The undiscovered country


I recently decided to explore some new neighbourhoods before it gets too cold, with a specific focus on more wealthy areas. On Thursday I got up super early, leaving around 6:45 in order to check out Cote-des-neiges and Outremont. I was specifically drawn to this little area near the oratory. I remember finding a couple of old computers (286s if I remember correctly) here a couple of years ago. I stashed them in the woods thinking that I’d come back later with my car. My car at that time was on its last legs, however, and in the end I reckoned it wasn’t worth the risk. I saw them again when I checked a year later. I wonder if they’re still there?

Unfortunately, outside of that story and a pretty picture I have nothing to show you from that trip. The area is very hilly and biking around with my trailer in tow was pretty exhausting. There’s a few areas that have some trash potential but overall not enough to be worth the energy of going back again.


More worth my while was my Monday morning trip to Sault-au-Récollet. Sault-au-Récollet is one of the oldest areas in Montreal, located at the far east of Ahuntsic next to Rivière des Prairies. The oldest church in Montreal, l’Église de la Visitation was built in this area – you can see a bit of it on the right side of the picture. The homes, especially those along the river are much different than the rest of Montreal, reminding me more of older small town communities in Quebec such as Chambly. It’s a really beautiful area. I noticed a lot of nice bike paths, I’ll have to come back sometime when not on garbage-duty.

I brought along a bike trailer and a curious friend. We focused mostly on rues Gouin and Prieur and some side streets along the way. I took this picture from the bridge to Ile-de-la-Visitation.


We came across this pile not too long after we began. It seemed like someone was clearing out a house for one reason or another. There was lots of clothing and kitchen stuff. The man on the left was looking for scrap metal.


My friend, who just moved into a new place, came away with some nice kitchen stuff, including a couple of working food processors, a cake dish and a big cooking pot.


We also saved this cast iron pan. It’s in fine shape and with a little love should last at least 400 years.


I got a nice teapot that looks to be made of silver plated copper. It could use a polishing but it’s in pretty nice condition still.


I also found a camera tripod, the fifth since I began the “summer of garbage.” I think this one is pretty nice, it’s by Polaroid and comes with air-bubble levels and its own bag. It also has its original tags. It costs about 25$ + shipping on Amazon, I’d guess I could find a buyer locally for around that price.

Later on we came across a little pile somewhere off Prieur. Inside were some new, in plastic kitchen scrubs (and other miscellaneous cleaning products) and a bag containing pictures, picture frames and some old letters. I took the letters (my friend took the frames) thinking they might be worth poking through later. At some point a woman came out of her house with a camera, presumably to take a picture of us, telling us “vous n’avez pas le droit” (you don’t have the right) or something along those lines.

We were pretty much done anyways so we moved on, wondering if she called the cops but not being too worried about it. I figure she was worried mostly about identity thieves. Any cops investigating us would notice the bike trailer full of miscellaneous junk and know that we weren’t biking around on the hunt for personal information. As an aside, I’m starting to wonder if these identity thieves looking through trash even exist. I’m sure there’s a few out there, but overall the idea seems to me like the product of sensationalized media. I’ve certainly never seen anyone “on the curb” looking for anything other than cans, metal, or in my case, history and treasure.

I still have yet to look through the letters, if there’s anything particularly interesting (and not too personal) I’ll let you know. They didn’t seem like particularly personal letters, however.


When heading home we went through another part of Ahuntsic just south of the Highway 40 which was also scheduled for trash pickup. This pile contained a lot of kitchen stuff, knick knacks, and miscellaneous rubbish.


From it I saved this set of dishes. I thought they were pretty cute.


Here’s me with a trailer full of treasure. It was a lot of work taking this heavy load back home I tell you what. Even small hills were challenging to climb with all the extra weight. By the time I got back I was pretty much done with biking for the day. I think we spent around 2.5 to 3 hours on the road with maybe an hour spent pickin’.


I had plans to check out Hampstead this morning but after all that biking I felt like taking a more “normal” route. Hampstead is far, probably 30 minutes by bike just to get there and would have involved me biking over a big hill.

I originally planned on going to Villeray. However, I had forgotten my backpack and camera in Park Ex the day before – this necessitated my going there first. Without this twist of fate I never would have come across this massive pile on Bloomfield south of Jarry. Inside these bags were tonnes of vintage women’s clothing, costume jewelry, books, ephemera, and old photographs. There was far too much for one person to properly look through, at least in the span of time and the circumstances given, so I texted some friends who lived nearby to come and check it out. One, who also had a car, was able to drop by. Thanks to her we were able to save a lot more than I would have been able to otherwise.

Overall, I spent about three hours looking through this stuff. We were lucky that this street was later in the trash collection route, all of this could easily have been taken away after only an hour.

We still have a lot of sorting to do but I can show you a few of my favourite finds.


Much of the jewelry doesn’t look to be too special but there are definitely a few nice pieces, including the three sterling silver rings in the back. The one on the right is familiar as I’ve found one exactly like it before. It’s an old Avon piece. My favourite though is the one on the left.

I also found a St Christopher medal. It came in a little leather pouch. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s made of silver as well, a lot of old religious medallions are.


This nursing license diploma dated 1921 is definitely one of my favourite finds. Everything we found in this pile was well organized and taken care of.


Another great thing about my finds here is that whoever owned them often left notes as to why the item was significant, or in the case of pictures a short description of who the person was. Inside this 1903 copy of “The Four Gospels Harmonized” was a note on which was written:

“Mumsie’s Gospel which she studied in the convent in Richmond – she often told me she had to stand & say it word for word.”

Oftentimes I have to guess at the meaning of the things I find. It’s nice to have a bit more knowledge this time. Knowing the story adds a bit of depth and richness to the finds.

Tomorrow I’m going to TMR, if not by car by bike, to see if I can find some more cool stuff there. I also have to spend some time sorting through and taking photos of the stuff my friend and I found today. Another post isn’t far away, I’m sure of that.

17 thoughts on “The undiscovered country”

  1. The thrill of the hunt! I think it’s so neat that you never know what comes next. The combination of your knowledge of the city and pure serendipity are fascinating!

  2. Nice haul today! Wow, can’t believe how much people just throw away, but then sometimes they just don’t have room for it. Looking forward to seeing more pics…and thanks for your smiling face up there..nice to put a pic to the posts 🙂

  3. Wow, I got winded just reading about all the places you got to! Such an adventurer! You’re getting some great cardio workouts with all this biking around points far (and hilly). Nice finds. That teapot is a beauty. I look forward to seeing it shined up. The blue dishes are lovely too. Great pic of you … with “Martini” Pizzeria behind you in the background … how fitting. 🙂 I see, looking in your bike trailer, that you’ve saved another plant from a frosty death. I think it’s a New Guinea impatiens.

  4. I always enjoy your blogs and I’m fascinated to see what treasure you will find next. That being said, I take issue with a couple of things above. First of all, the computers in the woods. You took something out of the disposal system and essentially dumped it. If they are still sitting there after 2 years, why not do the right thing and bring them to an ewaste facility? After all, they are only there spoiling our “green space” because you put them there. Secondly, taking letters out of the garbage. Whether they seem particularly personal to you or not, its not exactly something you can sell on etsy or ebay. I don’t see any motivation behind taking them other than pure voyeurism. I don’t think its right to take items like that.

    1. There have been a number of instances where collections of personal letters have been found, and these letters later becoming the basis of a book (sometimes fiction, sometimes non-fiction). The issue is intent, what you intend to do with the material you find. I know Martin’s intent is (and will always be) honorable, so I have no qualms about him salvaging this kind of material.

      I do agree with you on the issue of the computers, though.

      1. Sometime letters can also have real historical value. If the subject is a celebrity or had conversations with a celebrity it can have historical importance.

        A while ago I found a bag full of love letters from WWII. In my opinion these also have historical value. They are personal, but the persons are likely dead and only known to perhaps close family and friends. They are also offer a potentially amazing insight into times past.

        As for the computers, it’s definitely not ideal. However, my brain isn’t the most organized thing and this was an easy event for me to forget, then remember when in the area a year or so later only to forget about them again until Thursday. My forgetfulness, something that I had hoped to communicate in the story, perhaps didn’t come through. I suppose when I’m in the area again I could put them on the street and put up a “curb alert” for scrap metal or something.

        1. We have a collection of letters between my great grandmother & great grandfather that were sweethearts during WWI (not married yet). They mean a great deal to our family and we would never throw them away. But it would be wrong for an outsider to be reading them. My love of history is part of the reason I love your blog and seeing some of the vintage items you find. But sometimes it does seem to border on an invasion of privacy, I guess its difficult to draw that line. Sorry if I overreacted. But please don’t leave the pc’s in the woods, lol!

          1. It is a fine line indeed, that’s why I generally redact names when posting photos of old paper ephemera on the blog (unless of course it’s very old).

            I guess it doesn’t bother me because I look at it from a macro view. It’s not so much the individual people writing that interests me but the societal trends and stuff that these letters / ephemera often symbolize and the interesting stories that result.

            I doubt I’ll leave any computers in the forest going forward, haha. That was done a few years back now, long before I was a “professional”

  5. hey– luv your site.. I love going hunting also.. you never know .. what u can come up with..
    great hunting… take care

    1. Haha. Well maybe in the Prairies, I imagine going up hills with that thing would be hell. However, maybe with one of those bikes that you power an electric motor by pedalling it wouldn’t be so bad…

      1. sure nough, electric motor would do the trick.. Funny, thought of you right off.. and thought, well, he could go off for the day, stop for naps and lunch. maybe take a second person with, and you’se could trade off…grin

  6. I would have loved that old suitcase that was in the pile – I loved old suitcases – loved the smell when you open them. So many things you can do with old suitcases like a night stand table, storage for your out of season clothing.

    1. I might have taken it but the inside wasn’t in good shape. I also like old cases, they’re a great way to display stuff at yard sales to boot!

  7. hi martin, i read in one of your posts that you would like to have or find a straight razor.i have a beautiful one that belonged to my grandfather- it is in my possession since my father died over a year ago, and survived the great flood in calgary this summer. i appreciate your blog and would like for you to have it if you like- it is a rolls razor made in england, patent date 1927. michelle514-616-3411

    Date: Tue, 22 Oct 2013 21:26:41 +0000 To:

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