Sunday, November 4, 2012

One Man's Trash- Another's Treasure

“The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.”  -HDT
Today we collected all the brick we will need to build a small mantle for the mini wood stove. The cost? Nadda. A handful of weeks ago, I went out for a walk to clear my head. I aimlessly wandered my way onto the railroad tracks that run through town. I ended up walking ten miles round trip. I went through stretches of quiet woods, breath-taking trestles, over busy roadways and between tall buildings. You'd be amazed at all the things you find scattered along a railway. At that point in time, I had known that we were trying to build alternatively, so I simply took stock of what I came upon.
A little bit of chiseling and
power-washing and they'll be
good as new!

I came to stretch in the rail where it paralleled a large antiquated industrial area. Many of the massive brick buildings were being demolished. A building very close to the fences of the railway still had a partial wall standing, and many bricks and cinder-blocks had tumbled over into the railway land. It was apparent they had been laying there untouched for a while, and no one would miss them. Brick is a very expensive and durable material. I kept them in mind, and hoped we would find a way to make use of them. Once we decided that we would be using a wood stove, I told Dan that I knew where we could get bricks for free.
Woohoo! It's like a scavenger hunt!
So on this crisp, sunny morning, we consulted a few maps of town to estimate where I had walked. We were able to find the place with little trouble, and we strolled down the tracks with a five gallon bucket to survey the goods. Along the way, we walked past a man that was fixing to cut down a tree close to the fence of the railway. I walked past as non-nonchalantly as possible, but I'm sure the stiffness in my body was apparent. I was apprehensive that this man would turn out to be a jerk and give us crap about taking the old bricks. That would have sucked the fun right out of it.
Starting to lay out the mantle shape.
The bricks and cinder were just as I had left them. We started picking through and tried to find bricks in the best condition, and with the least amount of mortar stuck to them. We took a pallet that was laying near by and set it on level ground. Then we laid out the bricks, imagining how big the mantle for the 12” x 12” stove would probably be. We made some rough estimates for the mantle design and collected what we needed plus a little more. All in all, about 75 bricks. It's better to find out we have extra, in the end, than not enough. Dan filled the five gallon bucket we had brought with us, and I carried six bricks in my arms. The trudge back hardly resembled the stroll in. Dan struggled to find a comfortable way to carry the bucket, and my arms grew numb as we neared the street. Rather than make another inefficient trip- we immediately went and grabbed a wheelbarrow from Dan's parents' place. The 10 minute drive was completely worth it. We returned to the railroad and as we passed the tree-cutting man a second time, he greeted us with a big smile and yelled, “There ya go! That's the smart way to do it! I saw you carrying those things by hand earlier.”

Again, I'm delightfully surprised to encounter the friendliness of a complete stranger. We smiled and made a few affirming comments and then went on our way. We made quick work of hauling the future mantle out to the truck. We only had to take two trips. The fresh cold air, the exercise, and the satisfaction of knowing we got something we needed in exchange for a little hard work, has us feeling great.  To some people, a thing like this wouldn't be considered fun, but the two of us had a great time. There's something exciting and addictive about finding things you need for free and in uncommon circumstances. When we are finished with this tiny house, we will look around at all the various features, and each will have it's own memory and story to tell. I can already imagine telling people about the little mantle that used to be part of a large factory building.

Dan's sister provided a wonderful perspective when he told her of our tiny house plans. She thought it was a great idea, but also threw in an afterthought, “And even if you find that you don't like it, maybe you'll only live that way a year, at least it's something that you two have experienced and accomplished together. That alone is worth giving it a shot.” She's right. I already feel like this project has brought us closer, made us stronger. I look forward to many more little adventures and days like today. :)

Once we have a mantle plan drawn up, I'll be sure to post!

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