Posts Tagged ‘transfer station’

A Bittersweet Find

Today I went to the local transfer station to dump our trash and recyclables, and as I always do, I looked around at the freecycle area for new “treasures.”  Someone had left a box of 20 books, almost all of them published memoirs of American soldiers fresh from the WWII battlefields.  All of these are out of print today, so for anyone interested in WWII military history, it was a real find.  These books were not recollections written 60 or 70 years after they happened; most were published within a year or two of the war’s end and so they provide an intimate look at soldiers’ experiences.  Many of the books were moldy with age due to poor storage, but I did take home three clean but worn copies that sounded interesting:  one about a field surgeon; one written about the European front; and one from the South Pacific front, where my father fought.  For many years now, I have been struggling with publishing my own father’s memoirs of that time.  (You can see an abridged version by clicking here.)

Seeing those discarded books swept me with sadness:  surely they belonged to a veteran who was probably now dead and gone; the mildewed, dusty collection thrown out by well-meaning relatives.  I like to think that by reading these books, I am honoring those who wrote and fought so that we could live in freedom and giving meaning to their battles.  Indeed, without their bravery, heroism, sacrifices, and victory, I, a Jew, would not have been born, because had the “other side” won, my parents and grandparents would not have been deemed worthy of existing at all.  We only need to look at the world today to realize how precious our freedom is, and how much we take for granted.

Memorial Day is upon us.  I plan to call a vet and thank him or her for their service.  Sadly, there are too many soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice that cannot receive my call.

Happy Sunday

This past Sunday was one of those days when everything went right.  Now that we’re in the midst of blackfly and tick season, hiking gets pretty uncomfortable when the weather is sunny and calm.  Saturday it was a sunny, gorgeous 80 degrees, so I made sure to wear a bug net whenever I took the dog for a walk.  Unless it’s really breezy, the blackflies love to swarm all over you.  For the past two weeks, I’ve been pulling off a minimum of 10 ticks a day from my dog, and 5 ticks from myself, despite the use of repellents.

So I was not disappointed to wake up to a blustery, cloudy Sunday in the 40s.  Although rain threatened, at least it meant that we could go walking unmolested by bugs.

But first, we needed to dump our trash and recyclables at the transfer station.  I was delighted to find several great books at the freecycle station.  When I finish the books I will return them to the freecycle area so someone else can enjoy them.  I also contributed several old garden pots that I had no plans to plant to the giveaway pile.

From the transfer station we continued a few miles up the road to visit our friend Paul’s building site (I guess you could call it tresspassing since he wasn’t there).  Paul is building a new, off-grid home there and is doing everything singlehandedly.  For the past several months he’s been busy grading the area, and raising the site with packed dirt since the house will sit along the river and he has to worry about a flood line.  We were really impressed with the attractive retaining wall he set.  The house will overlook the river, where I’m anxious (with Paul’s permission) to bring my kayak and try a little trout fishing.

By now the skies were looking a bit mean so we thought we’d forget a hike and just take a scenic drive.  We went up the Crooked River Causeway and then drove west on Route 2, taking in the grandeur of the northern White Mountain Peaks.  We turned into a parking area at Rattle River trailhead, which is part of the Appalachian Trail, and decided to walk the gentle 1.8 miles to the shelter erected for the benefit of thru-hikers.  (A thru-hiker is someone who hikes the entire length of the Appalachian Trail, which stretches from Georgia to Maine.) We figured a little rain wouldn’t hurt us.



Fortunately, the weather held, and there were no bugs! The many small flumes and cascades along the Rattle River were incredibly soothing and beautiful.  Although we’ve taken this walk several times before, it never gets old.  The last time I was there I was with our dog Spencer, who died this past September.  Now we were accompanied by Truman, our 7 month-old Standard Poodle puppy, and it was fun to experience the walk through his doggie eyes and nose, as he exuberantly discovered the joys of the Rattle River trail for the first time.  It made the old new again.















It was also lovely to see trillium, a type of wildflower in purple or white, in bloom.20160515_133817




From the Rattle River we headed over to Gorham NH to do my week’s worth of food shopping at the Super WalMart (the only major food shopping in that area; it saved me a trip into town later in the week).  I know a lot of people who hate WalMart and won’t shop there out of principle, but ask anyone living in a rural area and they will tell you that WalMart is a blessing.  The one-stop shopping saves rural folks from traveling 100 miles into the closest city to supply their needs, and at reasonable prices.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that there was a large selection of organic produce at this WalMart!

From Gorham we traveled back on Rte 2, but instead of returning the way we had come, we went down the 113, which is Evans Notch; it’s one of my favorite drives in the area.  The views are magnificent, the Notch is filled with dozens of challenging hiking trails, and there is always a chance of seeing a moose.  We didn’t see a moose, but we did see very fresh, recent beaver activity along a river.  The beavers appeared to be decimating the entire shoreline, working on felling several large trees simultaneously along the riverbank.







Thanks to the longer days, when we got home there was still time to sow some beet seeds in the raised-bed garden.  I’ve also planted garlic, kale, and some winter squash, and last year’s strawberry plants are doing nicely.  My only garden disaster (so far) is the complete failure of my apple orchard.  Although I attended a university extension course on apple growing, fed them, talked to them (and God),  pruned them, and generally babied my apple trees for the past 5 years,  I had yet to see  even a single apple blossom and no apples, despite a proliferation of leaves!  Even putting a beehive next to the trees didn’t help them pollinate. Finally, finally – – four apple blossoms!


Will they make it?  Who knows.  I’ve been vigilant about removing insect nests that hatch worms and devour young apple leaves on an almost daily basis.  I’m trying to keep the orchard organic, so pesticide is a no-no.   Meanwhile I have 8 organic apple trees that mock me daily, a life lesson and humbling reminder of the fact that despite my best efforts, I am not always the one in control.


Today I Did Something Bad

I just came back from our local transfer station, otherwise known as the dump.  Since we don’t have trash pick-up in our town, each resident is responsible for hauling any created trash and recyclable disposables to the transfer station.  But when I threw a certain piece of paper, covered by a cardboard protective sleeve, into the dumpster, I immediately felt sick.

I threw away my father’s diploma.

My father would’ve been over 100 years old today.  He died in the early ’70s when I was 14.  Once it came into my possession, his diploma never hung on my wall and remained unseen, preserved in a cardboard carton for more than 40 years. I figured it wasn’t doing anyone any good, and my kids wouldn’t want it, so I threw it away. I didn’t even take a picture of it.

I immediately regretted it.

My father came to the United States in 1913 as a toddler.  Scared, poor, and sick of pograms, his father preceded him, spending years earning enough money to send for his wife and 3 small boys (2 girls would be born later).  They settled in Rock Island, Illinois, where my grandmother turned their home into a boarding house to help with expenses.  Even before the Depression, my father often went hungry; the ongoing malnutrition was the likely culprit behind his small stature.

His parents realized the only way out was through education.  Anything less than an “A” was unacceptable.  Each child was expected not only to study hard, but to spend several hours a day after school and on the weekends working to help make ends meet.  Mostly they worked on farms picking crops.

My father excelled.  He sailed through high school while participating in the debate club and running a Jewish youth group.  When it was time to apply for college, he had dreams of attending the University of Chicago, but had to turn down his acceptance (in itself a rarity due to Jewish quotas) because the tuition was well beyond his dream.  He instead attended a public university, Illinois University, but even then the cost of tuition required him to work his way through school.  He became a waiter for the dormitory, a job considered fit only for a low-life.  He was popular, a member of Phi Beta Kappa and the captain of the university debate team, but the minute any girl he was dating found out he worked as a waiter, he was dropped like a hot potato.  Back then, people were very class conscious.  And while intellectually and through his social graces my father could keep up with the elites, his poverty remained a barrier to acceptance.

My father invited his brother Ben for a long weekend, in which IU would be playing college football against a fierce rival.  When my father took Ben to the stadium, Ben couldn’t wait to find his seat.  “Hold on there, we’re not sitting,” my father said, and handed Ben a stack of programs.  “We’ve got to sell these first.”  They made $25 each that day, a small fortune.  And just as Ben sat down, my father excused himself.  “It’s supper time at the dorm.  I’ve got to work.” He came back near the end of the game, and brought Ben the cold dorm leftovers for dinner.  It was then that my father confessed to Ben that school expenses, even with work, didn’t allow him enough for food.  When leftovers were few, he was often forced to eat the half-eaten food remaining on college students’ plates that he cleared and brought to the kitchen.  He tried not to think about it, just feeling grateful that his hunger was sated.

Not only did he make it through school, he graduated with honors, put himself through law school, and got his J.D.  He passed the bar in 2 states (yes, I threw those papers away too) as well as the US Supreme Court bar.

I looked at his diploma for a long time.  I knew I wouldn’t hang it on the wall, and it would just go back into the box and collect dust and not be of any use to anyone.  Well, I thought, I can’t get too sentimental about every item, or I’ll end up with a mountain of boxes that will mean nothing to my kids, and then when I die they’ll just throw it out anyhow. And so I put it in the paper recycling bin at the transfer station.  And when I heard the “clunk” as it hit the side of the bin, I begged my father’s forgiveness.

His legacy lives on in other, more tangible ways.  It’s just a piece of paper, after all.

So why do I feel such remorse?


Don’t Look a Gift Worm in the Mouth

“Gus” is a typically taciturn Mainuh.  He is in charge of our town’s transfer station, otherwise known as the dump.  He looks quite serious and intimidating when he checks one’s garbage to ensure the recyclables aren’t mixed with regular trash.  He is a man of few words.  Mostly he just scowls.  But three years ago when I decided to take up fishing and had absolutely no idea how to begin, I screwed up my courage to ask him for help.

This was not my first attempt at getting help.  But every other Mainer, when I asked “how can I learn how to fish?” just laughed.  Not because they were mean-spirited; they just couldn’t believe I was serious.  How hard is it to bait a hook and put it in the water?  For rural Mainers, I might as well have asked, “How does one breathe?”

But Gus didn’t laugh.  Once I asked his advice, his entire gruff demeanor changed.  It was as if a dam had opened.  Advice, suggestions, help, and the usual exaggerated fish tales – – Gus could go on for hours.  I had never seen him look so happy or be so talkative.  From then on he treated me like a bestie every time I dumped my trash.

Last year I did something really stupid.  I broke my fishing rod, not once, not twice, but three times.  The first time, I stood the rod upright next to my front door.  Unfortunately, when I opened the door, the rod fell, and the door shut – right on the rod, snapping off the top.  Another time I laid the rod next to the window and forgot about it.  When I closed the window, the top of the rod got wedged in the window and snapped off.  The third time the rod snapped when I slammed the car’s trunk on it and this time it was beyond repair.  Due to my carelessness, this was getting to be an expensive hobby!  When I confessed my klutziness to Gus, he didn’t laugh.  Instead, he told me his own stupid fish story about how he lost his brand new rod and reel  from his boat.  He had been fishing with two poles simultaneously, and while he was using one, he forgot to secure the other and down to the bottom of the lake it went when a fish snagged the baited hook.  “That’s fishing fuh ya,” he said, slowly shaking his head.

I had been carefully monitoring the sales in search of a new rod and a better reel.  Prices start at $15 and can go to several hundreds of dollars.  I am of the school that says “it’s the Indian, not the arrow” so I wasn’t looking for anything fancy.  I had used this principle when I went trap shooting.  Many men had gorgeous double barrel shotguns that cost well over $1000.  I was using an inexpensive pump shotgun that I bought used at a gun show.  And guess what?  My trap shooting score was only a point or two behind theirs, and that was mostly due to my inability to practice regularly.  I’m not bragging here, just making a point.  A better tool can make a difference, but if the person using the took is inept, even the world’s most expensive tool/fishing rod/shotgun is just not going to help.

Gus recommended that I get an Ugly Stik, which is a brand of fishing rod that is practically indestructible, and is covered by warranty if it breaks.  I saw one at half price in my home town at a store that sells overstocks for $20.  Then I went to Cabela’s in Scarborough Maine for a reel, and the sales staff were really helpful in advising me what to buy according to my needs.  The reel I decided on was normally $40 but was on sale for $30.  I was about to purchase it but suddenly I had a notion to look in the “Bargain Cave” section of the store, where clearance items, returned goods, and seconds can be found.  There was the reel I had picked out in the main part of the store, for only $20, and it was brand new!  The sales person said it had been on a defective rod, so he threw away the rod and put the reel in the Bargain Cave.  Not only would I get a nice Shimano reel at an affordable price, they’d even string the line for me for free.  While I managed to do this on my own in the past, threadingg fishing line on a reel is an annoying chore that doesn’t come easy to me, so I was happy that they offered this service.

But the bargains didn’t stop there.  When I went to pay, the clerk asked me if I had a Cabela’s credit card.  I told her no, I had no interest in adding yet another credit card to my collection.  But when she explained that by opening a Cabela’s credit line, I’d get $20 worth of merchandise free, I took the bait, as it were.  Nothing like getting a free reel!

Now I was truly excited.  I bought a Maine fishing license online and printed it out, putting it in a ziplock bag so it would be waterproof.  Fishing 2015, here I come!

With a stretch of amazing weather in the 80s F, and the bugs still not so bad, I bought two packages of live worms in anticipation of a week of great fishing.

Alas.  Every time I tried to cast with my new, improved rod and reel, the line tangled miserably.  I didn’t know if it was the rod, the reel, or the new braided line.  There was only one thing to do:  ask Gus.  So the next time I took my garbage to the dump, I showed him my new rig and asked if he could figure out why I was having trouble.

“Simple,” he said.  “You have too much line on your reel.  Unwind it and cut the excess line so it’s only 3/4 full on the reel, and you’ll be fine.”

Sure enough, many reduced feet of fishing line later, I was casting like the best of them.  And within 20 minutes I had caught two beautiful brook trout.

This past weekend, a female friend “from away” (the terms used by Mainers to describe anyone not from Maine) was looking forward to coming for a visit.  She expressed a desire to go fishing, her very first attempt at doing so.  I felt her chances of catching a fish were pretty good, since I had caught the two trout only 3 days before at Kewaydin Lake (recently stocked by Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife).  I had also seen 21″ bass in the same area of the lake, but at the time they weren’t biting.

(Guests who come for a visit are in for a surprise when they forage in my fridge.  Just when they think they’ve found the package of cream cheese, when they open the similar-looking container they are surprised by a dozen squirming, slimy worms. This has resulted in many hilarious moments.)

Just before my friend and I got to the lake, I realized I had forgotten my two packages of worms!  I didn’t really want to go all the way back home, since we were right near a convenience store that sold a dozen worms for four dollars.  (My city friend noted that the worms were sold in the refrigerated section, sitting right next to the milk.  She chuckled when I could not find anything unusual about this.)

When we got to the lake there were two locals fishing for trout and bass.  They managed to catch a small trout – – too small to keep, and they returned it to the water unharmed.  Watching their adept casting skills was a bit intimidating, but they were more than helpful in answering our questions and suggesting ways we could improve our luck.  Alas, my friend did not experience the thrill of catching her first fish, despite our best efforts.

That’s fishing, of course.  They either bite, or they don’t.  Some days are great, other days not.  It’s something you just can’t control.  But you can’t beat the views or the fresh air.  And while you’re waiting for a bite, you have plenty of time to think about solving the world’s problems – – or not thinking at all and enjoying the quiet and peace of mind, which can be a blessed relief.

The next few days the weather turned much colder, and the winds were howling.  The water was very rough and the current strong.  Kewaydin was churned up enough that I could not see any fish in the usually pristine, clear lake, and despite a few tries it was clear that fishing would be better another time.  Due to the change of weather and high winds, what was supposed to be a week of marathon fishing was instead replaced by chores and errands.

This coming weekend I’m returning to my hometown for an entire month, so dreams of fishing will have to wait until my return to Maine mid-June.  But what to do with those three containers of worms?  The worms’ lifespan is two to three weeks if kept in the refrigerator.

I could have dumped them in my garden, of course.  But the fellow who runs the garbage dump has been my fishing mentor  and I thought he might want the worms.

“Hey, Gus, I have something for you,” I said, handing him the packages of worms when I next visited the dump.  “I’m going to be gone for the next month so I won’t be able to use these.”  His entire face lit up.  “Thanks for the worms!” Gus said with heartfelt enthusiasm.  Clearly I had made his day.

That’s when I thought about how much my life has changed, and what a different person I’ve become.  Nor could I think of a single friend from my home town and previous life that would be happy to receive a gift of three containers of worms.

Simple Pleasures: The Spirit of Giving

A few weeks ago, my eldest grandson, 14, came to Maine to spend some time with us.  One day he accompanied me to the transfer station (a nice word for “The Dump”).  There is no garbage pickup in rural Maine; our local transfer station, about 8 miles away, is open several times a week during set hours and that’s where town residents haul their recyclable and regular trash.

When we went over to the dumpster that holds recyclable trash, my grandson noticed a few new-looking baseball cards sitting on a bunch of discarded corrugated cardboard.  He asked me if I would allow him to climb in the (clean) dumpster and take the cards.

“I think we’d better ask the guys who run the dump,” I answered.  Mostly I was concerned for my grandson’s safety – – I didn’t want them to not know my grandson was rummaging around in the dumpster, only to turn on the compactor and cause a horrific accident.

“You want the cards?  Sure!  Go ahead in and get ’em,” the transfer station employee said.  “And if you’d like me to start saving cards for you, just let me know,” he added.

The worker told us that one of the local residents makes “a little money on the side” by trading baseball cards.  He travels around New England, going to yard sales, auctions, and searching through Craigslist ads looking for baseball cards, which he buys in bulk.  He then goes through the stacks and stacks of cards, quickly filtering out 3 to 10 cards out of hundreds that have collectible value in today’s market.  The rest, he brings to the dump.

“I’ll save the cards for you if you want ’em,” the worker told us.  “Just say the word.”  Sure, I answered, we’d take whatever cards he’d scrounge up.  I didn’t think anything more about it.

A couple of weeks went by and my grandson returned home.  When I next ventured to the dump, the worker scurried towards me, carrying three cardboard boxes.

“I’ve been saving cards for you,” he said.  “And I’ll keep saving them until you tell me to stop,” he added.  I had forgotten about our conversation, but the transfer station worker had not.

I opened one of the boxes.  I couldn’t believe my eyes!  Each box contained at least 1,000 mint-condition baseball and football cards:  3,000 cards!

The initial three boxes of cards saved for me by the worker at the dump.  All were in clean, mint condition.

The initial three boxes of cards saved for me by the worker at the dump. All were in clean, mint condition.

Thanks to this transfer station worker’s kindness, I was now eligible for the World’s Best Savta (Grandmother) Award.  This is not an easy distinction when you’re talking about preteen and teen-aged boys for whom grandparents are most definitely not, in the ordinary sense of the word, “cool.”

I was so excited!  Thanking the worker multiple times  (and yes, I always bake him goodies every year during Christmas season, and make sure to ask him how his fishing and hunting are coming along in the Summer and Fall), I placed the boxes in the back of my car, imagining my grandsons’ faces when I presented them with the cards upon my return to my hometown.  This was definitely a case of one person’s trash being someone else’s treasure.  I emailed my kids, alerting them to my plans.

“Just got a boatload of discarded mint condition baseball cards for the boys.  Should keep them busy for hours!”

“Oh, no!”  was my children’s reply.  “More stuff!” they railed.  “Just one more thing to have to clean up after!” they groaned.  “We already have enough messes!”

“Spoken like a true parent,” I replied.  “When did you guys get so old and tired?  You don’t sound like my kids; you sound like I used to sound when you were little!  Just remember how much you used to love collecting these cards when you were kids,” I added with a dose of Jewish Mother guilt-tripping.

So with Chanuka coming, my husband and I drove down to our home town, and presented the cards to two sets of grandsons, boys ages 6 thru 14.  “I CAN’T BELIEVE IT!”  “THANK YOU SO MUCH!” “WOW!” “Savta, YOU ROCK!” “AWESOME!” “BEST! PRESENT! EVER!” were some of the reactions.  For the next six hours the boys got busy sorting the 3,000 cards.

Some of the grandsons sorting 3,000 baseball and football cards.  Their mother was convinced she'd never get her table back.

Some of the grandsons sorting 3,000 baseball and football cards. Their mother was convinced she’d never get her table back.

I have no idea if they found any treasures; for all I know these cards are totally worthless.  But for six hours (and four hours the following day), there was only joy:  no fighting, no sibling rivalry; the boy cousins had yet another bonding experience; and, completely free of charge and thanks to the simple kindness of my local dump worker in Maine . . .  I was the best Savta in the whole world.

Happy New Year to all!


Recently there was an uproar in my “home town” because the City decided to cut down on the number of trash barrels they would pick up.  That’s fine when you are a typical American family of 2 children and 2 adults (wait:  that was typical back in the 70s, but today…?) but amongst Orthodox Jews who might have 10 children and 2 parents, 2 barrels of trash is hardly reasonable.  That said, I wonder how city dwellers would survive out here in the woods, where there is no trash pick up at all!

Our town dump is located 9 miles from our house, although it is no longer called “the dump.”  Political correctness has hit even this remote corner of the woods; the proper term is “transfer station.”  I guess it sounds more elegant for someone to say he works at the “transfer station” than “the dump.”  It’s open for very limited hours, 4 days a week.  With the cost of gas this week at $2.90, and bone-jarring gravel roads, it forces you to organize your errands so your forays are infrequent exercises in multi-tasking.

Towns handle refuse costs differently.  In some places, you must purchase marked garbage bags from the Town Office, and that signifies your right to use a particular transfer station.  The bags aren’t expensive, but it helps defray the cost of managing the transfer station, and people are more likely to limit the amount of trash they use if they have to pay for the bags.

Our town doesn’t use such a system; the maintenance budget for the transfer station comes solely out of our property taxes (which are quite low, I might add).  I have a waste permit decal on my front windshield, courtesy of the Town Office; only residents of our town and two neighboring ones have the right to use our transfer station, and they must all have that blue waste sticker on their vehicles.

The dump is a well-organized paragon of recycling. As you drive through the gates, the paved avenue is a giant cul-de-sac.  There are different sections for different kinds of trash.  On your left, in a field, is a massive pile of brush.  On your right is a tower of toilets.

The Tower of Toilets

Then comes the giant dumpster for broken furniture and soiled mattresses.  On the left is a dumpster for common household garbage (food, diapers, plastic bags, and other non-recyclables).  There is a pile for metal objects; another pile for building supplies.  One dumpster is for old computers; another is for old televisions.  There is a dumpster for mixed household recyclables (glass, cans, aluminum, paper).  And finally there is the “nice” dumpster, where people throw household items in good condition that can be donated to poor families (clothes, kids’ bikes, decent furniture).

Weekends are the busiest days for the transfer station.  Whereas in the city busy people might socialize when they run into one another at the supermarket, the place in rural Maine to catch up with your friends is at the transfer station.

By the way, plastic soda bottles do not get recycled at the transfer station. If you look at the plastic bottles you have at home, you will notice in fine print the $.05 deposit refund that is redeemable in Maine.   There are special “redemption centers” throughout Maine (and in most supermarkets) but the process is tedious.  The bottles are fed through a machine (that often jams or breaks) which reads a bar code, so the bottles cannot be crushed.  This means that you must lug a garbage bag-sized load of empty uncrushed soda bottles each time you set out for the market, which is not often because the redemption center/market closest to my house is 45 minutes away.  As a result, we have mostly stopped buying soda, relying on the delicious pure mountain water from our well to quench our thirst, which is surely a healthier alternative.

Still, it’s no fun to have a load of stinky garbage riding in the car for 10 miles (most people use their pickup trucks), nor is it fun to leave trash in the house until dump day (we can’t leave it outside due to marauding bears, raccoons, and fisher cats, a vicious mink-like animal).  So the goal is to limit one’s trash as much as possible, which means rethinking entirely the way you shop and consume goods.  Whenever I go to the supermarket now, I look at the packaging as much as I do the product.  Newspapers are saved and rolled, to be used as fire starters for our wood stove.  Vegetable peels, fruit, eggshells and coffee grounds are thrown into a closed-barrel composter 75′ from our front door.  Granted there are only two people in our household, but I’m nevertheless  pleased we’ve managed to cut down our non-recyclable trash load from the three bags a week we used when we first came, to only one bag per week currently.  Even knowing that most of the trash is disposed of or headed for landfill, it’s a wake-up call to see trash dumped in the beautiful woods that is our transfer station.  We don’t really have a visual connection to trash when we live in a city, but it’s gotta go somewhere. When that somewhere is up close and personal, it makes one want to take a little more responsibility for creating it, and feel a little twang of guilt for being part of that defilement.