Thursday, June 13, 2024

Opal’s homestead hacks: Don’t trash good garbage

| April 1, 2020 1:00 AM

Opal Harbert, Queen of Homestead Hacks, has an old-fashioned approach to daily life that’s becoming new again.

Rather like her scrap bucket.

Having grown up with parents who literally lived off the land, built and grew their own or just made do, Opal’s penchant for borderline-hoarding, repurposing, and DIY-ing has suddenly gone from weird to wise.

With more Americans are staying home and trying to stretch resources with reduced income, Opal’s simple tips and homestead tricks come in handy. Last week, she shared how easy it is to make immune-boosting bone broth and use flavor-enhancing olive juice.

Instead of throwing away chicken carcasses and olive dregs, it also means less waste destined for the dump. The Harberts are a family of four adults, but you wouldn’t know it from their garbage.

“We throw away about one kitchen-size garbage bag per week,“ Opal said.

Whatever (whole) food scraps she — or their dogs — can’t use, she returns to nature.

“I keep a flip-top cat litter container outside my kitchen door. While I’m cooking I put scraps (no fats or meats) in a bowl and dump it into this container. When it starts to fill up, I take it to the garden to compost.”

She said coffee grounds and tea leaves are particularly good for berries and other plants. Compost can add acid to soil or bring the pH of alkaline soil closer to neutral. How much this happens is complicated and depends on the particular soil and compost. But I digress. Returning plants such as uncooked vegetable scraps to the land feels like nature intended.

“I have a low laying spot in the garden for compost,” she said. “When the scrap bucket gets stinky, I throw everything in the pile; it breaks down. I add leaves, slash, or fireplace ash on top if I can to help or bury it.

“It’s been there for years and if I need good dirt, I dig around a little and use that for planting.”

Opal said she simply digs a hole, puts in some of her compost, tops that with a little dirt then adds the plant.

“I’m a lazy gardener,” she said. “My rhubarb plants loved this. They’re so happy!”

Next time, something for the birds.

• • •

Addendum - pickling: Friday’s mention of shelf storage may have been misleading. Opal emphasizes that unless the jar is sterilized and sealed airtight, food in pickle or olive juice is best kept in the refrigerator.


Compost your food waste.