The Homestead Resource Pile

Reuse Old Materials with a Homestead Resource Pile

As you start to move off grid, you begin to realize the value of junk.  I’ve never been a pack rat, but I am sure going in that direction.  Here is a short video where I show you how I handle the accumulation, and the different levels of storage.

What techniques do you use to keep your junk organized and available to be reused?  Use the comments section below to share your best tricks!


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This post was written by Marjory


  • Mike Cobb says:

    Count me in on the Ft Worth presentation. I assume you’ll publish particulars like time/place (I think those guys meet at the Botanical Garden).

    Regarding ‘junk’; That old saw about (resourceful) farmers comes to mind. ‘The measure of a man (woman in this case) is the quality of his junk pile.’ The more cool and interesting stuff in the farmer’s junk pile the more innovative and quality repairs he could make to the inevitable frequent failures of equipment.

    If you can re-purpose materials in an innovative way that is at the same time functional, attractive and artistic….it’s even better.

    1. Hi Mike, yes I’ll put the details of the Ft. Worth meeting in the next few newsletter drops. Hope to see you there. .

  • DaveM says:

    My grandfather had a junk pile. Three of them, actually: two for metal objects and one in an old corn crib that was mostly lumber (that’s not to mention a garage with shelves lined with coffee cans filled with miscellaneous hardware). When something broken or needed replacement out on the farm, he looked through one pile or another and found something that could be adapted to fix whatever it was. He once fixed the clutch on my go-cart with a piece of transmission band from a Model T Ford.

    Yes, there is a point at which “stuff” becomes junk, but as long as it’s got wheels or usable nuts/bolts/screws/hinges….chances are you can get something out of it before it goes to the “junk man”.

    By the way, you mentioned an old refrigerator. If you take the condenser coils off the back and pull the plastic lining out of the door, the coils will very possibly nest inside and you’ll have the beginnings of a solar water heating system. As the tubing is very small in diameter, you won’t get a LOT of output….but you won’t have much invested either!

    1. Hi Dave,

      oh yes on the condenser coils. They are sometimes made out of copper too, which is very useful / valuable.

  • Virginia Knapp says:

    Hi, MJ,
    As always, thank you for your interesting articles. Your brain must be cranking 24-7.
    I have an old metal shed, on which I replaced the torn off doors with plywood. Junk storage.
    I thought melt down was coming last year, so started storing cardboard boxes (to burn, or for insulation) and plastic and glass jars. I liked your idea of using junk mail as compost. So, what I decided, for my new compost pile, was to collect my junk mail and put it through my paper shredder. My plan is to layer green compost with layers of junk mail shreds.

    As I am eating better, cooking from scratch, I now have minimal packaging waste. Hopefully, with more homegrown, that will decrease further.

    1. Oh Virginia, thanks so much for writing in. I am constantly pointing out to my husband that yes, that cardboard is very important to me and better not get hauled off t=o the dump! LOL.

  • Virginia says:

    One more thing, More of a recycle issue.
    Off Amazon, I bought an electric battery recharger, under $30.
    I recharges even alkaline batteries.
    Great purchase.

  • adw says:

    keep your carport frame! You can re-purpose it as a great green house. It may not be a necessary down there in Texas as it is here in Northern Nevada, but it makes an awesome green house frame.

    1. ADW – Oooohhhh, yes, what a good idea. Even just covering it with shade cloth would be good.

      Thanks you!

  • StoneyB says:

    My picture is in the dictionary under the term packrat. I can’t stand to dispose of something that has potential reuse value. I do try to keep my treasure trove neat and/or covered. I once had a neighbor who was eying some items I was disposing of and another neighbor told him that if I was junking something it really had no use or value. 🙂 I’m glad I’m not alone in this strange world. I really appreciated your insightful video and wish I was close enough to make your farm visit day when/if you have it.

    1. Hi Stoney, Well hopefully we will meet up someday. Oh dear, every time I look at all the various projects in stages of either construction or deconstruction I wonder if I’ll get get it ‘visitor ready’. LOL. But I do love throwing big parties…

  • Kim says:

    You made me laugh to see your resource pile. One day I told my late husband that he had to get rid of his junk pile because I was sick of looking at it and we hand people coming in from out of town to stay for a while. When I got home from work the next day, his junk pile was all sorted into neat little piles and guess what…it then became a resource pile instead! I have to admit that once things were sorted out into like items, it did look better and it no longer bothered me to look at it.

    1. Thanks Kim, yes, it does change things. And I really do need to clean that one up!

  • sherry says:

    My dad used to call me his “junk lady” – I prefer the term “ultimate recycler”! My husband & I tend to repurpose lots of different things. Right now I’m stacking as many window (some with stained glass) and glass doors in the backyard as I can get my hands on; when we get enough they’re going to be combined with some 2×4 and tranformed into a wonderful greenhouse. A stack of flooring tiles that I got for next to nothing was cut and fitted and became my kitchen countertop & backsplash. Outgrown clothing or ripped jeans are recycled into strips for rag-rugs or made into potholders. A scavenged A-frame from a yard swing is going to probably going to become (with the help of a roll of heavy duty plastic sheeting) a mini-greenhouse for a small herb bed next fall. And my husband once made a part for the engine of my van out of a piece of a fireplace log tong (the Toyota dealership said the part would have to be paid for in advance and it would take about 12 – 14 weeks to get it from Japan – WTH?!?) He starts tearing our shed apart looking for something to work with and said he needed a piece of heat tolerant metal a little bigger than a quarter. Took me about 5 minutes to find the extra fireplace tools and him about a day and a half to make the part, get it fine-tuned and put the engine back together. Drove that silly van for another 2 yrs – LOL. Probably helps that he is a blacksmith trained machinist by trade, but I’M the one that found the ‘junk’ he needed to get it fixed 😉 Gotta love the junk!

  • Debbie says:

    Ya gotta have a “bone yard”! It’s perfect for creativity and keeps the landfills from filling up too fast. There is something about neatness that makes it less discouraging like that unresolved issue I don’t want to face– looking around at a lush, productive outfit and there’s the mess. There’s something about sorting and organizing that stays in my memory so I don’t go trotting off to the store every time I need something. The older generations who always had victory gardens almost always had a bone yard too. Great topic!

    1. Ohhh, I like that wording “Bone Yard” sounds better than resource pile.

  • Diane K says:

    Hello Marjory,
    I watched a previous video regarding float waters that you constructed. You said if we let you know you would post how you went about making them. Our flock has grown by 2 ducks lately. I’d like a more efficient way of watering. Thanks in advance 🙂

  • Mel G says:

    We have resource piles too. Our main one runs along the 60 ft. back side of the pole barn. I shop there for wooden posts, t-posts, corrogated roofing, pallets, wire (barbed and smooth). Behind the loafing shed I get cattle panels (great for impromptu trellises or A-frame garden tunnels), woven wire fencing, irrigation pipes, galvanized pipes. Elsewhere we have stacks of assorted pavers, stackable stone, railroad rock, dimensional lumber, railroad ties. It’s so handy to just run out and grab what’s needed instead of driving all the way to town.

    And it feels instinctual and natural to farm resources from my environment. I also get exactly the same feeling when I’m out on our land foraging wild foods, or even when I’m harvesting from the gardens. The shopping instinct goes wayyy back in our history. It’s built into us and it feels so right probably because it touches on ancestral ways. Going to the big box store never elicits those feelings.

  • Laurie Larson says:

    Hi Marjory! I pick up discarded items and use, store, give away or sell. I have a new neighbor on an old sail boat transforming much of my junk to furnish, repair and remodel his new house boat. Amazing when you have the know how to transform useless materials into even luxury living.

  • I inherited my brother in laws farm. He was the dump master for a land fill garbage dump. So he would load up his vehicle with things he thought would be useful around the farm. Plus the resource collection from my father which includes stuff from his father and grandfather was moved here. So I have an old chicken brooder house full plus a bone yard of pipes and steel beams in back of that.
    I am gradually transforming the pipes into wicking beds. A project you might like to try. Among the items were waterproof load tarps. I dug out topsoil in the area where I wanted the garden bed Then lined the hole with the tarp folding the corners so that I had a water holding container. I then put drain tile and connected other pipes in the bottom with an elbow that comes to the surface. Then returned the top soil to the hole. I fill the pipes with water which acts as a reservoir which wicks up into the soil but can not drain away into the subsoil.
    This system works very well during our long summer drought. Frequency of watering is greatly reduced. Water loss is greatly reduced. Plants are not stressed by the soil drying out between waterings.

  • Bobbi McCanse says:

    I garden on the roof of our earth sheltered home. It used to be that our county dump allowed people to salvage things from their huge piles of metal, wood, tires, etc. Sadly they have ended this practice, probably because of liability issues. But before they shut us out we were able to accumulate several old vehicle tires. These initially elevated out 4X4 garden boxes to about waist height. We eventually replaced them with wood pallets, left from construction, as these keep the garden boxes more level.

    Now the stacks of tires, 4 to 5 high, are planters for my tomatoes. They accommodate my guerrilla composting, being over 3 feet tall, and the long tomato tap roots. They also keep the tomatoes out of reach of the persistent ground squirrels that thrive in the federal forest that surrounds us. I take the tire stacks apart each year and amend the dirt, add more compost, etc.

    A friend who owns a feed store sold us, cheaply, a couple of sixteen foot cattle panels that had been damaged. A fellow gardener showed us how to bend them and cover them with plastic sheeting to protect the tomato tires. We anchored the structure with pieces of re bar also left from construction, instant green house. Our spring and fall weather can be very unpredictable and frost is a constant threat.

    We have also salvaged a couple of bath tubs, one fiber glass and one of steel. Old iron claw foot tubs are easier to find but are very heavy and difficult to haul up hill to the roof. These two tubs, and another metal box from a yard sale, have been set up on cement blocks, again, to annoy the ground squirrels, filled with composted straw and dirt, and planted with carrots and beets. Onions go into the big plastic tubs that came with the bur oak trees we planted last year. Again, they are up on cement blocks. An old sink has been fitted into a wooden frame and a faucet and drain attached so that I can wash vegetables harvested “upstairs”. A small stove salvaged from an RV will be attached to a propane bottle so that I can do some “in garden” canning of just harvested vegetables, especially tomatoes.

    I have also done a couple of things decoratively with items salvaged from an antique store that was going out of business. Old window frames will be fitted with mirror to give the illusion of additional space in my shade garden. White glass ceiling light covers will be hung on fences and planted with herbs. Round glass light globes are becoming garden gazing balls. Sections from a discarded set of closet racks have become supports for climbing plants. I managed to wrestle several tree roots, from trees that had been cut during construction, out of the woods and lined them up along the garden fence as additional protection from hungry deer. They are interesting if not pretty. We also have a large pile of slash, trees and roots, left from construction, that I would dearly love to cover with dirt and try a little hugekulyur. Saving that for another season.

    A last note about re-use in the garden. Last year I tried straw bale gardening, to no avail as the ground squirrels instantly ate everything that dared come up. Having invested quite a bit of nitrogen and water in this failed attempt I was not about to just toss the straw in the compost pile. I separated the leaves of the bales and tucked them into the pallets that support my raised strawberry box. Although most of my strawberry plants had been killed by the cold the previous year, this spring, when I uncovered them, they were thriving and many had blossoms. I suspect that the composting straw helped keep the strawberry box warm as well as keeping the cold and wind out of the pallet base.

  • Victory says:

    Hi Marjory
    I love your articles but more than that I love your spirit. I love creating using material that most people don’t care for and I am thrilled to read that there are so many people who love to do this. I feel it is my responsibility towards the earth to not burden it with junk and as a bonus I get a sense of accomplishment while doing it. There is nothing compared to the joy of not wasting anything. I wish you guys were in Canada and we could plan potlucks together 🙂


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