Saturday, January 17, 2009

Should have ...

Today should have been a day spent in the yard. Building on the hen house. Raking leaves. Turning one of the compost piles. Instead, there was an estate auction around the corner.

Spent more time and more money than we should have but we made out.

This neighborhood is a little more than 50 years old. Modest brick ranch-style houses with modest yards. (Our one and a half acres is a glaring exception.) When we bought this house from the heirs of the original owners 11 years ago, most of our neighbors were original owners. That’s changed over years.

The P’s lived a half-block away. We knew them only in passing. They passed on within a few months of each other last year. Their children put most of the contents of the house up for auction. It started at 10 this morning. Dr. Spouse and I were the among the first to arrive at 8 to scout it out.

A few items caught our eyes. A Danish Modern coffee and end table set, a style that fits our mid-Century house; several tables displaying well-cared for hand and power tools; a stand of solid yard tools and three boxes of canning jars.

During our preview visit, we asked about the 20-odd potted plants huddling in one corner of the yard. “Are they for sale?”

“If you want them, they are. You just might get the lot for three bucks.”

Joining a throng of strangers to sorting through and put a value on the lives of others can be disconcerting . (I cannot bear to watch strangers paw over my possessions. When we have a yard sale, I’ll help with the prep but make myself scarce before buyers actually arrive.) I wondered why the family left some items for sale. But then, I had no idea what mementos and memorabilia they kept.

That voyeuristic feeling largely evaporates when the bidding starts. Auctions are a thrill and I’m prone to jumping in with enough common sense. Today, I largely kept my head. Dr. Spouse joined me while the auctioneer was working his way through the house.

We had vowed to stay away from the tables unless the bidding remained low. And it remained quite low. We snapped them up cheap. Less than half what I thought they’d go for. They are decent pieces. Originals, but not top-of-the-line. We’ll see if we can sell them – mid-Century modern is trendy these days – if we can’t make some money, they fit nicely in our house.

Then there was the rush from bidding. We were both quivering when the bidding ended. Even H. , our 14-year-old, said she felt the tension. I’m always amazed at the adrenal surge I get at auctions. Yes, it’s competition and it's quick thinking but I still don’t I fully understand the source of that rush.

Dr. Spouse had to head to the clinic before the bidding moved outside to the tools, the plants and the canning jars. I managed to restrain myself – mostly. I behaved at the yard tools: one nice straight-edged spade and a triangular weeding hoe ($5 each). I really don’t need three 100-foot outdoor extension cords or a bench vise ($20 total). A $10 box of assorted screw drivers, pliers and tape measures -- I can never have too many tape measures – later revealed a prize: a well-made, long-bladed pruner.

At least, I thought it was some sort of pruner. A half-hour on Internet shows me I’m wrong. They are high-quality German poultry shears, new for $60. Woo-hoo.

But, the real prize was the canning jars.

Three boxes and a deep Rubbermaid bin for $10. Later, I spent a half-hour sorting and counting. Several non-canning jars ended up in the recycling bin. (Dr. Spouse rescued a couple with grape-vine details. “They’re cute.”)

The tally on the jars:
27 half-pints (nine never used)
39 pints
11 quarts
Plus 3 wide-mouthed pints and 4 quarts.

All told, almost 38 quarts of emptiness ready to fill. Gonna be a big garden this spring and summer.

Now, I’m thinking about pickled okra in the bigger jars, jalapeno jelly in the smaller ones. We’ll tackle tomatoes for the first time and – if we can find a cheap pressure canner – green beans. Oh, that garden’s going to be big.

We’ll expand our vegetable growing outside the confines of the fenced garden. I’ll convert a troubled bed of Iris pseudacorus that’s been overrun with the much-cursed morning glory (oh, how I loathe that vine) into an okra bed.

The three beds of tomatoes we’ve talked about will expand to four. Thanks to inspiration from Marc at The Garden Desk, we’re going to try and start seeds indoors this year.

Our next step: finding a pressure canner. See this great post at Simple, Green, Frugal coop.

We also came home with all but two of those potted plants: a half dozen hibuscus, a bromeliad and some odds and ends. The pots are decent but mostly plastic. We'll have to find bigger and better pots for the hibiscus. One's already showing peach blooms but they're all crowded.

1 comment:

  1. You remind me of me.
    I am a garage estate, rummage saler from
    way back. Many posts on my blog are about
    the great deal on plants I found at garage sales. Great post