I recently watched a YouTube video about a couple that decided to move to the woods and create a permaculture homestead for themselves. I know that this is the dream of many couples, especially younger people with unlimited desires and expectations but limited resources. The couple bought 30 acres because they wanted to be able to “have the resources” to operate a full blown permaculture domicile. On the face of it that seemed reasonable, even wonderful, but after having once had just two acres to maintain (during my twenties and thirties), I have a good appreciation how much work is involved managing 30 acres. I would imagine that the bulk of their land will be used to provide privacy. The video also got me thinking, so I googled the question, “Per capita, how much land is available on this earth for each human being to live on?” It drove me to this interesting discussion on Quora.com. The long and short of it is that after you deduct the water, deserts, mountain ranges and other uninhabitable or unproductive land on this earth, there remains, reasonably, less than two acres for each person, probably much less. Considering all the inhospitable land and governmental constraints against development, it is probably reasonable to say that, on average, a couple could expect to have less than a 1/2 to a 1/4 acre to share if it were possible to divide the productive land up among everybody on earth. All of this begs the question, “Would you want or need more than that?”
Living aboard a 34-foot catamaran sailboat for five plus years with my wife gave me an appreciation of self-reliance and minimalist living, not to mention the thrill of gliding across the top of the water like a pelican. I actually found that lifestyle quite comfortable. As a long time student of money and politics, I had begun to develop a sense of the need for preparation for an uncertain future. We may disagree as to the outcome of where the world is economically and politically headed but I think we would all agree that we are in uncharted waters. As a sailor, I am keenly aware of the dangers of uncharted waters. My studies and my lifestyle led to a project of testing the possibility of having a complete permaculture existence on a standard 1/4 acre residential lot, specifically the lot that my house was on. At the time we bought it, it was not to develop a permaculture lifestyle. We bought it simply because it was out in a beautiful “Old Florida” part of rural north central Florida and on a canal on the St. Johns river where we planned to keep our sailboat and from there explore the world. But life intervenes with health issues and grandchildren and things change.
My ideal mini-permaculture homestead would include (in addition to local utilities) multiple sources of water, local fuel (wood) for heating, solar energy assistance and gardening and waste management in all its forms. The entire concept began simply enough as a way to manage the waste coming from a urine diverting, composting toilet that I invented for living on our boat. It would become known as the C-Head toilet (and for a while as the “BoonJon” toilet for use on land). By extension, my permaculture garden became known as the BoonJon garden. Let’s look at it more specifically.
Water sources would include water from the canal behind our home using a simple pitcher pump on the dock and gravity feed system for watering the garden. It would also come from rain water and a rain barrel and gutter collection system since the canal water is stained with tannic acid and could affect plant growth. Additionally, it would come from our municipal water system and from well water for drinking purposes. These water systems are still in development to varying degrees. We have solar in place to augment the local electric company and fortunately, we live in a district with a solar friendly electrical power company. We have two cast iron wood stoves and the accessories to install one in the house if needed and one in the garden to heat the green houses in winter. It also serves as an incinerator along with a fire pit (for enjoyment purposes) and for reducing dehydrated solid waste and woody materials like fallen branches into ash for the garden. Since we live in the Ocala National forest, the second largest national forest in the contiguous United States, we have an abundance of wood for fuel purposes in addition to electricity and propane.
Managing our organic waste includes composting our yard waste (leaves, branches and grass clippings), garden detritus, table scraps, used animal bedding (although we don’t have any animals yet other than Bailey our cat) as well as eliminating offal and dead vermin using black soldier flies or composting. It also includes the management of our bodily waste, specifically our pee and poop. After a series of experiments over the past seven years using combinations of hot and cold composting, black soldier flies, earthworms, solar dehydration and incineration, I have developed a system of human waste management that is extremely safe and easy to implement. It is low cost, independent of an infrastructure, speedy and almost universally feasible. One of the main purposes of this BoonJon Garden blog is to explain the ongoing experiment of how best to manage the waste coming from the C-Head toilet in a variety of situations, locations and seasons. This blog is the voice of a movement (pun intended) and it is meant to get people actively pursuing the advantages of the BoonJon Garden as a waste management system. This is something that we need to push upon our legislators as a superior system of waste management in areas where public utilities are either not available or else expensive to implement. There are high walls to climb and battles to fight against established ideas and laws. Please join the movement and the conversation with your questions and observations. If you found this article helpful, please forward it to a friend.
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