Begged borrowed or stolen. (You haven’t seen me. Right?)

It’s amazing how much perfectly good stuff gets thrown away or abandoned!

Since we started building The Patch we have bought as little as possible with hard cash, preferring swaps, barter, dismantling and removing the unwanted, ugly and the unloved and reusing it in a new way. In ordinary circumstances much of this should properly be considered theft. Except that these aren’t ordinary circumstances and it’s all question of perspective.

We live a part of an extended family on a farm and camping site. This suits us perfectly as there is access to a number of pieces of farm machinery, well I believe this to be true while my brother expends a deal of energy ensuring such items as strimmers, chainsaws, mowers, power tools etc are locked against the thieving ways of his sister. So this isn’t technically theft as the items are borrowed and (as a rule) returned pretty near to the state in which they were taken, give or take the odd length of strimmer cord, or a bit of 2stroke.

I can’t deny that there have been occasions when we have maybe gone over a stone or two with the ride-on mower or kept the post driver for a couple of days longer than needed. (Busy life!) but on the whole we look after his stuff and to be honest it has saved me a fortune! (sshhhhhh)

The really grey area concerns all the “stuff” that accumulates in the yard. That lonely piece of 4×2, a sheet of marine ply, surely that needs to be undercover? Lying out there like that it must be rubbish… And what about that pile of joist hangers surely no one need those? but they would be very useful for building the tree house.

I have developed a list of princples and criteria for the “aquisition” of useful stuff.

Something likely to be spoiled by bad weather This is less theiving than “saving it” so swift action is necessary.

An item that is in the wrong place, for example a fence post (or two) leaning on a pile of paving slabs. Should be removed immediately. Nobody will notice it is missing.

Any item near the gate. It’s clearly on its way to the bonfire/skip – Give it a day or two, if it’s still there then it has  clearly been left there to be used by me.

Items behind the container or under tarps/Gibbs and Dandy bags These just need to be given a new, useful home. No rush, they are totally forgotten, sitting there for years. This is considered “liberation”

Any item that has been “William’d”. These tend to be tools and small portable items (William is 8) this works on the “now that it’s here we might as well use it/keep it”principle and if anyone asks we can blame him… And he can talk his way out of anything

ANYTHING useful that is being dismantled, broken up or replaced, (perspex roofing sheets this week for instance) Hang about looking hopeful/interested, suggesting myriad useful ways in which you could reuse it. This often results in the item magically appearing under the oak tree at the garden.

My brothers staff now roll their eyes with a “whats she after now” look whenever they see me hoving into view! It’s amazing how accommodating they can be though, when plied with eggs, offers of veg and a judicious shake of the tail feather! (having no shame is very useful)

Items on the “Bonfire of plenty I cannot begin to tell you what bounty has been rescued from a firy end from the farm bonfire, countless pallets, masses of timber, trellis, chairs, picnic tables, trestles, doors, window frames, the list is long, the possibilities endless. If Marc is to be believed most things that you need in a garden can be made using only pallets and nails. Though he will concede that the spanking new polytunnel with its tannalised timber and gleaming stainless steel is a massive improvement on the two original tunnels that we pilfered in the beginning, using all sorts of off cuts to complete the timber base rails.

And so while the camping site continues to become smarter each year my motley collection of botched cobbled and bodged buildings (I use the term loosely) looks more and more “shenzi” (useful Swahili word for a right old shambles!)

I bumped into Doug while taking the pictures for this post  He has worked here for the best part of 40 years now and is virtually family himself. He pointed out that what I was doing was extremely environmentally friendly, “every one is doing it these days” So from now on I’m going to rename my thievery “recycling”. If nothing else that should assuage any twinge of guilt I may feel in the wee small hours!  I can’t also, help wondering if he has similar criteria to mine, I must go and have a little look at his allotment for some tips!

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