Monday, June 12, 2006

Free herb

or, reason 532 why I love Portland

Portland is a "leave stuff on the sidewalk with a 'free' sign and hope that people take it away" kind of city. Now, it is no New York or San Francisco, but it is pretty high in the "free stuff on the street" hierarchy. (I bet you didn't know there even was such a hierarchy, but I'm here to tell you there is.) Chicago always had the right set-up to be a good free-stuff city (apartments and houses jammed up against one another, lots of alleys, rich and poor living in close proximity) but it never really came through for me. Rhode Islanders are too obsessed with yard sales to be giving their stuff away.

Over the years, I've gotten some good things from Portland streets: small appliances; clothes, the odd accidental piece of junk-art. Last week I picked up a hardback copy of Sarah Conley from a box of books marked "Free: Please Take." One of my favorite work shirts was a free find. I've given things away too. Books mostly, but recently I pulled up some oregano plants from my herb garden. (That stuff grows like crazy around here. Almost as well as rosemary, which is currently threatening to take over my entire garden.) I stuck five plants in pots, watered them and lined them out on the sidewalk with a sign "Free Oregano, Yum". People picked them up over the next day or two.

Walking with Ada today, we stopped in front of a house around the corner to wave at a cat. I noticed one of my oreganos on the porch. It made me feel oddly elated, knowing who took one of the plants. I love being part of a community, particularly one in which people offer up free things to one another. My trash, your prize, and vice versa. I love you Portland. Now, about that free IPod...


  1. nice. i keep thinking about putting a couple things out on the curb with a sign but am thinking my neighbors might think it weird. you have inspired me. free it will be!

  2. Wow. Around here all we find is trash. However, people still love to take it. My broken fan.

    I guess I should put some type of sign on it like "this doesn't work."

  3. That really does sound wonderful!

    *hoping that husband's company opens a Portland office someday soon*

  4. There's a guy who documents all the free stuff he's found on the streets of new york. it's like trashhound or something - so cool.

  5. i must say that NYC is on the top of the list but PDX is wonderful for free things. people on my street have been having free boxes for the past month or so. its amazing what you can find.

  6. I always get a little charge when someone takes my freebies. Just knowing my cast-offs will have a new home instead of being thrown away makes me happy.

    Of course, happening upon goodies is nice, too. I seem to get lucky with kid stuff. In the past few years, I've scored, in mint condition, a big dollhouse, a Little Tikes picnic table and two Step 2 rocking horses (I gave the spare to a friend). Woohoo!