One of my teachers in high school had this ridiculous poster, which I’m sure you’ve all seen in some form or another, on her wall in her classroom. As much as I always worried that this poster and others like it led to the horrible falling deaths of many kittens, it is a pretty apt rendition of my mood for the past week or two. (It’s apt, I tell you, APT! Sorry. Sometimes these Simpson quotes just burst forth from nowhere.)
Between the rain and the more rain, we’ve been slowly slogging (sometimes literally) through the foundation site of our house, currently about 2/3 of the way scraped off. I had hoped by this point, we would be well on our way to getting the stem wall in place, but no such luck.
On top of that, the blog hasn’t exactly caught on as fast as I wanted, and when your top readers are your mom, your husband, and your best friend, it makes you wonder if they’re just being a little biased. Then I found out it actually takes a blog on average two years to gain a following. That was both uplifting and depressing.
So by the time Sunday rolled around, I was feeling pretty down. I felt like I hadn’t accomplished what I wanted. I was starting to wonder if this was ever really going to happen. And I wondered if anyone really cared enough to read about this journey. I didn’t feel like going to church. I just wanted to crawl back in bed and pout.
But I also know those are exactly the times when I need my faith the most. I’m not going to get all preachy with this. When people are down, they have different ways of getting uplifted again. My way is through church. An hour or two of time where I can learn about my spirituality, how God works in my life, and be infused with strength again.
So I headed to church with Casey and Lili. During the singing, I began feeling much better. We have a very upbeat church that focuses on the positive things God is doing in this world and in our lives as individuals. Our staff values the members, and the members value our staff. In other words, #altdurant rocks!
After the singing, we have a minute or two to greet the people around us. Casey and I have severe social anxiety and don’t often feel brave enough to turn to anyone and say hi. But our congregation is warm and open, and that’s never been an issue because so many people say hi or give a quick wave to us.
During that time, a friend who sits a row in front of us usually turned to say hi. I was brooding about my blog and the house still and kind of lost in thought on that, so I just smiled and went back to my internal dialogue (which happens a lot in my brain). Then she asked me, “Hey,how’s your house going? I read your blog every week. I really like it!”
All of a sudden, I was out of my funk. With just a few words, our friend NiCole had changed the entire outlook of my day. Someone reads my blog regularly? And they’re not required to by the code of momhood, husbandhood, or bestfriendhood?
As we chatted for a few minutes, I realized that we had actually made some good accomplishments even on a slow couple weeks. We sourced clayey subsoil from a swimming pool that was put in on the north side of Durant. We found a great deal on a tiller, which once this rain stops again, should in theory help us dig up the site more quickly. We’ve already gotten two loads of dirt to our site. And we sourced some straw to start making test batches to get our mix right.
I know we’re still at the beginning of our cob house journey, and there will be many more discouragements, obstacles, and setbacks along the way, for the house and the blog. But I know that if I just take that time to recharge, if I refocus, and if I fish for compliments from friends and family, I can hang in there. Hopefully better than that poor kitten does. It really looks terrified.
- Tent Pegs $11
- Work Gloves (we got holes in the cheapies we already had) $31
- Tiller $65
Total as of 5/7/15 $107
Yeah, $107. I had to check again on the calculator. I was an English and history teacher, not a math teacher, for good reason.
So my family is known for “finding” things that other people don’t want. Sometimes said things are in or near a waste receptacle. But no one in my family has ever physically crawled into a dumpster to retrieve an item for repurposing. Well, at least no one’s admitting to it.
Just the other day, I “found” several buckets on the side of the road that we can use for mixing cob. And lo and behold, the pipe we needed to run our electrical wires through the wall was just sitting there a few feet away. I don’t consider this dumpster diving. No dumpster was nearby.
Casey has always poked fun at me and my mother for this responsible way of reusing what others no longer want, calling us dumpster divers. We have withstood years of smart alecky comments ranging from, “Do you want to go shopping behind Dollar Tree? There’s some good pickin’s there!” to, “We need to find a new couch. Want to drive through the rich neighborhood on trash day?”
Now just because members of my family who will remained unnamed did their Christmas shopping behind Dollar Tree and that couch looked stunning in my living room through all my college years (the duct tape really matched the carpet quite well) does not mean that we are dumpster divers. Or hoarders. We are collectors, environmentalists, and mixed media artists.
However, what Casey did last week with that dumpster goes beyond any Copeland ever (Copeland being my maiden name). You could say he’s gone where no Copeland has gone before. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist the cheesy Star Trek reference…props to my trekkers!)
I will explain the details of what he did in a moment (or you can just scroll down and skip the valuable information on collecting materials for your cob house…only you and GOD will know. No pressure.)
But for now, let me just explain how we’ve obtained the materials that we’ve obtained so that you can obtain some materials as well. (Obtain is apparently on my word of the day calendar for today.)
1) Mooch off you friends and family.
We’ve gotten a lot of support from friends and family lately for items they are willing to let us borrow, have, or just please take out of their burn pile that’s been there for 10 years. This includes, but is not limited to (legalize for sorry if I forgot to add you):
- LAND! Yes, Casey’s parents are letting us build on the family farm. A good way to get land is by checking around to see if your family members have some they are willing to give or sell you cheap to keep it in the family name.
- Trucks. We’ve borrowed both of Casey’s dad’s trucks to haul materials.
- Tools. Wheelbarrows, shovels, tractor, tiller attachment for the tractor (as soon as we pick it up from the neighbor who borrowed it last), and all kinds of stuff.
- Wood. A friend from church is letting us check out his stretch of property to see if there’s any fallen wood or trees he wants removed or rocks or anything that he wants to get rid of.
2. Check with construction sites. Have your friends and family check at construction sites.
- Urbanite. This is a fancy word for broken concrete, which can be used for your stem wall. We have friends calling construction sites and keeping an eye out for us, and we’ve also got a local site that’s letting us haul off the big pile of gravel and urbanite they’ve dug up from the previous building.
- Dirt. Same as the urbanite.
3. Check with local business for pallets and other unneeded materials. If you see something near the dumpster or sitting in a pile of trash that you can use, stop and ask the owner if you can haul it off for them. They may even pay you!
- More wood (this time smaller pieces for cantilevers to build cob shelves, beds, sofas, and other furniture. There is a nearby sports vehicle store that is letting us haul off as many pallets as we want.
- Plastic drop cloths, tarps, etc.
Now comes the part about Casey and the dumpster. So while getting the aforementioned pallets, one of the stipulations was we picked up any trash lying around them and clean it up. We had just finished loading the pallets and were starting the cleanup. Casey spotted the dumpster and went to throw away the trash. The next thing I know he is reaching inside the dumpster and pulling out trash…excuse me, large sheets of plastic, which we can use for sealing the roof when we build it.
No one in our family has ever gotten anything from a dumpster. Yeah, now I can be all high and mighty about it! No way will he ever live this down!
Now before you go pulling anything out of a dumpster or, worse, climbing into one, please check your local laws to make sure you can do this legally. Casey didn’t. He could be a wanted criminal now. Does anyone know Bryan County’s dumpster diving laws?
So when do you consider dumpster diving “dumpster diving”? What’s your or your family’s (yes, my family has one) definition of dumpster diving? When have you crossed that line from repurposing artist or environmentalist to scavenging survivalist? Take our poll and leave a comment below!