The Restore is My Happy Place

The Restore moved a little over a month ago. It used to be a little hard to find, but now it has a big storefront at 598 Lorne Avenue. I’ll bet you pass it all the time. If you haven’t been there, this month is a good time to make a visit, because on Saturday, September 15 they are celebrating their move with a big barbecue from 11am – 3pm.

Many people think that The Restore just carries boring stuff, like old bags of nails and leftover paint. Leaving aside the point that nails are far more expensive than you would think, and old paint is perfectly good if you are not too picky about shade, there are also many surprises there. I thought I would show a few of these in this post, just to give you a general idea.

IMG_1287
Art Deco lamp, $15

The first thing I liked about the new location is the lighting area. Its bigger, brighter, and much better organized. I saw a really cool lamp–well, it would have been cool, with a different lampshade. You need imagination at The Restore. The shape of this shade is just not right, and it’s too low.

The best thing about The Restore is that it is a charity. You feel good about making a purchase, because your money is going to help other people. It sells things that would otherwise go to the landfill. And if you don’t like it, you can just take it back. You might be out a few bucks, but they will be able to sell it again!

Antique oak sideboard, $350

They occasionally have antiques, too, like this oak sideboard. It was a solid looking piece, refinished, not much damage. You could get a whole set of dishes and silverware in there, or maybe use it as an entertainment centre. I like old wood, it’s warm and friendly. If you have something like this to donate, just let them know, and they will come pick it up.

I was talking with Florance Daniels, who is the Assistant Manager of the Stratford Restore. She is the whirlwind organizer of all the many different things that wind up on display. Florence says that business has really picked up since the move, so hopefully there will be higher turnover.

IMG_1280
Metal chest, $60

The Restore is a great place to exercise your creativity. Take the metal chest on the right, for example. It would make a good low coffee table, and would really pop if you spray painted it a strong colour. You might even set it on a stand to give it more height. And you would be absolutely certain that you were the only person in the world who had a coffee table like this.

On the other hand, if you just wanted a small low table, you could try one of the cheese boxes. At $5, you don’t have much to lose, and you could really go nuts with paint or wallpaper, or you could even just leave them as is. Like the metal chest, this kind of low table is double purpose; it holds a cup of coffee, and can store an entire set of Lego. And they don’t smell of cheese. Not at all.

The Restore is best known for its architectural salvage. If you are a home remodeler, or if you like interesting things to hold up vines in your garden, this is definitely your place. The aluminum columns I saw were in really good shape, and as far as I can see were less than half the retail price. They were pretty tall, too, maybe 12 -16 feet (not certain about the height).

If you keep checking back, you can often find entire sets of kitchen cupboards for ridiculously low prices. You need to do research on refinishing, but some of these sets are in really good condition, and just need a little elbow grease to get them in shape.

And don’t forget to consider alternate uses for things. You may think this is weird, but I love toilet cisterns (the backs of toilets). They are very pretty, they’re ceramic, and they have a drainage hole at the bottom. They make wonderful plant pots, especially when you mix them with coloured or terra cotta ones. People never notice that it’s part of a toilet. Well, at least, they’ve never mentioned it…

What I like best about The Restore is the thrill of the hunt.  It’s very well organized, but you still have to really look around to find something that is of value to you. It’s an especially good trip when you are broke, and need a pick-me-up for less than ten bucks. You can usually find something. If you’re renovating, the best way to shop at The Restore is to drop by frequently. If you see something you like, make the decision immediately, because it won’t be there when you come back.

Or talk to Florance. Florance knows everything. Florance is a recycling goddess.

The Restore
598 Lorne Avenue East
Stratford, ON N5A 6S5
(519)273-7155
fdaniels@habitat4home.ca
https://www.facebook.com/StratfordReStore/

About those bees . . .

I had a wonderful time at Seedy Sunday at The Local last month, and I’m just getting around to writing it up. I got variety of really interesting seeds that I’ll soon be starting on the front porch, but the best part of Seedy Sunday for me is always the presentations.

I loved the one on beekeeping, presented by Stuart Arkett. I’m quite fond of bees, and like to see them in my garden, but I’m a little overwhelmed at the idea of being responsible for a hive. But  I needn’t have worried. It was illegal to keep bees in Stratford until last year, when Stuart presented a petition to allow it within city limits. After all, the city coat of arms features a beehive. Why not live up to our history? The city agreed, but followed provincial regulations, which require a hive to be 30 meters from a property line. That puts my beehive smack-dab in the middle of my living room coffee table, right next to my husband’s beer when he’s watching sports. So it’s progress of a kind, but, short of a divorce, it’s not going to work for me. I hope Stuart continues his work to promote urban beekeeping.

Notice the beehive

I really got a lot out of Stuart’s presentation. He told us a great deal about neonicotinoid pesticides and how they work. These are the ones that cause all the problems for bees. Some crops around here just can’t be grown without this pesticide, or a more expensive alternative. It gets put on some seeds, and when dirt is blown in the wind it’s breathable. The good news is that neonics are on their way out, due to increased government regulation, and also because after an insecticide has been used over a period of time, the insects just become immune to it. You do have to question an agricultural practice that has the end result of breeding resistant bugs, but let’s save that for another day. (More about neonicotinoids here)

We also discussed colony collapse disorder, which I’m sure you’ve heard about. Surprisingly, only three crops depend completely on bees for pollination: blueberries, cranberries, and almonds. These crops use trucked-in hives, a method that stresses the bees and weakens their resistance to mites and disease.

I have always wondered why the almond farmers don’t just raise bees within their groves. That would save time and trouble in transportation, and minimize the risk of infection to the hives. And you get honey. So I put my hand up to find out. Stewart answered that almond groves do not provide a complete diet for bees, as almonds are the only thing allowed to grow there. “But…” I said, “Why not allow a little extra vegetation, so the bees can thrive?” He smiled patiently, and explained that water is very scarce where the almonds grow, and no farmer would risk the expense of watering weeds. “But… “I persisted, “Why not reduce the ratio of trees to vegetation, just a little, to allow for bees?”

His answer was accompanied by the steely-eyed look farmers reserve for city-folk who want to give them advice. I could tell he’d been asked these kinds of questions before, presumably by people with a slightly vacant stare and flowers in their hair. He said that it is the obligation of farmers to produce the maximum from their farms. Farm families aren’t charitable organizations, and farm life is hard enough without creating extra, unprofitable work.

Well, it’s pretty hard to answer back to a statement like that. But then — and this is the interesting part — I asked him another question and got an answer I didn’t expect. I wanted to know why the bees produce more than the hive can use. Turns out they just do, it’s a bee thing. They keep working until there’s no more room for honey. Many beekeepers take all the honey from the hive and leave the bees with cheaper sugar water to last them over the winter. This is not as nutritious, and some hives die, but it works out in the long run. On his farm, Stuart doesn’t do this. He tries to calculate how much honey the bees will need to keep healthy over the winter, and he takes the rest as his share.

So in other words, he’s taking a reduced profit on his hives, hives he’s bought or built — to make things more comfortable for a bunch of bugs. He is not maximizing his farm profit. Seems to me there’s a contradiction. And I find that really interesting.

There’s a kind of a way we’re taught to think about how society relates to nature. We’re tough, we’re practical, we’re in control, and nature is a product. If you watch the news these days, particularly the weather news, maybe we’re not so much in control as we think we are. And I notice a kind of vague unease; it’s like we have a conflict between our heads and our hearts, and we try to resolve it by not really thinking about it very much. But avoiding it doesn’t make it go away.

I’m certainly no expert, but maybe the bees need more thinking about. Maybe agriculture needs more thinking about. Just because we’ve always done something a certain way doesn’t mean there isn’t a better way.

Tea and sympathy

teatime

 

 

A little while ago I wrote a post about Red Rose Tea. I was suspicious of the fact that their tea bags don’t degrade in my compost, and I e-mailed them about it. Well, the good news is that they wrote me back. Here’s what they said:

 

 

Thank you for contacting Red Rose.

 The new Red Rose tea bag material is poly lactic acid, or PLA. The new tea bag is an organic polymer made from plants sources. The tea bags are composed of 100% renewable plant materials. The new Red Rose tea bag material is tested by independent laboratories and has been shown to be completely safe.

Sealing Red Rose like our previous Red Rose tea bags and other single chambered (or pillow) tea bags on the market, Red Rose uses a heat sealable material. However, unlike most other single chambered tea bags in the market Red Rose is now 100% compostable and made from 100% plant material.

We truly appreciate your loyalty to our brand and products. Should you have any questions in the future, please do not hesitate to contact us again.

Sincerely,
Red Rose Consumer Services

I like Red Rose Tea, and I like getting polite letters like this. Unfortunately, I am also cynical, and I still haven’t forgotten what they did to those chimpanzees all those years ago. So I did some research on poly lactic acid.

I found out that Poly lactic acid (PLA) is a biodegradable polymer made out of renewable resources like sugar, corn starch or cassava. It’s used for 3D printing, short term packaging, and even for medical uses (implants, sutures, drug capsules), among other things, and is classed as an environmentally friendly material. It will break down, but takes a long time to degrade, which is why it haunts my compost.

So there you have it: not toxic or harmful to the environment. I still like the old bags better, because they made better compost, but I’m back to drinking Red Rose.

But just to be clear: no more chimp tea parties, OK?