Reduce. REUSE. Recycle.

March 27, 2010


Whitney feeding chickens

Whitney feeding chickens

Today the five of us went on a tour of another “farm”, owned by two viola friends of Whitney’s named Molly and Linda.  One of our goals this year is to visit at least 5 farming families, to get ideas and both provide and receive encouragement.  This is the third family we’ve visited.  The first visit was to the Myers-Benners, distant relatives of Caleb’s, and the second was to Wendy and Jerry Custer, our chicken contact.  (As an aside, if you know of any other farming families in the central Virginia area that we could visit, let us know! We’ll bring a yummy dessert!)

A common thread through out each of these families is their ingenuity and ability to re-purpose all sorts of things!

Screen Door Cold Fram

Screen Door Cold Frame

Jason Myers-Benner used wood from an old barn to build all of his chicken coops. Wendy and Jerry pumped the gray water from their shower and washing machine into their backyard to create a relaxing water feature.  Molly and Linda used an old screen door to create a mini cold-frame for seedlings, and an old bed headboard as the gate to their garden.

In this same spirit, I have been inspired to also re-purpose some things, in fact I’m becoming sort of fascinated by it.  I think it has something to do with my childhood obsession with the Boxcar Children.  Although my attempts aren’t quite as grand as some of the families we’ve visited,  I’m proud to say that they have made good use of my old Girl Scout puffy paint skills!  I used old plastic caps to peanut containers to create … drum roll please … dirty/clean dishwasher signs!  Okay, yes, it’s lame.  But you should have seen how nasty the ones we made out of paper were getting!

The dishes are clean

The dishes are clean!

The dishes are dirty.

The dishes are dirty.

As a house, we have also reduced our use in other more effective ways.  For instance, I buy most all of Lucy’s accoutrements second-hand off of Craig’s List or from consignment shops instead of brand new.  When the power went out during the snow storm, we took a page from Ms. Angie Fritz, and used old glass canning jars as a candle holders instead of running to a store and buying new ones. We have also instated a “low-paper-towel-use” policy.  We have a bunch of white rags in a plastic box on the counter and keep a hamper in the kitchen instead.  Each week it’s someone else’s job to bleach, wash and dry the towels.  We still have paper towels on hand, but only for truly necessary things (like giant bugs that need to be flushed down the toilet).  Slowly, but surely, we’re also steadily switching more of the farm’s cleaning products to less chemically toxic choices.  Soon, we are planning on hanging a clothes line outside in order to reduce the electricity usage of the dryer.

Hopefully over the course of the year we’ll continue to develop our re-purposing eye and be able to spot other people’s trash as our useful treasures.  But, first I think we might need to develop some actual skills (and not just of the puffy paint variety).


Ingenuity is a treasure! Good for you!! You are following in the footsteps of the Chinese: no dryers and no paper towel.

Elaine Tyson — March 28, 2010

I have to say that I too loved the Boxcar Children as a kid! (The Borrower’s were interesting to me too because of the “adaptive re-use” theme.) I think I’m a scrounger/dumpster diver from way back! We have a separate section at our dump for people to put stuff that’s too nice to throw away and we get some great stuff there. The dumpster goddess, Refusia, always seems to know what we need!

Molly Sharp — March 29, 2010

Just curious, where would you all be located? Any where near Harpers Ferry? We were between there and Leesburg with friends last weekend. The scenery is amazing!

Warren Sancken — March 29, 2010

We’re near Charlottesville, so we’re about 2.5 hours southwest of there. Still beautiful countryside!

Kristin Thomas Sancken — March 30, 2010

Amazing what you guys are doing – I am finding all kinds of inspiration from you and other eco/body-friendly practices I’m hearing about. Love the blog, love the adventure. 🙂

Joy B. — March 30, 2010

A clothesline would be great. Fresh air and sunlight work wonders on clothing. You’ll love it.

Nice meeting you, Caleb, and Lucy last week!

AJ — April 19, 2010