Wednesday, June 09, 2010

What we do with found bullshit.

Once upon a time, the previous owner of a house had a son who spent his formative years leaving toys in the backyard after they satisfied his youthful interest in military battle, the Jurassic era and chicken McNuggets.

Then, along came an enterprising house flipper (and his sidekick, The Retarded Plumber Who Doesn't Believe In Gaskets) who, after demolishing the backyard during renovation, dug a gigantic hole, raked every errant object in range of the Bobcat's scoop into it and promptly covered the hole with sod, gravel or bark mulch.

And then he sold the house to a naive couple who saw the backyard as, "A blank slate! Yay! We won't have to tear down a bunch of junk before putting in proper landscaping!"

I'll let you guess who that naive couple might be...

Good guess.

So, when the naive couple known as US went about creating this backyard of our dreams we quickly found that we lived atop a Toys R Us graveyard and every time we sunk a shovel into the ground we were likely to come back with either a dinosaur, GI Joe, pirate or a random appendage from a dinosaur, GI Joe or pirate.

At first, this was annoying. We felt like we were maybe living on a former junkyard or landfill and how come we paid so much money for a house on land made from lead-filled plastic. But then we became amused and eventually we became collectors.

Bubba would be working on one corner of the yard and yell out, "Hey! I've got a good one!" and then he'd throw a muddy army sniper at me as I was busy pulling down tomato plants or something. Sure, I'd be momentarily annoyed that there was a tiny plastic rifle in my eyeball, but then I'd admire his find and add it to the basket of found bullshit and then we'd muse at the whimsical renovation techniques of the builder.

Then we arrive at present day where we've turned over every single inch of dirt on our property beyond the house (even that which used to reside beneath a cracked concrete patio and the front porch) and have fleshed out our collection of found bullshit to well over 100 pieces.

Some highlights from our collection:
  • A complete and intact Igloo cooler and lid (no lunch inside, sadly)
  • A functioning water gun
  • Giant plastic crab
  • Most of a Hungry Hungry Hippo game
  • Half of the Bat Mobile
  • A plastic alligator jaw which we thought was an alligator jaw when it was on the roof of the garage but we couldn't really tell until we hauled our butts up there and LO it was an alligator jaw
  • A chicken McNugget toy from a 1980-something Happy Meal
  • A white ninja
Making up the bulk of the collection are plastic dinosaurs, army men from a variety of eras (Civil War, Vietnam, etc), some Indians, a few pirate accessories, a handful of Super Balls, a Lego dude and a lot of marbles.

Until a few months ago, this collection lived, in its found state of caked-on mud,  in a giant Nutella jar in the garage until such time as I accidentally shoved the shelf too hard and the jar fell to the ground and broke, sending our collection every which way.

It's possible some key pieces were lost during this disaster.

After that, what was left from the disaster was relocated to an old basket for future reminiscing. And every time we'd come across the basket in the garage one of us would say something like, "You know, we ought to do something with all that crap."

And then the other one would say, "Yeah, throw it out."

And then we'd laugh and go make cocktails and forget about it because the only ideas we could come up with aside from tossing it all was to build some sort of outdoor curio cabinet and that seemed stupid and ugly so we'd move on.

Until I had a flash of brilliance during an extended cocktail hour that synced up so well with a coinciding flash of brilliance on Bubba's part that we TEE DAH did something with all that crap that we actually really like.

I mean, it's not super classy or beautiful, but it is amusing, makes use of a lot of bound for the trash/recycler materials and adds another They Must Be Bonkers element to our backyard decor that we enjoy.

Enter, the Magnet Board of Found Bullshit.

You see, friends, we enjoy eclectic decor with a story and HELLO if this creation doesn't have a story (see above). Plus, it cost nothing to make and somehow sort of matches another piece of our outdoor decor which was getting close to the chopping block but now seems like part of an ugly but amusing set that we'll keep so that we can be entertained while we host outdoor dinner guests.

Also, this other piece of outdoor decor, which was originally purchased as a potted plant stand, has turned out to be a handy BBQ side table, so that's a good reason to keep it, too. It's useful.

The board though? Well, its usefulness has yet to be realized beyond pure entertainment, but I'm sure it will show its purpose soon enough.

I mean, maybe it'll help us keep score for hillbilly golf somehow or let us illustrate the dramatic story of how the US Army triumphed over the almighty chicken McNugget OR MAYBE we'll unearth a plastic Jesus and be able to reenact what our anti-evolution friends like to tell us really happened back when dinosaurs roamed the earth.

The possibilities are endless.

For now, though, we're pretty proud of ourselves for making another piece of "art" for our backyard and for making use of some more crap that was bound for the trash.

Score one for us. And the dinosaurs. And found bullshit.


  1. This. Is. Awesome. I wish our house came will cool shit. All we got was newspaper soved into holes in the wall and painted over. And a used tampon. True Story.

  2. Found bullshit rules! In my PDX backyard we pieced together a cement man torso. Later we found the mold that was used to create this masterpiece. (the mold was one of those 3D t-shirt/swimsuit forms typically used at a trashy beach shops.)

  3. This is so freaking awesome.

  4. You're hysterical Finny! that will be THE perfect topic of conversation while entertaining outdoors. Too funny ... I'll be thinking about this one for days!

  5. Ohmygod. Seriously, that is the coolest thing ever. You rock on SO many levels.

  6. Freaking awesome is right. I can't get over the chicken nugget...or the giant Nutella jar that used to house all your treasures!

  7. Aw, man. All *I* ever find are the thousands of broken bottle pieces from the parties the former owner's teen used to throw in the barn.

    It's been a while since any of those came up (usually after a rain); I think it may be finally clean.

  8. I have this wonderful image of a backhoe operator burying various pieces of crappy '80s toys to be discovered later by children of the '80s once they reach adulthood. It's like a time capsule. They did you a favor, really.

    When we finally pulled down the old burned barn and started cleaning the area, we found many, many empty whiskey bottles. Apparently, my husband's grandfather used to go out to the barn to do his drinking away from the nagging of his wife. We also keep exhuming plastic bags that have been buried for years and continue to appear from underground every few weeks. I'll pick them all up and get it clean, and then two weeks later it looks like a vacant lot in Harlem in there. Boo.

  9. What fun. That really was a chicken nugget, huh? I thought it would be a toy from a Happy Meal and not an actual nugget. Pretty funny.

    We love finding stuff in our backyard because most of it is really old. We found an Indian-head penny, two little gnomes with broken-off legs, and some old medicine bottles. I also found a little girl's sailor's dress, but it is in bad shape.

  10. I totally love the ski bench! Where did you get the base pieces. We have random and ancient windsurfing and surf boards along with 80s skis that would be perfect for a park full of them.

  11. Sara - Ooh, on of our old places had a paper plate glued over a hole in the wall and painted over. It cracked me up.

    A tampon though. Used? In the wall and painted over?? Tell me it's not so.

    Jana - I think that officially counts as art, though. Leave it to Portland to have actual art buried in the backyard. Too cool.

    Knittah - I'm so glad you think so! We've been feeling awfully WT with this particular creation.

    Anna - I'm just glad we finally thought of something to do with all that crap. The basket of plastic hands was starting to freak me out. I had it sitting on my potting bench in the garage (to remind me to DO SOMETHING WITH IT OR ELSE) and it haunted me every time I was in there. Which, let's be honest, is quite often.


    deb - Why thank you! I'm particularly glad that the basket is mostly empty. Though I have to figure out what to do with the plastic water gun. Something cool...

    rengawk - Uh! I'm so sad about the Nutella jar. I loved that thing. I mean, I loved the stuff inside of it a lot but never realized how much I loved that ridiculously huge jar. It was a sad day.

    Galadriel - Boo! And I bet it's not even fun glass that you can recycle. It's probably all sharp and mean and cuts you when you're out working in the yard.

    Kris - They DON'T break down, no matter what The Man says. Stupid plastic bags. That would bug me. We found a lot of crushed cans (beer and soda) and a ton of other construction trash - in addition to the horrible green plastic mesh that the sod was laid with. Stupid lazy contractors and their stupid lazy ways.

    I love the story behind the whiskey bottles. That's too funny. Though last night when Bubba and I were talking about all the buried crap, we realized that it's sorta weird that of all the stuff they just buried, rather than dealing with, they DID manage to pour a whole new concrete pad in the garage. Now I'm convinced there's a shallow grave beneath our concrete.


    Lera - Oh no, it is a toy. Not a real mcnugget. Though I don't doubt they would withstand many seasons of weather. Gross.

    Those old medicine bottles must be cool! Nice find :) Bubba found a handgun buried in his yard when he lived in Fresno. Not a good sign.

    Cathy - The bench is awesome and the frame makes it way easier to put together so that it's sturdy and looks decent (rather than the monstrosity we were planning to craft from angle iron). I got the frames from Mt Baker Snowboard Shop :)


  12. Monstrosity of angle iron? Impossible. Angle iron is made of pure beauty. Hell, Finny, you're like 80 percent angle iron.

  13. That's pretty funny! I wish we would have saved all the cigar tips we found in the front yard. I think the old man (who died from cancer go figure) used to sit on the porch and flick them out in the grass. Other things I've found are:

    a hole piece of rebar, standing straight up totally buried.

    a grape ni high (sp) bottom with just the tip broke off, probably from us digging since we have the tip too.

  14. Haha! I love this post! Great! :)

  15. GENIUS! I tell you. Just. GENIUS! Finny, you should get a tiara and an extra large G&T for this idea. Seriously.

  16. Fan-freaking-tastic!

    I love it much. Especially all the vintage-y type people along with that one chicken mcnugget.

    It is kitsch perfection. And I've just realized that I'm jealous of people who can pull off this kind of thing. I have the same sort of junk, it just isn't ironic.

  17. our place sits on a site that (neighborhood legend has it) used to be the circus grounds. i keep hoping to unearth some remnant from that charming, bygone era, but so far it has mostly been pieces of cheap swing set chain, broken root-beer bottles, and the occasional marble or two. i actually love finding the marbles, and any piece of metal that i cannot easily identify.

  18. I love this idea and may just have to replicate it for use in my sons' rooms. We have plenty of bullshit just hanging around.

  19. I actually love this idea of continually digging for treasure. I love the magnet board, but I'd personally make frames out of the goodies. I'll be blogging about something similar soon. I'd say you have a "special" house. Not everyone can throw toys at one another you know.

  20. Oh, I forgot to say that I used to live in a house where the creepy kids of the former tenants used to get their hair cut outside. There were locks of hair in all the garden beds, like some weird Satanic thing or something. Eeww.

  21. I love this post for so many reasons.

  22. This is freakishly creative and entertaining! Emphasis on the "freakish"!


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