Day 4: Re-Use
In my book, re-using can be sometimes the same as recycling. To some, recycling means putting your old newspapers and plastic in a bin at the end of the driveway. OK, so if “garbage” means it will eventually end up in a landfill, the recycle bin is better than throwing that stuff in the garbage can. In our community, the garbage goes to an incinerator, which provides power. So, if it is going to be used, whatever – do what you like. I personally would rather re-use my old egg cartons for things like starter pots for my garden (cut them apart and plant the whole works in the ground once the seedling is big enough), or turn the coffee cans into something useful like a candle holder for the citronella candle we use on the deck to keep mosquitoes at bay. Once that coffee can is nasty and rusted, then it can go into the recycle bin
As I mentioned in my last post, it will be easier to re-use your cast-off items if there are fewer of them. If you can re-fill your water bottles by refilling them at the store, do it. It will save you money and you will have one less plastic jug to dispose of. For the items you do have, which have already outlived their original purpose, there are unlimited possibilities.
I love to play in my garden (I guess most people would call that work), and most of my re-used items end up there. Newspaper makes good mulch. It doesn’t have to be shredded, either. When you put your new plants in the garden, lay a piece or two down on top of the soil, then soak it thoroughly. Dig a hole where you want to put your plant, through the paper and all, and drop that plant right in. It will help to retain moisture in that spot, and will also hinder weed growth. The more time you can spend enjoying your garden (with less effort) the more you will appreciate it. Table scraps, vegetable peelings, eggshells and coffee grounds all end up in our compost pile.
A compost bin is easy to put together, if you don’t want to spend money on one. There are all sorts of things on the market if you’d like to just purchase something; I recommend something that will be easy for you to move, like the round, rollable balls that simply get rolled around every so often to mix the contents. A friend of mine has a worm barrel; she swears that she gets the best compost from it – although she has to keep it in her basement during the winter so the worms don’t freeze. Our compost pile is just a big pile of dead leaves and scraps in our back yard. My husband put up an old section of chain link fence around it (one of his own re-used items) to keep little furry friends from the woods out of it. My mother in law had the best one yet, last year – the tomatoes froze one night, the year before that; to her distress they had to pull out about 6 plants with tomatoes still on the vine. They also lost some squash. The following year they had the coolest garden “mound” – tomatoes and squash growing in reckless abandon across the ten-foot wide compost pile. Those tomatoes were better than the ones she started in her house months before the snow melted.
If I have a project that I need items for, which I don’t already have on hand, Craigslist.org has been awesome! You can always find leftover construction materials if you need wood for a small project. Good place to find what you need for a compost bin, too.
A friend of mine had a cute idea for used soup cans. She peeled off the labels and washed them up; then, with a 10-penny nail she popped holes into the can in the shape of Christmas bells, trees and stars. After painting them red, green and gold with spray paint, she gave them away to her grandkids as candleholders. It sounds tackier than they looked! I haven’t made one myself, yet – when I do I will post a picture.
My husband really likes to re-use glass pasta sauce jars as drinking glasses. If they get broken, it’s not such a big deal. If one gets left somewhere, it’s not a big loss, either. Those same jars (baby food jars especially) are really good containers for spare nuts & bolts in the garage. My grandfather had a tool collection that was the envy of every man he knew. Not only did he have every Craftsman tool ever made since the beginning of time, he also had a ton of miscellaneous hardware, all meticulously labeled and stored in its own spot. One thing he did to organize all the small stuff, was to put a screw through the inside of a baby food jar lid into a board, which he then mounted to the underside of the shelf above his workbench. The jar would be filled with washers or what-have-you, then the whole works would get screwed back onto the lid, to be suspended above his work bench. One word of caution: be sure the jar is really screwed into the lid; otherwise you will have broken glass and washers or whatever all over.
When our boys were still in diapers, I loved the wet wipe boxes – they are great for storing matchbox cars and other small toys, crayons and pencils. They easily fit in a diaper bag if you need to bring a few distractions to keep baby occupied while you grocery shop or whatever. Old t-shirts and stained dress shirts became art smocks. When I was really little, my mother’s old formal gowns and dresses became mine for playing dress-up. Never would she have dreamed of buying dress up clothes! Now I see them at Wal-Mart and praise God I didn’t have girls. No way in hell I’d dress a daughter in some of those hoochie-in-training outfits they have on their racks!
Another use for used clothing that may not be good enough for donation is to cut them up & follow Grandma’s example: start stitching! Many of my favorite quilts are made from old clothes. I can still remember which of Grandma’s dresses the aqua polyester square came from (circa 1970’s, of course); the blue, tan & white striped cotton was left over from a sewing project of my mother’s. Grandma’s gone now, and those quilts are great thing to have around – something worth keeping, that’s not clutter!
Well, with all the talk of re-using and recycling, I guess you want me to tell you what to do with your leftovers, too, right? If you’re stuck with a lot of extra ham and veggies from Easter dinner, it will go great with eggs and whatever leftover veggies you’ve got:
3-4 cups day-old bread, dinner rolls or English muffins, torn into 1” – 2” pieces (coarse bread like ciabatta is good for this recipe)
2 cups leftover ham, diced or cut into strips
1½ cups of milk
1½ - 2 cups of leftover veggies – when I make this recipe I rarely have enough leftover veggies, so I add about 1 cup of fresh or frozen spinach
1 cup shredded cheddar or Swiss cheese (Jarlsberg is great in this recipe)
Salt & Pepper (Cayenne, too if you’d like a bit of spice) to taste
Grease a 9x13 cake pan. Spread torn bread in the bottom of the pan, and then sprinkle veggies and cheese over the top. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and milk together; pour evenly over the top of everything. Cover with foil and refrigerate over night. The next morning, sprinkle salt and pepper on top, then pop that pan into a 350° oven for approximately 40 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean – it’s done if the eggs are cooked through.