"Self-sufficiency does not mean 'going back' to the acceptance of a lower standard of living. On the contrary, it is the striving for a higher standard of living, for food that is organically grown and good, for the good life in pleasant surroundings... and for the satisfaction that comes from doing difficult and intricate jobs well and successfully." John Seymour ~ Self Sufficiency 2003

Saturday 20 April 2013

Re-using broken pallets

Naturally, all buildings sites are left with a huge amount of waste.  Ours was no different.

Amongst the broken bricks, broken roof tiles, large quantities of wasted cement (what is it with builders, don't they know much cement they should mix at a time in order to minimise wastage???), scraps of wood, I was fortunate enough to find I had 6-odd wooden pallets in various stages of disrepare.  Our brick supply company returned (over 180km trip!?!) to the site after the builders were finished, in order to collect any pallets which were still viable.  The rest - they left them for me :)

Great - I KNOW exactly what I want them for...

... my compost heap.

We live in an area of hectic winds, and incredible heat in the summertime.  So creating an open pile of compost is just not an option.

RMan and John, the local labourer, measured out according to my requirements ;)
RMan and John measuring out the future compost

Then, it was up to John and his trusty "koevoet" (crowbar without the turned bit at the end) to make the holes for the support poles, and, once the poles were in situ, using the "koevoet" again to firmly pack the soil back round the poles.
A "koevoet" is the only way to dig a hole in our
summer baked ground
Trust me - this was h-a-r-d work.  I have the greatest admiration for John - he doesn't seem to feel the heat (perhaps the constant flow of iced juice helps), his back never seems to give a twinge, and he has incredible strength.

Any hole which needs to be dug in summer can only be dug using the "koevoet" - be that for a pole, or a tree - any hole.  Our gound is so hard there is no other way to break through.
John, using a tin to scoop out the soil he has
loosened with the "koevoet" 
Then RMan bolted the pallets to the poles, and the end result is...
My shadesloth covered compost heap
... a shadecloth covered compost heap - the shadecloth is required to keep the compost from blowing away, and to keep some moisture in the compost.
Lovely, lovely compost :)
We cheated - as we required compost for the winter vegetable beds, we purchased 2 mtrs3 of compost from a local supplier.  But any garden refuse that we had was placed at the bottom of the compost pile.  Hopefully, by next spring the garden refuse will have broken down, and will be usable.

So, instead of those precious pieces of wood being cast aside to rot away over time (if they had been left to lie in the open) I gained a compost heap made from pallets.  I'm a happy little puppy :)


  1. Congratulations on your new compost heap!

    Lucky for you, you have RMan and John to do the hard work.

    1. MsBelinda - I couldn't manage without the two - I reckon our ground is almost as hard as that in Terlingua... ;)

  2. That's very inspiring. I need a compost bin of some sort and never thought about pallets. Now where to find some for free here in town. Thanks!!

    1. 1st Man - Thanks. Check out your hardware / bathroom tile store. They normally have more than they know what to do with :)

  3. Great compost bin. Considering your conditions will it always be there or will you move it every couple of years and turn the patch of ground it was on into an already fertilized vege garden(with vine supports) or a place to plant a new fruit tree?
    Cheers, Robyn xo

    1. Robyn - Reckon we'll keep it there - hopefully, that way, any field mice who decided to make it their home will stay on the boundary of the property and not venture near my veggie patches LOL But - good idea about using the ground for planting and the supports for vines...

  4. Terrific win-win situation all around there, Dani. I couldn't make all these gardens here at the Sanctuary as fertile as they are if I didn't have my trusty compost piles working away. Use some of that grey water to keep moisture on the pile, though, else everything will dessicate, not decompose. Good luck. :-D

    1. Kris - Unfortunately, our grey water flows downhill, as all water is apt to do LOL Our compost heap is situated at the highest point of our property, but is right next to two 5000lt rainwater tanks, so that "clean" water will be used to keep the heap damp :)

  5. Sounds perfect! Although, I do not envy the hard, packed soil! Sounds miserable! Thank goodness for John! Congrats on your new compost pile!

    1. Bee Girl - Thanks :) Couldn't do it without John - RMan's and my (age related) bad backs couldn't handle the heavy load. There again, without us, I fear for John's earning potential - he is uneducated, un"qualified" and unfortunately, over imbibes whenever he can. At least I can ensure that he gets income and two good meals a day when he's working for us.

  6. I am a bit jealous of your lovely compost :)
    Over two years I built up quite a bank of compost by ferrying about a thousand wheelbarrow loads (erm, possible exaggeration) to the far end of my driveway, so it would be midway between two garden areas. After a very heavy snowfall, the struggling snowplow pushed a lot of scraped up driveway (tar-covered pebbles) into and over it the bank. I'm going to try to dig out some compost from beneath the mess, but am not overly optimistic :( I should probably throw in the towel and buy some organic loam for my little gardening endeavors, but it just goes against the grain!

    1. Quinn - I wish I could say we produced it, but we didn't. Not yet ;)

      Aw - so sorry to hear the snowplough thwarted your compost heap - hope you can salvage some of it...


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