In 2010 a family of four sold their charming little condo in the increasingly fashionable neighborhood of University Heights. With the money they bought a stripped out house in East San Diego previously owned by human smugglers. Their goal was a radical change in lifestyle that would allow DIY Makerism, self reliance, alternative technology, permaculture, and urban homesteading into their lives in ways their HOA would have never allowed. The ideas that lead them to take this plunge came from the steampunk movement as it was during a brief shining period when art and philosophy seemed at least as important as brass, and great essays, speeches, and letters were written. These days they don't worry so much about what people call "steampunk." They call what they're doing the Greyshade Estate.

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Friday, February 10, 2012

Fertilizer, sometimes its free

Turning a mass of weeds into productive land is not easy. It takes a lot of time and organic material aka fertilizer. Fortunately a lot of materials are free. For the second year we celebrated the Dia de los Muertos by pulling the trailer up to the Mission Valley site of the Pumpkin Station for straw bales and other freebies. What had been decorative displays, quaint rural seating, and valuable merchandise on October 31st became junk to be cleared away on November 1st. Last year, rains soaked the straw bales making them very hard to shift and stack. I was only able to get nine of them. This year I got twelve. I was astonished this year by the number unsold pumpkins they were throwing out. Last year I got some compostable rotting pumpkins out of the dumpster. This year they had barrels perfectly fine ones. With the trailer loaded I put the seat down and stuffed the back of the station wagon with as many as I could fit. Some we cooked. Some we feed to the chickens, the ones we couldn’t get to in time we composted along with the straw. All of these options beat sending them to the landfill.

Another free source of organic material came from across the street, where another run down foreclosed house was purchased. One of the many problems our new neighbor faced was a dangerously overgrown pine tree with heavy branches hanging over his roof and the street. He had a tree service cut it back drastically. They ground it to mulch on the spot. I asked what they planned to do with all that beautiful mulch and they just rolled their eyes and said “haul it somewhere.” I offered them the option of hauling it only fifty feet to my back yard and dumping it. They were delighted. That same weekend I took my trailer up the Miramar landfill were the City of San Diego has a massive green-cycling operation. City residents can take up to two cubic yards of mulch or compost for free. In the photos above the compost is the small dark mound next to the mountain of pine mulch.

Last but not least I harvested the super rich soil that comes from keeping chickens. After a year of pooping in their straw filled run, it was time to dig out the decomposed straw, manure and soil and replace it with fresh straw. The harvest filled a new bed in our front yard with nitrogen rich black gold.

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