Monday, March 12, 2012

I don't take out my trash, so what?

When I first moved out to the homestead, even before it was the budding prospect that it is today and just a shabby lawn splayed out infront of a prefab rancher (hey, FHA financing restrictions... what can I say?), I was faced with a choice: Pay umpteen dollars a month for curbside trash pickup and probably spotty service at best, LET ALONE the recycling issues which I'd had before I moved as the only recycler on the block.... or the Green Monster of an F150 variety coasting a couple of miles to the dump?

The Green Monster won out.  It was paid off already and worked around my schedule.  Plus, you really... really... really get to know your trash habits.  Soon after our initial runs to the dump of pure bunk and crap and garbage that had collected in the smooshing of two households into one (K. had signed on to life with me just after the house deal went down) I set about landscaping project #1, our firepit.  And everything, as it turns out, burns and it is oh so pretty to watch from a camping chair with ample supplies of beer on hand.  Like I said, however, when you haul your own garbage you start to notice trends.  K. and I witnessed the oddest thing.... we stopped having to go to the dump.  We were going less and less frequently, only when the two trash cans outside filled up and as we burned our paper, cardboard and junk mail they just didn't fill up.  If we could have (and occasionally, we did) burn aluminum cans to ash and turn cat tins into glowy slag, we'd be even better!  It has been the most surprising adjustment of my transition to what I've come to call my "real life".

In my basement lies not only a wood burning stove, but THE wood burning stove from my dad and my grandfather's garage and woodshop, which I'd grown up being rather taken with for it's rustic looks and the fact that things in it became pretty pretty flames and beat back the cold which I've always hated.  Yes, I know a fire bug but it's served my professional life rather well.  This summer or fall, K. and I will be installing that stove in the basement as part of our quest for more legroom and better all-weather energy indepedence.  We've said for months, ever since we started doing routine "Trash Fires" of piled up envelopes, solicitations and newsprint, that we have fuel to boot once that stove is in.  Good idea?  Sure.

But, then I got a better idea.  Watching a recent episode of Doomsday Preppers, I realized that I too can turn our daily paper, and daily inundation of mail I couldn't care less about, seasonal afflictions of leaves and grassclippings, etc etc etc, into briquettes!  More effort, longer burn.

The basics are, well, basic:

1) Saturate and soak your products in a vat of your choosing
2) Pour into a mold and press hard to squeeze excess water out
3) Let the briquettes dry for a few months in a rodent-free area

The fact is that most people throw out 500kg (half a ton) of cardboard or paper material per year according to web materials like, a wood-burning stove revival website.  If you power goes out in the winter, you may have a generator but that more than likely runs on propane or gas.... costly materials.  Even if you have power, you're burning something to stay warm.  Why not put your waste to use as material to release the heat you need when your toes are cold for half of the year?

Look at the 4-in-1 or the single molds from Kotulas that many people have talked about:

or make your own press, which can be as simple as two pieces of 2x4, some wood clamps and a mold for the sides.  Some people craft circular molds out of PVC piping and leave holes in the middle for quicker ignition through greater exposed surface area.

Just a thought.