Editor’s Introductory Note: This article will prove to be instructive for anyone preparing for a grid-down societal collapse, where public services are disrupted.
Living off-grid, a 20-minute flight from the nearest road means not only that we receive no electricity, but also no municipal services at all, including those for disposal of garbage, trash, sewage, and gray water. So we have become very intentional about what we buy, make, and use, because we have to figure out how to dispose of or repurpose what remains.
The following are some examples of what we do with wood ash, packaging, vegetable and meat leftovers (including bones), animal and human waste, and construction debris. Some ideas are pertinent to suburban and urban homes, too.
As a fertilizer, wood ash reads 0-1-3 and softens acidic soil, which is exactly what our property needs. Hardwoods are higher in the desired nutrients than softwoods, according to the U of Oregon extension office. Do not use wood ash on potatoes or the related families of blueberries/azaleas/rhododendrons, which like acidic soil. I also toss it with the chicken straw in the coop
as a deodorizer. The hens seem to like to dust their feathers with it to discourage mites.
Kitchen and garden scraps can be fed to any of the animals (except citrus, potatoes, and onions) or trenched directly into gardens to enrich the soil. Some items work well in a compost tea or insect repellent. For example, sprays made from onion, garlic, red pepper, rhubarb, and tomato leaves repel many pests. Coffee and coffee grounds are best for acid-loving plants. In fact, the Botanical Garden in Anchorage plants its potatoes in pots filled only with coffee grounds scrounged from local coffee bars. Banana and orange peels deter aphids, deliver potassium, phosphorous, and some nitrogen. Great around roses. I also dry all citrus peels (orange, lemon, and lime) for use in cooking. Do you like Chinese orange chicken? It is prepared with dried orange or tangerine peel. Marmalades, anyone? My husband adds orange peel to his beer recipe. When I press berries through the food mill, I save the seedly pulp as a winter treat for the hens. They love it!
Eggshells deliver calcium – particularly important to tomatoes and squash and the poultry themselves (pulverized) and they deter slugs (but are safe for red wigglers in vermiculture). One winter, when we have fewer animals and frozen gardens, we kept red wigglers in the cabin and fed the excess vegetable matter to them, but now I have all these alternatives. I have not been successful with a compost pile.
All bones are made into soup stock, then offered to the poultry. After they have picked them clean, the bones are tossed into the fire box of the wood fired hot tub to burn to ash for the gardens (0-12-0 nutrients). (Burning bones smells bad, so I do not do so in our woodstove.) I cut up meat fat and chicken skin…
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