Thursday, 11 December 2008

'Ode' to an Orange Peel

After this post I'm sure some of you may think I've completely lost it. But what the heck, I will put this idea out there anyway.

Yesterday after my lunch hour at work I was putting away all my reusable bags and containers to take home. I had eaten a terribly non-local mandarin orange and its peel was also sitting on my desk. I was deciding whether to be lazy and throw the peel in the garbage or be responsible and bring it with me to be put in the composter when I had this really clear thought: "you are coming home with me." It was an particularly distinct thought, that brooked no equivocation or disagreement. (I will often bring peels and stems and such home with me but sometimes I do get lazy and just throw them away.)

I looked at the orange peel for a moment. The orange had come from at least as far away as Florida, maybe even Mexico. (Last year I avoided eating any mandarins at Christmas time because they came from so far away, but this year I've given in and bought a few). Darn it, after traveling all that way so I could eat it, I wasn't going to just toss its remnants in the garbage can. In fact, I was going to make sure that it was nicely returned to the earth, with my other compostables. It may have been a transient and unnoticed orange up until now, but its peel was going to have a home, right in my garden. Sentimental? Yes. Wacky? Perhaps. But all things are connected. That orange came to me courtesy the seeds, sun, rain, picker, trucker and grocery store seller, and it deserves some respect. Why are the molecules in this orange peel any less valueable now than when they were covering the orange segments? Really, why do we treat so-called 'waste' items with such indifference, or even disdain?

As if to emphasize yesterday's realization, today an inmate at the jail I work at gave me a Christmas tree ornament made out of a quartered orange peel. He had drawn a snowman on the inside of the peel, and it had been dried and pierced with a hole so it could be hung on a tree. That's some respectful repurposing, hey?


SoapBoxTech said...

That's awesome. I so love little personal tales like that one. And no, I don't think you have lost it...but then maybe I am not one to speak!! haha.

When I was a kid, on the farm, christmas was one of the rare times a year when we ate much of anything that had been shipped a long way to get here. Most everything else came off the farm. So mandarins were pretty special and now, you're right, just one more thing that comes from across the world.

So I can't wait to get a year round greenhouse going. I want to have a separate section for some warmer climate fruit like oranges and such. Learning that dwarf fruit trees grafted with regular will produce nearly full size fruit was very exciting for me. Now if I can just find the capital for that first building...

Theresa said...

It was quite funny the conversation I was having with myself about whether to post about it or not, but then the gift of the orange peel ornament decided it for me!

A year round greenhouse sounds fantastic! Would it be brutally expensive to heat? Would you have it be wind and/or solar powered? Wouldn't it be nice if the government clued in an started giving some development grants for sustainable projects such as this? Maybe you can somehow tie it in to carbon sequestration - Stelmach seems pretty keen on that ;)

Maggie said...

Best Christmas ornament I have ever seen. I have just been having a festive grump over at Chile Chews.
Seeds, soil, plants and beautiful fruit, real life is great after all.
It is always good to stop by your blog.

Theresa said...

Thanks Maggie - good to know I was "keeping it real" after all and not going way out in left field somewhere!

Amber said...

Your post reminds me that I often get lazy about the apple cores I end up with at work. Sometimes I bring them home to compost and sometimes I throw them in the garbage. After reading this, I know what I will be doing with them from now on!

Thank you!

SoapBoxTech said...

I am glad you liked the idea, Theresa...I rather thought you would.

There are a few different ways to approach a year round greenhouse. There is a fellow with a company in Colorado who has developed a yr round geodesic dome design which he claims produces even in the Rocky Mountains in winter, albeit at a lower rate. Searching for Growing Spaces should lead to his website. He and his wife seem to be great people and they have a lovely product. And if it works in the Colorado Rockies, it should work here in Alberta for single families or little groups.

The other is a fairly intuitive technique that I have seen compiled by the Solviva lady. She has a book, which I have not read but would love to find, and one can find various info about her methods by searching Solviva. It is basically twinning green housing and animal housing in one structure in order to share heat. Plus, utilizing some other techniques such as thermal mass and a warm water system for gentle soil heating can help a lot as well.

Alberta gets a decent amount of sun, even in winter, but one will still need some kind of supplemental lighting system which means electricity. Electricity also factors in somewhat, in that when combining animal husbandry and greenhousing this way, air filtering is quite important. Animal dander on all the fruit and vegetables would not be so great. If one does not wish to involve animal husbandry, there may require supplemental heating for stronger production as well. So yes, this can get expensive but I want to use some other sustainable sort of ideas to balance this out for those who are worried about such costs (as nearly everyone will soon be).

Jean Pain was a brilliant guy who came up with a method for naturally producing natural gas and hot water from composting large brush piles. He and his team would lightly clear out underbrush from the surrounding forest (thereby protecting it somewhat from the ravages of forest fire, while accomplishing a similar beneficial outcome) and chipped up this underbrush, composting it in large piles. In the centre of the pile is a fermentation chamber which produced large amounts of natural gas from water and partially composted manure. This natural gas can be used for all the same things as that which is pumped from the ground. Also, pvc water pipes were coiled throughout the compost pile. Water was run through these pipes as the pile composted, and the heat warmed the water (to 60C as I recall). This gas and water could easily take care of the greenhouse activities and could assist with household heating/hot water as well. There are a couple of videos which document this process on the Taranaki Farms website which is listed in my blogroll.

I am actually working to start a company oriented around designing and selling such year round setups for local small farmers and acreage owners. If it goes well here, I hope to open a shop in Edmonton as well, allowing me to spend more time down there where so many of my close friends are.

I hope that all made sense. So many ideas, so little time.

SoapBoxTech said...

Hey Theresa, I was given a Bookworm award and now I am giving you one! Have a look at the comments from my december 9 post for more information.

Theresa said...

Thanks SBT - that's neat! I will blog about it in the next couple days - I already have my book excerpt ready....

kale for sale said...

I love this story. Thank you for posting about it.

Fortunately citrus is local around here but I do toss the peels because the worms don't like them. At least that's what I've been told.