An old clothes rack finds a new life – in the garden

The 25-year-old rack wasn't ready for the dump, I decided – it could move on to a new career.

"Reduce, reuse, recycle." We're often reminded of this so we'll decrease the volume of materials sent to landfills. But the phrase took on new meaning – and more R's – for me recently as I gathered up a pile of no-longer-reusable fencing and other items for my city's "too big for the can" annual bulk trash collection.

Just a few weeks earlier, I'd gone out to the garage to spread a thick wet sweater on top of my old wooden clothes-drying rack, only to watch as two of the four top rods split away from the frame under the weight.

Ah, well, I thought, it's lasted a long time. As I rigged the sweater on some thick plastic hangers to dry, I made a mental note to add the rack to the bulk trash pile.

However, since it's that time of year when all the sweaters must be washed and stored, I soon found myself in the local variety store, reading the box-front descriptions of new clothes drying racks. I finally selected one that looked like a taller, enhanced version of my expired rack. It had plastic coating over the wooden frame and tiny screws to hold the rods more firmly in place.

Back home, I put it together and set it out in the garage to await the next batch of hand washing. But when I went to add the old rack to the waste pile, I just couldn't do it.

"Reduce, reuse, refresh," I thought, as I noticed that the several remaining dowels in the rack would be just the right length for staking young tomato plants. This 25-year-old rack wasn't ready for the dump, I decided – it could move on to a fresh new career. And it would probably be happy to do so. It already had had plenty of adventures.

In its first year, for example, the rack played a leading role "the night the dryers died," which happened to be the same night my roommate and I had decided to do a thorough midwinter washing of all the linens in our apartment.

It was too late to call for repairs, so we hauled our baskets of wet laundry back down the long corridor and up the stairs to hang on the then still-like-new clothes rack, as well as an assortment of hangers, chair backs, doors, and the breakfast bar – anything that would withstand the moisture.

It was such a sight we even took a photo for the record. But that was a fairly normal night's work for a clothes rack, I suppose.

The stains on the old rack's frame reminded me of its more unexpected adventure as a chicken roost several years later. A small flock of hens we'd rescued from somewhere had been sleeping on a shelf in the garage while we built a proper henhouse in the yard. They must have quickly discovered that the folded clothes rack made a handy perch and step up to their shelf, and the rack – after a good scrubbing, of course – seemed none the worse for the unusual wear.

So, I don't think the trusty old rack will mind being "reduced and reused" out among the tomatoes. It's certainly better than joining the waste pile, and, given the rack's recent uneventful years drying sweaters in the garage, it probably will appreciate some sun and new scenery.

After all, recycling can be refreshing! Who knows what new adventures await this clothes-rack-turned-tomato-stakes?

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