Other articles have covered reusing trash and items that can commonly be had for free for the garden, from creating row covers to building heat sinks and planter beds, fuel wood, and items that can be had from landscaping companies. This time the resourceful raccoon will focus on finding “trash” from small companies that can help cut costs and labor for those with a preparedness mindset.
Wooden shipping pallets are how we know there is a higher force and he/she/it/they love us and want us to survive.
Got a boggy patch of trail that periodically bogs down even the bravest Polaris? Throw down a wooden pallet. Need a little step to a shed or shipping container? Hack with a saws-all for a minute and a wooden pallet can be made to fit almost any height and any width. Got a big barn space that needs to be divided up? Shipping pallets can lose a board or two that can then be used to mate them together. Need to shore up a fence? Use a board or a whole pallet.
Need to get food storage buckets or water barrels off the ground? Stand ‘em on wooden shipping pallets. Want to distribute the weight or stacked food storage buckets to prevent lids from cracking? Use the wooden pallet as-is or remove the boards to lay between layers with less dead space.
Need a couple skinny shelves to go in a window during late winter seed starting? Deconstruct and reconstruct a wooden shipping pallet. Need a trellis? Pop off a few boards, staple or tie on on some cord or a net, off you go. Those spare boards mean they even come with everything you need to customize the angle of the trellis or to turn them into an A-frame to protect plants underneath them, with either netting or fencing (berries from birds and turtles) or with plastic (any plants from frosts).
There are dozens of web pages where they can be turned into various types of vertical gardening designs to save space. They can also have some or most of the boards removed, have fencing stapled on, be laid flat on the ground, and protect sections of chicken pens from being totally denuded, so lettuces, spinach, clover or others are available to the birds as soon as they grow close enough to the wire. They can be disassembled and turned into “stepping stones” for people whose yards routinely flood.
Those “stepping stones” made from wooden pallets will also collect bugs underneath in cold weather and dry weather, which means people who raise bug-eating poultry can create little feeder paths going around the yard and pens, cutting down on food bills. With four or five of them stuffed with straw and a fifth or sixth donating boards for the roof, they can make pretty nice, snug shelters for dog or goat sized critters or smaller stock.
Wooden shipping pallets probably have as many uses as duct tape and wire coat hangers. They’re lightweight, come ready-made with handholds to grab them, and although they’re not meant for infinite use, they were specifically designed to hold heavy weights.
Finding Wooden Shipping Pallets
The absolute best part of all about wooden shipping pallets is that they can routinely be had for free. Totally no-cost, free lumber that could be sanded if you were aiming to make something pretty but that is pretty versatile just the way it comes. Free.
If there is a transfer yard for eighteen-wheeler trucks in the area, a distribution hub for almost anything – canned goods to party supply manufacturers to aircraft parts – or a major LDS cannery nearby, chances are good you’re sitting on the ability to pick up a free shipping pallet. In some cases they’ll return good ones to the source, but almost all of them have sad, lonely piles where some of the boards have cracked or come loose. Most will be delighted to have somebody pick them up. If not, well, Mister Resourceful Raccoon would find a way to save them.
Freebie websites like Craigslist routinely have pallets in my area. So do Lowes and Home Depot, several local growers for retailers like Homestead, local nurseries, landscaping supplies and contracting companies, and several tire repair and retail outlets. There are too many places to get free shipping pallets to spend money on anything that calls for 2x4s or 1x4s.
Where would we be on our pursuit for preparedness without our buckets? Any list of “freebies” should talk about buckets.
Why? Because they go so, so much further than filling with rice, wheat and beans, although that’s pretty handy.
For those just getting started, food-grade buckets can serve for water storage. They can be turned into indoor potties, emergency chicken crates, and stacked buckets can be turned into several types of water filters. They can be used to keep supply stashes neat and organized. They keep an emergency kit ready to grab and dry in the truck or in the front closet. They can make a protective barrier for paper or cloth supplies kept in the garage or outdoors, can keep mice and sometimes bugs from reaching packets of Knorr sides or birdseed, and they can be used to store kindling, fire starters, and tinder. Using a bucket as a range kit means there is no target too big, no need to carry separate sheaves for hanging targets, and the stapler and duct tape, first aid kit, and gun oil are always right there where you put them, with the handy bonus of always having a rifle rest or a stool on hand.
Buckets that held pickles tend to impart that vinegar odor on anything inside them, which makes them perfect for the garden, instead, where they can be painted up to make pretty planters or where they can be layered into each other and turned into sub-irrigated planters with a few more steps.
They can also be used in rain catchment systems instead of larger barrels that may be more difficult to reach into for cleaning or more difficult to maneuver, or out in a field or budding orchard where taller barrels would obscure more light or be tall enough to attract more attention.
Why, buckets are just about neck-and-neck with wooden shipping pallets, duct tape, and wire coat hangers for usefulness.
Sources for Plastic Buckets
So where does one get these magical receptacles? Well, one could pay $1-2 at flea markets on a good day, $4-10 from home improvement stores, or as much as they’re willing to part with from preparedness supply stores and food distribution centers.
Instead, try to pay nothing. If anything, spend the money on good gamma lids. Free food-grade buckets can be had from almost any bakery or deli – grocery stores, Wal-Mart, donut shops, cake companies. You can even try wedding catering companies. For many, icing comes in those buckets. Others get their flour and sugar from them. Fast food restaurants sometimes get their bulk condiments from inside a bucket still, but that’s rarer. Still, burger joints and barbecue places with high turnover sometimes still get their pickles in buckets instead of smaller tubs. Anyplace that makes from-scratch fry batter or breading, baked goods, or serves pickles may very well have free buckets in three- or five-gallon sizes.
Sometimes construction companies have cracked buckets or buckets that have served their purposes as well. Those would not in any way be appropriate for food supplies, but if clothing or other supplies are going to be enclosed in plastic and set aside, those buckets would work. The cracked buckets may also work for slowly trickling out captured rainwater when placed in the garden.
You can also think beyond regular buckets. If you’re storing beans, grains and dehydrated produce inside Mylar bags, a well-washed kitty litter bucket will do the job of blocking light and heavy-duty teeth. If you’re single or only preparing for a couple, one-gallon or two-gallon Mylar bags can be used inside the giant tubs used for ketchup, mustard, mayo or pickles by concession stands and fast food places.
There’s no need to spend a fortune on some of the things we need for increasing our preparedness and using around our properties and homes. Raccoons may be our arch nemeses in some cases, but they excel at looking around an environment and making use of anything they see, working as little as possible to get nice and fat ahead of hard times. By using our imagination with the resources around us, we can put our money to better use. We can also do our part to limit some of the trash that makes it to curbs and landfills, which makes for a better world for all of us, masked bandits to the humans who so often match wits with them.