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How to be a Dumpster Diving ninja

Wanna join the craze, feel the rush, get utterly depressed by the unavoidable awareness of this society’s pointless waste?

Dumpster Ninja Skills 101 – A Comprehensive Guide to the Cold Hard Precautions
Think like a ninja, dress like a ninja
1. Casing the joint

Case your local grocery stores, very sneakily.

First, outside in the daytime , find the garbage bin.  Does this store have a crusher?  Well, you’re done there.  Does it have a locked dumpster?  Some days those are filled too full to be closed and locked.  Sometimes employees get careless.  Many times it appears to be locked and isn’t (the padlock hang).

Are there loading hours posted on the dock?  Then you can expect there to be workers in the store at least an hour earlier than that.  Is there a bakery in the store?  Then the bakers are there in the very very early morning.

Are there security cameras?  Then you might go hardcore and wear balaclavas or headsocks like real robbers, and if you have vehicle assistance, make a good parking and loading plan so your vehicle doesn’t get ID’d.  Keep checking for cameras, btw, in case they install some after noticing that someone is sifting through their garbage.

Take a casual stroll by a couple times at night to sess the scene and plan your timing. Between 11 and 3 or 4am are probably the best hours, but that’s really up to your location.  Is your dumpster well lit?  That makes your work easier but gives less cover.  Are there cleaners working in the store?  Determine their days and hours.  Any security?  Note cars in the parking lot. What else is going on in the area?  What businesses are around?  Diving right when clubs are closing or getting going is not great.  Are there late night restaurants where employees, or cleaners, could come out the back doors to smoke and bust you?   And probably most important, is this open dumpster in a “bad” part of town where there’s a remote possibility of garbage other than the store’s getting tossed in there?  By that I mean sharps.  Don’t ever take a chance like that.

Why all the cloak and dagger?

Because if you find the motherlode of all dumpsters, it could feed you for months, and you won’t want to lose it.   I had one location produce insane amounts of food for over a year, then they got a crusher.  It was heartbreaking.  If you don’t take precautions, that wellspring could all be carelessly lost in one embarrassing evening.  If you get seen, but escape, you probably wont want to go back, and if you do, I bet there’ll be a padlock on that dumpster now.  So BE SNEAKY.

Trust me, it’s fun.  The whole thing is hilarious.

2. The gear you need:

Wear dark clothes that you won’t mind getting dirty, but also don’t “stick out” for approach and leaving the scene (dress like a normal ninja person, not crazy dumpster diving ninja person), and good shoes.  For jumping in.  Feet first;  dive is a figure of speech.    If you’re squeamish, bring work glovesHats or hoods cover your hair and face.  A flashlight is absolutely essential, bc even if the area’s lit, the depths of the bin will be shadowed. Ideally, a headlamp. Bring backpacks and/or fabric shopping bags on bike or foot missions.  There will be zillions of boxes around to use if you’re going by vehicle.

3.  Taking the plunge:

Going with someone else is way better than going alone.  Some things can be really heavy, you can keep watch for each other, and it helps with the paranoia.  It almost seems normal when you’re not alone.  And it’s definitely funny.  You want to share that.

Whisper to each other, keep rustling and banging to a minimum, keep eyes and ears open for anyone approaching.   Try to keep yourself in shadow, or tucked near the bin, or between bin and building.  Or in the bin, if you jump in, which is often necessary.    If strangers happen to pass by, don’t bolt, just crouch and freeze wherever you are, and chances are  they will pass right by and never know.  Remember, people usu. don’t expect to see people in dumpsters, and won’t be looking for you.  Do not stand tall atop the dumpster wading through and hollering about your discoveries.   They’ll notice that.

Do not ever start ripping open black garbage bags.  The really bad garbage is in garbage bags- bathrooms and deli garbage – you don’t even want to know.  The good garbage is usu. in boxes, sometimes closed, sometimes top open.  Sometimes tipped over, but that’s what washing is for.  Another reason to not rip bags is the Golden Rule -don’t make a mess.  This is for your sake.  You want to protect your interests in this gold mine.  Don’t make it obvious that you were there.  Especially if the area is all swept clean.  If you start strewing trash about at night, the poor sap who has to clean that up is going to gripe about it, and then they’re paying attention, and then you’re busted.  Employees are not likely to notice there are fewer carrots there this morning than they threw out last night, but they will notice if the whole bin has been torn apart.  And if you’re sharing a dumpster with other ninjas, then you know what they say about bad apples.

Move carefully and quietly.  Speed is less important than stealth. It takes some time to really maximize a dumpster visit, if there is a lot of food.  The best way is to pack boxes as you go through the buffet, then shuttle them quickly to a staging area, around the corner, ideally in shadow where you can drive up, load up in a minute, and take off.  If on foot, then go through it all and neatly set aside what you want to take.  If you make a return trip to pick up it’s a quick stop.

4. At home

When you get home with the bounty, wash your hands, hoot and exclaim how you can’t believe you just did that, (take pictures to share) and sort and assess all the happy food that you just gave a second life to.   Some of it might not be as good as it looked at the scene, and that’s part of the game.  Some food is perfect, some is spoiled.  Check over any packaging for cleanliness and signs of compromise.  Wash all the food  before you eat it, just in case.

Now you’re a pro…

Dumpster diving is a little addictive, because you never know what treasures might be there any given night, but going every night is near impossible.  Some nights just feel risky, or there’re cleaners or delivery trucks, besides, you’d be exhausted and soon have a full time job processing and preserving food and then trying to find people to give it away to.  It is nice to try out different days of the week though.  You’ll learn their dumping and delivering schedule and find some food comes in patterns.  Speaking of sharing your bounty, I operate on informed consent.  I can’t give someone food without telling them where I got it, so my beneficiaries are pretty tight (and amused) friends.  But that’s your call.

Dumpster diving will increase your household garbage a little with the packaging you’re carting home.  If you don’t have  compost, you might want to take more care examining food before you bring it home.  I drag it all home and then sort it out, bc I have a (flourishing) compost box.  On the bright side, if stuff goes bad bc you can’t eat or process it fast enough, well, it’s guilt free, because it was headed for the landfill anyways.  You saved it once already.  BTW, if you have pigs, then you pretty much can’t not dumpster dive, even if you’re squeamish about eating the food yourself, because it is free high quality pig feed.

And then, eat eat eat, for free, free, free.

Here’s some more tips from Rob Greenfield.  I like #4, master the fear.  Jumping at your own shadow is a real buzzkill.  This is some furtive ops, but not actually very risky.

the_sneaky_ninja_by_kirillee-d2m052r

 

Ninja art by Kirilee on Deviant Art.

 


This article first written in 2008.

Dumpster diving need not stop at food.  I was convinced that my future husband was for me when the two of us were regaling a table of “Oh I could never!” fascinated normal people with our Ultimate Score tales of Dumpsters Past.  HW thoughtfully offered that everything he was wearing was out of a dumpster.  A man at the table sputtered “What!? You look like a fucking REI model!”  It was all true.  HW looks like a fucking REI model (that’s MEC, for Canadians), and routinely dresses like one, and everything he was wearing was out of a dumpster, including the technical hiking shoes.

Chickery!

I made a floorless chick pen!  It’s pretty simple.  Four uprights, the same size, and then eight horizontals, made of lath.  It’s two feet tall, and I know that because I used one continuous piece of three foot (1/4″) hardware cloth, slit the corners up 12″, and folded them out.  20160705_133148

The hardware cloth is actually stapled between the lath and the uprights, for anyone looking real close, so it’s very much secured there.

It’s not exactly a tractor, but it’s very portable.  I put it out in the field, and eight rocks hold down the outflaps of hardware cloth, so that chicks can’t tunnel under the edge, and predators are likely to find it inconvenient to get under the edge too, should they come around in the day.

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This chick is almost completely under the wall, in a little dip

It takes only a couple minutes to move all the rocks off, relocate it, and replace the rocks.

This is going to be the middle stage of the Chick Cycle.  I want the chicks to be outside as soon as possible, but it’s proved dangerous in the past to put them in with the whole flock when they are tiny, so this is a middle stage.

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Wine racks

Well, there it is, done.

 

“Oh, I can knock this together in a couple hours” … HA!  As usual, yeah right.  Just like the “easy” bookshelves, seems these little storage devices take longer to make than I think, every time.  Miles of ripping.  100s of brad nails.  In this case, it also took much more lumber than I thought, considering it’s mostly air.

But, mission accomplished.  Plenty of space for all our homemade wine, several batches at a time.  Since it did turn out to be a mission, I thought it was worth taking a “well, there it is, done” picture.

Hmmm.  I just noticed:  kitchen=shop.  Yep, nothing’s changed since I was 21.

Upside down tomatoes

I thought I’d give this a try, because I love the idea, although unproven.  Last year my tomato planted upside down in a juice jug was a total fail, probably not least because of the transparent jug, and inadequate gasket around the stem of the plant.  This time I roughly copied the technique of a guy I met hitchhiking (cute, and he gardens!), and the summer will tell if it’s a success.  Both of us saw this in the Lee Valley catalog, and although the special pots they sell are certain to be sophisticated technology, there has to be a way to make them work low-tech.

First things first!  Drive the nails or hooks where you’re going to hang them.  Because the moment you have one full, you’re gonna need to put it somewhere to get it out of your way.

The supplies: 2 gallon pots with 1 1/2” holes bored in the centre with a spade bit. I made two hanging loops off the top with baling wire by drilling small holes in the side of the pot lip. 5ml poly cut to more than cover the inside bottom of the pot, with an X slit in the center, and palm sized squares with one slit in them.
Seedling out of the pot, using the small plastic squares around the stem, with the slits opposing. Does that make sense? These two pieces collar the stem with their slits facing opposite ways. Then I plunged the root ball in the water to soften it.

Continue reading Upside down tomatoes

RSS feeds

I made my first website when I was about 20, back when altavista, angelfire and ICQ existed, and blogs and templates didn’t.  The html was write-your-own.  My 7yr old brother helped a lot, but nevertheless.  I mean to say, I’m no technological idiot (neither savant), but the concept of RSS feeds escaped me for so long that I’m just gonna share this super simplified explanation of what they do for anyone else like me that missed it.

They are especially useful for following blogs like this one, that don’t post with a predictable rhythm. Hint hint.
So.  An explication: Continue reading RSS feeds