Fixing an old home with old things…. my way of recycling

When I think of my home, I see a very long to-do list.  It’s a really old place with very many things that need to get fixed, changed, built, painted and planted.  I want to use second-hand (or older) products to do these things where ever I can – firstly to save money and secondly to recycle products that would normally be thrown away.  I know that there will be times where I will have to buy some things to complete tasks and I won’t beat myself up about them, as long as I can stick with my principles for the majority of things.

This last weekend I made good use of my parents being with me and we got quite a few things done. My dad replaced two very old broken light switches (with new ones) for me.  I can now use my bedside light properly and my veranda light can be switched on.  There was just a black hole to put your finger in if you would have tried that last week.  Not a good idea.

While we were at the hardware store I looked very lovingly at new hose pipes.  I really need to be able to water the area where I want some lawn before I even think about planting any. I did however have a few shorter old bits at home which we decided to join and try out.  It looks really bitty with about 10 joins in it but I now have a hose pipe that is about 30 meters long and works reasonably well.  The few leaks get positioned to water plants en route. Even the joins are made with different bits and pieces – it’s rather colourful actually.

We also started a mini herb garden –  I now have basil, rosemary, chives, origanum, lemon grass and parsley planted.  They are not planted where I eventually will have my herb garden because a lot more needs to be done there before I can plant.  This way I can get some herbs now – while I slowly prepare my veggie patch.  I just hope they don’t get eaten by passing animals.


It still looks a little sparse – I will be adding to it when I can.  We also built/laid pathways to the guest cottage and to the Beans cottage so that one can walk to the main cottage without getting thorny dirty feet – especially if it ever rains when it rains.  The pathways are made from old railway sleepers which I got for free and big flat rocks that we went in search of on the property.

You can see how incredibly dry it is here now. We look to the sky many times a day in search of rain clouds. According to those in the know, it should rain by the 10 October. That’s a long wait when things are so very hot and dry.

We cleared this area of some rubble and rocks too – it was good exercise. My wheel barrow is about 95 years old and is full of holes. I think it might die soon.

I want to plant grass in the area around the pathways and I am already one step closer by having my long hose now so that I can water the lawn.  I need to get something to cut the lawn with though.  I mentioned to the folk at work that I wanted one of those old roller lawn cutters that don’t require fuel or electricity and they all burst out laughing at me. They think I am very funny and old-fashioned. Ah well. I will find something.  I think some animals will help keep the lawn short but I am not sure to what extent?

Thanks so much to my parents who worked so hard (and bought me some plants).  We had a grand weekend!

Why recycling matters

Over 42 million cubic metres of general waste is generated every year across South Africa. In addition, more than 5 million cubic metres of hazardous waste is produced every year. The average amount of waste generated per person per day in South Africa is 0.7 kg. This is closer to the average produced in developed countries (73 kg in the UK and 0.87 kg in Singapore), than to the average in developing countries such as 0.3 kg in Nepal.  These are 1999 figures and from looking at other country’s stats – they tend to double every ten years.  That puts us at almost 100 million tons.

I have challenged myself to reduce the waste we produce in our home – that is, the waste that would go into a landfill.  The easiest way to do this is to recycle, reduce and reuse.

In a previous post I told you all about our rubbish problem. One of the comments on this post (thanks Shamballa) motivated me to do something about recycling in our town.  I started asking around, and after a few dead ends, found out that Lisl (from my meditation classes)  and a few others were in the final stages of arranging recycling in Hoedspruit.  Around that time I also found out that our packhouse had 18 tons of cardboard waste that was going to be burned if we could not find some way to get it recycled.  Thanks to Lisl and Nico, we managed to get most of it to Nico’s recycling center. We still have a few more loads to go but I am very grateful that it was not burned.

One of our local supermarkets, the Spar, has kindly volunteered to have recycling bins on their premises.  Now I have a place to go to dump all the glass bottles that were left on my property by the previous owners.

I have been wracking my brains trying to find a convincing reason to motivate others to recycle and I have not got very far so all I can really tell you about is why I do it.  They sound rather cliché I’m afraid……

  1. I love our beautiful planet and I don’t like the sight of landfills.
  2. The sad and confused seagulls one sees at dumps hundreds and hundreds of kilometers away from the beautiful coastline where they belong.
  3. Landfills embarrass me for some reason – I think it’s the visibility of what a wasteful society we have become – everything is instant – you want it, you buy it, you use it – then you toss it – without a thought to what resources it took to make it and what will happen to it after you toss it into the bin.
  4. Plastic is made from oil.  Oil is a limited resource. What will happen when there is  little to no oil left and we can not afford it?
  5. If I don’t start to do something who will?  This is not a governmental problem – it’s our problem, and can only be solved by individuals.

So this is what I am doing and plan to do in the future:

  1. Produce as much of my own food and consumables as possible.
  2. Make food from scratch instead of buying pre-cooked and packaged meals.
  3. Reuse what I used to throw away.
  4. Avoid buying anything in plastic and tins (as far as possible) and if I do, I must find a use for the container.
  5. Recycle what I can not use.
  6. Make compost.

Already we have been able to drastically reduce our weekly bin bags and we are down to less than one bag a week.

If you are not already reusing, recycling and reducing, I hope this post at least makes you think about it.

If you’re not part of the solution you’re still part of the problem – Yvon Chouinard