Picking up after the litterbugs

I’ve decided that smoking, drinking and littering should all be added to the list of deadly sins.

Saturday was the annual spring clean up in our area, so I headed out with a roll of garbage bags, two pairs of gloves and, of course, my usual sidekick.

Litter clean up

Most of the litter that we picked up was cigarette packages, paper coffee cups and beer cans. Given that most of the trash was thrown out of the windows of passing cars, I’m concerned that so much of it consisted of empty containers that formerly contained alcoholic beverages.

So perhaps to clarify, the deadly sin should be drinking and driving, not just drinking.

The annual litter clean up invariably leaves me feeling disgusted with humanity.

Not all of humanity, though. This year we had professional help from 1-800-Got-Junk. The team was driving around the concessions, picking up the bags that had been left on the roadside.

1-800-Got-Junk team

Baxter was also his usual helpful self. He appreciated the opportunity to spend as much time as he wanted wading in the ditch.

Baxter wading in the ditch

When he tired of getting muddy, he returned to sniffing and sunbathing.


Here are a few highlights of this year’s clean up:

Various car parts–headlights, bumpers, hubcaps, a license plate. Our ditches are very deep, and apparently the stop sign across from the east field is invisible.

Car parts

SPB, I have your gloves… Well, two of them. The third odd one went in the trash.


We made it approximately halfway around our 2km of roadside. The grand tally over three hours of clean-up was three bags of garbage, three bins of recycling, three hubcaps and three gloves. Oh, and those three new sins.

Have you done a spring clean-up at your house? What’s the weirdest trash you’ve ever come across? What sins would you add to the list if you could?

Battling the litter bugs

Our property is situated so that we have three road frontages. What this means is that we have about 2 kilometres of ditches that to passing drivers apparently look like one large trash can. A recent notice in the mailbox for a community clean up was the motivation I needed to pick up after all of these litter bugs.

The saddest thing about this photo is that I didn’t stage it. I simply set the notice down amongst the trash.

Community clean up notice

Outfitted with my rubber boots, work gloves and multiple garbage bags, I headed out. I had two bags on the go at a time, one for recycling (mainly cans and bottles) and one for garbage. I could have probably separated the garbage a bit more, but two bags was about all I could wrangle. The most common finds were takeout coffee cups, plastic water bottles and cigarette packs.

Trash in the ditch

There was lots and lots of plastic.

Plastic garbage

We have a creek that runs along the front of the property, and while it is set farther away from the road, it was still full of trash as well.

These particular pieces of plastic turned out to be a very big sheet of bubble wrap and a large jug which had formed a dam.

Plastic garbage damming a creek

Some of the more unique finds included a shoe, two gloves (not a pair) and the remains of a wine glass.

Broken wine glass

Sometimes, I wasn’t sure what things were right away. As when I first spotted this item a few feet back in the reeds along the west side of the property.

Garbage in a marsh

It turned out to be a small photocopier. Yup. Someone went to the effort to carry a photocopier out of their office, put it into their car, drive it to our property, pick it up out of the car, carry it across the ditch and heave it into the marsh. They didn’t even just open the car door and push it out. They put work and planning into this–I know, because I climbed into the marsh and dragged it out and it was heavy and awkward.

Photocopier and hubcap

Fortunately, I was able to leave the photocopier, other large items and even the full bags of garbage on the shoulder and our amazing garbage men took them away on our regular pick up day. The recycling I carried home and dumped into our bins.

Four full bins of recycling

The final tally on the clean up was

  • 5 1/2 hours (over three days)
  • 7 1/2 bags of garbage
  • 5 bins of recycling
  • One awful sun burn
  • Multiple scratches
  • Numerous ant bites
  • One ruined pair of gloves
  • A general feeling of disgust towards my fellow humans

Some people were encouraging–one driver honked and gave me a thumbs up as he drove by and another pulled over to say how great it was that I was cleaning up. However, I probably was not as gracious as I could have been to them as I spent most of the clean up being royally ticked off. Who finishes their coffee and decides the correct action is to roll down the window and pitch the cup into the ditch?

My irritation went to another level when Matt and I went out and passing by two of the garbage bags I’d left on the side of the road I saw that someone had pitched a Blizzard cup and two plastic spoons onto the shoulder–and they’d obviously aimed to get them right beside my bags. Who is that rude?

Fortunately, our garbage men are incredibly considerate, because not only did they pick up all of the trash bags and larger items I’d left on the side of the road, they also picked up the cup and spoons.

Out of the whole clean up, I only found one item worth keeping.

5 cents Canadian Tire money

You better believe I tucked that 5 cents into my pocket and brought it home with me. I need some new work gloves!


A year ago tomorrow, the farm became ours.

Late in the afternoon on Friday, March 2, 2012, we finally got word that the deal had closed. We immediately drove to our dream property, talking excitedly about our plans for the next week and everything we had to do before we moved in.

It had been a long search for the perfect property. The two-month closing had been a little uncertain, as the sellers were in a very difficult situation and it was not a pleasant sale for them.

The sun was going down as we turned into the driveway, and we could see a fire burning at the top near the house. Ummmm, who’s having a campfire at our farm? It’s ours now.

It turned out that one of the sellers was there with his friend reminiscing. We chatted for a little while, and then as the rain started to fall, they went on their way, and we went into the house.

Dream house it was not. The heat was still turned way down, possessions and garbage left by the previous owners littered every room, lights were burnt out. It was cold and dim and dirty.

Messy room

The scene a few weeks before the sale closed. We kept the desk, but threw out the dead pillow.

But this is what we had expected. This is how we saw the house for the first time at the beginning of January, and this is what it had looked like every time we’d come back. Now it was ours–all of it. We rolled up our sleeves, tugged on our gloves and got to work.

My priority was the fridge, because we had both of our families coming the next day to help with the clean out and we needed to feed them. Unfortunately, along with having next to no heat, we had absolutely no hot water. Cleaning a cold sticky filthy fridge was a slow process.

Matt started picking up cardboard, paper and anything else that was burnable and carrying it out to the still smouldering fire. Eventually, he had a roaring blaze going, even in the pouring rain.

Big bonfire at night

This is Matt’s “I have made fire” pose

We stayed for hours, finally heading back to the city near midnight. The next morning, we were back–this time with a kettle and helping hands.

When my mother walked into the house, the first words out of her mouth were, “Oh, Julia.” The tone was not happy or congratulatory. Her lips firmed into a thin line–you know the look–and she said, “Where do you want me to start.” I assigned her to our bedroom, where the closet was still full of the previous owner’s clothes–eight garbage bags worth.

My sister got another bedroom. Matt’s mom–who cleaned the bathrooms at our first house when we moved in–went to work on the main bathroom. My brother replaced light bulbs and washed the fixtures. Matt’s Dad headed out to the barn. The seller and his friend returned with pick-up trucks and trailers–told you it was a weird situation–and they, along with Matt, my Dad and me, went to work clearing out the basement. Three trucks and trailers fully loaded went to the dump that first day.

Pick up trucks and trailers full of garbage

That’s Matt playing peek-a-boo from behind the trailer

A year later, the clean out and clean up continues in a few spots. We still have campfires every so often.

But the best part is that the novelty has not yet worn off. Thinking we want to live in the country, have a large property and DIY our own house is one thing. Actually doing it is another.

Now, a year into it all, I couldn’t imagine us anywhere else. It feels exactly right, but at the same time it still feels very new. I am amazed that it’s already been a year.

At the junkyard

Check another item off our fall to-do list. The scrap metal pile in front of the driveshed is gone.

Last weekend, I borrowed my Dad’s truck, so Saturday morning Matt and I loaded it up with the TV aerial, assorted poles and pipes, an umbrella clothesline, a single tire rim, an old motor, an even older fan, buckets of rusty screws and nails and our aluminum step ladder (in the rock-paper-scissors-eque battle that is ladder-tree branch-gravity, tree branch wins with an assist from gravity, hence no more step ladder. Matt’s Dad who was on the ladder with the chainsaw is just fine… as is the chainsaw).

Van full of scrap metal

The trailer was busy with a load of firewood (see “chainsaw” above), so we had to put all of the metal inside the truck.

It was basically a load of crap rather than scrap, but we trundled off to a local junkyard anyway in the hopes that we could make a few bucks.

In hindsight, we should perhaps have been willing to drive a little bit further to a slightly more professional dealer.

The first clue was the sign on the front of the building.

Scrap metal dealer

Do you see it?

The sign on the left of the building actually looks like that–no editing. I have adjusted the sign on the top of the building to protect the guilty.

Let me get a little closer for you.

Misspelled scrap metal sign

Do you see it now?

Yup. They misspelled “metal.”

There was no scale, no paperwork. We pulled into the yard, one of the workers pulled the metal–or metel–out of the truck and dumped it amongst all of the wrecked cars and basically waved us on our way.

Scrap metal in the junkyard

Bye bye ladder et al.

Matt and I obliged him by pulling out of the yard, but then I stopped, parked, went into the office and said, “Ummmm, when I called you said that you guys buy metal?”

They agreed that they did buy metal. Then they wandered outside for awhile, had a couple of conversations in a language I didn’t understand and dealt with another customer. Eventually they came back and one of the men took a wad of cash out of his back pocket and peeled off a couple of bills. I reached out my hand and snagged the twenty and the ten that he reluctantly extended to me.

At this point, Matt and I decided that retreat was the best option, and we scampered out to the truck where Matt said, “Go! Drive! Just get us out of here!”

So all in all, a slightly sketchy, as well as a slightly profitable, experience. The upside: the $30 paid for the pizza we ordered for dinner that night and there’s no more unsightly metal pile in front of the driveshed. Double win!

Byebye bin

If there was a bright side to doing the roof–beyond rain not seeping into our house, of course–it was the garbage bin that we ordered.

Empty garbage bin


We took advantage of every cubic metre of our 40-yard bin to do a major clean up in the barn, the fields and even the house.

Full garbage bin


The indoor pool was the last room we cleaned out, hence the pool noodles and solar blanket. Can I just ask why you need a solar blanket on an indoor pool?

Underneath all of that are the shingles, the leather barn couch and numerous other treasures I was quite happy to say goodbye to.

Hauling a garbage bin

Buh-bye junk

The final tally was 10,780.5 pounds, which equates to 4.89 metric tonnes, 5.39 tons or “freakin’ heavy” in Matt’s words–and a huge weight off my mind.

Anyone else out there find cleaning cathartic? This blitz was particularly rewarding, I think, because most of the junk belonged to past owners.


The theme of this week is manpower–as in Matt-power.

Matt is the type of person who when there’s a big job to be done or extreme physical effort required, he will just gut it out. It causes me concern frequently because he pushes himself so hard, but I also have confidence that when it comes to big jobs–such as reshingling the roof–he’ll get it done.

Last week, in preparation for the arrival of the garbage box that we ordered to handle the old roof shingles, Matt cleaned out the basement of the barn. By himself.

The inventory by the time I came home from work on Friday evening included everything and the kitchen sink.

Garbage pile by the barn

Can you spot the sink?

The centrepiece of the garbage pile is a leather couch whose disposal has been very high on my list since the very first time we saw the farm. Unfortunately, we didn’t realize it was a sleeper couch–complete with a very heavy metal frame inside–until Matt began to move it out of the barn. By himself.

Garbage pile by the barn

Can you spot the couch?

Our expectation that it was a popular mouse house was borne out. Who puts a couch in a barn? Fortunately, Matt did not have to handle the task of the extermination by himself. While Easter didn’t know what to do with the one she caught and did end up needing Matt’s help, Ralph dealt with the rest of them in one bite apiece.

Mouse hole in a couch cushion

The front door of casa de mouse

The edible portion of the clean out was limited to cat treats. The rest was sorted into garbage, recycling (including Habitat donations, beer store returns and scrap metal), burn and potentially useable items, which does in fact include the sink. Unfortunately, the useable items pile was by far the smallest.

Chains on the ground

The broom might be useful in the rest of the cleanout if we can find a handle

In the category of unuseable items, here are some of the highlights:

  • Several hundred plastic nursery pots–not even close to an exaggeration
  • Nearly a hundred cardboard egg cartons and vegetable baskets
  • A dozen plastic pails–mostly five gallons
  • A couple hundred feet of garden hoses
  • About ten tarps
  • Filters, hoses, pumps and other miscellaneous equipment for a half a dozen pools or hot tubs–I took apart one pool filter in the hopes of using the tank for a rain barrel, so this may not be completely unuseable

We ordered a 40 yard box–the biggest we could get–and it arrived on Saturday morning.

40 yard garbage bin

Our new lawn ornament–that’s almost as big as the house

Sunday afternoon, we combined Matt’s manpower with my woman power and started loading up the box. In addition to the basement of the barn, we cleaned out the loft in the driveshed, a long row of junk along the tree line in the field behind the driveshed and multiple junk piles we’d set aside in the upper level of the barn.

As happy as I am to finally clean up the property, by the end of the day I was just irritated. I know large properties and outbuildings can entice people to keep things just in case they might need them someday. However, this just seemed like littering.

Matt’s comment at one point summed up our attitudes: “I’m taking apart my jacuzzi, so I’ll just dump the pieces here in this field. No need to actually get rid of them properly.” In case you can’t hear it, the tone was very sarcastic.

So, in addition to strength, endurance and extreme stubbornness, my manpower comes with a biting sense of humour. It makes the tough jobs a little more palatable.

Anyone out there have their own manpower or womanpower partner? What do you do when they push themselves too hard?

Deadbeat dumpers

To the people who gave us their couch, thank you.

Broken couchYour thoughtless gift shows how little you truly care about those around you.

Leaving the couch in our ditch was so unexpected. Gift giving is much more meaningful when your recipients are surprised.

The massage feature must be so soothing. It’s such a shame that the couch was broken during delivery, and we won’t be able to fully enjoy its plush comfort.

Massaging couch

I am amazed by the depth of your selfishness.

A true sincere thank you to our garbage men who took pity on us and picked up the pieces we left on the shoulder of the road when we couldn’t fit any more in our cars.