Thanks to all for your well-wishes this past few days. My mother had surgery on Saturday and is recovering. Now we wait to see how it all shakes out in the long-run.
For now, I am back in LBB for a few days, preparing for next week's start of the spring term. As usual, I am excited and ready to get it under way.
Unfortunately, weather and life got in the way of starting work on the compost fence during the break, so it will have to wait for a free (and warmish) weekend after classes start. I need to get it constructed as the first step to preparing the farm for chickens, since they could easily hop over the current fence separating it from the main backyard and into the waiting mischief of the dogs (don't ask me how I know this). After I get the fence built, I'll start on the coop. It's a lot to do during what will be a busy spring, so here's hoping for at least four free weekends.
In the meantime, when I made my nifty little pull-out shelf last week, I remembered that back in the summer, when we were cleaning out my parents' house, I'd promised to do a post on environmentally safe ways to get rid of all those old cans of paint we have stuffed away in closets and shelves. The reason I thought of it when I was making the shelf is because the first tip is...
1) Use it up.
No, really. One way to keep it out of the landfill (or sewer system) is to use some of that left-over paint for other projects--hence my color choice for the pull-out shelf, Laura Ashley Gold 3. (It could have just as easily been Dover White or Desert Sage.) The paint was several years old and had the consistency of tapioca (I spread it out with a paint stick like I was buttering a piece of toast before using a roller. And yes, I know that is a gustatorial mixing of the metaphors.) It didn't level out the way new paint would, and left a kind of very fine pebbly surface, but this is a work table, so I don't really care.
For those of you who might have missed it the first time, here is another picture of its Laura Ashley loveliness:
Using as much as you can of the material you purchase also works for the other toxics we have lying around the house--the pesticides, soaps, bleach, etc. Try not to buy more than you need, and use all that you buy.
And now the level of paint in the can is low enough that I can deal with it by using tip number...
2) Open the can and let it dry out.
Cured paint is environmentally stable. If you have an inch or less of it left over, simply uncork the top and expose it to the elements until it dries. Once this has happened, toss the can into the dumpster.*
But there is one drawback: this takes awhile, so be prepared to wait a few weeks. So what do you do with all those cans of color mistakes that you aren't particularly happy to use again, or the ones that are so full that it would take years to dry out? Well, the next tip is rather bizarre, and I confess that when I read about it on the Solid Waste Disposal website in my parents' hometown, I thought they surely were overly-optimistic about its effectiveness. But brothers and sisters, when I found myself faced with 22 cans (22!) of left-over paint in my father's shop and no time to try the "uncork the lid and wait" trick, I was willing to try anything. And to my surprise, it worked very well...
3) Spread it out on cardboard and let it dry.
Treated this way, it took a half-full gallon can of latex about 24 hours to dry in the summer heat and about three days for an oil base paint. Our only real problem with this method was finding enough cardboard, but the local supermarket happened to have a cardboard recycling bin ripe for the picking, so even that minor hiccup in the process was not insurmountable.
Once the paint on the cardboard dries, you put it in the dumpster to be hauled away. Yes, I know it is going to the landfill, but at least it will be stable when it gets there. To minimize how much painted cardboard ends up in the landfill, see tip number 1.
It seemed a daunting task safely to get rid of all those cans of paint, and in fact it was. I won't lie to you. It took days, and I wanted to weep with despair when I realized the enormity of the job. But it was also do-able.
I'll confess that I've been on a bit of a tear here at my own house every since my siblings and I had to clean out my parents' house this past summer. Closets have been purged. Clothing has been culled and given away. Books have been removed from the shelves and carted down the the library donation box. But I have my own closet of squirreled-away left-over paint which I still need to address. It isn't going away by itself and I am not at all excited about dealing with it. The good news is that I am down one less can after making my pull-out shelf.
*This does not work for pesticides, however. Most cities and towns have specific ways in which they want you to take care of these household toxics--some better, and some worse. I am going on record here and saying that LBB's is abysmal, very unhelpful, and virtually non-existent ("We don't want it. Fend for yourself."), while the town in which my parents lived is actually quite good ("Box it up, place it on your front porch, give us a call and we'll pick it up for you.").