I posted a few days ago about fire and cooking, and I thought today I’d show you what I’ve put in place for all the things we do that use water.
Do bear in mind that I live in a shared house with all the usual utilities provision, so to fit in gracefully with what everyone else is doing and because we have what we have and that’s just how it is at the moment, my way of doing things is frugal I hope, but not hard-core off-grid. Far from it.
So first thing when I get up in the morning I go along to the bathroom for a wash and a pee. Once every few days I have a shower, but the rest of the time I wash with water in a bowl and a cloth.
Here’s my ablutions system: a pot, bowl and ewer, with a cloth kept spread out like that so it doesn’t go dank and smelly through being mostly damp. The water in the ewer is either from the regular tap, or rainwater if we have a lot of rain. When it’s tap water, I first look to see if we have some run-off water to fill my ewer. By that I mean the cold water that comes first out of the tap when folk are running water for a shower or for washing/shaving. We collect that cold water and set it aside in a big plastic bottle, and that’s what I use for washing.
So I pour some water into the bowl and have a wash.
That dark bottle on the windowsill by the bowl is wonderful rosemary hair-rinse that smells so clean and good - I put a teeny bit in the pot each time it's emptied and washed out; makes a good disinfectant and keep everything smelling sweet.
I spread things out on the floor like this (that's not pee you see in the pot, it's the rosemary hair rinse for goodness sake!), pee in the pot, wash with the cloth and water (no toilet tissue needed), rinse out the cloth and tip the water into the pot with the pee. I stack the system back together again and store it by the regular washbasin.
At the end of the day I go down for a watering can
stand it in the bath (in case of spills!) and tip the diluted pee into it. Then I top up the can with rainwater
And it goes on the garden.
I think you could say our plants are flourishing under the administration of all these nitrates!
Meanwhile, back in the bathroom, I save up all the paper bags that any bread or veggies we buy come wrapped in, in the flowerpot there. Newspaper does just as well. Oh - you see that pail? A plastic bowl sits in the top of it. When the Badger shaves and washes, he collects the run-off water (described above) in the bowl and tips it in the pail, before he starts.
I use a paper bag to line a handy container (a plastic flower pot) to collect what the permaculturists call humanure.
Did you know that we are supposed to poo squatting? If we poo sitting on a high seat (a toilet, for example), a muscle is switched off by the angle at which we’re sitting, making it harder to poo. I wonder if that partly explains the constipation problems in our society? One can remedy this by providing a footstool to raise the feet and create a squatting position – or do as I do and go in a flower pot.
I hop into the bathtub to wash my hands and relevant body parts, then off I go down the garden with the resulting parcel.
At the bottom of our garden is Hebe’s wild-flower meadow for the bees
and the campfire patch next to the Badger’s shed.
Alongside, by the garden boundary wall, are my twin bokashi bran bins.
Bokashi bran contains microbes that act on humanure rendering its highly bacteriological content innocuous. One is full, and sitting for a couple of weeks while the bran works its magic and the other is being filled. When the second one is full, I’ll spread the contents of the first in the ageing compost bin, cover with a layer of earth (a couple of inches deep) to discourage animals from attraction to the bran, which smells foodie, and leave it to rot down over a year, where the heat in the composting process destroys any pathogens. That’s our bean tunnel, by the way, alongside the composting bin.
The lid of the bokashi bran bin is clipped on. It’s air-tight – anaerobic composting.
I take the lid off and this is what I see – no smell, nothing nasty, no flies or maggots or mould. You can see the bin is lined with paper. The carbon of the paper is a good balance with the humanure, and rots down well in the heap. It keeps down water content, and means the bin tips out cleanly once full.
I pop the new parcel in
and sprinkle bran on top
from this air-tight storage caddy
until everything’s covered.
Then I clip the lid back on tight to keep out air and flies.
Just over the garden wall is a wasteland with lots of nettles. Time for my morning tonic.
The seeds of nettles are PACKED with nutrients, and have a very energising, tonic effect. Each day I pull off just one or two of the little hanging festoons of seeds and eat it.
Then I head back up to the house. You can see the solar tubes on the roof.
Here they are.
They heat our water, so we rarely need to use the gas furnace. Our bills are titchy.
Back inside, it’s time for breakfast. The thermos still has some water from yesterday, already warm for washing up.
I only need a little bit, to wash out my tea cup and then my cereal bowl bowl.
It's the same when I wash my hands; vegetable soap, unpackaged, from the wholefood co-op, and just a little water:
This morning I had cold cereal, so I didn’t light my little fire – and the Badger had already boiled the kettle for his tea; there was enough water in it for me too. I am not perfectionist about my off-grid ambitions in this shared house. I try to be practical. Why light a fire when someone has already boiled a kettle?
The thermos is really handy. It’s good for a late-night cup of hot chocolate – saves boiling a kettle. I read somewhere that boiling electric kettles is one of the really big uses of domestic electricity.
So – just two other things to mention about water.
Laundry – I do use the washing machine. For a while I was washing by hand in the shower, but to do that I needed to shower more often and use more water each time. As it’s an electric shower I began to wonder if this was saving anything. We have photovoltaic panels on the roof, and wash clothes usually on sunny days so they dry – therefore the electricity to run the machine is generated by the roof panels. Our machine is very conservative of electricity, and we use the shortest, coolest wash. I’ll tell you about the laundry and cleaning products we use another time. We don’t have a tumble drier of course – we have this whirligig washing line. It has four sides and you can fit loads on it. Oh, hi Badger! :0)
Another water thing I wanted to show you while we're out in the garden, is this system for growing tomatoes. It has a fitted plastic sheeting cover, and a reservoir for water at the bottom, so it conserves water for the thirsty tomato plants to the max.
The water for it comes from our water butts.
These free-standing ones are lined up here by the woodstore. We fill them by hand in rainy weather from the one that catches the roof water.
We have storage capacity for 700 litres of water at the moment in our garden. England is blessed with lots of trees and lots of rain, so the land holds the water well and the water falls aplenty. Therefore in a relatively wet year, as this has been, I think there have been only three days when we needed tap water for the veggie garden and the trees.
Wormeries give off lots of liquid plant food too. The tap's broken on this one by the young pear tree which has grown magnificently as a result!
One of the benefits of my morning ablutions system is that it takes me out in the garden at least once in the day. Writing books is an indoor task, and very full-on with a deadline approaching.
So I get to see a little of this
Before I go back in to this
Beige jumper (Oh. In England a jumper is a sweater. We try not to sweat).
Brown jumper. Itchy.
Mysterious garment. Is that a polo-neck? I believe so. Musta bin itchy.
What a dear little thing. This pic is a little over lifesize. It had herbs in to make things smell nice.