Coffee Klatsch, Cuisine, Oh Ja, Stearns

Night Marauder

When my sister turned 70 she wanted to shake things up. Have adventures. Feel the fear and do it anyway. So she took up dumpster diving.

There are good reasons why folks do this.

Some want to save money, others to reduce waste. Some want to salvage and share perfectly good food while others, like my sister, do it for all of those reasons, plus the thrill of the hunt in the dead of night.

I like rockhounding, hunting for beach glass, and trawling racks at Macy's for similar reasons, but my hobbies have advantages. Like sunlight, fresh air, and not being, well, weird.

I mean no offense to committed dumpster hobbyists, including my sister, for they are indeed performing the service of keeping tons of food and ‘stuff’ out of landfills.

But when darkness falls you’ll find me, like most, tucked up in bed, especially on frosty nights when you’d need to leave your lights on and the engine running to ensure your car was warm when you emerged from steely darkness with carrot peelings in your hair and the sludge of rotting cabbage beneath your fingernails. And so you could make a fast getaway if you were spooked.

Marti’s hobby finds her at favorite haunts in the wee hours wearing thick shoes, gloves and a headlamp, and wielding a picker.

We sisters have a private Facebook group where Marti shares photos of her finds.

Put it this way: as long as she dumpster dives, her family will not be deprived of luxury meats and cheeses.

On my next visit I will join Marti on a night foray at a time of year when we will certainly see our breaths in the midnight air and she can rummage freely, handing me gourmet treasures to stow in her trunk.

During her two years of diving Marti has hit her head on industrial lids, got stuck to her waist in quicksand-like produce, and once found herself trapped inside a dumpster with the lid closed.

On that last occasion she managed to throw back the lid but couldn’t extract herself from the fragrant interior while balancing boxes of spicy bratwursts she was determined not to leave behind.

An elderly man who lived in his car drove up and asked if she could find him some vegetables and fruit. She obliged, then suggested he hold the brats while she heaved herself out of the dumpster.

“I don’t touch meat, sister, I’m vegan,” he said, and drove off.

Marti called her son-in-law, who lives in Richmond, at 3am to help her save the wieners.

Now his freezer is full and my mind is whirling.

It’s a whole other world out there, after dark in Stearns County.

Advice for beginners

Wear thick boots or shoes and old clothes; you’re going to get dirty. Invest in a strong headlamp and gloves thick enough to feel items but not be easily pierced by broken or sharp edges. A handy reacher or ‘picker’ will allow you to push, pull, and extract things. If a dumpster is locked, move on. While fossicking, you may be asked to leave, as not everyone welcomes dumpster divers; go quietly. Check sealed food and expiry dates for rips, tears, and signs of spoilage. Share what you find, and leave the dumpster area tidy. Always tell someone where you are. Keep your mobile phone with you.

MARTI, stearns county dumpster diver

Photos Page Life Studios and Nadezhda Nesterova, istock

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