This weekend was awesome, especially compared to last weekend when, in my effort to philanthropize with One Brick, who’s blog I’d been working on as of late, I dragged Phil out to Shamrockfest on a miserably cold and wet Saturday downtown to serve overpriced beer to equally miserably cold and wet event patrons. But with the exception of a somewhat overcast Sunday morning (or at least as much of the morning I actually see on the weekend if I’m not required to be anywhere), it was sunny, and warm, and well, after four months of blizzard-like snow ruining one weekend after another, no doubt instilled the motivation in just about anyone to head outdoors.
Our plan was to finally get around to taking care of some things around the house. One of them – to expand the great gardening experiment.
Phil was in part lured by the size of the yard when he bought this house two years ago, and apparently he wasn’t the only one. One afternoon last summer, when we were working in the yard, a real live red-headed Scotsman… or maybe, Irishman… whatever, approached and introduced himself. He and his wife had their eye on that house, too, though his wife ultimately worried that the neighbors dogs would just be too noisy to tolerate. He almost showed a satisfying smile when we assured him that the dogs were really no trouble, as though he could go home and tell his wife “I told you so.” Actually, our only initial nuisance was the neighbor’s daughter who couldn’t have been more than 12. Her welcome-to-the-neighborhood gesture was a note scrawled in crayon and dropped in our mail slot that said something like seek salvation or burn in hell. I later understood the creepy religious devotion she’d developed when I met her parents – and by met, I mean, she’d ride her bike on the sidewalk and they’d constantly be screaming at her from the house for one reason or another. Thankfully, they moved.
The owners before us were an old couple who eventually moved to Leisure World, one of those “active retirement” communities, and the wife – who clearly made all the design decisions (the house was awash in pastel and floral designs when we moved in) – had planted plenty of flowers and plants in the yard. They were easy maintenance, and it was cool not only to live in a house with a yard (which I hadn’t done since I first moved out here to share a house in Virginia), but we lived in a house with a yard that living grass AND plants and flowers and trees!
I’d gotten the idea to pick up a few pots of basil and parsley, getting spoiled on the availability of fresh herbs to have handy for cooking, at least if I could keep these things alive to enjoy the fruits of the labor. Not that we were notorious for committing herbicide or anything, I was more concerned whether, in this climate anything that we’d like to plant in a garden would actually grow. One Saturday, we bought some lumber and Phil built a small box to fit against the side of the house. We picked up some tomato plants, peppers, and zucchini, along with some oregano, basil, rosemary and thyme from a roadside garden/fruit stand during one drive back from Ocean City and planted it in the garden box, along with a little Miracle Grow. We had pretty good success with everything but the peppers, which may have been defeated by the mutant zucchini that grew quickly and largely, or it may have been that there was too much shade. I’d sort of been in competition with Kretz who built a rad set of hanging planters from giant plastic bins he picked up on the balcony of his third floor apartment out in Jersey. He certainly had better success with peppers. Though he unable to recreate the invention on the ground floor deployment bunker during his deployment for the first half of this year, Phil and I have decided that one of the first “home improvement” projects we’d start this year was to expand the gardening empire.
It’d require getting hold of a little more lumber, but rather than returning to the corporate Mecca of home improvement (Home Depot), we tried a different place nestled in an industrial park beyond the Latino markets in Edmonston (MD).
When homes and other buildings are renovated or altogether demolished, the wreckage can either get dumped in a landfill, or, it can be salvaged. Enter Community Forklift.
See… all that prologue was to give a little shout out, which I don’t normally do, but for christ sakes, building and renovation materials are expensive!
We live in Greenbelt, which I suppose you could accurately describe as a little more than just laced with hippie ideals, and more specifically that whole green-minded approach to living (as much as the terminology may be overused). We have community gardens, a truck for the American Rescue Workers parked in the shopping center for donations every month, a compost dump, and we’re even allowed to add plastic shopping bags to our recycling load. Weird how something so simple and practical can be considered an innovative novelty.
Edmonston is a little bit outside of the Greenbelt limits, but not that far. Back when Phil was single and still working a regular schedule, he’d done some volunteer work and heard of this place. I thought it was just a lumber yard. Out front, we passed palettes of sheets of marble and granite, red Spanish tile for roofs, random planks of wood, and a spread of old bathtubs and sinks. But there was much more and Phil led me into the warehouse. It smelled like a garage and probably had just as much dirty, dusty, and rusty items, but it wasn’t like anything that couldn’t be cleaned up. They had just about everything – cabinets, hardware, some furniture, a whole corner of antique odds and ends, doors, windows, radiators, lighting fixtures, appliances, tile, tools, and a lot of other things. A lot of the stuff was donated, and we’d run across things that hadn’t even been used. Immediately, you’re walking by thinking, what I could do with a set of new windows and all those sheets of tile! Actually, it’d probably be a great place for anyone looking for cheap salvage materials for sculptures. Especially all that marble and granite.
Phil and I basically were on a mission to find the wood that would be the foundation for L’Empire du Jardin! Or, just our second garden box, if you want to be a dick about it. We’d learned from the young guy who worked there with the poor posture that we had to stick with anything that wasn’t pressure treated, because pressure treated was treated with arsenic and you know, would kill everything once it came in contact with the rain. It’s a little hard to find salvaged untreated wood in a supply that mostly comes from used building materials, but we managed to find just the bare minimum of what we needed.
The guy who rang us up was an old balding guy. I guessed he’d probably worked at Community Forklift since it’s inception. He reminded me a little of my high school shop teacher (but older, and with suspenders). The other regular, according to Phil, is an older lady who had been kind of the regular representative for those co-operative community meetings, the kind of gatherings where basically, she’d meet other people who ran organizations that were like Community Forklift. I hate to keep calling them all hippies. But she’s basically become the public face for them. I asked whether they’d met their $250,000 goal to buy the warehouse from the owner, and the lady said that indeed, they’d far surpassed. I made a small donation anyways, figuring, places like these are pretty damn useful.
So with that said, here’s my rare moment for endorsements, this one to recommend that if you’re doing some renovation, building, or I guess… art?… you might find some of your materials (and save money!) at Community Forklift. Also, consider donations, whether money or salvage, which are tax deductible.