I don't think anything teaches one the art of recycling as well as living on a homestead. We do not have access to the trash pick up, recycling bins, or curb-side free-cycling conveniences our urban counterparts seemingly take for granted. I certainly took these for granted when I lived in an urban setting. Since moving to the country we've had to expand our recycling skills. This expansion of skills has overflowed into the garden and the barns.
Now that autumn has set in, our peas, cucumbers, spinach, lettuces, green beans,corn and melons have finished producing. Our tomatoes, peppers, and squashes are only a week or two away from being finished. Many urban gardeners will turn the spent foliage into the soil where it will breakdown and "feed" next year's production. However, out here on the farm we have a better solution.
We pull it up and place it in our wagon or tractor bucket and haul all the spent foliage out to the pasture for the goats and horses. As our pasture grasses dry out and turn brown in the autumn, this is a wonderful and perfect tasty green for the stock that now have to search for green foliage before our long winter sets in.
You may wonder if my livestock are eating the spent foliage from the garden, how then will I feed my garden soil? No, I will not use chemical fertilizers. Each spring when the stock is turned out to pasture, we must clean all the winter bedding out of the barn and we clean the hen house every spring and autumn. Hmm. what does one do with a ton of manure filled straw and hay? Recycle it, of course! I like to call this old bedding garden caviar. What I don't use for moisture / weed barrier between my garden rows during the summer is stored in the compost bins until it is spread over the bare garden and tilled in before spring planting. This rich organic fertilizer is unbeatable and has been the secret to the abundant harvests we enjoy each summer and autumn.
Since we don't have trash pick up, it is important for us to sort our household and barn trash into combustibles and non-combustibles. We, of course, burn the combustibles in a barrel and here's a list of many non-combustible (and sometime combustible) items we find ourselves regularly recycling.
- Scrap iron, tin (including cans from the kitchen), wire, aluminum, copper, etc. is loaded onto our flatbed trailer and sold to the scrap yard a couple times each summer. Note: different metals bring different values, so it is more profitable to sort the metals. Yes, they pay us to take our trash - How cool is that? Best of all, the scrap yard makes sure all the metals they take are recycled into new cars, new tin, new aluminum cans, copper tubing, etc.
- Sometimes we have corrugated tin that is in good enough shape to be re-used, we store it in our barn loft with other building materials. It is most often used to patch barn and other shelter roofs.
- Leftover pvc pipe, of all sizes, is added to the building materials stored in the barn loft. We will reuse this for all sorts of repairs and inventions. We've used it for uprights on the dog's kennel shade, to build weather proof mineral feeders, etc.
- Rotten wood is burned but sound wood regardless of size or type is stored. We've used wood scraps to build saddle racks, nesting boxes, patch walls & floors in the outbuildings, kidding / lambing cribs, livestock field shelters, etc.
- Wooden pallets are also stored and reused. We've used them to store feed, straw and alfalfa bales off the wet ground, to build livestock field shelters, kidding cribs, etc.
- Glass jars are washed, stored and reused year after year for home canning.
- Kitchen food scraps are fed to the chickens.
- 8.5 x 11 paper that has print on only one side is re-used for copy paper. In 12 years of home schooling, I've only purchased 3 reams of copy paper.
- Birthday, Christmas, thank you, get well, etc. cards are recycled into note cards or post cards and sent to loved ones.
- Textiles that are too worn or tattered to be donated to the re-sale shop are cut into quilt scraps or shop / barn rags.
- Steel pipe is stored and reused in pen repairs, trailer repairs, and other fabrication applications.
- Dryer lint is tossed into the compost bin(s).
- We try not to accumulate too many plastic grocery bags as they can be a serious choking hazard to grazing animals if the wind happens to blow them out into the pastures, but the ones we do have we use to line our smaller household trash cans.
- Plastic jugs and containers are often converted into feed scoops.
- Our mail is bundled with rubber bands - I haven't bought rubber bands in years.
- Feed sacks are stored and re-used for when we buy feed in bulk (1 ton at time). They also work for very sturdy and combustible trash bags for any combustible barn debris.
- Bailing twine is very strong and thus, it is indispensable. In addition to storing it on a shelf in our barn we also carry some in our vehicles. We never have to buy string or other types of twine.
- Old farm equipment has been turned into yard art and planters. I have two water trough planters and a wheel barrow planter. I've used a cast iron hand pump, a wagon wheel and an antique rake as art in my planters and flower beds.
- I've used twisted tree limbs and large rocks hauled in from the pastures as garden and flowerbed boarders.
- Great care is taken when removing hog panels and t-posts from the garden or barns. We store them and re-use them year after year.
Do you try to re-use and recycle? If so, please share your creative ideas in the comments section.