Tied into our living in wonderland metaphor, our family moved to rural East Texas to make simpler living possible and to build some diversity; we are in search of something healthier than weak tea with cream. We had a dream to build a new homestead system that will thrive by utilizing waste products (what the poor have left) while restoring eroded soil and polluted water. Ultimately, sustainability will mean reenacting the great cycles of life on our land and in this region. The more loops we close, the more yield we can expect from natural systems so there will be enough for all without degrading the environment.
But we were right away brought down to earth by another kind of waste problem. With no curbside pickup, the garage filled quickly with daily trash and garbage. Our city lifestyle would not work here. The nearest sanitary landfill was 50 miles away and charged $5 a bag. Burning or making our own landfill were not options for us at first. We also discovered that the two septic tanks needed work. In a month, we were a metaphor for many municipalities and even our whole nation—overwhelmed by our own waste!
A few of the adaptations we made to transform waste into well-being included building a burn pit that provided ashes for soil amendments, recycling of plastic and glass, building constructed wetlands (passive sewage treatment) and reusing paper and food waste in the gardening process. The constructed wetlands will be discussed in detail later.
Instead of adding to the garbage bin, we create a pile of fresh vegetable and fruit wastes to be fed to the chickens. Paper from boxes and mail is saved to be used in the garden. Our organic garden (to be discussed in detail later) includes 8 raised beds in a fenced area. To reduce weeding on paths, we paper and mulch with hay to stop grass from spreading. A current gardening plan will also be included later.
In earlier years, we instead used this paper to create a mulched garden. The sketch below shows one such garden variation.
Much of what we have done is small scale and largely symbolic, but such changes represent the hopeful adaptations we may all make so more families can join the global search for new patterns of sustainable living.