Sunday, June 3, 2012

Nice!...New?...Not Necessarily

With the exception of Memorial Day weekend when our typical hot & humid summer weather decided to crash the party, we've been enjoying a really beautiful spring.  Fritz and I wrapped up our school year by taking class outside to our deck.  As I sat under our pergola  in a comfortable, cushioned chair it occurred to me that everything on our deck we got for free.  That's right--even the new gas grill.  Now that's some news to share.  And I might have a few thrifty tips to throw in too.

Let me say that this is the first season our deck has been so bedecked even though we're on our fourth year living in Missouri.  THRIFTY TIP --Patience is a virtue.  Patio furniture is a want, not a need so it comes after normal bills and home maintenance.  We passed up numerous end of season sales because we hadn't saved up for the expense.  A bargain isn't a bargain if you use debt to pay for it.

Shortly after we moved to Missouri our neighbor lost his home in the housing crisis.  We had struck up a relationship during our brief time and when he left he said "Help yourself to whatever's left behind."   On his back deck was a glass top table and a stand-alone porch swing the dog used to sleep on.  THRIFTY TIP--Dirt is temporary.  Both pieces looked terrible but their structure was sound.  A little quality time with a pressure washer did wonders.  We began using the table immediately with a few plastic chairs.  The swing cushions had to be thrown out so it went into our barn until replacements could be had.  (Cushions are a want too).

Step forward to last fall when Schnickelfritz's grandparents finally followed us from Indiana to Missouri.  Their backyard had a small concrete slab to which  the previous owners had added a deck that appeared to be made out of pallets.  It was covered by a pergola that had seen better days.  Some of the overhead bars had trapped water and over the winter they had bowed and buckled.   We found the tarp in the garage but the ties had been torn and the seams were rotting.   We helped my parents remove the wreck and took it to our home (we live outside city limits and have a barn to hold "junk").  The keen-eyed Toolman found a name on one of the vertical post footings.  A little Internet search helped us get the number for customer service.  Now we made clear to the company that we weren't the original purchasers of the pergola and just wanted to know if replacement parts were available.  I guess we weren't the first to bring the trapped water and ripped ties to their attention.  They sent us a new set of overhead poles that now had seep holes in the ends.  The new ties were separate from the tarp and wrapped around the poles that weighted down the ends rather than tug on the fabric.  And they sent everything for free.  THRIFTY TIP--Customer service can be your friend, even if you're not the original owner.

A big change came to the deck when we were offered first dibs on a set of chairs and end tables before they ended up on the curb for pickers.  They were replacing their patio furniture after 25 years or so based on its dusty rose paint.  We found some evidence of retained water freezing and distorting the tubes again and once again the mold had a date with the pressure washer but most of the cushions were in good shape this time.

The Toolman banged out the tubing into its original shape and drilled his own seep holes to prevent a recurrence.  Then he picked out a lovely can of Hammered Gold paint.  Look at the results. THRIFTY TIP--You can't make a silk purse from a sow's ear, but furniture can always be restored, recovered and repainted.

Our final piece arrived on the eve of our neighborhood garage sale.  While helping a single lady down the road bring up some furniture from the basement,  my husband The Toolman spotted the 6 burner, stainless steel monster with the sale tag on it.  She had won it in a raffle at work.  He wanted it badly to replace the ancient grill we'd been using (I won it in a contest when I was 11 years old, believe it or not).  Of course we had already agreed that our profits from the sale were going to repaint the house so he sent me down to negotiate.  Now what did we have that Miss Brenda wanted?  Turns out she was in the market for lawn furniture herself.  Now I wasn't going to give her any of our new (at least new to us) pieces, but do you remember the swing we had stored in the barn?  I'd purchased outdoor fabric (on clearance + a 50% off coupon) but had never found a bargain for weather-resistant cushion material so it still sat out there collecting cobwebs.   Both of us we satisfied trading our free items that we didn't need for free items that we wanted.  THRIFTY TIP--Bartering is a lost art, it's time to find it again.

So is our deck perfect now?  Well, I'm not crazy about the white plastic table with everything else looking so posh but I can live with it.  It's becoming a game now to see how its replacement will arrive and in the meantime, we're trying to figure out if we can spray paint it without taking out the glass. 

Now before I close, I want to be clear that we aren't  nice to people just so they'll give us things.  We practice kindness and courtesy because our Savior taught us the second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself.  The final THRIFTY TIP--Sometimes you can find yourself being blessed when your bless others.

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