Chickens don't eat much, but as my financial belt tightens every little expense is under scrutiny, including my chicken feed. In my backyard wait 10 hungry beaks. In exchange for my leftovers and some Egg Maker Pellets, my little cluckers give me the best, free range eggs I've ever had.
I just have to keep the food coming, which costs around $18 a month. With egg prices hovering around $2.50 a dozen here in the Guld Coast, that's a good deal for eggs. My backyard fresh eggs cost me around .96 a dozen.
Still, $18 dollars is $18 dollars I don't want to spend if I can get around it, and the other day I found myself complaining about the situation with my redneck friend.
"Invest in precious metals." he sagely advised.
"Precious metals...?" I asked, seeking clarification.
"Yep," he replied. "Precious metals. What do you get when you find an old grill on the corner?"
"I don't know." I answered. "What do you get from it?"
"Aluminum. About $15 bucks worth." He raised his eyebrows knowingly and nodded.
"Your kidding me! An old grill has got that much aluminum in it? I see those all the time!"
My brain whirred as my mental calculators tried to recall where I had last seen one of these derelict cookers. He grinned, another nugget of wisdom passed on to his unenlightened friend.
I struggled to stay on the road as I drove home that day. My eyes were too busy roving to and fro, looking for cast off metal items. Down a side street I glimpsed a pile of twisted scrap gutters. "Ka-ching!" I crowed to the empty minivan, and I made a beeline for the heap.
After a quick check to see if anyone was looking my direction, I hurried out of the car and opened the hatch. In 30 seconds I had stuffed the ungainly pile in my backseat, slammed the door and jumped in, feeling oddly embarrassed and pleased both at the same time.
Too excited to wait, I made a run to the recyclers to see what my treasure was worth. A short while later found me $7.85 richer, just like that. Inspired, I made up my mind to keep my eyes peeled for 'precious metals' on the roadside and beyond.
I didn't have to wait long. My little pile of scrap metal grew at a healthy rate as I fed it a steady diet of empty cans, corner findings and my own cast offs. Neighbors gladly saved their aluminum for me, after finding out I'd take it off their hands. Suddenly old cooking pots and ugly metal desks looked like piles of treasure glittering under a noon day sun.
The kids on the block got wind of my odd collection and humored me by leaving car flattened offerings on my porch. An old brass fireplace set that I couldn't give away at garage sales went into the pile. Finally, I was out of chicken feed, and it was time to see what my pile of junk was worth.
I was surprised to find myself one of many metal dealers that day. Everyone from suits and foremen to homeless were there with piles of scrap. A gruff and grimy worker directed me to back my van up to a scratched up dumpster type bin and toss in my findings. A forklift carried my bin to a scale big enough for a VW Bug to park on. Another employee sorted my treasures and called out to a cashier, who was taking my weights.
"Aluminum cast!" he shouted after tossing a pile of old cookware on. She tapped and nodded.
"Yellow brass!" heralded the fireplace tools being set alone on the scale. Tap and nod.
"Aluminum cans!" rang out as two large garbage bags hit the scale. He whipped out a magnet to check some more gutter pieces I found. They tested good and were tossed and weighed. Meanwhile, I waited on the sidelines, anxiously overseeing the translation of a month's worth of metal hunting into cash.
"Okay, Honey!" the cashier said, motioning to me. I approached as she dug change out of a cash drawer. Would this all be worth it or was this going to be more fodder for my husband's jokes?
The cashier handed me a small stack of bills and a few coins. "$27.03 for your metals. Sign here please." She motioned to a receipt on the counter. I grinned like a pirate with a treasure map and scribbled my name. I couldn't help noticing they paid me $6 for the fireplace tools I couldn't give away.
Elated, I bought my chicken feed with my essentially free money, and had enough left over to treat my daughter and I to a snack, buy a few staples from Walmart and have change left over to throw in my coin jar. Next time I saw my redneck friend I thanked him for his investment advice.
"That ain't nothin'," he said, taking a swig of Coke. "That's just common sense." I just smiled and eyed his soda can.