Junk Ranch!

I just checked Shara’s blog and saw that she had updated with a post about the Junk Ranch and I was feeling very, very behind. I used to be pretty good about updating this but I think real life is pretty much kicking my booty   lately. Every entry lately has begun with a litany of reasons as to why I have been so slow to post, and this one shall be no different. I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this or not, but I work as a TOEFL rater for ETS — it’s a work-at-home-job where I listen to oral answers given by TOEFL test-takers and score them. It is PERFECT for me as I can stay at home, not worry about childcare, and the hours are totally flexible in four-hour shifts. I feel extremely fortunate to have lucked into this job. In the past, the only issue has been a lack of shifts that I’ve been scheduled for — it can be anywhere from four to ten a month, with most of the months garnering around four to six shifts — but last month I had twelve and this month I have a whopping 18! Very exciting news BUT it has ramped up the stress level a bit as I tried to get ready for the Junk Ranch and — if you read my Instagram you already know this — Shara and I opened a new booth! Because we’re crazy!! This one is in Fayetteville, where I live. Shara lives one town over and the town where we both have booths is one town over from THAT so this one is considerably closer to me. Plus, we just got shelves, which is a challenge unto itself, what with space issues and such, but still, the benefit is that they only cost $20/month, split between us, so we figured we couldn’t really lose, right? Shara hit the ground running and made a bunch of sales right off the bat…I’ve sold TWO THINGS so far. This is our third week, I think. So not so promising for me. I thought my prints would be for-sure hits because this place has a big college demographic, but I haven’t sold one print — and that’s the one thing I can count on in my booth at Daisies and Olives. So I have some thinking to do here. I made some Razorback items just for this booth:

I thought they would be a big hit but only one has sold. My sister-in-law today suggested I price them in bundles of 2 or 3 because they really don’t look that cute unless they’re stacked up in multiples and I think she may have a point there so I’m going to give that a try. I also made these signs, which I thought would be a hit with the cool, ironic college folk:

The Lewis Carroll block sold right away, the Hemingway quote is still there. And I also designed a new print to take down there:

Ah, Atticus Finch. I love you so.

ANYWAY, it is an experiment, and an inexpensive one at that, so whatever happens, it will be fine, but I was hoping that this would be a nice little stream of additional revenue that would allow me to pay for the kids’ school. Who knows, it may gain momentum, but right now it’s looking pretty iffy.

So we moved into that booth the week before the Junk Ranch, ridiculous, right? It’s like I’m TRYING to make myself crazy. That last week was me out in the garage pretty much full time, trying to put the finishing touches on a few things, like these scrap wood Christmas trees that did so well in the booth last year.

These are fun and easy to make and they sold completely out at the Junk Ranch so I will be making some more of those. Also will be making some more of these, which also did well. I think they’ll do even better when I can hang them up in my booth instead of having them on the ground.

And then a repeat of my little scotty dog sign from last year, which sold at the Junk Ranch.

Of course, I kept thinking “if I only had one more week!” but I think the universal truth is that you will ALWAYS feel like you need one more week at these kinds of shows. At least, all of us who are not Shara, who is easily the most organized and prepared person I’ve ever met. I just had to say to myself that I’ll bring what I have and it will be fine. And it was!

Thursday was supposed to be a load-in day, but we had terrible storms so we nixed the idea of setting up that day. I did bring the big iron birdcage and the iron bed since the rain wouldn’t hurt those things and they were so huge, they were a whole car load unto themselves. Then, later that day, when it seemed like the storms weren’t going to be as back as I thought they were going to be, I brought all of my wood stuff and laid it out on a tarp and then tucked a tarp over the top of it. That was an entire car load that I wouldn’t have to take on Friday, so I was happy about that, even though I DID feel like I risked my life to get it out there. By the time I got there, the rain was falling in a downpour — which I don’t mind so much — and the lightning was CRAZY — which I DO MIND. I am terrified of lightning, and there I was, unloading under a tree, with big iron things right next to me. I told Justin I realized I was kind of hopping on the ground, like I could avoid a lightning shock if my feet were mostly in the air. And I was chanting “lightning, don’t hit me, lightning, don’t hit me”. I must have looked like a lunatic. All I know is that I unloaded that car faster than eight teamsters getting paid by the day instead of the hour could have done it.

Friday started out beautifully: perfect temp, clear skies, and, despite the rain, the ground wasn’t too wet. I got there right at 7, swooped the car in, unloaded, and got the heck out, which was good, because poor Shara had a helluva time getting her car out once everyone else had pulled in. It was a bit of a mess but she persevered and left for her second trip, returning with my diet coke, which I had dumped over — I have dumped a full coke over every time we’ve done the Junk Ranch. I suppose I am baptizing the proceedings in some fashion. We had just about gotten our booths set up when the wind started. A fierce wind. A destructive wind. Tents went flying (not mine, because Shara, more prepared than your average boy scout, had an extra set of stakes that The Bean helped me nail into the ground. Had they not been so generous, my tent would be in Oz right now, offering cover to the Munchkins as they have a Fall picnic). It sounds so trivial to write it — “it was windy” — but I can’t quite explain to you the stress of that. First of all, we have our layout all planned out and if it’s windy, a lot of what we had planned wouldn’t work. Then it’s the constant fear that something’s going to break, and the chasing around the grounds of your stuff that’s flying off the shelves, and hearing other people’s stuff break, and worrying about the crowds being diminished because of the weather…it’s just really stressful. And there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it, no solution whatsoever, you just have to wait it out. It was pretty much windy on and off throughout the day — a few bad gusts here and there included — but we did have periods of calm, so as the day went on, I relaxed a little more. I had purchased two hollow wood doors from the Habitat store to hinge together to use as a display for my prints and it was quickly obvious that those would blow right over, taking about 20 prints with them, so I improvised by using one door on its side:

Not as professional as my previous plan, but it must have gotten the job done, as I sold most of my prints. (So why won’t they sell in the new booth, I ask you?? GRRR!) BTW, that Lake Cottages sign just will not sell in any setting and I thought it was so cute. It was in my booth for over a month and didn’t sell at the Junk Ranch. Sad tears.

My Christmas signs. The Holly Jolly one features my new favorite font for this sort of thing, Suede. It’s so sleek and mid-century.

Every single one of my bottles sold. I had them priced at $4 each, which, as it turns out, is way below what other booths were charging for them — but I got two huge boxes full of them for $2 each and then paid another $10 for the zinc lids, so I made a nice little profit off of the ones I sold.

There were a few things that made me sad when the sold, and the two lidded jars were one of those things. Seeing them together like this made them infinitely more desirable to me! They didn’t sell until late into the second day, so I thought I was going to get to keep them.

And the monkey picture sold! Can I just tell you that it was the BEST conversation starter EVER. I swear, every single person that passed through came over and took a picture of it. LOTS of interest, and I finally sold it for $125 to a woman who flips houses for a living and needs interesting things with which to decorate. I was pretty sad about it, because it made people SO HAPPY that I thought I should probably keep it. And put it where, I don’t know, and therein lies the problem. So go in peace, monkeys, and have a long and fruitful marriage.

The iron bed also sold, for $75, which is considerably less than I would have like to have gotten for it, but it didn’t get a lot of interest and I was afraid that if I didn’t take that offer I would be forced to find room for it in the car for the trip home which would have meant a second trip and I just couldn’t do that.

Shara did SO WELL. She was constantly busy, and a lot of times it was with people buying multiples of her items. When you see these pictures of her booth you would think it took her ten hours to set up and twelve to take down but she’s got everything so well organized, it takes her almost no time at all.

Monkey Box Booth:

This was glorious — like a vintage Christmas lover’s dream — a bassinette FILLED with vintage Christmas doo dads, all done up in neat little plastic bags. You could dig to your heart’s content. She did very well with these items.

And one of my favorite things in her booth, these little adorable pendants. Kids LOVE these and spent long minutes picking out which ones they wanted to buy.


Friday may have been a bit stressful, but Saturday was LIKE HEAVEN. The weather was perfect, the food was delicious, and the music was gorgeous. It was so relaxing and pleasant just hanging out with Shara and The Bean and enjoying the day. The shoppers were really friendly and great (although, I have to say, I really got sick of hearing “we could make that” about my Christmas signs. I realize it’s not brain surgery, but, come on, folks, it takes a LITTLE skill and know-how — one woman said to her Mom, who was considering buying a porch sign, “oh, we can make that ourselves — all we need is some white paint and wood.” URP. At least have the decency to whisper it!) and the traffic was pretty constant — although I had a long stretch of the late afternoon where I didn’t sell anything, then, suddenly, at 4:40, a lovely woman came under my tent and scooped up $100 of merchandise. That was nice. I always start these shows the same way — “no one is going to want my stuff!” — so it’s nice to end them having sold a lot of the stuff I brought. We also got to meet a blog reader, which is always nice! Marci at Parsley Vintage drove over from Kansas with her sweet brother and sold in a booth waaaaaaaay across the field from us. I didn’t get over there until the very end of the sale but she had some EXCELLENT stuff and I bought a small globe from her — I had been looking for one to finish off the little collection I have on top of my curio cabinet. They have all been too expensive for me until I found Marci’s booth!

I have to give MAD PROPS to Amy and Julie, the co-founders of the Junk Ranch — they have turned this thing into a bonafide event. You guys, the shopping there was incredible. SO MUCH great junk. The atmosphere — the food, the music — is so fun. And it’s so picturesque. I feel very fortunate that we are able to be a part of it — and so fortunate that Shara is there with me every step of the way — AND that her amazing, smart, helpful, resourceful son comes out to help her because he TOTALLY ends up having to help me too. I don’t know how we would do it without him. And her husband helped me load up the car on Saturday! I seriously take advantage of the whole family. Shara, I owe you and your family a gift card to somewhere great.

That’s it for shows until May or June, whenever the next Junk Ranch ends up being scheduled for. Now to ramp up for Christmas sales…I have hit SUCH a dry patch in the shopping arena — came up empty-handed at four different thrift stores yesterday and haven’t bought a lot stuff at yard sales lately. I’ve got to see if there are any auctions this weekend. And I need to make a whole slew of Christmas signs. Those of you who have booths: when do you generally put your Christmas stuff out? Last year, our Open House wasn’t until the last week of November and I waited until then, but I didn’t sell a single Christmas sign or decoration after the first of December so I’m thinking as early as November 1…too early?


October 8, 2014 - 11:19 pm

Shara I don’t think I have ever seen my name so many times. 🙂 We did have fun didn’t we! And we sold stuff and made money. How much better could that be????? You do not owe me a thing EVER. You help me too by making me think I am organized (I am not) and I am talented (I am NOT). Your photos Do make my junk look pretty classy, I must say. SO thank you!!!!!

* I heard one lady lok at my ornament wreaths and say, “I could make that” and her friend said, “Oh you could, but you won’t. Besides by the time you bought all those ornaments, if you could ever even FIND them, you wouldn’t be able to make it that cheap. And it wouldn’t be that cute!” YOU GO GIRL!

October 9, 2014 - 7:00 am

Erica I would have bought that Lake Cottage sign in a minute! My family has a lake house in Wisconsin that we always call The Cottage and I have such awesome memories of it.

My BFF and I have big plans to try and make signs like yours of our own. If you lived closer, we wouldn’t have to. Yours are PERFECT!!

Glad you had a good show and that you guys didn’t blow away 🙂


October 9, 2014 - 5:31 pm

Linda @ A La Carte Great post! I enjoyed Shara’s take on the weekend also. I love your signs and while they may look simple to many people, they look like work to me and I would pay for one for sure!! Hope things improve at the new booth.

October 9, 2014 - 10:08 pm

laurie magpie ethel Fun to see your version and Shara’s version of the show. As to Christmas in a booth. Last year Amy and I shared a booth and we had it out the end of October. This year we aren’t quite as organized and are shooting for early November. We started selling as soon as stuff hit the booth.

October 10, 2014 - 9:14 am

Laurie You guys work so well together! I’m glad you both did so well. 🙂

I am totally a fan of putting a fair price on things that give you a profit AND get the merchandise out the door. I think $4 a jar was perfect, and I guarantee you those other vendors were having to pack theirs up and take them back home. No bueno.

I was laughing out loud at the mental image of you hopping around to avoid lightening. You crack me UP.

October 10, 2014 - 11:19 am

Into Vintage Love this post very much and so happy to know that despite the weather-related obstacles, things went well, if not great. It’s also reassuring to read that other vendors have the same thoughts I do prior to a show. And that most of those worries don’t actually happen. Congrats to you & Shara!!

I think your signs are very charming and I’m pretty sure the unspoken part of “We can make that” is “But we probably won’t.” The only thing worse than that is being asked HOW you made it.

October 10, 2014 - 5:31 pm

Marci Lara it was sooo nice meeting you and Shara, the highlight of my trip. You guys had such great booths and I enjoyed your recap of the weekend. I’m posting my Junk Ranch post today!

October 11, 2014 - 9:49 am

Michele Hi Lara! I came over from Shara’s board. Your things are adorable. Just a thought on why the “Lake Cottages” sign hasn’t sold. Perhaps, because it’s plural? Maybe only someone with a whole slew of cottages would buy that? If it doesn’t have the “s” on the end then maybe someone would buy it for their own lake cottage. That’s what first occurred to me, anyway.

Neat that you work for ETS! I used to work in that field for a different company and we worked closely with the ETS folks on several projects.

Congrats on a successful Junk Ranch sale!

October 11, 2014 - 3:04 pm

Tina-Marie Hamilton Lara (and Shara),
Both of your blogs make me want to pack up my booth in Gloucester, Virginia, and set up next to you at the next Junk Ranch! So fun!! I love ALL of your items. Lara, I hear customers say that all the time at craft fairs/antique shows. (“It would be so easy to do make/do that.”) No, people, you probably will NOT do it and it will be expensive and you will never find time and… One artist at the Fall Festival had painted a sign, “Yes, you can make it. But will you?” He sold a lot of his signs. Appreciate the artist, buy the art!!

October 12, 2014 - 11:21 am

Anne Holcomb Hey sweet and busy lady, Love reading your blog post today. I’m looking for a old iron bed frame and would have took it off your hands but you did not know that, right. Sounds like you have been so busy. I did not make it to the Junk Ranch this time because I was not feeling well. I did hit some great garage sales Friday and found some wonderful stuff. I really need to sell my vintage old playground ride in my booth. It’s priced high and is taking up a lot of room. I know the right person will come along one day, I HOPE soon. Well I will see you soon I hope. Bye Now Anne♥

October 12, 2014 - 3:04 pm

Chanelle Your booth looked wonderful and it sounds like you had a whole lot of fun…and profit! Always better to have a teammate near you, and Shara is a great partnership. I always go worst case before a show too. It always works out.
Regarding new booth…wonder if you need to go more frat humor?

January 3, 2015 - 1:10 pm

Lara Jo Chanelle, I wouldn’t do it without Shara. She makes it all worth it! Regarding frat humor, I think you’re right. I’m working on some snarky prints right now and put some nerd-themed Valentine’s Day prints in the booth yesterday. We’ll see how it goes, taking it in that direction!

January 3, 2015 - 1:12 pm

Lara Jo Tina-Marie, you TOTALLY should come sell at the Junk Ranch in June! We would all have a fantastic time, wouldn’t we! I love the “Yes, you can make it. But will you?” sign! We should all have one of those in our booths!! Thanks for writing and Happy New Year!

January 3, 2015 - 1:13 pm

Lara Jo Michele, I think that’s a smart idea. That may be why it hung around so long without selling. It finally did sell about a month ago, right before I was about to mark it down to nothing. Next time I make one I will leave the S off of it! Thanks for taking the time to comment, I really appreciate it! Happy New Year!

January 3, 2015 - 1:15 pm

Lara Jo Laurie, I sold a bunch of Christmas at that September sale and then started selling stuff as soon as I got it in the booth, around the 9th. So I think you’re right, the sooner you can get the Christmas stuff out, the better!

January 3, 2015 - 1:15 pm

Lara Jo Thanks, Linda, I appreciate the support! Happy New Year!

January 3, 2015 - 1:16 pm

Lara Jo But Erica, it’s so much more fun to make them yourself! And then you can customize them perfectly for yourself. Let me know if you have any questions or if there’s anything I can help with. Thanks for the comment! Happy New Year!