of pucks & chili peppers

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About ten years ago, I broke the blade off this hockey stick—I don't recall the specific shot, just the feel in my hands of the blade giving way against the ice. In fact, that was the last time I stepped on the ice, at the end of my last coaching stint. When the blade broke at the season's final practice, I suspected I might not be replacing it any time soon. 

But I have repurposed it. All these years it has served as an excellent support stake for a series of chili pepper plants in my garden. It's in place again this summer and I expect it will be back to perform that function for a long time to come.

How many broken hockey sticks did I see in ice arena garbage cans and dumpsters through all my years of playing and coaching? Many, and it's a pity more gardeners didn't show up to pull them out, take them home, and put them to good use. This one displaces a plastic stake, wire cage, or other item from the garden center—that's a savings of the odd dollars, but more importantly, no new resources were consumed.

Around my garden, there are a great many repurposed items like this. The raised beds are bordered with bricks from my neighbor, who ordered far too many for his home addition and offered them to me. I stripped last year's tall cornstalks and made trellises of them for morning glories to climb.

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I even found a use, albeit an aesthetic one, for the busted water pump from my old Toyota.

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While I'm careful not to turn my yard into a salvage yard, I do tend to keep old items that offer the slightest whiff of potential. I store this hodgepodge in a back corner—old lamp poles, odd wedges of wood and composite board, old windows in frames, swatches of netting, and all other nature of durable stuff. If it's otherwise headed for the landfill, I keep it a while and see whether it can be put to work. Quite often, I'll be at some task or other in the garden and find my mind's eye engineering a solution. Off I go to the utility pile to see what gear may find its new expression of usefulness.

Establishing a garden space takes time and if one isn't careful, it can draw off a steady stream of cash. I'm often asked if my large plot saves my family money on food and honestly, I can't say with any surety. I suspect it does, especially since it's been around now in some form for almost a quarter century and I've managed to focus on and succeed at growing the right quantities of things we like to eat, much of it heirloom (and hence, I don't have to buy many seeds). But the enterprise is even more economical since I've learned to re-use items rather than hurrying out to the store to buy plastic things.

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A garden has so many components to it, and I've placed economics near the bottom in my hierarchy of reasons for tending one. But it is a consideration, as are my ongoing efforts to reduce my consumption of materials in the process. I'm satisfied I'm doing my best at this, and will continue to do so in the future. That allows me to relax and enjoy, quite literally, the fruits of my labor.

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