Scavenging has become an important part of our building process. One of our (many) goals is to keep construction to under $5,000- no small feat. Sure, we’re definitely saving by using the earth beneath our feet as our primary construction material, but there are other materials needed along the way. Most of which we’ve been able to scavenge from transfer sites, garbage bins outside of construction sites and businesses, and donations from people throwing out perfectly usable ‘things’.
We collect, well, pretty much everything. Which is not to say we’ve allowed the place to become a dumping ground, but we’re much more open to what things “could be” rather than the old mindset of deciding what’s needed in kind of a ‘grocery list’ manner and seeking them out. Spend some time with a few seemingly useless items and you’ll see what I mean. A little time and imagination can bring forth all sorts of ideas for items that appear, on the surface, useless.
Some things we have sought out though. We needed barbed wire for our earthbag construction- lots of it. So far we haven’t had to buy any. Farmers unceremoniously dump their old barbed wire into ditches when they replace their fencing, and we’ve been using what we’ve found. We need bags and easily enough obtained a very large quantity from local breweries who were happy to support our project and donate their used grain bags. We needed wood for window and door frames and have collected a tremendous amount of that from transfer sites, considerably more than could be used for framing and has gone into other projects as well as a large stockpile that we keep in the shop. Nails and screws left behind in multiple coffee cans around the property have been put to good use, pallets have been transformed into compost bins, and used 5 gallon pails hold our soil mixes.
We’ve picked up junction boxes, cast iron pipe, an antique heavy iron stove top, water heaters, rigid foam board, duct work, grader blades, 55 gallon drums (good for rocket stoves & water harvesting), an old parts washer that we’ll modify for our CaTo stove, a small shingled roof we’ll use for something down the road, fence posts galore, and had a couple dozen full size telephone poles dropped off by workers replacing a line nearby. Just last night we picked up a shovel and a rake, as well as a whole bunch of garden stakes, while dropping off our garbage.
I’d have never pegged myself for a ‘scavenger’. There was a time, not too long ago, I’d have been horrified if Shane had suggested that we go to the dump to see what we could find. But it’s amazing, what you can find just lying around or disposed of that can still be put to practical use. And I feel good about it. We’re not only saving money, we’ve managed to reduce our own waste (un-freakin’-believably) and we’re able to put other people’s waste to good use as well. Go figure. And all we had to do was open our minds to the possibilities.