Column 8 of the Homegrown series.
We have never had a big budget on our farm, and a lot of the time have had to “make do” with whatever we were given, found or traded. We were lucky to have good friends who gave us furniture and other bits and pieces when we first bought the farm, as neither of us had much in that way when we started. We learned to re-use, recycle and repurpose.
These days almost anything you buy comes packed in plastic. Most people throw out the plastic bags or containers. We wash and re-use them. We still have plastic bags from years ago, they live in a big bucket in the communal area and are re-used over and over again. When we harvest and dehydrate or freeze, we use those bags to store the produce. It is easy to wash plastic bags when you wash the dishes, and hang them out to dry. We now have a system in place where we dry them on one side after washing, then hang them inside out over the back of a chair and dry the inside. Once they are well dried we put a loose knot in them and put them into storage. We now bring our own long life bags whenever we buy anything from a shop to reduce plastic.
Plastic bags are not the only things we re-use: cans, glass and plastic bottles, containers, jars… As we process our own produce, old jars are re-used over and over to store jams, chutneys and sauces. The same with wide mouth bottles (which hold our homemade passata every year). Tom uses old cans and other containers to hold hardware for maintenance and any building work. Plastic 2 litre milk bottles convert nicely to plant hangers, they can even be painted!
We use rocket stoves and have wood stoves inside for winter, paper and cardboard function as fire starters. Cardboard and thick newspaper is also ideal for sheet mulching. Sheet mulching is the practice of using large “sheets” of thick paper or cardboard to prevent weeds from coming through in a no-dig garden bed. It is laid directly onto the area you wish to prepare for gardening, followed by compost or good quality soil, and topped off with mulch (grass clippings, sugar cane mulch or other mulch you can get). You can then plant into the mulch. If you need to plant trees or plants with bigger root systems, you can wet the area first so it is easier to cut a hole into the sheet mulch to plant your tree.
Old clothes are another item you can re-purpose / re-use. They make great cleaning rags, dish rags, strainers, cheese cloths etc. Many a time I come across a rag somewhere and the pattern reminds me of the garment it was, and the many joys Tom or myself got out of wearing it. Once clothes are so worn and full of holes we can no longer wear it, we re-use it until it is totally gone. Any scraps left we will compost or put into the banana circle, as we only use clothing made from natural materials.
There are many items to re-use, re-cycle and re-purpose. There is too much stuff already on this planet. Being creative with how we use what we have enables us to do our bit and decrease our consumption.