Thursday, May 7, 2009

My Greywater System.

Lint from the washing machine water is the first cause of sceptic system failure. The content of the greywater from the washing machine is actually very beneficial to plants (organic materials, but also phosphates from the soap - phosphate is a fertilizer).

The setup includes a surge tank where the washing machine water comes in, an overflow going into the sewer or septic, an outlet going into the garden, and a small drainfield at the roots of one of my trees.


Inlet and overflow:



This system worked for a year. Since it is illegal to dispose of greywater above ground, I disconnected the system until I found a better solution. This involved building a reedbed for organic filtration, and underground piping for irriguation. The reedbed is described below:

Troughwall connection going to the reedbed:

Reedbed been build:

Reedbed filled with marsh plants:

Plant growth after 1 year:

Plant growth after 2 years:

Greywater from the reedbed:

Sustainable Living: priorities

Once you have decided to become self reliant, the first thing you will find out is that the way of life you have now is so far from self reliance that the task seems impossible. It is almost impossible to be completely self reliant today, but there are many things we can do in our families to decrease our reliance on society and government, and therefore decrease our vulnerability against adversity (unemployment, natural catastrophes, ...).
The best thing to start with is an action plan. Decide what you are going to change in your life, and set steps to achieve your goals.
Here is my action plan:

1. Finances. Build up 3 months of savings. Eventually, build a separate cash reserve that will provide one year of mortgage payments.

2. Stop the city garbage service, and take care of your own garbage. Buy 7 garbage cans, and haul them to the nearest dump site once they are full.
Star a compost system to recycle food wastes from the kitchen, as well as weeds from the garden. If rodents are a problem, star a worm bin.
Anything that goes to the garbage bin has to be replaces, so self reliance also means reducing your garbage.

3. Start a garden. Grow green, carrots, beets, tomatoes, squash, beans, radishes. All those are fairly easy to grow. Plant fruit trees such as apples, cherries, plum ...

4. Find a local source of heat. Where I live in the PNW, that source may be wood (from our forests), or electricity (from our electric dams). I have a wood stove and an electric radiator. I do need to find a way to ventilate the house in case of power outage, when I use the wood stove. A solar panel connected to a DC fan could do it.
Protect your house from excessive heat. Plant deciduous shade trees around your house. Deciduous trees will not block the sun in the winter, when you need it. Their dead leaves will enrich your compost.

5. Harvest rainwater for toilet flushing and cloth washing. Those are non critical use, but they are the biggest users of clean water. Why use drinkable water for those?

6. Recycle your greywater. Water from laundry and dish washing may be reused to water plants, particularly shade trees. Fruit and berry trees are also an acceptable recipient of greywater if you use organic detergents.

7. Food storage. There are items that cannot grow in your area, or require too much work, those should be in the food cellar. Sugar, salt, grains (rice, wheat, oat ...), dried milk ...
Start canning the produces of your own garden, build a solar dehydrator, so you can stock your food storage with produces of your garden.

8. Get a good bicycle, and train your self. No need to win the Tour de France, just train yourself by riding 5 to 10 miles a day. This bicycle, and your training, will become very handy when gas rationing starts.

9. Try a composting toilet. A simple system may be build for about $50. They are not as practical as flush toilets, so once it is built and tried, you may store it in the garage until the need to save water arises.

10. Build a cold frame. This will allow you to grow food early in Spring, to late in falls.

These are my 10 steps, I have been working at them for several years.