What I Shed Today

lightening up a little at a time

sierra cup

When, in my early twenties, I rose to the lure of backpacking and took the hook that would pull me deep into the Blue Ridge mountains, I didn’t know anyone who practiced the art. So I went to the library and checked out Colin Fletcher’s The Complete Walker. Fletcher was a good teacher, not only for me but hundreds of thousands of other backpackers—now in a fourth edition, “the hiker’s bible” is still in print. Fletcher had strong opinions about techniques and equipment, acquired through his considerable experience. Because my wilderness was the southern Appalachians, I compared his recommendations carefully to those of Ed Garvey (the first Appalachian Trail thru-hiker to write a book about his 2100-mile journey). Generally, however, if Fletcher packed it, I decided so would I.

Thus, for over 30 years, my outdoors cup, bowl, and plate has been a stainless steel Sierra cup. When I inducted Nimue into the wonders of backpacking, I got her one as well. A third was added to our collection kind of by accident.

Sierra cup, just like the one John Muir used (wink)

Sierra cup, just like the one John Muir used (wink)

The basic idea of the Sierra cup (and its association with the wilderness club that shares its name) is a hundred years old. In the western mountains of the United States, streams are often swift-running but shallow. A short vessel, considerably wider at the lip, made it easy to scoop up a cool, clear drink. With a wire handle, it could be clipped to one’s belt. In that time and those places, the Sierra cup was a near-perfect tool.

Decades later, few except the desperate or untaught would risk drinking untreated water. Yet some still choose the Sierra cup for its versatility and because not even an enraged bear could damage one. We who do so put up with food and drink that go cold in cool weather, if it doesn’t get spilled first … but so, we tell ourselves, did generations of outdoors-women-and-men before us.

That said, times change, and tech should with them. I suspect Nimue and I could shave ounces and increase utility by replacing the Sierra cups with small cups and plates. In any case, we certainly don’t need three. I’ll take the extra to the thrift store, where, I hope, some reader of The Complete Walker will recognize it and say, “Hey, a Sierra cup! Just what I’ve been looking for.”

shedding style: give away
destination: thrift store

Comments welcome … has the stream of time made you re-think choices you happily made some years ago?


[WIST pause button pressed]

Nimue and revdarkwater are in Hot Springs, North Carolina, for the Wild Goose Festival, and connectivity is a minor miracle! But they have some daily sheds banked, and they look forward to sharing them when they return home.

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cassette tape deck

About every three months, we fill a trash barrel with waste we can’t recycle, and I take a liner bag to the county landfill. Yesterday was the day this quarter. Our recycling bins also make the trip so I can dump their contents into the roll-offs there. And I carry along any steel or electronics we’ve set aside for recycling (the landfill sequesters those, steel for the smelter and electronics for special processing). I enjoy tossing the steel into the big metal bin; a local youth organization gets the proceeds from its sale, so I feel it’s turned to some good.

The electronics collection point unsettles me, though. It’s just a row of gaylord boxes in a semi-trailer, overflowing with PC cases, monitors, printers, and cables, mixed with television sets, audio equipment, appliances … anything with a printed circuit board. I know it’s likely bound for a third world factory where it, too, will be smelted, without adequate protections for workers or the environment. Such are our choices at present, poor as they are.

I left a cassette tape deck there we’ve had for 15 years that’s only half-worked the last ten. It was a big black block, the size of two shoeboxes. The only comfort I could give myself in the experience was to think that the next time I decide to acquire a music-playing device, it won’t be any bigger than I can hold in my hand.

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shedding style: recycle
destination: electronics recycling collection

Comments welcome … what’s challenging for you to dispose of sustainably?

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red and black heels

Nimue acquired these shoes for some special events hosted by a program she used to work for; the decorations were always red and black. “They’re still kinda fun-looking,” she said, “but whenever I wore them, I wondered where my toes had disappeared to.” (I don’t understand, but it’s not required.) They went into the box that got dropped off at Goodwill Industries this afternoon.

"Careful, ladies and gents, don't let a foot stray too close; they've been known to take off a toe in a single chomp!"

“Careful, ladies and gents, don’t let a foot stray too close; they’ve been known to take off a toe in a single chomp!”

shedding style: give away
destination: thrift store

Comments welcome … are any items from previous employments just loafing about, not working for you?


broken birdhouse 2

Today’s is a sad shed. In one of those uncomfortable coincidences one doesn’t wish to examine too closely, after commenting recently to Minimalist Sometimes that no birds had accepted our offer of a birdhouse in two nesting seasons, I found it on the ground today. I fear I was mistaken about its occupancy status and that it had predatory help leaving its limb.

Except for a small piece, the birdhouse's floor is missing, drug away who knows where.

Except for a small piece, the birdhouse’s floor is missing, drug away who knows where for what fell purposes?

The box and its mate (subject of a previous daily shed) were Christmas gifts from our crafty nieces. During the first spring they were hung, we watched at least three broods of songbirds fledge from them. I’ll miss their cheerful sight from our back windows, but weather and, perhaps, tooth and claw have taken their toll. I don’t have a suitable piece of wood for making a repair, and the sides are splitting anyway. It’s time to return the wood of the birdhouse to the soil.

shedding style: compost
destination: our hugelkultur mound

Comments welcome … do you have any aging avian infrastructure it’s time to shed?


fishing hat

Ten years ago, en-route to the Cumberland Island National Seashore for a week-long backpacking tour of Georgia’s largest barrier island, I realized that I’d forgotten to pack my sun hat. Though the month was October, I reasonably expected a lot of UV exposure. So I bought a temporary solution in one of the small towns near the coast, in a sporting goods section near rods and reels, as I recall.

The fishing hat served well enough for that week. But I’ve never worn it since; if I want solar shelter, I reach for my true sun hat with a comically wide brim and skirt that covers my neck. I’ve started feeling sorry for the fishing hat. Ten years is too long for a potentially useful object to sit on a shelf. Thrift store, here it comes!

Doesn't it make you feel the lure of sun and surf?

Doesn’t it make you feel the lure of sun and surf?

shedding style: give away
destination: thrift store

Comments welcome … have you anything acquired for a special use that’s uselessly hanging around?

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ceramic lighthouse

Years ago, friends who loved “collectibles” learned of my affection for the Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, lighthouse and gave me a gift they would have enjoyed themselves. I appreciate their generosity still. But Nimue and I are ready to try keeping very, very few decorative items. This piece should light up for someone it will truly cheer.

Unlike the national landmark it copies, this lighthouse won't require a massive public works project to relocate it away from an eroding shoreline, just in time to be threatened by global sea-level rise. (Whoops, I may have just broken a North Carolina law.)

Unlike the national landmark it copies, the Loften lighthouse won’t require a massive public works project to relocate it away from an eroding shoreline, only to be threatened by global sea-level rise. (Whoops, I may have just broken a North Carolina law.)

I hope he or she will find it on eBay. I’m at the point of “one last try” for the online auction house. I keep hoping to repeat my early experiences there, when it seemed like a virtual yet genuine public square where those who had something to sell and those who wanted to buy it could meet and trade, value for value. Now, however, hitting the site is like going to the mall. There’s so much clutter of advertising and other products between me and my objective that the point seems to be promoting the whole crazy consumerist collective delusion, not providing the social utility of a marketplace. (Well, if the hashtag fits, wear it: #ebaysoldout.)

Rant over. Back to our regularly scheduled shedding.

shedding style: resell
destination: eBay

Comments welcome … do you have someone else’s collectible?



I think we’ve been ready for awhile to shed POT. —No, not that kind of pot! Plain Old Telephony, I mean. Once our ISP dropped its requirement that we purchase local telephone service in order to receive DSL, we dropped our land line ASAP. (And yes, I might be exhibiting Acronym Silliness Syndrome.)

Our wall-mounted handset is just the tip of a tech-berg. There’s at least one box marked “telephony” in the home office closet. I see an answering machine on the floor. True, someday we might move somewhere so remote we’d need a dial tone again. But the nearest thrift store would likely equip us. Or I could rig tin cans and strings. For now, however, I’m hanging up the (old school) phone.

Rikki, don't lose that number … call me! 867-5309. Call me maybe? Operator?

Rikki, don’t lose that number … call me! 867-5309. Call me maybe? Operator?

shedding style: give away
destination: thrift store

Comments welcome … did anything above strike you as a little punny?


guest shedder

Just before this picture was taken, the black racer tried the "I'll shake my tail to make you think I'm a rattlesnake" trick ... it's really rather cute.

Just before this picture was taken, the black racer tried the “I’ll shake my tail to make you think I’m a rattlesnake” trick … it’s really rather cute.

Down toward the Evergreen Community Garden, I surprised a somewhat shy neighbor sun-bathing: a southern black racer, Coluber constrictor priapus. It took off for the woods, but I was able to get uphill of it and take a picture before it disappeared into the leaf litter. This individual is a healthy adult at about five feet long. If I were a mouse, I’d fear it, but I’m free to be thrilled by its spare beauty and grace.

I also admire snakes for the faculty to shed their skins, as if a new life bursts out from within, leaving the dry old life behind to blow away in the wind. My new life must be microscopically grown every day, and my old shed a particle at a time. I despair of how slow the process of renewal seems. But I am a specimen of homo sapiens, not a snake, and perhaps for me it is wiser this way.

shedding style: release

Comments welcome … would you change your life all at once if you could?


slow cooker crock

I had reason to walk in the woods at church today (not that a walk in the woods needs any reason but to enjoy it). Through the trees I saw something cornflower blue, hardly a woodsy color. I went to it and from the leaf mould lifted a slow cooker crock, surprisingly intact.


Maybe it isn’t a slow cooker crock. Maybe a Blue Man left his hat behind.

Though separated from its cooker, it isn’t useless. They make good casseroles. We don’t need another, however, so it’s here today, shed tomorrow. To the thrift store it goes.

shedding style: give away
destination: Habitat for Humanity ReStore

Comments welcome … have you enjoyed finding an unexpected treasure you could then enjoy giving away?

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