I never expected the focus of my walks - years of discovering the dynamic state of nature in the mountains behind my home in the Northeast - to become about other people's garbage. (God knows, my traverses provided me ample hours to focus on my own garbage, figuratively speaking.)
It all started with a some bottles that revealed themselves from under the last layer of spring snow. Soon, I started lifting protruding rusty metal pieces in various shapes, sizes and levels of decay. The shallow earthen pile I was working in became a hole of broken everything. Every now and then I would gently birth a whole bottle, or two, sometimes three, all by feeling my way into the soft humus cavern with my thinly-gloved hand.
With loads of excitement, boundless curiosity and a little effort, two relatively small piles of garbage soon sat before me. One, a metal bucket along with group of metal containers and some broken bottles, the other whole bottles, a few with readable caps and a curious vinyl circle that turned out to be a piece of a radio dial.
A whole new world opened up right then and there. Incredulously, I was thrust into other people's lives - by way of their garbage!
Since then, I have learned a little local and regional history on garbage. For instance, my city has only had municipal garbage collection for the past fifty years. This left families to burn and bury their own garbage. Those with land, particularly farmland, buried their used, broken, worn out, unwanted possessions along the edge of their property often in the rocky forested areas that could not be used for farming.
Then I began to notice a large section of the land I had hiked for a long time had unusual small hills that cropped up all over. It turns out those are often garbage burial sites that may have produced knolls initially when items were purposely buried there, but have also generated new mounds due to the frosty ground heaving things back up.
(Example of how the ground might look, and what you might find by rifling around.)
I've come across some interesting artifacts within these mounds: Model T Ford parts, antique radio conductors, teeth from handmade farm plows, household cans with recognizable brands, albeit with lesser known contents, like Campbell's oyster stew, apparently a dinner favorite...an antique fire extinguisher even.
A particularly satisfying pile held bottles of fascinating shapes that included several perfume bottles, so I got the feeling these farm owners were well off.
I found bottles and jars for all purposes. They had contained milk, ink, medicines, cleaners, pickles, mustard, jams or spirits. They came in every color: white, clear, green, brown, light purple, light yellow aqua, and cobalt blue - the most satisfying to receive. They had many shapes. Some openings were threaded for tops, others were smooth and hand blown, some had raised letters revealing contents, others were painted, with paint that barely survived the elements, still others were smooth. Some carry codes on the bottom in numbers, letters, or shapes. Some codes are even one time mysteries made by the originator. And there were a plethora of make-shift, handmade wire bottle carriers that emerged.
Oh! And there were shoes (old soles!), buttons, belts, hand-forged nails, broken tea cups, abandoned coffee pots, pans and pottery shards with pretty patterns. Pretty much anything you can imagine from the "olden" days. Even toys!
Seems the reemergence of old garbage has provided a little something to pique every one's curiosity!