Suburban Pioneers

The Adventures and Misadventures of Homesteading in 21st-Century America

T2T: Garbage Disposal Cleaner April 24, 2014

I’ve used three lemons in the past week–one for a pasta sauce, one for salad dressing, one on salmon.  Usually I compost the lemon peels, but my garbage disposal was starting to smell, which gives the dishwasher a weird, musty smell as well.  So…the latest T2T (Trash 2 Treasure) is an easy, biodegradable garbage disposal cleaner: tear the lemon peel into a few chunks, cram it down the disposal, run for 30 seconds or so with some cold water flowing, and voila!  Instant freshness (and no worry about contaminating a water source with bleach).

I have tried to drop half a lemon peel in the disposal before, but my disposal didn't like it.  It seems much happier with a few bite-sized pieces.

I have tried to drop half a lemon peel in the disposal before, but my disposal didn’t like it. It seems much happier with a few bite-sized pieces.

I have heard that you can sharpen your garbage disposal blades by putting ice down the disposal, but we honestly don’t use our disposal for much food anyway since we compost–it’s really just the little bits and pieces that get washed down off the plates.


Lauren: Dumpster Diving (Again) April 14, 2014

We were dropping off some trash when I saw it–an enormous rosemary bush. We’re talking huge. I had to have it!

I admit that there is already a rosemary plant in my yard, but you can’t call it a bush because it only has a couple sprigs on it. This perfectly good plant in the dumpster would save me years of growing! Somebody’s trash was my treasure.

We were on our way to a party, so we had to come back and get it. And I made sure that we did.

I don’t have any action shots because it took both of us–one to hold it and the other to get showered with dirt, I mean, cut through the humongous root ball.



You would think he would look a little more thrilled, wouldn’t you?


Here is our new plant in the trunk:



And here’s the rest of it we left in the dumpster:


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I saw some other good stuff in there, too: a metal shelf, a ladder. . . but Dave said we didn’t need any of that, even if it was free. I tried to get him to go to some other dumpsters for our date night, but he wasn’t having it. I think he just didn’t want any more little scrapes on his hands and arms.

And we planted it. I hope it survives.


How awesome is that?

I think I’m addicted. I wonder what other treasures the dumpsters are holding for me.


Lauren: Dumpster Diving February 12, 2014

I went dumpster diving today. And no, it was not really by choice.

It’s all because we cancelled our trash service. Between recycling, composting, and now, chickens, we don’t create very much trash, maybe a grocery bag a week. So it seemed ridiculous to pay $30 a month for the garbageman (or is sanitation engineer the politically correct term?) to come twice a week. Now we bring that one trash bag a week to the gas station when we fill up with gas, or we’ll go to the dump, or today I used the dumpster behind the butcher shop.

I threw my bag or two of trash into the dumpster . . . as well as my keys. And, of course they sunk to the bottom. I can’t believe this is really happening, I kept mumbling to myself. I’m sure I looked like a homeless person except for my clothes and my kids in the nearby car with huge smiles plastered across their faces. There’s not much cooler to E. than Mom climbing into the dumpster. It’s almost as fun as watching thirty minute YouTube videos of real garbage trucks going about their routes. Almost. I kept hoping I could just reach down and grab the keys, but no. I had to climb all. the. way. in.

I started to imagine what I would have to do if I couldn’t find them. The best I could come up with was going into the butcher shop and, after buying my ground beef and milk, ask them if anyone could help me find my keys. In the dumpster.

Once I got in and moved some bags and boxes, I saw them on the very bottom. Victory was mine. . .  in a loser-who-drops-their-keys-into-the-dumpster kind of way.

I am now seriously regretting not picking up the perfectly fine looking tomatoes I saw in there. Who knows? This might be a new thing.


T2T: the humble box February 2, 2014

The best fun is free!

The best fun is free!

Blocks are the best.  Forts, castles, roads, bridges, ramps, houses, train tracks, and hours of imagination can come from a good set of blocks, and toddlers seem to love the large sized blocks.

Sure.  You could buy these for $42.99.

You can find these blocks on Amazon from various sellers.  There are several different companies that make them.  These are from Smart Monkey Toys.

You can find these blocks on Amazon from various sellers. There are several different companies that make them. These are from Smart Monkey Toys.

Or you could just use what you already have in your house and are planning to recycle at some point anyway. It’s T2T (trash to treasure) in the best way!

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Little Bear discovered these building blocks all by herself in the grocery bags as we were putting things away. Voila! Instant fort.


Lauren: DIY Double-Layer Infinity Scarf January 7, 2014

My husband was getting rid of two shirts. The white one was a little stained and the blue one showed off his sexy belly when he raised his arms (why he didn’t want to keep wearing it, I don’t know). I rescued them from the goodwill bag. They had a higher purpose.

Here’s the process:

Step One: Find two shirts wherever you can: your drawers, your spouse’s drawers (I guess I should say bureau so there is no confusion, but who says that?), or thrift stores. Take the shirt off your husband’s back, if you have to. This project is soo easy!


The shirts were size medium, which turned out a little small for me to wrap around my neck twice. I recommend useing size large or extra large shirts for adult scarves.

Step Two: Cut the shirts. Cut horizontally underneath the armpits and right above the bottom seam.



Step Three: You should be left with two tubes. Layer them. Place one t-shirt tube inside the other one, wrong sides together (make sure you can see both nice sides). The ends will naturally roll, so don’t worry about people seeing the raw edges. You can decide which color you’d like to be the dominate one by placing it on the outside.

Step Four: Find a model, preferably one that’s in a phase where he likes to make funny faces for the camera.

DSCN2123 DSCN2122 DSCN2121

Goes well with the Buckeyes shirt, right? Well, you get the idea.



Sarah: Get on Board! December 10, 2013

Keith is in graduate school.  I’m hoping that these long years and many dollars of investment into an engineering degree will pay off.  As a reward for me putting up with late homework nights and student loans, Keith has promised that, when he’s finished with school, I can do anything I want.  I’m thinking  that lounging with books and wine is the way to go.  Friends tell me that I would be bored within a week.  I think I could do it for at least a year or two.


But I digress.

How I feel about Colorado winters.  Yes, even if I'm indoors.

How I feel about Colorado winters. Yes, even if I’m indoors.


The upside of Keith being in graduate school is that we live in Fort Collins, which is a pretty awesome town in most ways–other than the loud parties outside our bedroom window.  But again, I digress.


Fort Collins is also in Colorado, which is a rather cold, mountainous state, especially if you’re a gal from the South.  I make do, though.  I put on long-johns in November and don’t take them off until April.  I snuggle under blankets.  I make a lot of hot chocolate.  And I blast the heater anytime I drive around town.


Until the heater started pouring smoke two weeks ago.


And then this happened.

Our poor pick-up truck, Steady Freddy, is so cold he's turned blue!

Our poor pick-up truck, Steady Freddy, is so cold he’s turned blue!

You might ask why we haven’t repaired the truck heater.  Graduate school, remember?


Well, all that snow was enough to give me second thoughts, so I looked up a bus timetable.  It turns out that I can get to work in 20 minutes by bus.  When I added up the time I would have spent shoveling snow off the truck, driving s-l-o-w-l-y to work to avoid skidding, parking the truck, and then walking to my building, I really come out about the same.


So I tried it last week.  Aaaaaand I’m sold.  Not only does someone else do the driving while I drink my coffee and try to wake up, the bus has HEAT.  Bonus: I feel like I’m back in Europe where almost everyone commutes by mass transit.

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Bus map, Fort Collins, CO (from the website)


I started wondering why I hadn’t done this months ago!  I think Americans have a bias against public transit.  I know, I know.  I’m lucky to live in a place that is close to a bus route.  And yet…I wonder how often there are actually other options (whether carpool or vanpool or bus or metro or bike), but we get so attached to the convenience of our cars that we forget there’s another way.  I admit it.  It took a massive inconvenience before I looked for something different.


Even if the car fairy comes tonight and leaves us a new vehicle (or a new heater), I think I’ll stay on board with the bus.  After all, where else can you get in great people-watching time at 6:30 a.m.?


T2T: Baby Dishwasher Basket October 24, 2013

T2T (Trash to Treasure) is a new series we’ll be featuring periodically to offer reuses for common household objects.


Before having Little Bear, I bought one of these (albeit at a thrift store), succumbing to the purchasing mania that precedes giving birth.  After actually attempting to use this for bottle parts and pump parts, I realized it was completely impractical: the smallest pump parts would’ve fallen through the basket holes anyway, and the larger pump parts could just hang out in the silverware basket that already came with my dishwasher.  Sooo….

My recent canning mania has given this plastic piece of junk new life.

My recent canning mania has given this plastic piece of junk new life.

Canning bands can either be sterilized in the dishwasher or in a pan of simmering hot water.  Why simmer when your dishwasher can do the work for you?  This basket keeps them from clanking around in the dishwasher and lets you pull them out all together to cut down on the times you have to touch them.


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