Ken Hunt’s Port Orange property is a neighborhood conversation piece.
Friends bring their visitors over to see it and ask him, “Where do you come up with this stuff?” Strangers stop to take pictures of it. Why is that?
The attraction is his certified wildlife habitat yard, which is a fascinating blend of “repurposed” metal artwork, winding walkways, colorful benches, native plants and all the living creatures attracted to it.
The property has “turtles” made from old shovels. A living turtle has been seen sunning himself atop one of the metal lookalikes. There are “bugs” made from old fire extinguishers, the cutting edges off old trimmers and other discarded metal objects that have outlived their former lives. No telling how many living bugs and other creatures explore these metal creations.
There are birds, both “flying” in trees and perched on the ground, made from numerous metal objects. There is an owl made from a shovel, garden trowels and a hoe guarding the garage. A mailbox nailed high in an old, spreading pig nut hickory tree is addressed to IB Squirrel, 5610 Nut Drive. No telling if a squirrel has ever checked for mail there, but squirrels, wild turkeys, raccoons and many varieties of birds have often visited his yard.
Once, a neighbor brought Mr. Hunt a bedpan as a challenge, saying “see what you can make out of this.”
That bedpan is now transformed into a “pan fish.” There is a pig made from an old propane tank, an alligator made from the chain off a concrete mixer truck, old metal bikes transformed into colorful flower planters, a bottle tree made from colorful old bottles. The visual delights go on and on as you stroll the yard.
Mr. Hunt walks the neighborhood and visits a variety of businesses for metal discards. Sometimes his neighbors, knowing his penchant for transforming metal objects into art, throw “discards” into his yard. He even has old bowling balls transformed into art, including a “one-eyed, one-horned flying purple people eater.” (Older readers might remember the song.) Other discarded, colorful bowling balls accent the walkways that wind through native plants.
Mr. Hunt also repurposes bicycles and donates them to Hub Bicycle in Port Orange or Spruce Creek High School, where they go to charity and Food Brings Hope. Sometimes he sells a used bicycle to buy parts to “repurpose” bikes before he donates them. He says his interest in old bikes started when his expensive aluminum bicycle was stolen years ago and he hunted for a “junker” to fix up and replace it.
Charity and volunteering have been a way of life for Mr. Hunt and his wife, Brenda, who is a Daytona Beach native. The childless couple formerly donated their time to Oceans of Hope as safety swimmers, helping special needs children learn to surf. This ended when Mr. Hunt developed a heart condition. He still volunteers at a sheep ranch in Port Orange, grinding feed for the animals. Ms. Hunt still works full time, but Mr. Hunt is an active retiree.
The tall, outgoing 69-year-old gentleman from Tennessee moved to Florida after teaching high school and a technical school in industrial arts (what else?). He then worked as an engineering technician for a company in DeLand, formerly Brunswick, now called Pall Corp.
Retired since he was 52, he has had plenty of free time to work with metal and transform it into art. Even the inside of the Hunt home illustrates this. For instance, a decorative former flour sifter full of metal flowers has a sign that says “Spring Flours.” A former sewing machine is now a miniature tractor.
To further indicate his penchant for repurposing, the couple has adopted a friendly cat named Farrah that was abandoned. The cat now rules the house and the yard, greeting every visitor to the property.
Mr. Hunt did work with bees, which started his interest in a certified wildlife habitat, but too much pesticide use in the area ended his bee hobby. He has been doing his “repurposed art” for almost 18 years, and doesn’t plan to stop anytime soon.
He says his wife is fascinated by it, but admits she “tolerates it.” Mostly Mr. Hunt enjoys bringing laughter to the neighborhood.