Humble Garden

ReSkilling for future food independence

Using and reusing in the garden

Posted by Nika On October - 23 - 2009

Humble Garden 2009: last resort to keep goats in

(Vermont cart being used as a door stop, go figure)

One of the things about permaculture that really resonates for me is the drive to use everything, to have no waste, to get a yield from as much as you can.

Something about looking at what WAS clutter in my eyes in a new way that makes it a resource, it seems magical. I am one of those people who can not stand clutter but I live with people who seem wholly immune to it.

By opening my eyes to the power of yields and re-use, my brain doesnt see clutter but a riddle.

If you would like to learn more about the 12 permaculture principles you might want to visit this site – Permaculture

This is a lovely graphic that they developed, allow it to draw you in and entice you to learn more.

Click to learn more

I had a pile of really sturdy feed bags that I perceived as an eyesore and clutter and garbage – garbage I had to find a way to deliver to the transfer station without too much cost to us.

One day I stood staring at the bags as I was milking the goats and it came to me in a flash, cut open the bags and use them in the sheet mulching method to build the extension to the garden!

Permaculture: 1st bed arc

I had to pause that project because I had used up the feed bags until I had enough for some more beds. Yesterday I put down two more beds but the Vermont cart you see above was in use (we are stacking wood in the basement for heat this winter) so I thought I might be out of luck.

Then I put on my permie-beanie and thought of this ancient wheelbarrow! (it was on the edge of our yard, almost eaten by the forest)

Permaculture: How to use this wheelbarrow

But, it had rotted through even before it was given to us! It was now in sorry shape…

Permaculture: How to use this wheelbarrow

I figured, why not try the brainstorm idea I got, use a tarp to cover the hole…

Permaculture: cover with a tarp!

It worked perfectly well and I was able to move many barrow-loads of compost from the pile to the new beds.

Permaculture: new beds

These beds will get a LOT more compost and then percolate over the winter with a layer of leaves and straw on top. In the spring they will be planted out with a mixture of tender annual vegetables and perennial vegetables.

In between the rows I want to put down wood shavings so as to control the weeds which WILL rule this area if I let it.

Our neighbor is a lumberjack who brings waste wood to his land next to ours and cuts it into wood for heating (sells it). Their waste is wood shavings that have been contaminated with dirt (and thus can not be burned in their biomass generator).

Their waste is our yield!

Today some shavings were brought over and I am looking forward to spreading it around. I think I will need more than this though!

Here are some shots of the delivery.

Permaculture: neighbor delivering shavings

Permaculture: neighbor delivering shavings

Permaculture: neighbor delivering shavings

Permaculture: neighbor delivering shavings

Permaculture: dumping the shavings

Permaculture: waste shavings, to use!

Think about how you can re-purpose and reuse to gain a previously unexpected yield from waste, share it with me!

13 Responses to “Using and reusing in the garden”

  1. Katrien says:

    huh! (sharp intake of breath) You don’t happen to live on the other side of my neighbor, do you? He does the same for us!

    We have two piles of his wood chips fermenting in a part of the garden where no one goes. I’m a bit wary of putting fresh wood chips in our soon-to-be-used compost (nitrogen lock-up), but if they break down for a couple of years first they’ll be ripe (you should see his “hill”: he’s sitting on a gold mine of compost!). Also, I’m planning on having a mushroom garden in one of them next Spring. And I use the chips for the garden paths around the beds.

    We get a lot of stuff from Freecycle and the landfill. For instance, we picked up three water-softener tanks which we plan to use for a gray water wetland in Spring.

    There’s so much *stuff* in the world. Enough already. Let’s reuse it.

  2. Nika says:

    LOL dunno! I am pretty sure we dont, just similar neighbors!

    Yeah, these chips will be for paths and I am dreaming of a morel patch!

    I need to check out freecycle more – want to build a greenhouse and need to figure out how to source most of it free and recycled!

    Love your last sentence!

  3. Liz says:

    Excellent!Everything has a use if we can get our imaginations to find it.We have a woodlot and many trees and the yearly deaths are our wood for Winter.The branches are burned outside and the charcoal used to make paths which rot down and are then raked onto the garden beds.Good potash. I could go on but you get the idea.

  4. Holly says:

    I am madly knitting a perma-beanie out of an old sweater!

  5. Nika says:


    Yep, thats what we do for heat too. Tho this year we have brought down some living ones to open up more growing space. Thnx for sharing!

  6. Nika says:


    LOL, that sounds good! I am teaching myself to knit now. My hands are not what they used to be so I have to stop after each row to get the feeling back into them.

  7. Love these pictures!!! We reused an old solar cover for a heat sink and insulation on the north and west wall of our greenhouse. I had made a treasure hunt for the kids out of a gleand rubbermaid tote. They dug for small treasures in a bunch of sawdust until they tired of the game. Then I used the damp sawdust and tote to store my carrots. The sawdust will land in the garden in the spring and by then the kids will want to dig for treasure on a rainy day again. I am looking for old sweaters at good will to felt for mittens this year. Thanks for the inspiration.

  8. Daharja says:


    We used to tie up our cardboard boxes (from buying bulk) and put them to the kerb for recycling. Also tied up used to be cardboard packaging, egg cartons, and similar.

    Now we rip them up and add them to the compost. They break down quickly, add extra dry matter to the pile (always a problem to find in our climate), and it saves on the hauling the boxes to the kerb. We also save on string. And we gain by getting extra food for the garden in the form of compost.

    An added bonus – the kids LOVE ripping the boxes up! So we GAIN an activity and fun time with the kids. What was a chore is now fun :-)

    All good.

    Note that we only compost the un-glossy, plain brown cardboard packing. Anything plastic-coated still goes to recycling. However, we’ve also adjusted our buying style so now the stuff we can’t compost is minimal.

  9. Nika says:


    Glad you liked it. Sounds like a great game! Definitely want to be sure the cats or chickens were not playing hide n seek in it first (winks)

  10. Nika says:

    Daharja: My in-laws now live in NZ and I am just so jealous of lots of things there! Lovely place to live (I know its not perfect but its still got lots great about it).

    Yeah, we do the same with cardboard and such. I have lots of amazon boxes that I cant bring myself to tear up (use it to send things out) but I might soon, they are piling up!

  11. Your place looks amazing. I am sometimes out in your neck of the woods. Let’s have tea one day.

  12. Nika says:


    Sure thing! Though, as with you, all of this is under snow right now! Does will be kidding in Jan/Feb, perhaps a visit then, if you are interested in little goats that is.

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About Me

We are a family of 5, including Nika, Ed, Q (14), KD (7), and Baby Oh (4). We garden 1024 square feet of raised beds plus assorted permacultural plantings. We also have 13 LaMancha dairy goats, 40 chickens, and one guard llama.



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