One Opportunity Missed, One Opportunity Seized

And now for some “never thought we’d type that in our entire lives” news before we dive into today’s post. Remember when we Instagrammed this (well, I guess technically we Regrammed it) back in May? It was from our day of shooting a little segment with the OWN crew (as in Oprah’s crew). #ahhhhhh #more screaming

Well, that “short film” is airing this Sunday! It’ll be on towards the end of their Super Soul Sunday season premiere (info here) and we’re practically ready to faint at the possibility of Oprah saying our names out loud. Seriously, somebody get me a fan, a ruffled dress, and a chaise lounge so I can dramatically swoon.

But now back to the opportunities that we seized and missed. First the one that we missed (I’m a “tell me the bad news first” kinda girl). A few blocks away from us we noticed that a neighbor was mid-renovation (the sizable dumpster in their driveway was our first clue). One day we spotted a bunch of outdoor furniture peeking out over its top edge. Was that some chunky wicker Restoration-Hardware-ish stuff? And some iron chairs and a table? Why was it in the dumpster? It looked to be in good condition. Could this be our new sunroom furniture?

Our brains started fantasizing a trash-to-treasure rescue story. Maybe a little cleaning or rust-removing spray paint was all they needed? But then again, maybe they were in the trash pile for good reason. And would it be super awkward to knock on a stranger’s door and ask to raid their dumpster? Oh, but it would suck for salvageable stuff to go to waste…

We spent a couple of days trying to decide if our idea was genius or crazy. Would the neighbors think we were thoughtful or out of our minds? Finally I decided we should just satisfy our curiosity and ask. No sooner had I mustered the courage did John burst my bubble: “I meant to tell you, I noticed on the way back from preschool that the dumpster had been emptied.” $herdog = sad clown. I know it could have just been old broken furniture anyway, but now I’ll never know. I guess I’ll have to find another dumpster to dive into…

But in other “hey-what-are-the-neighbors-up-to?” news (here comes the good part) the family two doors down is in the midst of some major landscaping work involving all sorts of awesome things like an outdoor fireplace and a stone patio. We love them and Burger is even on decent terms with their dog which is a small animal miracle because Burger only likes cats. Anyway, we don’t have anything major that needs to be done (yet) but it did give us one of those “since you’re in the neighborhood” ideas. The tree work that we had done a few months back left us with some high spots, some low spots, and some grass-won’t-grow-on-that-pile-of-ground-tree-stump spots. Photos don’t do the ankle-breaking-potential justice. At their worst there were some areas that were about 15″ off (either too high or too low) so don’t let what look like small piles fool you. We’re talking about 30 wheelbarrows full o’ mulch in that mound on the right.

We had been meaning to slowly-but-surely wheelbarrow out the piles ourselves, but we eventually came to the conclusion that this was a job for some heavier duty equipment. We considered renting some sort of mini earthmoving dozer (um, John would be in heaven) but even the smallest dozer rental was $425 a day from local rental places like this. So we thought it couldn’t hurt to ask the guys pushing dirt around just two doors down, right?

I strolled down there one afternoon, found someone who appeared to be in charge, and asked if they had an opening in their schedule to roll up the street and roll around on our yard a little. We figured it’d be easier (i.e. cheaper) than calling another company who would have to lug their equipment all the way over just for us, and hopefully they’d like the idea of earning some extra cash whenever they had a spare moment to stop by. They were very friendly and, more importantly, totally game. They said we’d have to get Miss Utility to mark our yard first (so they didn’t hit any pipes or wires in the process) so I dialed 8-1-1 and just a couple of days later the yard was marked and, fortunately, nothing was in the path of our piles.

With our yard all flagged up, we checked back in with the landscaping crew and before we knew it we had front row seats. Clara was in awe of her own personal “digger show.”

The crazy thing is that what we guessed would take a few hours, literally only took the guy about thirty minutes. He was a total PRO. And John was only a little jealous.

He even scooped all of the too-acidic-to-allow-grass-to-grow-on-it mulch and rolled it into our wooded side yard before meticulously spreading it out for us in there. Can’t even tell it’s there, right?

After his 30 minute flattening spree he said “how about $60 for that?” and we were elated! Sure beats the time and money we would’ve spent renting something. Dude, our front yard is sooo much better. Okay, maybe it’s still kinda brown and weedy, but at least it’s flat. And flat means it’s ready for grass seed!

Speaking of grass seed, we may actually get a quote from the landscaping guys (the neighbor’s project still has a few weeks to go) to see how much they’d charge to drop off some top soil for us before we seed. It’s not a must-have, but a fresh layer of topsoil certainly wouldn’t hurt our first season of grass-growing. Plus, they mentioned we might be able to piggyback on a delivery they’re bringing to the other house. Is that efficiency I smell?

So there’s one moment missed and one moment grabbed and squeezed like a lemon in my sweet tea. Sidenote: How much do the end of our railings look like hamburgers? I’m tempted to paint them like this. You know, in honor of Burger.

What have you guys been noticing around the neighborhood? Now that it’s getting cooler and kids are back in school it seems like a lot of people are getting house stuff done – which of course we LOVE to watch. There have been some pretty amazing new fences going up and a whole lot of house-painting. Tis the season!


  1. says

    I’d have to say if they were throwing it in the dumpster there was definitely something wrong with it. So I don’t think you missed out. (I hope that made you feel better!)

    SCORE on getting the dude to spread your mulch in record time and uber cheap. I cracked up at the Burger finials. I dare you. ;)

    • says

      Things put in or by the dumpster don’t always have something wrong with them.

      I found a perfectly good and very solid antique dresser by a dumpster once. As I was putting it in the car, a lady approached me and asked me if I was taking it. She then told me it had been in her family for years, and they just didn’t have room to put it in the moving truck (which was 50 feet away).

      She had hoped someone would find it and take it, and when I told her it was my first not-from-my-folks dresser, she was thrilled.

      A friend refinished it for me, as I was working on other pieces.

    • Reenie says

      I agree with Wendy…. not all things that are set out for the trash ~ has something wrong with it. I curb-shopped 2 chairs that are on my deck now that were in perfect condition. I even tried them out before putting them in my lil bug. HA!! I put new cushions on them and they look great. They are also my fav chairs and the most comfortable, they even swivel.

      Curb-trash-shopper and proud of it!! :)

    • says

      Oh, no, please don’t EVER assume there’s something wrong with every/anything in a dumpster! We’ve gotten so much great stuff dumpster-diving that I’ve even stopped being embarrassed when my husband climbs up on the side of the dumpster to peek in!
      We got an air compressor (brand new, just missing a hose, which my pack rack, dumpster-diving husband has extras of in the house!), full boxes of brand new floorboards (part of that 10-20% overage the contractors always order, I guess!), wooden stools that only need tightening (I painted one lime green and one bright yellow, and the smaller unmatching one I painted Xmas red and it comes out at the holidays only), bicycles that just needed air in their tires, snowblowers my husband repaired and sold for $250 – EACH!!! And so much more I couldn’t begin to list it all here!

    • Plein Jane says

      So, is Oprah going to yell, “It’s John and Sherry PETER-siiiiiiiiiiiiiick!” If she does, you’ll have to find a way to make it your voice-mail message.

      Also, Sherry, is that your book tour blazer you wore on the show? We may have to stage an intervention.

    • says

      Oh my gosh, if she yelled it I’d pass out. I don’t think I’m equipped to hear her whisper our names actually. Ahhh! And you’ll be relieved to hear that’s a black cardigan. That poor tour blazer has seen too much action to get pulled out of the closet anymore. I think he’s retired!


  2. Valerie says

    I know your pain on items lost. I live in Somerville MA and this time of year everyone has furniture on the side of the road the night before trash day (you don’t have to haul it to the dump here) and Sunday night I saw an old rocking horse that would have been beautiful painted in Kelly green for my prego friend as a nursery gift… well there was traffic and I was heading grocery shopping and figured I’d pick it up on my way home. It was already gone. Cue sad face.

    Congrats on Oprah!

  3. says

    A few of the houses in the neighborhood to where we’re moving have buoys on them, as it’s quite close (maybe 2 miles) to the shore.

    I’m not the biggest fan of the “we live by the beach” fence, but am considering an anchor somewhere in the house (or as part of a garden). It seems fitting since my Dad and my hub’s Dad were both career Navy men, and my parents wedding pictures are all in front of an anchor at the Navy chapel.

  4. Sarah says

    I think we all love checking out what others are doing for curiousity / inspiration / nosiness etc. That is kind of what it’s like following your blog – as if you are the neighbour down the street (instead of in a different country!) and I get to check out your yard and house regularly! lol. Great job on seizing the opportunity of nearby equipment, now what to spend that savings on… :-)

  5. lizaanne says

    Holycows!!! Has Clara had a growth spurt, or is that the camera angle?!! She suddenly looks tall and not so little girlish!

    I can’t even say how many times I’ve had that curbside or dumpster regret. Yesterday the neighbor down the street had a mid-century dresser at the curb, but my husband gives the ol’ stink eye, so I passed it by. UUUGGGHHH – killed me to do that!!! :-(

    Oh well – there will always be dumpsters to dive! LOL

  6. Rebecca says

    In the small town that I live in, we have 2 annual “heavy trash” days. It’s where we can put anything and everything out on the curb to be hauled away (furniture, appliances, etc.). Then, the day before, when people are putting out all their “heavy trash,” other people will drive around in their pickups and find their “treasures.” So, when I read you post, I just had to laugh, because it’s no big deal to raid our neighbors trash where we live. Too bad you might have missed your “treasure” this time. On a side note, I absolutely love you blog. I’ve only been reading it for less than a year, but am totally hooked. I look forward everyday to see what you’re blogging about. Keep it up…I think you guys are amazing!!

  7. bethindc says

    Such a good idea to ask a crew in the neighborhood for help. I’ve always wondered how the homeowner who’s getting a job done feels about workers being diverted. did you worry about that? Should we go sort of get permission, do you think?

    • says

      Oh yes, we’re good friends with our neighbors so we made it clear to their crew that we didn’t want to rob them away in the middle of their job. So we said if they had a free lunch moment or after their day was over there if they wanted to earn some extra cash by rolling over to us before leaving, we’d be happy to have them! They’re getting paid mucho bucks for that big job over there, so I don’t think they’d ever risk frustrating their original clients for a small little side job like ours!


    • Meg says

      Just curious – will you give your neighbor some cash to cover part of the delivery fee your seed/dirt will be on?? It just seems like the right thing to do if you’re in fact “piggy backing” off someone else’s fee. But I mean you probably already talked with your neighbor about all that!

    • says

      Oh yes, we’ll be going in on it together, so we’d both get a reduced rate! She’d be ordering a ton more so she’d save more, and we’ll save a little since we only need some for the front.


  8. Andy says

    I bet y’all moving in and re-roofing, repairing siding, repainting the exterior, & refinishing the deck has had a major influence on the neighbors.
    I imagine lots of talk over dinner about the updates & improvements you’ve done. ‘What can we do? I’m tired of this patio/kitchen/flooring/wall color.’

  9. says

    I can totally relate to your missed opportunity; there is a house for sale that I have been stalking (only slightly, it’s on my way to the grocery store). Well, recently I noticed a big sheet of pegboard leaning against their dumpster, and I have been in the market for pegboard! So, I thought of just pulling up to their driveway to pick it up or ask them but before I knew it, it was gone! Bummer! Thankfully, my husband found this ( on the side of the road a bit later to lift my trash-rescue spirits.

  10. Alyson says

    For a hot second, without reading, I thought you had painted that railing in that color scheme…not going to lie, I feared you’d made a grave mistake. Then I got smart and realized it looked like a burger…doh!

  11. says

    Heavy equipment is amazing isn’t it? We have a largish farm in the oil patch in Alberta and one of the companies uses some of our land to store big equipment (we can use the equipment, both my hubby and father in law are operators by trade). We already have 2 tractors and a bobcat but having that BIG backhoe made driving new fence posts in so easy. Your yard looks great and I think the railing tops should definitely be burger-ized!

  12. says

    I posted about this very thing (trash to treasure) on our blog last week. We have been able to score some amazing freebie furniture from our back alley! I think it’s a right-place-right-time luck kind of thing.

    For you, maybe the dumpster “treasures” were just not meant to be yours. It’s hard to know and sometimes you have to grab things fast before they’re gone.

    • says

      Laura, I think you’re right.
      I’m a big believer in fate – if it’s meant to be, it will be!
      PLUS, timing is everything!
      (Obviously I’m a big believer in cliches, too!)

  13. catherine says

    We were trying to figure out how to remove 9 footers from the deck we tore down when our neighbors had a concrete driveway put in. A bit of cash and 30 minutes later it was done. I had the idea and executed it when my husband was gone. It was sooo exciting to share that surprise :-)

    I bet that furniture was a mess. We curbcycled a wicker set and bit by bit we threw it away as we realized why the original owners tossed it!

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