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Green Acre #125: Scavengers R Us


When writers talk about whimsical Victorians, these delightful chairs are what they mean, certainly not the queen. / Photo by Stephanie Cavanaugh.

ELECTION NIGHTS are nail-biters around here, though not for the obvious reasons. In this little corner of Capitol Hill, wins and losses bring visions of rugs and wicker, woks and candelabra, a treasure trove for the scavenger.

From the sidewalk-shopping perspective, the bigger the election shake-up the better.

Those not thoroughly infected with the Washington DC bug will pack their little wagons and head home, wherever that is. Invariably, there are treasures to be found in the leaving. These often land on sidewalks on Thursday, bulk trash day. One salivates.

In truth, Washington is always mecca for the scavenger. People are forever leaving on mysterious and important missions, choosing to discard exciting things that just won’t fit or suit wherever they’re off to.  

One of five faux boxwood balls, Smith & Hawken tags still attached, now anchors the fall window box display. / Photo by Stephanie Cavanaugh.

Some months ago we brought home two large, rather elegant urns for the garden in a composite material that looks like stone. These were perfect for summering the parlor palms that are now inside for the winter in smaller containers. Frostproof (unlike clay and ceramic), they’re now filled with spring bulbs and topped with pansies and cabbages for winter color.

Then there were two delightfully whimsical Victorian iron folding chairs pulled from the curb. My Prince sanded them and painted them verdigris; they’re wonderful on the garden path, a place to settle in beside the pond and watch the feeder fish—goldfish commonly fed to your boa constrictor that we buy 10 for a buck. The raccoons consider them lagniappes.

Also curbside were five faux boxwood from Smith & Hawken (they still had the tags), really excellent ringers that are now the centerpieces of the window boxes. A triumph of a cheap fix, if I say so myself, necessitated by the uprooting of the asparagus ferns that would have cringed at first frost.

Such abundance has forced us to grow pickier about our pickings, having filled needs several times over. We now look only for the rare and wonderful. For instance…

In August, heading to the pool, our 1989 Mustang rattle-trapped past a pile of something that needed inspection, so I put the Prince in reverse and discovered a bistro table and chairs, another Victorian find, that someone decided was beyond repair. The wooden tabletop was broken in three, the chair seats were busted through.  But the base of the table and the chair frames were lovely and twisted iron that was so fine it would give your decorator palpitations.

Here’s where I urge you to get a Prince of your own. Forget the lawyers, the doctors (except, perhaps, a plastic surgeon), and certainly not a journalist. Indeed, we once hired a hungry journalist to assist with the repainting of the front of the house with disastrous results. But that’s another story.

What you want, at a certain stage of life and income, is someone who still has enough muscle to haul stuff around, and the skill to fix anything—from a busted lamp to, in this case, a cunning little bistro set, which now has a restored top, stained a deep cherry, and new seats

This will be the center of my little greenhouse this winter, perfectly lovely among the  lemon blossoms and geraniums, I fancy.

—Stephanie Cavanaugh

LittleBird Stephanie can, it seems, find inspiration . . . anywhere. Read about it every  Thursday.

One thought on “Green Acre #125: Scavengers R Us

  1. Well done, as always, Stephanie! I too am a scrounger at heart – it not only saves the budget, but also feeds my creative side. Hi to the Prince!

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