Closed loop system

Posted by on May 20, 2015

Our purest goal is to achieve a closed loop system where nothing is added or removed from our homestead. It is a lofty goal and we are not there yet, nor do I actually believe we will ever get to that point, but we do work toward that goal every chance we get. I will attempt to brainfart the connections in our system and this page will probably get updated as I think of new connections to make or as I remember that some of my ‘automatic habits’ are connections created long ago.

Chicken feed is fed to chickens, who then poop it out. That poop is either composted in place to ease chicken waste management, or moved directly into the compost pile. Even the deep litter in their coop and run is eventually moved en masse into the compost after spring planting exhausts our compost pile.

Rabbit feed is fed to rabbits, who then poop it out. That poop goes through the floor of their cage and mixes with the straw that also falls from their screened floor. The chickens love to scratch through the bone dry rabbit pellets and straw looking for worms, beetles, and other insects. Rabbit poop resembles the kibbles used as dry dog food, so it is not as disgusting as it sounds. I have watched the chickens many times and they are absolutely not interested in eating the poop itself. Good girls!

After the spring planting depletes my compost pile, the rabbit and chicken bedding make it into the compost pile. The compost will also be fed tons of nitrogen from the critter bedding in late fall along with all of the leaves that fall in the yard. Remember, a house in the woods tends to gather a ton of leaves in the fall. While compost is a good place for kitchen scraps, most of our kitchen scraps go to more needy and deserving areas of the homestead.

Rabbits eat much of our veggie scraps, but they do have some dietary restrictions and generally do not like veggies gone bad. Chickens love anything grain-like including our old banana bread. Chickens also love our ‘red’. Tomatoes, watermelon, berries. If it is red, the chickens will fight over it. If it is veggies that went bad, the worms will love it unless it is citrus or animal in origin. Meat scraps and organs from slaughtering critters are placed into BSF (black soldier flies) buckets. The BSF flies use the meat to lay eggs that become larvae, who crawl out of the bucket into the watchful gaze of our chickens. The pheremones from BSF ward off other flies, so this is an awesome convergence of multiple systems.

Obviously, the compost is destined for the trees, shrubs, and plants in the garden. Then I pick the food parts, then we put most of the rest of the garden plants into our compost pile in late fall. The corn leaves go to the rabbits. Except for the fruit, every part of the tomato plant is toxic and goes directly back to compost.

The aquaponic system is all kinds of closed loop. Fish waste becomes fertilizer for the plants while the plants are cleaning the water the fish live in. I add fish food, pick plants, and usually have very little plant waste that the rabbits or compost end up getting. Fish harvesting leftovers get frozen in portions that end up in the BSF buckets that produce fly larvae for the chickens.

Worms handle non-citrus plant waste regardless of how rotten or gross the veggies get. From the worms we get chicken and fish food (worms themselves), worm tea (concentrated liquid worm fertilizer), castings (worm poop), and a really potent compost after you let the coconut coir soak up plenty of worm liquids.

Ashes from our fireplace are emptied into the compost pile. We have a very efficient firebox and burn 24/7 from 40F and below. This produces a wastebasket of ashes once a month. Hot fires using mainly oak and hickory produce very little ash and keep the chimney clean all season.

Leave a Reply