The downside of showing off your terrarium

nathanhurst(VIC Aust)August 1, 2004

Having bounced at my friends about my large terrarium (which is beginning to develop nicely: I seem to have a stable population of little flying things in there - larger than a mosquito, smaller than a housefly; and lots of fresh fern fronds unfurling frantically) I have discovered one minor problem, or perhaps, a blessing. You see, people now know me as the place where your old, leaking fish tank goes to die. Rarely a weekend goes past when I don't find a little guppi tank, or three quarters of a marine tank parked just so on the front veranda.

At first I was excited to think that I could so easily develop my hobby with a minimum of expenditure. It wasn't to be. At first I only got tanks that people didn't want any more. A good hour with a brill pad and some cleaning products and I was set.

Then I started to get the tanks that people had left in their garage because they were ashamed to admit to having bought them. The tanks made from slumped brown beer bottles, the old TV set with a replacement tube for goldfish, a rather fancy design with a leadlight surround (shaped like an enormous bosom), and something which could be best described as a jerry can with a hole cut in one side and replaced with scratched perspex. People knew I could do something with them.

And then there are the stands. Some are quite well made, often out of plantation pine painted mission brown, with trendy coloured glass from the old out-back dunny light. There is a fancy sculture made from bent and welded rebar; several dressing tables which have clearly lived with a mushroom drip irrigation system in the top drawer; a fancy carved table which someone had the insight to fix for the uneven floor using a pruning saw (on all four legs); and perhaps a dozen coffee tables with peeling laminate.

My garage is now stacked from floor to ceiling with partially renovated terrariums, dismantled stands waiting for me to get the time to bandsaw out a new drawer runner and a veritable light shop of aquarium lights with mismatched chokes and burnt out starters waiting for me to lascerate my fingers as I attempt to remove them.

The last straw was a rather impressive 2.4m tank that came with hospital bed for a stand. The owner had had an accident with the thermostat and had broiled all her fish on a weekend away. She had clearly decided that aquariums weren't for her and decided to let me deal with the whole thing. She'd wheeled the whole thing into my driveway and slunk back home, perhaps thinking she'd avoid me working out where it was from. I rang her that night and told her I wasn't impressed - "Mum, next time you might at least take the water out, and remove the slimy grey corpses bobbing on the surface."

Lynne, my S.O., put her foot down hard. After I treated her for glass cuts inflicted during my attempt to get her foot back out of the mirror backed lizard ex-home (with built-in concrete cliff face) we decided that we would have to leave a note to our kindly, but unknowning benefactors.

"no room, for tanks of moldy fish."

With apologies to Douglas Adams, Norden and Muir.

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Now that's hysterical.... *LOL* Nathan, you slay me!

But I do hope Lynne is okay. :)

    Bookmark   August 3, 2004 at 11:40AM
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sahoyaref(Alberta z3a)

ROTFL! Now I will appreciate that no one even noticed my terr. when they came over because they are too busy ogling my husband's saltwater tank! =)

    Bookmark   August 4, 2004 at 2:49PM
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LOL, I think I need friends like that. All they do is borrow beer and never leave anything in return!

    Bookmark   August 5, 2004 at 5:01PM
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sahoyaref(Alberta z3a)

Hey Persistence! Long time no see! How about some pics of how your terr. is coming along? =)

    Bookmark   August 6, 2004 at 5:49PM
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nathanhurst(VIC Aust)

Thankfully, it turns out that this week is 'hard waste collection', colloquially known as the "town wide recycling project". The idea is that everyone looks through their garages and puts everything they don't want anymore out on the nature strip.

Then, the rest of the street pretends to go for evening walks, but secretly is studying everyone else's stuff for a bargain.

I put out some of my collected detritus a few days ago, including an old exercise bike which worked in every way, except the difficulty setting was jammed on Mt Everest; I had tried every trick I knew for unjamming it (I'd picked it up a few years ago from another hard waste week with the intent to use it to power my laptop with an alternator), but it resisted all my efforts. I sprayed with wd40, I heated the collar with a blow torch, I pulled and strained with a metre long stilson wrench. I even tried using harsh language. It was time for it to go.

I also put out enough old tank stands and ex-rabbit-cages to open a pet shop. Oh yes, the rabbits got their cage upgraded - they're not ex-rabbits yet.

Sure enough today most of it has disappeared. Other things had mysteriously migrated down to someone elses's pile. The exercise bike has obviously been exercising itself down the street. It was over 250m down the road, and had been cleaned up and regreased.

Walking home from work on Friday I found a nice piece of tempered 6mm*600mm*900mm glass from someone's coffee table (without a scratch!) and planned to lug it home for use as a terrarium front. I was a little embarrassed about taking it, so I surreptitiously noted its location, and waited until 11pm before nipping out with Lynne to return it. We nearly got caught in the act by someone carrying an exercise bike wrapped in a tarpaulin. Luckily the street light is at the other end of the street.

It's apparently illegal this year to take hard waste from someone else's nature strip. The story goes that a bunch of rather over-enthusiatic recyclers not only took someone elses' hard rubbish, but the front picket fence, which, it was alleged, wasn't actually stuck in the ground. The judge ruled in the case of the de-fence offence that the owner is not required to provide for the defence of fence.

So when my surrounding two neighbours and I met yesterday afternoon we all studiously avoided mentioning hard rubbish... until someone mentioned the nearly new exercise bike they picked up half a block away that just needed a bit of elbow grease to fix the difficulty setting.

If the council waits long enough before sending out the trucks there will be nothing left.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2004 at 5:32AM
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omggggggg NathanHurst that was soooo funnyyyy!!!

    Bookmark   August 24, 2004 at 3:28AM
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CissyCat(z9 AZ)

I think that maybe this is a sign, yes, that's it, a sign for you! It is your calling to recycle these things and make them lovely and then sell them back to the sneaky, slinking neighbors who dump them on you! (2nd job maybe, LOL??)You can even use those slimy, bobbing, grey corpses to make some fish emulsion to help with the plantlife....What a funny, funny story!

Trudi :0)

    Bookmark   August 27, 2004 at 3:53AM
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JustJodi(z5 IL)

I thoroughly enjoyed your musings, Nathan, and am reminded that several of my most treasured decorator planters and other gardening nicknacks, not to mention many other useful household items, come from just such midnight shopping sprees at roadside.

With my husband at the wheel of our trusty, albeit quite elderly Ford Escort, and myself as passenger and lookout, we tool around the countryside in the late afternoon, day before refuse pickup, and make mental note of where the best items are stacked at driveways' end. Then, after the sun goes down, we once again pile into the little Escort and head out for our after dark shopping trip. We come home with many great finds, some things only needing a good cleanup or a fresh coat of paint. And since my husband can fix just about anything, we frequently nab such items as old lamps, fans and other small appliances. (We'll repair them, and if we can't use them we'll find a friend or family member that needs just such an item and give it to them.) And since my husband is quite the packrat, we usually end up with a few things we don't really need to take, things that might be much more useful as landfill.

My eye is naturally drawn to anything remotely related to crafting and gardening, indoor or out, and I can spot a useful plant stand, garden tool, or plant container in the gathering dusk with no problem whatsoever, even though I have trouble reading the newspaper in a well lit room with my glasses on!

My latest acquisitions include a weathered garden bench in need of a good scrubbing, a gorgeous dark blue pottery planter, quite large, with only a small crack on the bottom. (I repaired it with a bit of silicone and it looks brand new.) I also found a small metal patio side table, frame intact, but missing the glass top. I plan to repaint it in a metallic shade, and perhaps finish it with a mosaic top using some of the garage sale tea saucers and plates I've been collecting.

My most recent scavenged treasure is a huge glass brandy snifter that has definite terrarium potential! It had a nasty little layer of moldy poupourri inside when I picked it up, but it cleaned up nicely and awaits planting.

Anyway... you've quite the way with the written word, Nathan, and I think your calling goes beyond thrifty recycling right into story writing... have you thought of sending a story or article in to your favorite magazine? Or are you already a paid writer?

Happy Roadside Pickings!

    Bookmark   August 27, 2004 at 10:30PM
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nathanhurst(VIC Aust)

Thanks for your kind words Jodi! I'm technically a technical writer/phd candidate, but it's not same :)

    Bookmark   August 29, 2004 at 8:31AM
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violetrehabber(5a IL)


Where are you all at that you have these pick ups??

Here in Illinois we call what you do "Garage Sailing"!

Garage Sales are where I get my tanks and all my useful stuff and, yes, even an exercise bike that is so much more useful as a shelf and clothes hanger!

We also buy things really, really cheap and then sell them on ebay and make a modest profit but it's fun so we keep it up!!


    Bookmark   August 30, 2004 at 9:52PM
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paul_(z5 MI)

Thanks for sharing your story, Nathan. I got a much needed chuckle out of that!
: )

    Bookmark   September 6, 2004 at 9:35PM
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