Composting in your Garden – How to Start

Making your own compost is a practical way to reduce the volume of rubbish going to landfill and at the same time benefiting your garden. Composting is quick and easy to make and if made correctly, it does not smell unpleasant.

 

Step by Step Guide to Composting:

Converter:

A compost converter is an ideal way to make compost. Converters not only keep your composting neat and tidy, they also provide the ideal environment for composting to take place.

Composting requires heat and oxygen for the first stage (where microorganisms break down the organic material). The plastic container retains heat and speeds up the process. Placing the converter in full or partial sun will help but avoid excessive heat which can dry out the contents.

The converter should be placed directly onto soil or grass to allow beneficial insects and worms to enter. If you have to place your converter onto a hard surface, first put a layer of compost down.

Collecting for Composting:

Collecting waste at home will depend on how often you plan on a trip to the composter. If you can empty your waste into the composter after every meal then all you need is any small collecting tub – a small plastic bucket is ideal. If you only want to empty your waste every day or so then a small plastic swing-top bin is ideal. Make sure that your collecting receptacle has a lid otherwise fruit flies will quickly invade your kitchen. If you really want to collect in style, why not treat yourself to a purpose designed stainless steel collecting pail with an odour eliminating filter in the lid.

Open composter:

Traditionally, a compost heap was used to make compost. Although a plastic converter will make the process neater and quicker, an open compost heap is useful for large quantities of organic waste such as grass cuttings and other garden waste. Whilst it is possible to simply pile the waste in a corner of the garden an enclosed area will keep things tidy and also maintain the mass of the heap necessary to produce the required heat to begin the composting process. A simple mesh enclosure will also allow oxygen to enter.

All that is required is few wooden stakes and a roll of galvanised wire mesh. For a more sturdy structure you could use an ready-made open fence panel. All you need is two fence panels, approximately 6 feet long by 3 feet high. A roll of galvanised wire netting (at least 12 feet long) and 3 tree stakes.

Use one panel for the front of the enclosure and cut another in half to form one of the sides. Tack the mesh to the back of the panel then nail tree stakes to the ends of the panels with the pointed ends protruding about 18 inches from the bottom. Cut the top of the stake level with the top of the panel. Using a mallet, hammer the stakes into the ground to form the enclosure. Leaving one end open allows easy access for turning the heap and removing compost. It also makes it easy to extend the enclosure using additional panels if required.

DO COMPOST THESE:

Uncooked vegetable peelings & fruit
Hedge trimmings
Grass clippings (limited amount)
Leaves
Paper
Tea bags and coffee grounds
Vegetarian animal bedding (e.g. rabbits)

DON’T COMPOST THESE:

Meat/bones
Fish
Cooked food
Dairy products
Cat litter

Successful composting needs the right mix of conditions, which are determined by where you site your composter and what you put in it. Firstly, site your composter preferably on bare soil or at least on grass.

You need to get the right ratio of carbon to nitrogen. This is determined by the mix of ‘greens’ and ‘browns’. ‘Greens’ are fruit and vegetable scraps, grass cuttings (not too much). ‘Browns’ are dried flowers, cardboard etc. Try to keep an equal mix of greens and browns. You need a reasonable amount of material in order to generate the heat necessary for composting process. Chopping up larger items also helps.

Make sure the contents of your composter is moist (not wet). Add water if it starts to dry out.

The composting process needs oxygen to work. Occasionally turn the contents with a garden fork, or better still an aerator, and add more scrunched up paper.

Depending on the conditions, it will take between 6 months and 2 years for your compost to be ready to use. When it is ready it will resemble commercial compost – dark, with an earthy smell.

If your school is composting, the volume will mount up quickly, especially if your school has ‘Healthy School’ status (an award recognising the number of children who bring healthy food to school amongst other things). As a result ‘Healthy Schools’, they have a high volume of organic waste each day that can be composted.

You could even consider asking parents who don’t make their own compost to bring in their fruit and veg waste.

Schools can place colourful plastic collecting buckets by each of the waste bins on the playgrounds and in the dinner hall to collect compostable waste. Anything from around 15L to about 45L is ideal.

Children will be designated as ‘compost monitors’ to collect the bins at the end of lunch time and transfer the contents to the main composter at the end of the final break.

Make sure that the collecting buckets or tubs had small holes drilled in the bottoms to prevent rain water from filling them up and making them too heavy to carry. Two-handled designed are better as they allow two children to share the load.

Being able to sustain a self sufficient life always pays off in emergency planning and composting in your garden is a great step to take for your self sufficient lifestyle.

Survival Hygiene and Emergency Toilet Paper

When it comes to emergency preparedness and survival hygiene, two of the foremost crucial subjects are:

  • how one can take a bath to stay clean with scarce resources,
  • most feasible way of having a stock of emergency toilet paper for difficult times.

Let’s start with a field bath. Different schools of thought indicate when someone should take a field bath for survival hygiene. Most, however, believe that it should be before retiring at night or shortly after waking.

If water rationing allows, do both morning and evening baths. Here is how:

How to take a “Field Bath” for Survival Hygiene?

Use a wash cloth and a small amount of water to wipe and clean off (in this order):

  1. the face,
  2. neck,
  3. chest,
  4. back,
  5. arms,
  6. legs,
  7. hands,
  8. underarms,
  9. feet,
  10. arm pits,
  11. privates (some lists put privates before pits).

Re-wet and wring out the cloth often during the process.

Special considerations are needed if there are any fungal issues (you do not want to take a foot fungus and transplant it to your personal private area). Wait until your body has dried off before putting on any garments. Using two separate clothes may also be advisable.

Wash the face and then the hands at least one extra time during the day. Always wash the hands before eating a meal, and after a bathroom break. Preventing disease will be a much higher priority after most teotwawki situations, and taking the small amount of water to wash the hands may be the deciding factor towards life or death for many individuals.

If in hot and dry areas (or days), not bathing properly will lead to severe itching problems sometimes referred to as ‘prickly heat’. As the body sweats water, salt, and toxins leave the body. In dry heat, the water evaporates quickly leaving the salt (and toxins) on the surface of the skin.

If the body is dirty, or these salt crystals are allowed to build up, they will eventually begin to form / be lodged in the follicles of the skin. They will irritate the sensitive skin, causing severe itching and sometimes a rash. The only way to cure this problem is by ‘dissolving’ those crystals with water by washing often, but it takes several times and several days.

Other conditions that can occur without proper washing are ringworm, fungal infections, boils (trapped bacterial infections under the skin), infected hair follicles, and chaffing.

Clothing Hygiene for the Survivalist

When going to bed, wear a night shirt, nothing underneath. This allows your body and skin to dry and breath. It also allows the clothes worn the day prior to air out and dry.

Clothes that are dirty or oily from wear for several days will hold moisture and will eventually grow mold, fungus, and/or bacteria. It is important that they be dried to prevent the dangerous growth (and odor). In hot environments, it is not uncommon to sweat while you sleep. If possible this should be minimised as much as possible (by clothing choice, bedding material, and bed location) for survival hygiene.

However, sometimes it will be impossible. Although your body will be able to breath, it still needs to dry. In these environments, some time should be spent (during the warmer parts of the day), wearing nothing but an improvised skirt (think kilt) or a summer dress for women. The most important three parts of the body that need to dry out are the arm pits, private area, and the feet.

If in a more humid environment, leaving clothes out over night may only seem to have them be more damp by morning. In those environments, alternate outer clothes every other day, and on the set that is not being worn, hand out in the direct hot sun light for several hours (during the warmer months), and if there is little heat outdoors and you have a heat source such as fire, hang them to dry near the fire (but monitor them to ensure they do not catch fire).

Before moving onto emergency toilet paper storage – I highly recommend the following video about survival hygiene for camping and wilderness, quite few good tips in this one…

Emergency Toilet Paper Storage Plans

Emergency toilet paper will be one of the first ‘luxury’ items that the mass public will run of out in many of the teotwawki scenarios. It is not easily produced yourself and it is very bulky to transport. In normal society norms, this item is considered more of a need than a luxury, and that will probably be the case into the first part of most teotwawki scenarios.

How much toilet paper do you need?

Conventional wisdom is that the average amount needed will be two single rolls per person per week. There are many attributes that may increase or decrease the amount needed. For example, typically women use more toilet paper than men during a week. Individuals that have IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) or that have chronic diarrheas will use quite a bit. Even those with healthy bowels will likely experience diarrheas or related problems much more often due to the changes in diet, disease, and stress that will occur in most teotwawki scenarios.

All these issues will modify the amounts of toilet paper that a household will use. First, figure out how many rolls of toilet paper your household is going through in a month during normal times. If you average two rolls per person per week, and you have a household of three people, that means that you would use about six rolls per week, or about 24 single rolls per month.

Consider this a minimum for use: 8 Single Rolls per person per month.

From personal experience, with only two people in a household, both having bowel issues for an extended period of time, the typical amount of toilet paper used was a double roll every day (which is a single roll per person per day). For a household of three people, that would be 21 single rolls per week, or 84 single rolls per month for three people.

Consider this a maximum for use: 28 – 30 Single Rolls per person per month.

Thus, the average person will need somewhere between 8 and 30 rolls of toilet paper per month. This is a wide range, and makes it obvious that the amount needed will range greatly depending on the situation. It is therefore important for each family to figure out exactly how much they use per person during normal times. Then to plan for the unexpected (disease, diarrhrea, stress) by increasing that amount, and come up with an estimated amount your household would need.

It is also important to consider other uses of toilet paper. If you purchase some of the softer brands of toilet paper, it can be as good or better than facial tissue for dealing with allergies, colds, and flus. There will also be times where things will need to be cleaned up with something disposable, and the standard item would be paper towels. However, toilet paper shall be used instead of paper towels (although it is not nearly as effective). Consider these features in your household estimate.

How much toilet paper should you store?

Maybe six months worth, one years worth, two years worth? It really depends on how long you think things might be disrupted. For the sake of estimating, the following calculations will assume 24 single rolls per person per month for a period of two years. Which is 576 rolls per person!

That is a scary number, especially if you have a big family. How on earth could you even store that much toilet paper? Here are some ideas on how to do that:

In a 18 Gallon / 68 Litter plastic storage container, you can store 35 double rolls (equal to about 70 single rolls). Which, if you store 9 tubs per person, you would have 630 single rolls per person stored. These tubs store easily, and do not take up much space as they can be stacked easily.

 

    • One of the nice features of toilet paper is that it does not have a short life span. How long it can be stored is more about how well moisture and sunlight is avoided. Storing it for 4 to 6 years would be very likely. Also it is not effected by heat (other than fire), like food and water is effected. Therefore if you have a house, they can easily be stored in the attic.

 

    • It is important to help to protect your investment in toilet paper from moisture. On a generally less humid day, take a plastic trash bag and line the inside of the plastic tub. (We use clear trash bags so that we could see through them without opening them, however standard black ones would work as well).

 

    • Line the plastic tub the same way that you would if it was a trash can.

 

    • For our purposes we use the 12 pack of double rolls of Charmin Ultra. (Remember that if you have a septic tank, that you only stock up on brands that are septic safe. Although in most teotwawki scenarios flushing them into the septic would not be advised, if you use your toilet paper in normal times you want to use those brands that you would normally use. So stock up on what you use, and if what you use is not reasonable for teotwawki scenarios, consider switching to a brand that is reasonable.

 

    • You can place the toilet paper in the tub in one of two ways, either laying down or standing up. If you need to “squash” the toilet paper some to fit more in the future, it is easier to align them laying down. We were able to fit 35 double rolls of the Charmin Ultra into the tub with some space to spare (and probably could have fit another 12 rolls if we had wanted to squash them).

 

    • There are multiple reasons to use the trash bag liner in the plastic tote. The first, is that it helps to protect the toilet paper from moisture, dust, and some critters. But more importantly there are other uses for the plastic tub / tote, such as storing water in some teotwawki scenarios.

 

    • If the tote is stored in the attic, and the totes are needed very quickly someone could go into the attic, empty the contents with only a few seconds each and throw the tote to someone else outside of the attic. And most importantly, instead of just dumping out the toilet paper into the attic into itchy insulation or dust that has gathered over the years, the toilet paper will still be protected by the trash bag until they can be repositioned later.

 

Another part of the puzzle is to keep sufficient quantities on hand in the bathrooms so that you do not have to deplete your stash while sustaining survival hygiene.

Have a full 12 pack of double rolls (equal to 24 single rolls) in each bathroom (maybe under the sink). If you have the space in your bathroom, may be even have more. This will help with several things. Odds are that anyone you have over and that is comfortable enough to use your bathroom (or snoopy enough to look through your cabinets), likely knows that you are making preparations.

If you run out while friends are over, you don’t want to go into the attic to get resupplied. “Gee what else is up there?” they might ask. Instead if they ask about your huge supply of 20 or so rolls under the sink, you can laugh and dismiss it as your “emergency stock, and they will never be the wiser. After all, who would keep several hundred rolls of toilet paper in their attic?

Another benefit,  if you are so kind as to help your neighbours, or dispense charity and it happens that they find out that you have this huge amount of toilet paper (20-30 rolls) under the sink, your generosity of 5-10 rolls (heck that is almost 33% of what they think you have) will be much more favourably looked upon than if you were to give your neighbour 50 rolls out of your attic stock and keep the other 500 rolls for yourself. Even though you give them so much more, the impression that you are hoarding so much for yourself will lead to resentment. Before teotwawki scenarios come about, give much thought to the charity issue, as it can be a very double edged sword, and is too complex to cover in this article.

It might be asked, how am I supposed to afford to purchase 500, 1000, or even 2000 rolls of toilet paper? I barely make enough to live on. The answer to that is the same way that you make all your other preparations: A little at a time is better than none at all, better to get started right away.

In other words, you purchase toilet paper from the store probably monthly or maybe even more often already. If you can afford it at the time, double your purchase, and put away 1/2 of the purchase. If you can not, buy what you normally would, and put away several of the toilet paper rolls for emergency, even maybe 1/2 of the rolls you purchased.

It will take some time to build up a good stock of emergency toilet paper, but you will have some, and some is better than none! Survival hygiene takes effort to achieve in difficult times, remember – it is never too late to start prepping.