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Freedom through Composting and Sustainability - Anything but Free - A Soulful Story  RSS feed

 
pollinator
Posts: 223
Location: Western North Carolina - Zone 7B stoney
58
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The last year, I failed.  I had grandiose dreams of excelling in my journey to freedom.  Life, had other plans for me. 

I am blessed to have a tract of land in Western North Carolina (just a dozen miles from my birthplace).  Even though my family moved from the area when I was five, my heart and soul have always felt tied to that part of the country.  I've had the pleasure to travel the world, and no place has ever felt the same. 

Knowing something, and being able to capitalize on it are two different things.  It's like those "experts" that can talk the talk, but never do any of the walking.  My passions and skills for the outdoors came together with the opportunity to move back to that part of the country, and make my dreams come true.  Life is never that simple. 

My land has nothing built on it.  I have an abundance of forest and streams, but no utilities or shelters of any sort.  If only life was free, I could have moved directly there and attempted to build the cabin of my dreams.  It's those conveniences in life that make things difficult.  I need a cell phone for business and to talk to family and friends.  I need my car, so that I can get around.  I admit that these are crutches of modern society, but they are crutches that I've grown accustomed to. 

The closest city to my land is a frequent tourist and outdoors area.  When I moved into the area last year, I found it difficult to find affordable housing.  My decision was made, to rent in town nearby.  Here I found myself over an hour and a half's drive from where I wanted to be.  I also found myself working horrible little jobs just to pay the bills.  I was unhappy.  I met a woman who lived a few hours south, and I moved to be a bit closer to her.  After all, I wasn't able to do what I wanted living nearby, but the same fate struck again.  Now, I was about two hours away from my land, and was working little piddly jobs.  I only had a few opportunities to go up and camp on my land.  I had no chance to do any building or clearing as I had intended. 

This year, I have my chance to rectify my situation.  I now realize that I must be closer.  When you know what you want, there are sacrifices that one has to make.  My next struggle is to determine how much I want to sacrifice in order to gain the freedom that I want. 

My plans have not been stagnated.  I have found solutions on how to proceed, and am attempting to build relationships to help me along that process.  One of the largest cogs in my plan is composting.  I see composting as my way to get sustainability.  Many people think that sustainability is an independent thing, something that allows for a reclusive non-dependence on outside society.  For me, my sustainability will be provided by the society surrounding me. 

In speaking with local restaurants, I was able to find that they were more than willing to give me food scraps.  This included a chinese buffet, a seafood restaurant, a BBQ joint, and several other cafes and local establishments.  Here was a resource that could easily be capitalized upon, with a little investing of equipment and time.  This will hinge upon the use of 5 gallon buckets, given to the restaurants and picked up later that night.  The buffet told me that they would need four buckets a night, and need them emptied each and every night.  Even that one restaurant would provide me with many options on how to utilize the waste food. 

The easiest way to deal with this food, would be to have several large compost piles.  Not only would this be labor intensive, but it could be a danger due to the wildlife in my area of the mountains.  The last thing that I want, is to be a refuge for refuse.  Bears would love to get their hands on left over Chinese.  I needed to find a method that is environmentally friendly, and is not too labor intensive.  After all, it is just me that will be doing all of this work.  I wish that I could have a few interns helping me out, but I do not even have living quarters for myself, much less for others. 

Determination has led me to developing a theoretical system for how to deal with the large quantity of food waste that is available to me.  At the core of this system is livestock.  I could take the easy way out, and get a few guinea hogs.  I might get one guinea hog eventually, but they are not going to be the backbone of my system.  I desire livestock that are not too noisy, and do not take enormous amounts of handling and care.  My time is much better suited to building structures and beginning my homestead, so easy livestock is a priority. 

Chickens would be a simple solution also, but they are too noisy for my preferences.  I only have 18 acres of land, and have neighbors that are "near-ish" to me.  Some day, I may introduce a few chickens that help turn compost, but they are not the animals that I will focus on. 

My two main composting animals are going to be Black Soldier Fly Larvae and Superworms (King worms).  The food materials that would attract the most wildlife would either be put into the BSFL composting, or into homemade biogas composters that I intend to build.  Having this food under a layer of water will be a great way to keep it away from scavengers.  Plus, capturing a small amount of methane for cooking and lighting will be a benefit.  The main reason for the BSFL and Superworms are to feed to the livestock that I plan to have. 

I will have a flock of quail, a breeding trio of rabbits, a bunch of guinea pigs, and a flock of muscovie ducks.  I plan to have at least one livestock guardian dog, and a couple of cats.  My second stage livestock will be to add a single guinea hog and two Nigerian dwarf goat does.  It is my intention to start with the livestock that will take the least work first (Quail, Rabbits, Guinea Pigs, and Muscovies).  I do not see this plan working without the ability to get all of the food waste for free. 

Free is such a misunderstood word, because it's the cheapest things in life that take the most work.  Compost is my method to get freedom.  Even though my sustainability is dependent upon others, I feel that this plan exemplifies what the true nature of sustainability is.  This would provide me with nutrients for my garden, as well as food for my animals.  Would you call that sustainable? 

I'm interested to hear of any suggestions or ideas that you have for me.  What do you think of my livestock choices?
I am excited to be setting out on my journey again this year.  I want to take you all along with me. 


 
gardener
Posts: 4896
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
564
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So I take it you are actually meaning feeder hog one that you will raise to butcher, yes? I like your plan, you have thought of a way to reach your end goal and are going for it. Bravo!

All you have to do for chickens is not get a rooster until you are ready for breeding up your chook numbers, the hens aren't all that noisy.
Love the idea of guinea pigs, they are a good meat choice and easy to care for.

Guinea hogs are good plows and bush hogs for getting underbrush in control fairly quickly. 
Love the idea of BSF and KW for composting food stuffs.

Redhawk
 
William Wallace
pollinator
Posts: 223
Location: Western North Carolina - Zone 7B stoney
58
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Yes, you are correct Bryant.  I would have one guinea hog as a meat source.  This would be a test for me, to see if I could handle 2 or 3 afterwards.   I love that you see guinea pigs as a great meat source.  They are one of the tastiest that I've ever had, and they take almost zero space to breed in. 

The reason that I'm not going for chickens initially, is that I'm looking for animals that are a bit lower maintenance.  Maybe that's just my stereotype against the animal.

Even though the KingWorms won't be too heavy of composters, I still will utilize some of the veggies for them.  I plan to use the King Worms as bait, to fish in the lake that is very near to my land (maybe 1/4 mile away).  I will also attempt to build a few of my own worm farms, because I like the top load and bottom remove vermicompost idea.  These red wigglers I will get from horse farms nearby that have already told me that I can have as much manure as I can haul away.

I've found a very cheap source for both BSFL and Super/King worms.  This place sells 1000 BSFL for less than 9 dollars, and 1000 KingWorms for around 10 or 12. 
 
Posts: 12
Location: Central North Carolina
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William, I commend your approach to creating a productive and sustainable operation on your land. I'm guessing you're in Transylvania County? Beautiful part of the state! We have land in Hillsborough (10 acres of forest) and will be creating our own little oasis of permaculture and community education.

I'm curious, would you be interested in starting colonies of medicinal herbs for sale in the market? Woodland herbs take time to get established (especially if you simulate wild conditions and harvest only parts of large colonies) but they require essentially no work and very little capital investment. Medicinal herbs (goldenseal, American ginseng, astragalus, angelica, cohosh, marshmallow, hawthorn, etc etc) will be one of our big money makers in the future. As you have mentioned that money is tight in your scenario I would strongly suggest considering the purchase of herb seeds to disperse in your woods. Or, since it seems you don't shy away from labor, you could set up a germination greenhouse and get the babies established before planting out into the woods. Just keep the hogs away from the medicine!
 
William Wallace
pollinator
Posts: 223
Location: Western North Carolina - Zone 7B stoney
58
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Justin, there are several challenges associated with my area.  It is mountainous, so there is not much flat land on our property.  It is wooded, so there is not much full sun land on our property.  Sure, I can cut down trees selectively and make some growing areas, but I also have been planning to grow crops which can handle shade.  There are some that can even handle heavy shade.  Here is the research that I have done:  https://permies.com/t/71394/Shade-Tolerant-Edible-Cooperative-Community  ; I haven't added to that in quite a while, because I just got done with a 2 month ski vacation. 

I am getting nearly all of my seeds from MIGardener.  I'm not affiliated with him in any way, and I see the value of 99 cent packages of seeds (especially heirloom and rare varieties).  I have been calling some of the local farms, and unfortunately none of them are hiring at this point.  I then made an even better connection, as I talked with the woman that runs the Farmer's market there locally.  She "may" have some work for me on the market day, but she is going to try and connect me with a vendor that needs some work done.  I would love a job that allows me to barter for half of my wages, and get paid for the other half.  We will all come out ahead without the tax man's interference. 

Let me know what you think about that shade grown compendium.  If there are any species that I should add, please mention them in the thread.  Since I have such little natural sunlight, I am going to be relying on good quality compost in order to provide nutrients for optimal growth.  This is one of the reasons that I will be doing normal composting, anaerobic (biogas) composting, BSFL composting, and Earthworm castings.  Not only do I also have the source of horse manure, but I have prolific amount of leaves due to the heavy forested area.  Together, I feel the finished composts and teas that I create will be able to provide me with good growing habitat. 

The one thing that I'm missing, is the ability to keyline plow.  I've considered getting one built to fit behind my Subaru Forester, but I'm not sure that is the best idea.  I am looking forward to this season, and getting my composting business rolling.  If the restaurants are able to provide the scraps that they say, I should be able to make enough compost to sell to local gardeners.
 
Posts: 29
Location: California Sierra Foothils, 2,500 ft. Elevation zone 8b-9a
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Hi William,  your plan sounds well indeed, here are some things you have probably thought about but did not mention in your post.

You have got an excellent source of nitrogen for your compost but don't mention your source of carbon. My guess is the scraps you are getting may have a 10:1 ratio while the rule of thumb is 30/1 n/c ratio. So for every bucket of scraps you will need 2 buckets at least (by weight) of Browns (carbon) for a heap. Bsf's would do well with that not sure of the worms. I'm not familiar with superworms (European nightcrawlers?)

I know my red wigglers cannot handle that much waste but I only have 1 bin. They also will not survive the winter here if left unheated or at least or they will go virtually dormant, I think the same goes for BSF's but I say this only from research not experience

Pigs and chickens would have no problem with the scraps. I have read that oils and dairy products don't sit well with worms though I don't know from experience.

Just my opinion but I think that when acquiring that many kitchen scraps and getting animals should coincide or you may end up overwhelmed with too much nitrogen for just worms and BSF's.

Also as an aside, I moved onto my property 2 years ago but I have owned it for 8 years. Those previous 6 years had me getting to know my land and getting some infrastructure done.....well water...pump...storage sheds.....clearing the land..etc. For 3 years I had a camper on site to stay in, powered by solar available from previous land clearing to allow the sun to shine in and a couple of batteries to store the accumulated energy. Also those previous years and earlier I saved money like a bad doggy and stayed out of debt so I could live my dream. Of course that is my path but I am in my sixties now and find my energy and comfort levels not quite what they once were.
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Posts: 4896
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
564
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hau William, your land sound to me like it would be perfect for Ginseng growing, you can plant either by seed (my choice) or one year roots.
The great thing about using seeds is that you then have the opportunity to let it grow wild, Which produces the most money!
The main problem with doing this "crop" is that it takes ten years of root growth to become harvestable, but then the longer they remain growing, the higher the price can go.
The main attraction for me is that I can plant the seeds in the shady forest and forget them for years, no messing with them means they are really wild grown.

Just something for you to ponder on.

Redhawk
 
pollinator
Posts: 1987
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
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I love you're overall plan.
Food wasted by humans is a huge natural reasource.

The BSF will deal with pretty near anything thrown at them.
Meat scraps will not be a problem for them.
A lot if people see them as the last line of animal recycling. Not much is left for an animal to eat after they are done with something but their bodies.
The grass is said to be good fertilizer.

I scavenge a lot of food for my rabbits and chooks.
The food value of veg scraps for rabbits seems to be pretty low. Anything cooked is liable to be contaminated with fats,therefore anything raw should probably be kept separate from the cooked.
If you can get the restaurants to do that, great.
Generally I find it easier to feed it all to the chooks and feed the bunnies hay and things from the yard.

Chickens are dead easy. You will need fencing, but not as much as you would need for a hog.
Leaves for deep bedding, provide the food scraps and water and you're  done.
Immediate value from eggs, meanwhile they make compost.
Use unfinished compost to grow mushrooms for people and use finished compost to grow comfrey for everybody else.
Chickens seem like a great composting animal.
Vermiculture is fine,but unless you are going to eat the insects, why  add steps to getting the nutrients back into human mouths? Humans food means cash money,or at least it saves cash money.

The rabbits and guinea pigs are better at converting plants to meat  than scraps or bugs to meat.
I've been told that neither ducks nor quail scratch or eat scraps as well as chickens do,but both are easier on gardens.
Hogs are obviously even better at converting scraps than chickens are, but they require at least as much attention and a little more infrastructure.

I guess I'm wondering what advantages you see in these other animals over chickens?
I'm looking to add chickens to my urban flock, to exploit the massive amounts of salvaged feed available,but you have me wondering if other animals would be better.



 
William Wallace
pollinator
Posts: 223
Location: Western North Carolina - Zone 7B stoney
58
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William Bronson wrote:
I guess I'm wondering what advantages you see in these other animals over chickens?
I'm looking to add chickens to my urban flock, to exploit the massive amounts of salvaged feed available,but you have me wondering if other animals would be better.


The main benefit of Muscovie and quail over chickens, is the noise factor.  The ducks are also great pest control for what is going to turn into my farm.  I am going to growing fodder for my animals from things like barley seed and wheatgrass, but I also have them to benefit directly from the compost.  Both of these animals should eat good amounts of Black Soldier Fly Larvae, so that will offset a good portion of their feed costs.  I also don't want chickens scratching at all of my compost piles.  I am looking for more of a set and forget compost system, because I want to keep the food scraps buried.  I haven't figured everything out yet, but these are the main ideals of my plan.  We'll have to see how everything else sorts itself out.

As for news on my progress, it is finally getting good weather in my part of the country.  I have found a job that is just about 15 miles from my home site, and I have made some large purchases to sustain my off-grid lifestyle.  I also found a great office rental space to supplement my living.  It's only 160 per month, and that includes 24 hour access for as long as I desire, with toilet, break room with fridge, and conference room if I ever want to hold business meetings.  Considering that I get to charge up all of my electronics, and have full use of the internet, this is a great deal.  The bad part is that this office is an hour and a half away from my land.  Still, this is many times cheaper than trying to put utilities on my own land.  I also have gotten a 24 hour gym access.  I upgraded to premium package, so that I could use their hydromassage chairs.  Oh boy, do they help my back.  For just over 300 dollars, I have a full two years of gym already prepaid. 

It's getting close to planting time, so I have a bunch of work that is needed to do on my land.  I've purchased a bunch of seed, since the dollar packets were 4 for a dollar at dollar tree.  I also got several large boxes of shade wildflower mixes.  My living arrangement is also purchased.  I bought a large expedition grade 5 meter wide bell tent.  This thing is something that I would expect on a trip to Africa, although it might not have the prerequisite african bug nets by default. This tent is over 50 pounds, so it is NOT a backpacking tent by any stretch.   I also found a great deal through REI for a 2 person Nemo tent called the front porch.  It has a large porch awning, and doors at the front and back.   The Nemo tent weighs around 8 pounds, so it is my most portable choice (aside from the plethora of hammocks that I own).  I have a flame resistant canvas tarp that is 6 foot by 30 foot.  I hope to recreate the baker tents from my early scouting days.  Those style of tents were easily my favorite tent that I have ever used.

I also got a Seek Outside stove, which I am looking forward to doing the first burn with.  It seems as though it will be a very quality backpacking stove.  It was a tough decision, because I initially ordered a 100 dollar tent stove that was undoubtably made in China.  This stove was a drum style that is fashioned out of a round pipe.  The upgrade to Seek Outside was 4 or 5 times more expensive, but it gives me a portable and packable option.  It also gives me a flat top for cooking, which is one of my main passions. 

Thanks for your kind words, and for your questions. 

I have just created the screenname for a new channel on youtube.  I have titled it BushcraftToHome, and I hope that composting will be one of the major things that allows me to transition to a full time life off of the grid. 
 
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