What On Earth?

If you’re an avid recycler, there’s a good chance that you seamlessly slip into the role of being an enthusiastic, creative and handy repurposeer.

If you fit the profile, you wouldn’t see a pile of old boards, a bucket of rusty oddlings and a snaggle-toothed piece of corrugated tin as junk. Oh no, like Michele and I, you’d envision a birdhouse … or something equally as charming. My farmgirl pal (Michele) and I cahootinized on this camper birdhouse for a project that Hen #1 (MaryJane Butters) is working on. I drafted the design and Michele built it. To elaborate on this theme, come on in and see how an age old question is answered … farmgirl style. The question? … …

“What on earth are you going to do with THAT?”

In recent years, I’ve been asked that question often. It all began when I started to ‘import’ junk (and I use the term affectionately). My favorite husband has been the most frequent enquirer … although husbands of friends have asked the same question. And, my father also. I’m not sure why males I’m related to or acquaited with are so curious … and dubious. As the pile grew and as the variety broadened, raised eyebrows and a confused expression accompanied the statement. Many, Noooo, make that ALL of the skeptical enquirers have stashed treasures of their own. Certifiably valuable and worthy of being archived. For example, My husband is crowding 60 and he’s been a rancher/working cowboy nearly all of his life. The combination of the two related vocations means that his “collection” consists of a few ‘mantiques’ and lots of the following: mechanic things, horsey things, farmy things, tooly things, tire things, rusty things, greasy things, parts of things, livestock things, tractor things, truck things, implement accessory things, spare things, and an assortment of what I will call UFOs (Unbelievably Filthy Objects).

With the above in mind, and after hearing many skeptical inquiries and after enduring as many joking pokes aimed at my artistic eccentricity, one might (that’d be me) answer their questions with this question: “What’s it to ya?” Noooo, not really. My mother spent many years raising polite daughters. Instead, I patiently explain my plans to those who lack vision. In so doing, I discovered the most amazing recipe for skeptic repellant. Tell them allllllllll about your plans. Hold them captive, corner them if you have to and share intricate details in regards to your design blueprints and the general how-to. Pretty soon, you (I) don’t have to answer the skeptics. They later avoid the topic and try to fly under the radar. :o) I digress. I’m pretty much over the annoyance caused by those who questioned my gift for giving junky orphans a new life. So, assuming I’m addressing a much more open-minded audience, let us have a little fun with the theme. Here are a few converts from my cache. An old billing shelf made into a display unit for my antique postcard collection, a grain scoop turned into a sort of sconce, a leaky wash basin turned into a candle holder, and the front of an ancient drawer made into a peg-rack — found feathers tied together hang there (found when riding). A thread spool was used to replace a broken knob way back when. I learned that spool handles were used as a common fix-it knob in the turn of the 20th century era.

Sometimes the most useful things might never have seen the light of day again if they hadn’t been rescued from a future in the landfill. Example: shoulder pads from garments. How many have you thrown away over the years? My mother had the idea of making potholders out of them. So, I did. They are dandies! They already have a bend in the middle and they’re the perfect size. Just cover them with updated cotton fabric and they’re kitcshy-cute!

This next idea is junk related, so hang with me. Have you ever felt disposable … as a person? Like junk, sort of. Add these words too: unvalued, overlooked, cast aside, dismissed, under-appreciated, invalidated, lesser than, invisible, unworthy, untalented and worst of all … unwanted. You won’t have to have lived half a century (+) to experience any or all of these hurtful words. I know the answer to ‘how about you?’ Many of us learned valuable lessons from injurious times in our past. Some of you are in the middle of such times as I write this. I feel for you. Experiencing all of the above can turn out to be a positive. That is the lesson I took from that old ball of saved string. Each encounter ended up making me a finer human being. That isn’t pride. It is a fact. If we fail to turn pain inside out, turning it into a victory, then hurt wins and I lose. And, I’ve always liked winning. Who doesn’t?

One thing I learned from hurt was to see better, see deeper, see through things. I see value in the overlooked, worth in the seemingly unworthy, beauty in the unobvious, and victory in a ‘loser’. Past lessons in the school of hard knocks found their rightful place in my toolbox of coping skills. I don’t just like ‘lesser thans’, I think I’ve arrived at the place where I prefer them. The Bible comes to mind. Many verses allude to an attitude of seeing potential in those viewed as unlikely by some of their peers. I’ve become more familiar with and very fond of the word ‘redeeming’. There is so much meaning in that one little word. Instead of hurtful words (as mentioned above) that conjure sadness, “redeemed” oozes goodness and healing. The meaning of this word covers a lot of ground and it is a reaching, seeking word. To reach out is the nature of the word. It rescues, it fulfills a promise, it recover ownership, it saves from ruin. And, most of us at one time or another in our lives need to recieve or apply the word in meaningful ways. Another facet of the word involves forgiveness. It pays to look beyond an object’s flaws. Sometimes, you have to in order to see the object’s potential. It is an old-fashioned word that we rarely hear anymore. Sad, really, that so many good words have been all but abandoned in our modern era.  Ironic that ‘redeemed’ needs to be rescued?

So, there you have it. The sum of a person’s experiences in life plays a key role in the manner of person they become and what kind of interests they pursue … even the little things … like finding great delight in redeeming junk. I love the role of redeemer. I love the role as a whole … as it pertains to inanimate objects, unwanted pets, all kinds of things that are in dire need of a second chance, and people that need a little encouragement. Encouragement is meat on the bones of the word redeem. When I feel like ‘junk’, a kind word makes me feel like a ruby instead of a rusty old bolt. “My Redeemer Lives” … like in the bible verse. Oft times it arrives on the scene via the caring hands and kind hearts of those who make the word real … and alive.

And, that leads me to the next part of this blog. My farmgirl friends … some of the kindest hearts I know. We have a new addition to our flock! Donna B. is a childhood friend that I recently rediscovered. She’s also new to junkin’, but she caught on in short order. She joined Anita, Michele, and I on our most recent junkin’ safari to the nearby hill country. Donna caught the vision and in just a few short days, she built a container garden extraordinaire – all from recylced materials! I’ll show you photos in the not so distant future. The other “Donna”, Donna R., was our hostess – this is trip #2 to her place. She’s the 4th generation to live out her life on this ranch. Her father was one of my Grandpa’s best friends. The outbuildings on this old ranch are chocked full of her father’s and grandfather’s collected ‘treasures’. One hillside of about five acres is populated with golden oldies that range in age from the 1880s to the 1950s. Ohhhh boy, did we have one heck of a scavenger hunt. We took home {purchased} all kinds of vintage treasures.

We rooted around in the sheds and skittered all over the hillside like playful chipmunks. But, the excursion was also very relaxing. The countryside is beautiful … so different than the nearby plains that I call home. Here you see oak and wrens instead of sagebrush and meadowlarks. Wild plum trees and nuthatches instead of yucca and grouse. Seepy creeks instead of man-made ranch reservoirs.

Once a farmgirl has toted home all of her junky plunder and made a cute pile out of it all, then what? Work. Turning trash into treasure, garbage into gorgeous. Here is a little goodie that I brought home. I saw an idea on Pinterest: an old galvanized rabbit feeder becomes a dandy little planter. I chose Impatiens for shade, but moss roses would look great in a full sun location.

Safe to say that my junky little garden doesn’t rival the legendary hanging gardens of Babylon, but it does bring me much pleasure – it is my sanctuary. The plains are plain and this year it is desperately dry. There is a reason I’ve not shared photos of the beautiful prairie in springtime. It is not pretty. It is scarey dry. So, my garden really does look like a green oasis! Let me show you what I’ve been doing in it since we last visited. Here, I’ll get the gate for ya …

Just a few short weeks ago, my junk looked like, well, JUNK. But, I kept whittling on the pile and finding places for most of the items. The rest is tucked away in a stall in the barn … waiting for a new life in the porch & screened patio that we keep saying we’ll finish “this summer”.

Oh!! See the old highway sign in the photo above (in the shape of a shield)?? A fun idea was born after seeing an antique sign online (below). My old sign is going to go PATRIOTIC. I don’t know where it will live just yet, but that is part of being a junk fancier … you hafta let the junk talk to you about what it might like to be when it grows up.

When I first started to raid … err, I mean explore old homestead and ranch dump sites, I noticed that there were a lot of iron bed frames. They would have still been perfectly functional when they were thrown away which runs contrary that era’s habit of living the cliche ‘use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without’. Whussup with that?, I wondered. I finally got my answer from Donna R. She said that when mass production of ‘nice’ wood furniture became affordable to the average person, seemingly everyone pitched out their out-of-fashion iron bed frames. Horse drawn equipment and a lot of other soon to be obsolete iron relics followed suit. Those are the things that us farmgirls love now … the cream cans, the wooden egg boxes, the wash stompers, the butter churns etc etc. My farmgirl pals and I have made use of every old bed frame we’ve found. Some are in good enough shape to live inside again (and if you have rails to fit), while others live and find work outside in various occupations.

My farmgirl pal, Anita, loves water features in and around her yard. She built a pond and now she’s got her husband sciencing out how to build a fountain from an old poultry waterer, a wash tub and some pipe. The simple version below was abandoned for the ‘new & improved’ version … soon to be unveiled at our upcoming farmgirl get-together at her place next Sunday.

So far, my blog offering has been about old things. But, I do have a new thing to share with you. My ‘best horses in the universe’ (Dolly and Bluebelle) are now 23 years old. Soon, they’ll be looking at retirement. It is good to have two horses if you really do need to ride. One is your back-up. I have my palomino filly, Ribbon, as a young replacement(she’s 5) … and now I own her younger half sister .. and Dolly’s near clone. My dear friend, Linnea, bred this filly. She is so much like Dolly, it is uncanny. She’s even named after her. Apple Pi Dolly Rose (the Original) – and now the sequel, ML Dolly Rose, aka “Apple”. Apple’s mother is a Dolly sister and Apple’s sire (my stallion) is out of a Dolly sister, hence the incredible similarity. Its in her genes! Introducing my new two-year-old steed, ‘AppleDumpling’ :o) Ain’t she a purdy little thing? It will be awhile before she’s “junk broke”. Dolly & Belle and I have carried home many an old piece of enamelware from the ranch — tied on with my saddle strings. We’ve often rattled & banged our way across the range like an old pots & pans salesman of the horsedrawn era :o) Thus far, Apple has worn a saddle a few times … like a little girl wearing her mama’s high heels. She won’t be ridden for real until next spring. Until then, she’ll attend horsey kindergarten. She’s been hobbled, sat on, and will continue her lessons in etiquette and ‘social studies’. My husband will put the first 30 days on her when the time comes. He’s started colts for 40 years.

I’ll leave you today with a preview of what is to come … I hope. Night before last, I found a clutch of Killdeer eggs in a nest of pebbles. Gotta be a once in a lifetime thing (probably). I hope I can get a photo of the chicks too. We’ll see. Those little babies can almost run right out of the egg. The eggs are huge for such a small bird (true to scale below).

Anyway, being a ‘found object’ collector to the core of my being, I’ll at least harvest the broken eggshells to put in one of my collected birdnests. I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, I hope all my farmgirl friends out yonder are having a good summer. What have YOU found recently that tickles you pink?

  1. Maria says:

    Shery, you are an inspiration. I look forward to reading your posts. You are a definitely an exceptional writer and today you touched my heart to the point that a small tear drop formed in my eye. I completely understood your message because no one understands to see "the overlooked, to see deeper, better and through things" like you mentioned. I myself see so much beauty in so many things and I’m the only one that sees it! So much potential in so many things…regardless of everyone else, I’m going to continue my search for beauty in everything I see. Go Girl you got my vote…

  2. Ellen R. Willingham says:

    I love recycling things and making something else out of them! I’ve done it for years and find it rewarding and interesting to boot! My whole house and apartment feature reworks of mine! So does the jewelry I design and wear or give to others.

    I love the birdhouse and now I’m thinking….hmmmm….I’ve got to do that now!

  3. Anna Hanley says:

    What a wonderful blog! Your pics are great, and everything looks super. I have a love for so much. I often re-purposed stuff and I am tickled pink when it works out. Warm regards, Anna

  4. Brenda says:

    Love it love it. I love old stuff, thank you for your blog, it always makes me feel good.

  5. bonnie ellis says:

    Oh Shery! I think I just found my clone! I’ll be 70 next month and that means I’ve been collecting longer than you have. Why do people want to call it junk? It especially works well in the garden and tucked in around plants. I envy your room to keep all your "treasures". You’re my kind of farm gal. Keep up the good work! Bonnie


    Hi Bonnie! Thank you. I don’t know why relic gems are called junk. I guess when they’ve outlived your usefulness, they get to be ‘junk’. Some of the old stuff we like will still be around long after the ‘junk’ of this generation is buried. I dunno, maybe that is better…disposable junk that actually goes away…except that all of the plastic stuff we’ve created will be around and it really IS junk. I think an important aspect of going green is to make better quality ‘stuff’ (like in the old days) so that we don’t have so much CRAP to put in the landfill. One day they won’t be called landfills anymore. They’ll be landFULLs.   shery

  6. Grace~katmom says:

    Shery, once again, Thank you for shraing your heart, home & your Joy for life with us….
    p.s., luv the trailer!

  7. Victoria says:

    Shery…you’ve done it once again…brought back memories that will forever be precious to me. While reading your post what came flooding back into my mind was summer nights when I used to live in Idaho. The windows would all be open and since we lived out in the country, all would be quiet, except for the sprinklers on our handlines watering our pasture, (so soothing), a train going through town blowing it’s lonesome whistle and the Killdeer! What lovely little sounds they make. All was well with the world! Once I found a tiny baby,(just a little furball with loooong legs) in the middle of our road. I got to gently pick it up and put it in our pasture to join up with his mama. I’ll never forget that…had to be one of the dearest things I’ve had the honor to hold. Thanks, Shery….for helping me not forget.

  8. Debbie says:

    Well my dear, you’ve gone and done it again… here in your blog and your garden yard! You are my sister in junk’n crime! I adore your " born again creations"… ALL OF THEM… You know what I especially love…Once you turn 50 ( at least for me ) you don’t worry so much about always pleasing others and you start grabbing every darned chance you can to please yourself more often. I think for us farmgirls, it boils down to doin’ what we love with a grin and a twinkle in the eye no matter what the heck anyone else thinks about it! Lucky for us we have the sisterhood to share with… I bet there’s not one raised eyebrow at any of your " finds " in the whole flock of us!!!  Sister, your blogs make me happy!
    God Bless You!!!
    xo Deb

    Back at ya sister DBoz :o)  When do you expect to start selling flowers? I think that is such a romantic concept. My grandma always kept a cutting garden so that she could have fresh flowers in the house all summer long. She loved gladiolas the best for that.   Thank you for stopping in dear friend.   shery

  9. KimberlyD says:

    I love your blog, I love what you do with all the "stuff" you find. But I guess I’m not a farmgirl after all…I run across that "stuff" and I see junk…I have tried to do something with it and it still looks like junk. I guess I wasn’t born with that gene. 8~(

    Also around here, since work is very hard to find in the "thumb" area of Michigan, there is no abandond junk to be found, "scrappers" have claimed it and sold it for money. Its gotten so scarse to find around here, people steal metal items from abandond houses and sell it. You can even make money selling cardboard boxes so stores dumpsters get raided after they have had a delivery, they look for boxes and than sell them also. They even have tried to sell manhole covers with the cities names stamped on them! Really! haha!

  10. Jan says:

    Just yesterday my hubby and I were at a church garage sale. He made a comment to me that ‘If I would have know this was going on WE could have brought lots of stuff!!!’ I think that he knew I was slightly RANKLED when I replied ‘Oh, so you’re going to bring some of YOUR shop stuff?!?’. One more point for us girls….
    I loved the concepts that you shared in your blog! I am 58 and I am bound and determined to become as genuine and true to my self that I can be. That means letting the creative juices flow in the repurposing of my treasures. Right now, I am having a hard time FOCUSING on one area and I have projects sprinkled all over kingdom come…The top of the list is hanging succulent gardens. I have a large collection of ‘hens and chicks’ style plants and also a bunch that I have to winter over on my sun porch. SOOOO, now I am carting home everything from picture frames, old windows, wicker baskets, etc. to plant some up. Your patriotic theme reminded me that I have red succulents and I could form a star in the middle of one…Great minds…
    Party on!!

  11. Sabrena Orr says:

    Shery, I love to savor your posts and rejoice when you have a new one! You are a lovely, engaging writer and I love your writing and pictures. Your garden, home and ranch are truly amazing and so beautifil. Truly a garden of eden so to speak on the Wyoming plains. Thank you for sharing your treasures with us!!!

  12. Liz Bowling says:

    You take the most wonderful pictures. Just retired and am getting back into my art work full time. May I have your permission to incorporate some of your photos into my drawings? They really are beautiful. Liz Bowling


    Dear Liz,  Thank you for asking. Yes, of course, you can…and have fun!  shery

  13. bonnie ellis says:

    Shery: You’re a genius! You took all that "good stuff", put it to great use and beautified it with flowers; God is proud of you and so am I, Well done my good and faithful servant. You are a prime redeemer.

  14. Diana Henretty says:

    Good Morning from the Ozarks!
    What wonderful ideas, full of beauty to brighten your world and everyone elses that passes by!
    Old tin coffee pots make wonderful planters and bird feeders to hang from the trees. We took all of our broken wind chimes and re-created them into more wind chimes this spring, now my front porch is filled with music every day!
    Thanks for sharing all of the beauty! Diana

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