Scavenging

My father has a story he loves to tell about me as a child. We used to go to the Wayne landfill, (this was back when towns just piled up their trash and buried it). One day I looked around wide-eyed at piles of other people’s trash, my father says, and said, “look at all this stuff, and it’s all free!”

Perhaps my strong distaste for waste comes from going to the dump with my dad, or maybe it’s somehow built into my genes. My father often talks about how resourceful his mother was. Either way, I hate to see things wasted, and so does Andy. I call every company that sends me a catalog to get off their mailing list. I always flip to the free section of Uncle Henry’s first. Andy and I go dumpster diving for juice and bread, and we’re always trying to figure out how to use what we have instead of buying something new. Once we have a permanent home, I just know we’re going to accumulate stuff like crazy – scrap wood, fencing, tools, all kinds of things.

I find it remarkable that Andy and I share this distaste for waste. Sometimes what we do to avoid throwing things away is a bit excessive, but I do think this will serve us well as farmers. If we can make do with buying less inputs, that means more profits or cheaper prices.

The same rings true for this summer’s wedding garden. I’ve said before that we don’t have much money, so we’re always looking around for free or cheap resources. One example is fertilizer. Though we haven’t gotten the results back from our soil test, we’re assuming our garden will need some nutrients. We thought about buying compost, but that would be expensive. Instead, we asked a local goat farmer if we could use some of the goat manure she has been piling up in a goat yard for years. Yesterday, on a beautiful spring Sunday, we went over to one of the places where the goats spend their time (they weren’t there at the time) and started shoveling.

What a beautiful day to shovel manure!

Gabbie loves cuddling with goat manure

Not having a truck, we filled big plastic bags and loaded up Andy’s car. Three trips and two hours later, we had covered a little less than a fifth of the garden with partially decomposed goat manure, and we plan to go back for more. I thought about titling this entry: “Look at all this poop, and it’s all free!”

I’m also a member of a Yahoo group called Freecycle Midcoast Maine. People post items they want to get rid of or things they want. By responding to a post to that group, we got free scrap wood to build our chicken tractor.

Andy is working for Beth at Dandelion Spring Farm for a few weeks. He was working on potting up tomatoes last week, and some seedlings were too sad looking to be worth the time and effort to pot up. At her scale, Beth plants extras and it doesn’t make sense to save every seedling. But we’ve got the time and space, and we’re more than happy to try nursing these spindly seedlings back to health. Andy and I re-potted them in new soil and put them in a spare room upstairs under lights. Hopefully they’ll make it.

Seedlings under flourescent lights

We’ve also been saving and collecting milk jugs and other plastic containers as plant pots, instead of buying stacks of plastic pots. Unfortunately, we did buy plastic seed trays. Though we don’t like using plastic, especially plastic that breaks easily and needs to be thrown away, these trays are the most convenient for us right now. Some day perhaps we’ll use soil block makers, which create blocks of soil to plant in, no plastic necessary. Watch a video about soil block makers here.

We’d love to build our house this way – scavenging windows and doors and wood and fixtures that other people are trying to get rid of and putting it all together into a house that’s functional and unique. We’ll see. The first step is to find some land. I’ll write more about the process of looking for farmland later.

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