Let’s spend a little time on some ideas that are worth digging deep into. The idea of Perpetual Resource Cycling™© combines three innovative ideas into one lovely package. This idea can be applied to all sorts of businesses, social and household functions, but I love applying it to small farms because it offers solutions you can literally lay your hands on.
Perpetual Systems are systems that when set up properly need minimum maintenance. If you owned a perpetual motion toy as a kid you know that they don’t truly work forever without any intervention, but they do make amazing use of the natural forces around us that we don’t have to exert energy for. Gravity, centrifugal force, hens digging up the ground….these are all unstoppable facts of nature. Designing systems that not only account for these forces but count on these forces, adds efficiency. Having even one Perpetual System on a homestead or farm is a worthwhile investment of time and money.
A ‘Perpetual System’ example would be the old grain mill making use of the river’s water power. A smaller version would be throwing scratch grains inside the chicken coop in the winter to encourage the hens to fluff and turn the deep litter.
Everything is a Resource refers to anything you have (or know), not just the things the neighbor thinks of as valuable. Why nit-pick the distinction? If you’ve been reading about homesteading for a while you’ve probably come across ‘a weed is just a useful plant in the wrong place’. This mindset helps us see past what we currently don’t have and ask ourselves how we can get where we want to be using the resources we already have. One thing I know we all have a lot of is household waste. After we take our donations to the Salvation Army and flatten our milk jugs for the recycling bin, we still have quite a bit of waste coming out of our homes. From grey water to egg shells, a small farm offers opportunities to reuse these resources that city life makes impossible.
An ‘Everything is a Resource’ example is the humble dandelion. Although poisoned by homeowners all across America, the French adore them as salad fixings, with some European chefs eating petal to root. Horse manure is another example an organic gardener can appreciate. The stable owner is oppressed by so much poo…the gardener eagerly pays good money to have it delivered.
Cycling is just the process of going around…those outside of homesteading might first think of a bike. Recycling is perhaps the next most common word association. How about we leap frog our thinking out to the ‘Velocity of Money’? In the world of economics we find that the faster (velocity) money moves around an economy the more good it does. Don’t get me wrong, savings are great for individuals, but that dollar bill does more good for a community when it is put to work than when it is put under the mattress. With just a modest inflation of 2% a year, the value of your money is cut in half every 35 years. The same sort of effect happens to our resources that can rust, rot or spoil. Keeping the resource engaged means it does more good. The faster it moves, the better.
A ‘Cycling’ example is the simple compost bin where all spent plants, ‘weeds’ and grass clippings go into the compost bin. The contents of the bin are then added back to the garden. To increase the velocity of the compost, we could introduce chickens to the compost bin that will eat the food bits that interest them, returning them to ‘soil’ in less than 24 hours and constantly turn the compost causing it to break down faster.
A perfectly closed loop can be cost prohibitive, so I would argue that good Cycling can simply increase the number of uses before disposal. An example are the innovative sinks/toilet combinations that allow hand washing water to drain directly into a toilet tank that then becomes the water used to flush. There’s even a kit to add a sink to your existing toilet. There are other great water examples that really got my mind working in this grey water book.
When we put all three concepts together we can see how complimentary they are. If you are reading this, you probably do a few of them currently. The idea behind Perpetual Resource Cycling™© is to up level what we are doing to enjoy even more of the abundant life we’ve chosen.
The best way to see the distinction is to compare what we typically do in our farms and backyards with what we could be doing. A typical mindset might be: the chicken gives you an egg; you eat the egg; put the egg shell and other kitchen scraps in the compost bin; 6 months later put the compost bin contents on the pumpkin plant; 4 months later give the chicken the pumpkins that were too damaged to sell at market; chicken eats pumpkin; chicken gives you egg. In this long cycle you have continued to feed the chicken for the 10 months between the first egg they gave you and when you finally reward them back with a pumpkin.
Perpetual Resource Cycling™© would take this great start and up level it by digging into all three concepts. The end result might be: the chicken gives you an egg; you eat the egg; tomorrow the crushed egg shell and other kitchen scraps are fed as chicken treats; 1 day later the egg shell and kitchen scraps are fully broke down and ‘deposited’ in the chicken run (and the chicken gave you another egg and you gave it more eggshell and kitchen scraps….); a row of Amaranth and pumpkins are interplanted on either side of the chicken run (roots and young plants protected by hardware cloth); 3 months later seeds begin to fall into the run for chicken treats (Amaranth seeds continue to fall until early winter); chicken gives you an egg; 1 month later pumpkin matures and is fed to chicken; chicken gives you an egg. In this shorter cycle you have still continued to feed the chicken, but the eggshell itself was cycled back to the hen within 24 hours and the hen cycled that into plant nutrition within 24 hours. By skipping the step of moving the chicken poo, you save man hours, and all the nitrogen and other minerals that the chickens produce (a resource) are available nearly instantly to outstretched plant roots. You get your pumpkin 6 months earlier and your chickens get a treat of egg shell calcium the very next day. Less vitamins, minerals and nitrogen are lost to rain and sun exposure. You may not want to eat Amaranth and pumpkins growing so close to the coop, but your hen’s diet is supplemented and there is plenty of extra chicken poo to compost for human crops.
In this Perpetual Resource Cycling™© example we have expanded on all three areas. Perpetually we recognize that we can save energy/man hours by planting crops at the very edge of the source of nutrients, this proximity also allows it to capture extra moisture and nitrogen that would be lost in waiting for a move to the compost bin. Perpetually dropping seeds also allows us to extend the Amaranth harvest until every seed is mature (bonus entertainment for the hens). Resources are everywhere in the form of the edible egg, the calcium rich egg shell, the kitchen scraps, Amaranth seeds, pumpkins and yes, chicken poo. Cycling keeps it all moving as quickly as possible by allowing the chicken’s digestive system to speed up the break down of eggshells and food scraps. Cycling is naturally improved by the use of Perpetual systems because automatic is always faster than waiting on a human to find time to do something. Cycling is also sped up by recognizing Resources because we value Resources…if we have a well-designed system then putting that Resource to use is faster/easier than storing it.
Perpetual Resource Cycling™© on a industrial scale is displayed in Sweden’s ‘Waste To Power’ program that uses trash to power their electrical grid. Sweden has a long history of innovative ecology and they know that trash/waste is a perpetual issue. They have been quick to recognize that waste can be a Resource. They Cycle waste quickly by sorting out recyclables and converting everything else into electricity. It has become so successful that they actually import trash!
Perpetual Resource Cycling™© always works towards zero maintenance, waste and storage through smart design and integrating systems….not by adding machines or equipment. It looks at the bigger picture, and often finds innovative breakthroughs in our forgotten pasts.
We will be offering training in Perpetual Resource Cycling™© with an over-all designation of Perpetual Resource Management™©. See the homepage under Services Offered for more information.
Horse Photo: Highsmith, C. M., photographer. (2014) Scene from the Cannon Quarter Horse ranch near the town of Venus in north-central Texas. United States Venus Texas, 2014. -09-02. [Photograph] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/2015630743/ Bike Race Photo: Highsmith, C. M., photographer. Bike race on Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C. Washington D.C. United States, None. Between 1980 and 1990. [Photograph] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/2011632658/.
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