For many people the return of robins and days filled with more sunlight are sure signs spring is on its way.
For Belva and Raymond Olson, the sight of discarded aluminum cans, plastic bottles and glass bottles along their rural Viroqua road signal the change in season.
“As the piles of snow melt, all sorts of things are revealed in the road ditch,” Raymond said.
Raymond and Belva, who are retired dairy farmers, take twice-a-day walks along the road with their border collie, “Champ,” making sure they carry a garbage bag or two.
“It doesn’t take long before the bags are full of trash,” Belva said. “We’ve even trained Champ to help pick up.”
The aluminum cans are stored in the pole shed until Raymond can fill up the box of his battered pickup truck and go to the beer distributor to get cash for the cans.
“Over the past several springs we’ve saved enough aluminum can money to purchase a new swing set for the grandchildren to play on here at the house and buy a new tiller for the garden, among other odds and ends,” Raymond said.
Glass bottles are turned into drinking glasses and works of art in Raymond’s skilled hands.
Raymond removes the bottlenecks and grinds the rough edges smooth to make the beer glasses that he and Belva sell at flea markets, craft shows and farmers markets.
Raymond also creates bottle trees by welding lengths of rebar together and hanging the prettier bottles upside down on the short “branches.”
“According to ancient African myth, bottles on trees could catch evil spirits and prevent them from coming into a home,” Belva said. “When you put a bottle tree in the garden, the bottles just sparkle in the sun.”
The couple has found items they are unable to recycle. Last spring they found a pair of dentures.
“I don’t think I want to know how those dentures found their way into the road ditch,” Raymond said.
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