it, after which I immediately decided I wanted to eat trash, steal from Walmart, ride trains, and hitch hike (I’ve done three out of four of those things at this point).

“The next year I found a map of Montreal’s (documented) dumpsters and convinced my roomie at the time that looking through trash would be much more fun than finishing his physics homework. A few weeks later I had completely phased out all bought foods except cooking oil and spices. After that, patches magically began appearing on my clothing, I somehow got a bicycle, started showing up to Food Not Bombs, and experimenting with polyamory. Maybe I kinda threw myself at ‘radicalism’ or ‘alternative culture’ or something…

“As for the picture, well one night I went dumpstering alone and came upon a locked dumpster that we usually sneak into, so flashlight in mouth I wriggled in, only to land on a pile of boxes of handmade chocolate and fancy sauces and a ridiculous amount of dip. I took off my bag and filled it but realized that I didn’t have nearly enough room to carry it all back to the house.

“Not wanting the the chocolate (and the other things but to a lesser degree) to stay in the dumpster I called a nearby house from inside the dumpster (oh the conveniences of having had a phone) and told them to come with bags and knock on the dumpster. After passing boxes of chocolate out to my friends and making sure no chocolate was left behind I wriggled back out and we all walked back to the house to do whatever it is people do when they find free chocolate. ”

Hell’s yeah! I love imagining Nokizaru sitting in the dumpster, making phone calls, and then waiting for his friends so he can hand out the finest of fine chocolates, sauces, and dips. And somehow, I am reminded of Robin Hood, taking chocolate from the trash of the rich and distributing them to the fine folks of Sherwood Forest. He writes stuff about dumpster diving, bikes, and being an “anarcho-ninja punk” on his blog Everywhere Is a Playground.

As for the book Nokizaru mentions having inspired his dumpster beginnings, it’s a mighty fine tome that I recommend anyone interested in dumpster diving and fringe culture pick up. Written by an anonymous author, Evasion follows the life of a teenager who decided that, no, he really doesn’t want to get a job, and who sets out to figure out how he can live without one. He squats, dumpster dives, shop lifts, and invents mad-cap scams to get the soda machine to give him change. Some rumors have it that he is actually an amalgamation of many people, and other rumors have it that the book really was written by one guy, and that said guy is currently doing time somewhere. I guess we’ll never know either way.

As always, if you click on the link and buy the book, I’ll get a cut. But, also as always, your library will probably be more than willing to order (or interlibrary loan) a copy for you if you fill out a request form. Or you could buy the book right from the source on the CrimethInc Ex-Workers’ Collective website.

Wednesday February 16th 2011, 7:40 am Leave a Comment
Filed under: conspiracies,dumpster diving,dumpster finds,food,freegan

this just in: news from the dumpster

Last week, a reader sent me a link to this article: ‘Theft by finding’: Woman who took potato waffles and pies thrown out by Tesco is handcuffed and charged with stealing.

If you don’t feel like reading the article, which I assume you won’t, I’ll paraphrase: A power outage led a Tesco branch in the UK to throw out a fucking ton of food. A 21-year-old woman took some of it. Police showed up at her door, handcuffed her, and hauled her off. For theft.

As you might recall from my recent post about dumpster legality, this is not an uncommon occurrence—dumpster divers get hassled by the police or charged with theft by grocery stores all the time. Despite the overwhelming public opinion that this is absurd. Despite grocery stores who say “Every little bit helps” (this is apparently Tesco’s charity tag line). Edible food is being thrown away, and the people who take matters into their own hands, who save food from the landfill and fill their bellies (often because their pocketbooks don’t give them much of a choice), are criminalized.

Quoth the article: “A Tesco spokesman said: ‘We are assisting the police with their inquiries. We seek to minimise waste in all our stores and where possible will seek to reuse and recycle it.’”

But you know what the hitch is? They would never, ever donate food being thrown out after a power outage to anyone. You know why? Because that would also be illegal (not to mention an extreme insurance liability). Well-intentioned as food expiry dates and safety regulations are, they make it illegal for grocery stores to do the right thing, and those stores, in turn, make it illegal for the rest of us.

Photo © Tara Stewart. The Click Clack Gorilla in her natural habitat. Don’t arrest me Mr. Policeman, I was only on the dumpster for purposes of the photo shoot… If you like Tara’s camera work, she’s selling some of her prints over on her blog Fish in the Water in order to finance the tools she needs to get started on some small-scale farming.

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Tuesday February 15th 2011, 7:40 am 6 Comments
Filed under: conspiracies,dumpster diving,freegan