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Composting 30,000lbs of Food Waste -Ashley's Crazy Business and Homestead

 
Posts: 80
Location: British Columbia
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Hey there Permies!

After visiting Wheaton Labs, some of the Boots and Staff expressed interest in my small business and homesteading pursuits. On top of that, the community at Permies has been so amazing that I'm guessing that there would be a couple folks with some great ideas and valuable information to help push me in the right direction.

So a little information about me:
- Grew up in the Canadian Rockies
- I have no background in farming or gardening
- I'm 28
- I love chickens!

About 3 years ago I took a PDC on Salt Spring Island
I had just finished my University Career and I had no idea what I was doing with my life. I felt like the world around me was being burnt, mined, or deforested and that I was powerless to do anything about it. My friend suggested checking out of small town life and checking into a cute farmstead and learning about Permaculture. I fell in love instantly! It was what I had been looking for; I could use my degrees to actually do something, perform my own research and experiments, and spend my time outdoors.

Trailer Park Life
I came home from my PDC inspired to make an impact on my community, a crazy business plan... and about a dozen baby chicks. I showed up at my doorstep with a box of little peepers hoping my boyfriend would still let me in. He's never been a pet person, is not fond of cats or dogs, but it turns out he loves our feathered friends. I raised the chicks in our garage and backyard in secret until I was ready for my next plan of attack. Yes, I illegally raised chickens in secret in the middle of a trailer park.

My Money Making Scheme
So with a small loan from my Grandmother I set off to create a community composting business. I picked up compost once a week from a local restaurant for a monthly fee, I raised the chickens on borrowed land in exchange for eggs, and used the chickens to "process" the compost. I live in serious bear country so I though I could reduce the likelihood of creating an attractant by having chickens process the compost. That, and the fact I had no access to heavy machinery so I thought they would help turn the piles. Little did I know I was actually storing carbon and locking away nutrients in the chickens and eggs.

Broilers and Egg Layers
I started with one business the first year and moved onto 5 in the second. I was picking up compost twice a week for a monthly fee that was 50% higher than the previous year. I had a lot more compost so I was worried that the handful of egg layers I had wouldn't cut it so I started raising broilers. I used the broilers during my "Summer Program" and I brought home the compost in the winter for my layers (I only picked up from one business in the winter as an experiment to see if I could pull it off in -20C). I paid someone to process my broilers so I had a freezer full of meat for myself and my family. I was producing enough eggs to sell a couple dozen every week.

Getting my own Land
I was having a hard time investing in my home and yard when I didn't actually own the land. In the small town that I grew up in land prices have sky rocketed as it has become a super trendy ski and bike destination. I didn't want to leave my home time but I just couldn't afford to live there. I found land just 20 minutes out of town...AND IT WAS THE BEST CHOICE EVER! The micro climate here is much warmer (not deep in a valley so we have way more daylight hours and a longer growing season) and the land was half the price. We have a cute half acre of land with a glorified mobile home but we no longer had to raise our chicks in secret and could keep our layers at home full-time. That, and the property came with 14 fully established fruit trees (apples, pears, plums, AND CHERRIES!) as well as an established garden and lots of other perennials. The property needed some serious love but we were happy to be the one to give it the affection it deserved.

30,000lbs of Food Waste
So how much food waste do I "compost" in a year? About 30,000 lbs. Just little ole me and my old Ford truck. I now raise two rounds of broilers in the Summer for a total of 120 birds. This Summer I obtained my poultry licence so I process the birds myself and sell them locally. I have 6 restaurants as part of my composting program and I do educational presentations at the local schools on "Food Cycles". I have way more layers than I could ever want (but that's a different story...) and I sell my eggs as part of a monthly program. This is on top of working a handful of other jobs while I figure out how to make my business pay the bills. I think I'm getting closer...

Market Garden
I have now partnered with a new land owner in order to start a market garden next Summer. I plan to sell produce and eggs at the local farmers market in order to get my feet under me, with my long term goal of selling directly back to the restaurants that I pick up from in order to complete the "Food Cycle".

Getting Better
I know I have a long way to go but here are my goals for my business and homestead:

  • Using Zero Commercial Feed
  • - My birds free range and have oodles of compost but still I supplement with commercial feed. It's an 'organic' feed but dam it is expensive. I would like to start creating a food forest and finding other creative ways to feed my flock while making bank.

  • NO PLASTIC!
  • - My businesses biggest weakness for being sustainable is the use of plastic liners in the bins that I use for picking up the compost. I 6 business that each get 4 bins that I pick up twice a week, thats up to 48 plastic bags a week! EW! I've tried biodegradable/compostable back but I've had no success in composting them myself. I've tried using a pressure washer and have successfully blasted compost back at my face at 100 miles/hour; that and I have to use a generator to pump the water for pressure washer and I have limited access to water. I would love to find a solution to this problem for next Summer. On top of that I still get so much small bits of plastic in the compost that I pick up because kitchen staff can't seem to invest the time to throw away sticks and tags as well as the little bits of plastics from other produces.

  • Produce Oodles of Food!
  • - I love the idea of producing as much food as I can for myself and community. I would like to document my progress. I am not a natural green thumb but I'm eager to learn. Luckily for me, the new land owner I'm partnering with is a permie and has way more experience! I'm stoked to work with her to improve food sovereignty in our community.

  • Build a Rocket Mass Heater
  • - Our home is very cute and rustic... and cold as hell. Our goal is to insulate around the base of our home and then put in a rocket mass heater. We are going to practice by building a rocket oven in our yard first. Then I can bake bread in the summer outside when it's 42C out!

  • Infect Young Brains
  • - I love teaching kids! I'd love to develop an educational program that is primarily outdoors.

  • Homestead & Grow Food Full Time
  • - THIS IS THE DREAM! I'm currently working 6 jobs this winter so I can save up a bit of money so I can go full force with trying to have a successful market garden and composting business next year. I'm finding having so many jobs pulls my attentional all over the place when all I want to do is Permie stuff. The more I work the less food prep, house work, gardening, and reading I do which really ends up costing me more money. I also want to decease our living expenses so we don't have to make as much.

  • Get Some PEP in my Step
  • - Use the PEP program as a self-guided learning tool... and go bug the crew at the Lab again to gain more skills (especially when they require heavy equipment).

    I will do my best to document my journey here. My boyfriend has also expressed interest in helping my start a vlog (he does videography). Hopefully my journey can inspire others, or at least provide some entertainment!

    I know I have a ton of room for improvement so please send your critiques and comments my way. If you have any questions or would like me to explain something in more detail please let me know!

    Here are some photos of the 'farm' and homestead, hope you enjoy!



    -
    36161207_196730657712209_1877702114889695232_n.jpg
    [Thumbnail for 36161207_196730657712209_1877702114889695232_n.jpg]
    A good example of what kind of compost I get from the restaurants.
    38202176_2175373032734222_6051085041428070400_n.jpg
    [Thumbnail for 38202176_2175373032734222_6051085041428070400_n.jpg]
    Inside the chicken coop (now for broilers). I've since gone to a deep mulch system
    43772863_554663411623836_4838467921798305756_n.jpg
    [Thumbnail for 43772863_554663411623836_4838467921798305756_n.jpg]
    Hens sunbathing by the house
    51495956_175964420035377_3346805789591927011_n.jpg
    [Thumbnail for 51495956_175964420035377_3346805789591927011_n.jpg]
    Winter composting - I use pallets to containing things. The ladies love the heat from it.
    52509194_257394025181100_2777113415373227324_n.jpg
    [Thumbnail for 52509194_257394025181100_2777113415373227324_n.jpg]
    Artsy fartsy egg photo
    Me-picking-up-compost-in-Truck-Truck-.jpg
    Me picking up compost in 'Truck Truck'
    Me picking up compost in 'Truck Truck'
    The-HOMEstead.jpg
    The HOMEstead
    The HOMEstead
    Chickens-run-the-show-here-.jpg
    Chickens run the show here!
    Chickens run the show here!
    Automatic-solar-coop-door-for-off-site-broilers-is-a-life-saver-for-me-.jpg
    Automatic, solar, coop door for off site broilers is a life saver for me!
    Automatic, solar, coop door for off site broilers is a life saver for me!
     
    master pollinator
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    It looks like a really neat business to be in.

    If you get some good video of the process you may be able to get something on YouTube or elsewhere to generate a little more income. Seems like something that would get a million hits.
     
    gardener
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    I am applauding as i am reading your story. Great job. I have the same automatic chicken door. It has done well for me.
     
    steward
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    Awesome business and beautiful HOMEstead!

    Do you know about Edible Acres youtube channel?  He composts restaurant scraps with 60 hens and has a real system to move the food through.  He uses some organic grains that the mill nearby scoops up off the floor (cheap)

    Here's a permies thread on it: Edible Acres-"Chickens making compost videos"
     
    pollinator
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    Awesome. Congratulations on your achievements.

    I feel like there is probably a way to ditch those liners involving investing in more water capacity, and then tinkering with a custom wand/sprayhead for the pressurewasher so that the geometry of the situation is greatly improved... ie, the bin is angled so that escaping stuff goes down and away relative to you...

    Running a gennie sucks, I had to do that this summer. Just now getting close to running the pond pump on solar...

    I wonder if a heavy duty paper liner would be adequate to keep at least the sides of the bins clean?
     
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    Great enterprise! Thanks for sharing. My internet does not allow me to watch the videos, but the description is great.
    Would you have a market for ducks? I think their stomach can handle more feed than chicken.

    About plastic bags:

    Steel buckets are easyer to clean, but waaaay more expensive, and heavier.

    To clean the buckets: you knot the setup they have in bars to clean the beer glasses? You could build the same in XXXXL, then the water and compost does not plaster your face. A pipe, holes all around, a switch you can action with the feet, and there you go, clean buckets in a few seconds.

    All the best for your enterprises!
     
    Ashley Cottonwood
    Posts: 80
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    Thanks for the link Mike! Some good ideas to play around with for next season!

    I love the concepts about cleaning out the bins with water... but I would have to still get access to water. My new location allows me enough to have irrigation for a market garden but the well has a low flow rate so they are very cautious about not over taxing it.

    I think in mean time I will experiment with heavy duty paper bags. They usually leak liquid but I can wipe that out, it's when you have rice plastered to the sides that it feels like you spend all day cleaning. The downside as usual is the price but I can always try and up my rates.

    Steel buckets would be easier to clean but I would have to provide a lot of them for the amount of compost I already pick up. Investing in the bins I currently have has been a significant portion of the total capital I've into the infrastructure for my business. The weight also starts to wear me down. The plastic buckets I use are 12 gallons and can weight up to 70 lbs each depending on how full of cooked rice they are...

    I would love to have ducks! I hear processing ducks are a pain in the but though. Something I want to look into for sure.  
     
    pollinator
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    Check out black soldier flies.  With that much food trash coming into your system and that many chickens, they might be a valuable addition if your climate proves amenable, at least in the summer.  They will convert stuff the birds can't eat themselves, as well as at least some of their manure, back into chicken feed!  Coffee grounds are a particular favorite, which I don't think chickens eat themselves.
     
    Ashley Cottonwood
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    Alder Burns wrote:Check out black soldier flies.  With that much food trash coming into your system and that many chickens, they might be a valuable addition if your climate proves amenable, at least in the summer.  They will convert stuff the birds can't eat themselves, as well as at least some of their manure, back into chicken feed!  Coffee grounds are a particular favorite, which I don't think chickens eat themselves.


    That would be awesome because I get a TON of coffee grounds!
     
    pollinator
    Posts: 333
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    Mike Jay wrote:Awesome business and beautiful HOMEstead!

    Do you know about Edible Acres youtube channel?  He composts restaurant scraps with 60 hens and has a real system to move the food through.  He uses some organic grains that the mill nearby scoops up off the floor (cheap)

    Here's a permies thread on it: Edible Acres-"Chickens making compost videos"



    Also check out what Karl Hammer at Vermont Compost is doing. There's a few videos, one by Justin Rhodes
    , another by Geoff Lawton
    , and Compost Junkie


    Alder Burns wrote:Check out black soldier flies.  With that much food trash coming into your system and that many chickens, they might be a valuable addition if your climate proves amenable, at least in the summer.  They will convert stuff the birds can't eat themselves, as well as at least some of their manure, back into chicken feed!  Coffee grounds are a particular favorite, which I don't think chickens eat themselves.



    Compost worms (aka red worms, eisenia fetida) also like coffee grounds.
     
    Kenneth Elwell
    pollinator
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    I was doing something very close to your model, just composting (no chickens), similar volume.
    Using 5 gallon pails, 2-3 pickups a week, average of 20 pails per week.

    TAKE CARE OF YOUR BACK!
    I stopped after a year due to back and shoulder problems, not related, and yet also not unrelated...

    I found the pressure washer to be the same trouble. A garden hose actually worked better, as did just swirling some water in the pail and reusing it in the next one, next one, next...

    What really worked however, was a brush and a 3-bay sink. Soak, wash, rinse. This saved water, and since it was indoors and warm, it made the Winter time possible.
    I had plans in my mind for a rotating brush-in-a-sink but the 3-bay wasn't that slow really.

    As you already know, a fleet of containers is key! Always having clean, empty ones ready makes a HUGE difference.

    Keep after the kitchen staff, sometimes they will respond, especially if they understand what you are doing and how they can help. Otherwise to them it's just a different garbage can.
     
    Mike Jay Haasl
    steward
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    If you ever do go to round buckets (5 gallon), a related solution is what the maple syrup people use to clean their buckets.  A big bristle brush on a shaft that you chuck up in a drill.  The brush is the same size as the entire interior of the bucket.  So you put some water in there, hold it with your feet and give it a spin with the brush.

    Their buckets are smaller (3 gallons?) but the idea may hold merit.  They also sometimes take a top load washing machine and replace the agitator with a brush.  Don't use it as a washing machine, just have it spin the brush so you can lower the bucket on it to scrub it out.
     
    Ashley Cottonwood
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    Hey Kenneth, Karl hammer was actually the guy who inspired me to try my business! I just love how happy the hens look scratching!

    Also looking after my back has been an interesting journey. I'm 5'2 and 130 lbs lifting bins up into a big old F250. I've started going to the gym (in the winter) specifically to train in weight lifting. It's helped a lot! Still I do need to be conscious of having ergonomic movements. I dump out the bins from the back of the truck by backing right up to the compost area and tipping them off of the side of the truck. The bins have handles on the bottom of them which make it way easier (also prevents me from accidentally chucking a bin at a chicken).

    Mike I really like the idea of a brush powered by a drill. I'll have to look into that on as well. I'm not sure which would more efficient/less impactful?

    A) Using power tools or pressurized water so that I don't have to use disposable liners

    B) Using disposable liners (something I can actually compost) and wipe them out by hand which uses less water and only me power.

    Both, however, would be time efficient so thats cool!

     
    Kenneth Elwell
    pollinator
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    Ashley, I was planning to use BioBags last winter, hoping to both cut down on cleanup and time spent out in the cold getting the pails emptied. I didn't ever get around to trying, both for not wanting to have to buy something  and spending the money I was having trouble collecting!
    I also thought that just a paper grocery sack might be enough, since it's never being "lifted' out of the pail and carried, just tipped out off the truck. The fit is not great though, and I don't get 20 of them per week... maybe I could've saved them up all year just for wintertime use?

    I found a few things to be a real hassle: a sticky glob of wet flour or dough, the cut end of a fruit or vegetable "suction-cupped" to the pail, and the cakes of coffee sludge at the bottom of the pail.
    Just about when I stopped, I stumbled upon a curved trowel for scooping/scraping drywall joint compound out of the pails. I got one, but again haven't tried it out.

    A long time ago (10 years?!) I used BioBags for a while and found two things out.
    One, there's a lot of sizes, and the inch dimensions and some math are more helpful than the "gallon" rating of the bag. They don't stretch like a petroleum plastic bag will to fit the rim. If they aren't over the rim (and held there), they either slide down or off to one side, and the goods don't make it into the bag. useless.
    Two, to compost the bags I found it better to dump out or tear the bags (to avoid anaerobic blobs) and while the bags did break down it took time buried in a HOT pile. Keeping the bags in the pile was part of the trouble too. Wind would blow them around easily (luckily just into my fence) and so every now and then I'd have to wrangle them and rebury them.
     
    pollinator
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    > plastic

    Maybe consider if plastic may actually be the right material for the bins. Sometimes we demonize a word and miss the important details. Much of the plastics problem derives from it's use in mast distribution of one time use products, whence it is discarded, much of it ending up in nature. This is bad and we should and slowly are trying to change industry habits which should make a big difference.

    However, that's not what you're doing. You're permanently reusing plastic bins for a job in which they are, hands down, the most effective solution (as I understand what you've related here). Using the most effective solution saves other inputs. Finding a better way to do things, more effective ways, is a good thing. Monitoring the results and affects of our choices is important. And it is also important not to go lazy with our thinking and just simplify to make it easy to talk about. Not all plastic is destroying the world. Anymore than any other waste or by product dumped thoughtlessly in unimaginably huge quantity. Too much of anything in the wrong place is bad. You can drown in drinking water.

    There is no one ticket to heaven. Painting huge swaths black or white does not make for effective and fair and true decisions or even thought. When one makes decisions, one really needs to consider the whole and the pros/cons and the greyness - even though it's not as quick, easy and cathartic.

    I haven't done plastic bin research. There's work to do here. But my sense is that there are many things for which plastic really _is_ the best material. So perhaps take another look at the pros and cons?

    Another question: What is the value you provide to your compost customers? Is it all in the removal or is it also (how much?) in CLEANING their garbage bins for them? The question might matter because much of your input to the biz is your labor and much of that is heaving bins around and washing them out. You need to reduce your physical labor if possible because it's very very costly in a few ways - your time, your energy and your medical bills. Now there's a couple ways to cut this cost (at least to your person). To reduce the heavy lifting, might it make sense to buy a small dump-bed pickup or put a dump-bed on the one you have? Then just empty the bins over the side into the bed, toss the bins back at the customer and let them wash their own damn bins... ! <g> Or, if you do have to wash them, throw the empty bins onto a bracket on the front bumper or the top of  the cab. Empty bins are a lot lighter... You see why I started out asking  what exactly you are selling your customers. And then back the dumper up where you want it and... dump. Squeegee out the bed and hit it with chemicals (if you want) and spray it out. Again, examine the details - maybe a 500 gal tank of some kind of water (doesn't have to be drinkable) along with a high pressure pump (may not have to be a pressure washer) is really a most appropriate way to deal with this type of job.

    Or. Open that spreadsheet and see what it costs to use local labor to do the job you're doing personally right now. Compare that with using a dump truck. Maybe it makes more sense to "pay" your customers to wash their own bins - because they can do it cheaper than you can (but that only applies if you have a bulk carrier). I suspect that right now your business is sort of "unofficial" meaning that you're finessing stuff like insurance and avoiding workmans comp (U.S. term - don't know what you call in Canada) and a few other things that make overhead a real headache for all business. Also, licenses and inspections and that whole lot. If so, I'm sure you're planning on going legitimate someday;  I'd encourage you to not delay longer than absolutely necessary. I would not be quite so forward with most people, but (see below) you seem like you might be bigger than you appear and so can take on the whole shebang.

    Oh, and at a guess, at some point you'll be up for more land and a loader of some kind. At what point?

    What brings this stuff to my mind is this: Reading your story above shows me somebody with a great deal of drive, organizational skill, ideas and a flair for presentation. Using that person as a laborer doesn't seem like the best business decision medium term, much less long term. Well, maybe you're already noodling this for all it's worth. If so just consider this a shout of encouragement. <G>

    One more suggestion while I'm on a roll. Long time ago I took an "entrepreneur's class" at the Renaissance Center in San Francisco. Really a course in how to think about and prepare and move on a small business venture. 8(?) weeks, 3 hours twice a week, homework, real actual effort required. $500 at the time, likely $1200 now and totally worth it. I got stuff that I would never have understood for years and  years. Maybe there's something in your area.


    Cheers,
    Rufus
     
    gardener
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    Love what your doing, very inspiring!

    The paper bag liners is a good suggestion,  but they do have a cost.
    I wonder if there is a free way to line the buckets.
    Woodchips or sawdust could cover the bottom, could cardboard line the sides?
    Getting cardboard  to line the sides would probably take more effort  than it would save.

    At the commercial kitchen I have volunteered at,  we cleaned compost buckets in the industrial dish washer.
    How can we duplicate that in a cheesy(cheap/easy)way?

    What if we took a barrel half full of water,  put a removable  grate,covered with fine mesh, over the top, a pump in the bottom and a nozzel from the pump just above the mesh, pointing skyward?
    Invert a compost bucket over the nozzel and trigger the pump(a foot operated switch would be good).
    A spray of water cleans the bucket, the rinse falls down onto the  mesh covered grate and the water returns to the barrel,  a little funkier,  but still usable.
    Clear the mesh of detritus when needed.
    The idea is to conserve water and avoid getting sprayed in the face, but this design would still need power.
     
    Ashley Cottonwood
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    I found a few things to be a real hassle: a sticky glob of wet flour or dough, the cut end of a fruit or vegetable "suction-cupped" to the pail, and the cakes of coffee sludge at the bottom of the pail.  


    Kenneth: Yes! Dough is the worst! One of the places I pick up for is a bagel shop!

    They don't stretch like a petroleum plastic bag will to fit the rim.


    Kenneth: Yes I have played around with one brand and they seemed to tear on a regular basis. However, that could be okay if it meant that I avoided gobs of dough stuck to the side and just had to pour out some liquid.

    to compost the bags I found it better to dump out or tear the bags (to avoid anaerobic blobs) and while the bags did break down it took time buried in a HOT pile


    Kenneth: This is good to know because I've had no luck in breaking them down so far but I also I have my piles go anaerobic because I get layers of paper towel that don't get ripped up by the chickens. I think I have a solution for that this year.

    Maybe consider if plastic may actually be the right material for the bins. Sometimes we demonize a word and miss the important details. Much of the plastics problem derives from it's use in mast distribution of one time use products, whence it is discarded, much of it ending up in nature.


    Rufus: I do like the bins I have and I would like to find a solution for them. I like them because they are easy to clean by hand, they are built so that they don't crack in cold weather (high grade plastic), and the have handles exactly where you need handles.

    These are the bins I use.


    So the down side is that it's a 12 gallon container... so when it's full of rice (I pick up from a curry place) it can be real heavy. I was thinking of putting a "reminder" sticker on them that said something like "Remember, a short person has to lift these into a truck". That and a sticker on the top with a chicken saying "NO PLASTIC PLEASE! DONT MAKE ME SICK".  

    Another downside is finding a compostable liner in that size that won't split because there is enough volume to make it an issue. The BioBags I would like to try are $0.70 CAD per bag. That means I'm spending $33 a week on bags. I charge $185/month per business. That means that 12% of my operational costs would go to bin liners alone... YIKES!

    Again, I would love to figure out a cleaning system but water is so limited for me. I will keep playing around with all these great ideas though.
     
    gardener
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    Ashley, I am so looking forward to following your chicken experiments! Thank you for starting a thread!
     
    Kenneth Elwell
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    Ashley - One more SUPER IMPORTANT THING! Those are some nice bins you have there, it'd be a shame if something happened to them...
    DON'T ever leave your bins full at your end if you can help it. (like overnight to deal with it in the morning/daylight)
    Maybe your chickens make for a different scenario, but I had trouble with wildlife... sometimes raccoons, but mainly squirrels and maybe rats?(eek.) CHEWING THEIR WAY INTO THE BUCKETS, especially if I left them overnight.
    I got my pails for free, and it still made me angry. I don't think I'd like how I'd feel if I had paid for nice ones like yours.

    I love the idea for the chicken sticker on the lid of the bin! It's both a good reminder for the staff, and it helps if they get new staff and forget to train them fully.
    It could be fun if the chickens were all different (maybe even a B&W base sticker, and like a coloring book, you could color in as different varieties)

    Rufus - The issue with NO PLASTIC not about the bins. It's the ongoing expense and hassle of the plastic liners.
     
    Rufus Laggren
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    What Kenneth said: Don't leave bins out with stuff inside.

    Squirrels go through the corners of the lid in about 10 minutes around here. Walk down an alley at sunrise and throw something at a bin and see 2-3 squirrels shoot out the holes in the top...  Designs matter and some lids last longer. But the little buggers are fantastically stubborn and ingenious. They are a formidable threat.

    Those are not small bins. It may be worth the effort to put a crane on your pickup with a jig that will fit the lift points (I can't see both sides, but I bet there are lifting points on that bin) and accept a hook. I don't have a particular design in mind, but the size and quantity you're handling as one person alone (?) could make mechanizing the process worth it, even just counting pennies. The truck bed can probably easily take whatever you come up with. For example, a simple vertical post at the rear corner of the bed, about 3' tall above the side of the bed, with a 7' cross arm centered on the top; the thing will swivel. That will give about 3'+ of lift at one end of the pole by pulling down on other end. Maybe the pole s/b 8' or maybe the post s/b taller...

    Or a lot of things. But it looks to me like there s/b and needs to be and can be a way to schlep those bins w/out using your back. You're about 120# maybe, so that means that with no mechanical advantage, plus or minus, on that cross piece you can lift about 80#+ on the end of it just by pulling down on the other end. Chinning yourself is a _lot_ easier on your back than lifting stuff. Add 2-3' of webbing strap on "your" end of the pole so it hangs down letting you reach it when the pole is higher and you can lift higher and start to give yourself some mechanical advantage by lengthening the pole. Maybe get up to 100# gross capacity with 4' lift. Or use electrics, a small winch. The truck system should be able to handle momentary draws of 40-80 amps when the load is wired up right.

    That's just a simple WildAssGuess at a design. I bet there are things like that sold already. You can't be the first with this type of job. Some old farm guy here may have seen just the thing. The system will take thought and tweaking and reworking before you find a good groove that can work faster than just heaving the bins in. That's part of the process. But this is something that gets done hundreds of times a month, thousands of time a year. It's worth something making the process easier, faster, safer, gentler on the bins... Any little improvement multiplies over thousands of repetitions. And then if it saves you _one_ back injury in the next 10 years, _that_ is almost priceless.

    Regards,
    Rufus
     
    hans muster
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    Hi,
    another idea, based on the cardboard: why don't you use newspaper? If you line neswpaper on the inside, it would catch the dough and sticky rice as long as it isn't too wet.
    The color isn't that bad anymore, plant based (soy, not the healthiest, but if composted not too worried) as far as I know.
    There are different types of biodegradable tape sold, which would help the newspaper not ending up in the bottom.

    Would be way cheaper than the bought paper bags, which are by the way also sometimes made of recycled newspaper.
     
    Ashley Cottonwood
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    hans muster wrote:Hi,
    another idea, based on the cardboard: why don't you use newspaper? If you line neswpaper on the inside, it would catch the dough and sticky rice as long as it isn't too wet.



    It's a good idea, and I can experiment with it, but it does boil down to time. To line 12 bins four times a week would add a lot of time to my work load. But it may be work it if I don't have to buy expensive bags.

    I was also thinking a fold out ramp may help with loading bins. They have wheels so I could just roll them up instead.

     
    Dillon Nichols
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    I think the person-powered pivot-crane has a lot of potential!

    A slight counterweight on the person end, say 15-20lbs, would boost lift capacity, (hopefully) without making it much more awkward to use...

    Mostly it would be pretty simple to make... but what would be good options for the swivel at the base?
     
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    We do a similar thing on a *much* smaller scale. I have a bunch of square 15 liter buckets in the rotation and I just use a spray nozzle on a garden hose for cleaning, wearing rubber gloves which allows me to do a little scrubbing, and occasionally a more significant scrubbing with a cloth. I try to do this where I'm dumping, so the water benefits the compost. Veggie scraps can quickly turn into a slimy mess, but luckily I have access to some horse manure to help that.
    I agree with all the people suggesting you look for ways to stream-line, protect your back, and label the bins in an effort to keep out the unwanted, but the people I met locally doing similar to you, found cutlery, small dishes, and all manner of non-digestible things in their bins!
    Your folding ramp may protect your back, but I'm guessing that some sort of a rope and pulley would actually be faster and less effort over all. It will be interesting to read future reports on how you change that part of your operation!

    On the liner issue, I have trouble identifying exactly what those bags decompose into - if it's just micro-plastic, that's no real gain - and I definitely read that you need serious composting mojo to make it happen. If your goal is to feed chickens, I'm not sure a really hot compost is your best approach, as you're looking to attract lots of worms and bugs. My "warm" composts turn into worm orgies, but when I occasionally actually manage a "hot" compost, the work is all at the micro-organism level and there aren't many visible bugs. So determining your goals will affect these decisions also.

    good luck whatever approaches you try...
     
    Ashley Cottonwood
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    Seems like everyone likes the person powered crane/pulley system ... it's just intimidating for me because I'm not a very good 'builder'. I'm definitely on the growie side of things. Any YouTube or other articles to give a visual example of what you're thinking of (Rufus?)
     
    Jay Angler
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    Ashley, do you have access to anyone who welds?
     
    Ashley Cottonwood
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    Jay Angler wrote:Ashley, do you have access to anyone who welds?


    I do have a friend who learned to weld so he could build a shipping container house. I'm sure my Dad has welder friends (he works in construction).
     
    Ashley Cottonwood
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    Here is me, teaching 60 grade 3 kids (8 & 9 years old) about the difference between a linear food system, a food cycle, and permaculture (Food Ecosystem). To be honest I think I lost them with the permaculture section as it was "too complicated". I will reform my presentation. Romeo was a hit though. The kids where awesome!

    I have a presentation coming up as part of the new "Zero Waste" initiative in my community. I'll see if I can get my boyfriend to record it. I think it also counts as a BB!

    Edit: I have permission to use these photos from both of the grade 3 classes seen here. The teachers have special permission slips so any family that does not want their child publicized do not appear in any of these photos. These photos where given to me with permission to publish to support my business.
    My-awesome-doodles-.jpg
    My awesome doodles!
    My awesome doodles!
    Explaining-the-Three-Sisters-companion-planting..jpg
    Explaining the Three Sisters companion planting.
    Explaining the Three Sisters companion planting.
    Kids-love-Romeo-.jpg
    Kids love Romeo!
    Kids love Romeo!
     
    Dillon Nichols
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    I wonder if a simpler option might be possible.. Inspired by how one loads a big freezer into a truck alone... get it vertical, against the back of the tailgate or box... then pull the top down into the truck and the bottom will pivot up... if the bed is low enough. Or lift the bottom, and as you get off vertical the weight of the top will help lift the bottom to horizontal.


    So, to do this with a bin the bin would need to not pop open. If there is no way to secure the lid, this seems iffy.


    But that being said, you would just need a rigid frame, with a pivot point at the back of the truck. Rotate it tonvertical and the bottom with a platform would be near the ground. Place bin on platform.

    Climb up into truck, using a step on the other side of the rear of truck.

    Top of pivot-rack would be up by your head. Pull down and towards you; lock into a springloaded catch on truck. Bin ends up lying on its back; tip upright and slide to front of truck..

    Bonus; a decent welder could build this pivot-rack as a folding dolly, I bet!
     
    Kenneth Elwell
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    Ramps are useful for loading other things besides your bins. So, not a bad investment to get more from your truck in lots of ways.
    If you go this route, make sure you get/make ramps with good traction (stamped metal with grippy teeth, or use some traction tape, or grit mixed into paint). Mine are bare wood, and get slippery when wet or snowy.
    They do take up space to use them, however, like almost  a second parking spot behind the truck. Not so good if your customers are in a congested area, and you are parallel parking. (This was the case for me)

    There are pickup sized liftgates, which require less space behind the truck, and would lift a bunch of bins at once. It's an off-the-shelf solution (probably expensive? but check Craiglslist or salvage yards...)
     
    Kenneth Elwell
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    I found this on a local composting service's site:
    blackearthcompost.com
    They use the same Orbis bins you have for their residential service. They suggest the customer use their own paper grocery sacks, or buy the compostable plastic liners (which they sell).
    It seems they leave the cleanliness of the bins (and the cost of liners) to the (residential) customer, by dumping out the bin into the truck and leaving it at the curb (rather than replacing with a clean empty bin.)
    They are using a dumping truck bed, so their management for unloading is different, and they are just composting, not feeding...

    I didn't have time to look for the video, but back when he started in 2011, the founder made his own Toter Bin tipper for emptying the big wheelie bins into his truck.
     
    Dillon Nichols
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    Kenneth Elwell wrote:Ramps are useful for loading other things besides your bins. So, not a bad investment to get more from your truck in lots of ways.
    If you go this route, make sure you get/make ramps with good traction (stamped metal with grippy teeth, or use some traction tape, or grit mixed into paint). Mine are bare wood, and get slippery when wet or snowy.
    They do take up space to use them, however, like almost  a second parking spot behind the truck. Not so good if your customers are in a congested area, and you are parallel parking. (This was the case for me)

    There are pickup sized liftgates, which require less space behind the truck, and would lift a bunch of bins at once. It's an off-the-shelf solution (probably expensive? but check Craiglslist or salvage yards...)




    A fullsize is usually pretty tall, esp. if 4wd. I've needed to use pretty long ramps, for it to seem safe.. a lot of length needed, and not super quick to use.

    An unwanted wheelchair lift from a former retirement home minibus is probably the most affordable replacement for a proper liftgate. But, pretty bloody cumbersome blocking the back of your truck the rest of the time. I have one waiting for a project.. it is HEAVY, two strong guys can just barely lift it.. and it would need to be very well attached.. not something to throw in the truck only for compost runs. A proper liftgate would be even heavier!

    I think a manual crane or rotating lever-type lift is going to be far simpler, and far less in the way!
     
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    Nice thread. When I collected food scraps and veggies from a couple food coops and some restaurants I used my old Mercedes 240D running on veggie oil and a $600 trailer from Lowe’s that I also used for hauling lots of materials for building. The trailer was very low to the ground and fairly easy to load and unload. I just dumped the buckets or trash cans of food into my trailer and left the containers. They sometimes did get kinda gross looking but not too bad as they got hosed out. If the food scraps were in cardboard boxes I would use the cardboard for my sheet mulching. Hosing out the trailer was easy. It started getting more and more competitive to get oil for fuel and food scraps to compost but it went great for over a year. I kinda miss it and composting. I’m considering designing a bug farm next.
     
    Rufus Laggren
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    Ashley

    Maybe just a simple pick up crane with a pulley and line and a jig or some system to quickly hook to your bin. These cranes are very common on pickup that actually are used for work. The tilt crane I tried to describe earlier might lift bigger loads quicker and position the easier if it all comes together, but maybe that's not your real issue. A little itty bitty jib crane may be easier to get together and just do what you want it to.

    Here's a link showing the concept. It's cheap but not necessarily exactly what you're looking for. You want to consider carefully, starting with the mounting, from the pov of quick/easy mounting and removal, adequate stability, convenient position on the truck, can it remain mounted while you travel, does it work well and survive your environment w/little to no repair hassle for a year, is it easy and natural for you to use. A little thought time is usually worth it because it's easier to change your mind than your metal, sorta speak.

    https://www.amazon.com/Viking-Solutions-Rack-Jack-4x4/dp/B077SLHW9F/ref=sr_1_3?dchild=1&keywords=pickup+crane&psc=1&qid=1570504006&s=hi&sr=1-3

    You don't need much, if any power multiplication, so  one pulley on the end of the crane to run a line through and a jig to grab the bin quick'n'secure may be all you need. If the pulley (on the end of the crane) is positioned well, and high enough, the crane may not even need to move/swivel. Swiveling is nice sometimes, but there needs to be a lock that prevents swiveling that _works_, easy and always; this adds complexity on many levels but it may be worth it because even then the whole thing is still pretty simple.

    The cranes I saw available in a quick search were mostly way more than you need, so cross off 99% of them. Even the el-cheapo I linked to above has a lot more capacity than you really need. Clearly, capacity is not your real concern here - it's more what design comes together and fits your needs. An experienced welder who has worked on _all_ types of machines would be able to make or modify for you whatever you need without ever breaking a sweat. If you find an el-cheapo that has a plausible mount or something else to recommend it, it could be the starting point. Then you work with it and find what's really needed and get it modified to suit. That's usually how these things go.

    Were me, I would look at the back of your truck bed sides. Most PU beds have "slots" forged into their top edge designed to hold vertical 2x4's. Your needs are very light, at the moment, so using the rear 2x4 hole, maybe modifying it slightly, to mount a small crane might be more than adequate; say up to about 150-200# payload and easy mounting. I think the right size "square tube" (steel) would fit the 2x4 hole properly and the rest of it is easy. You might even use 2x4 wood to scab together something like a crane, put a pulley on the end and see if it looked at all useful; the crane would be fixed, not move, but that would be fine to start the ideas flowing and it might be all you need anyway. (I'm assuming here that you can knock out the bottom of the 2x4 slot on the truck bed so that whatever vertical member you put in it can extend below the lip for good leverage and stability.)

    Try with just a line through a pulley at the end of the crane. KISS and it may be all you ever need. I would use as thick a line (maybe up to 1") as you can acquire conveniently even though the large pulley needed would cost much more. Reason: Large size line is _much_ easier to grab and handle. Maybe 3/4" would be better for you hands - IAC, I really don't think you want to use 1/4" or something like that. Put an appropriately sized cleat in a place real easy to reach so you can tie off the load when needed.

    The crane is pretty straight forward. What may require actual design talent and head scratching is the jig or whatever you use to attache the bin. It needs to practically work itself and do it in 1/2 second or so. It needs to stay positioned when you let go of it for a second to grab the line. It needs to fall off into you hands when you've the load where you want it. It cannot slip or allow the bin to tilt or shift. Starting see any challenges there? <G> Or maybe you can just throw a hook under that handle on the bin and haul away. Don't know. TBD. But it's all within shooting distance, I think.

    Cheers,
    Rufus
     
    Rufus Laggren
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    Another thought on easy proof of concept.

    Mount _two_ 2x4s into the back slots on the sides of the truck bed. Run another 2x4 across the top connecting them. Hang a pulley in the center Voila! Instant crane. Want to get fancy, add diagonal braces from the tops down to the center or front 2x4 slots in the bed sides.


    Cheers,
    Rufus
     
    Dillon Nichols
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    Behold, the fastest ugliest sketch possible of what I was trying to describe above..
    Instant-crane.png
    Instant crane
    Instant crane
     
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    Rip thru Craigs List for a Tommy Lift. Yes it cost a fine sum and you will have to find someone to mount it. But once you have one on the back of the PU you will never look back!
     
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    I do similar composting with my hens, on a smaller scale.  I get food scraps from the school where I work, co workers, and the local veggie stand (seasonal), and I dumpster dive for more.  I'm afraid that if I ASK for food scraps from local restaurant, they will turn me down, and then might be more aware that I am gleaning their waste anyway.  I've asked a local grocery store if I could compost their waste, and they gave me a firm "No"
    I also don't think I could work at much higher volume than I do already, as I generally fill the trunk of my car up with "waste" on a daily basis already.
    I'm not sure the actual volume or mass of my collection, but I think that more than half of the poundage of food products given to my chickens is food waste, but again, that is deceptive due to water weight.
     
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    Outstanding work.  I appreciate the thought that goes into what you do (plus the hard work). I love chickens, I am limited to 3 here, I used to have 40.  Miss the big flock.
     
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    What a fantastic story.

    Here's a few more ideas I'd want to 'stack' into your process.

    Feeding the chickens:
  • Buying a bulk mix from a feed grain. A friend of mine cuts their cost of their pasture raised pigs by buying an organic mix. Sure beats those $18 bags of organic feed.
  • Sprout or ferment some of those grains for your chickens.
  • Start a meal worm farm.
  • Start a cricket farm.
  • Put all the dead critters, roadkill, into a 'maggot bucket' (Super easy).


  • Rocket mass heater:
  • Start collecting those expensive fire bricks now.
  • If you're going to test one outside, think about making it permanent and create a space for a 'greenhouse' / hothouse to help extend your growing season.


  • Videos
  • If you're already doing presentations, start documenting & taking videos of everything.
  • Start putting it together and put on website.
  • Create a short ebook on 'How to start a composting business', and have that as the free leader on your site (to gather email addresses)
  • Start working towards making a video course for passive income (at Teachable, or similar site)
  • Use your following help advertise the sale of your meat birds at a premium price.
  •  
    Without subsidies, chem-ag food costs four times more than organic. Or this tiny ad:
    Wild Homesteading - Work with nature to grow food and start/build your homestead
    https://permies.com/t/96779/Wild-Homesteading-Work-nature-grow
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