Waste not, want not

Co­droy Val­ley cou­ple liv­ing sus­tain­able life­style

The Gulf News (Port aux Basques) - - Front page - BY ROS­ALYN ROY

ST. AN­DREWS, NL – It’s an­other crisp and clear au­tumn af­ter­noon in the Co­droy Val­ley and, as usual – when she’s not cut­ting hair – Ber­na­dine Ryan is put­ter­ing around in her gar­den. To­day she’s fill­ing one com­post bin with some freshly raked leaves and emp­ty­ing an­other into a wheel­bar­row. “One is for flow­ers and one is for every­thing,” said Ryan, who tends the flower gar­den while her hus­band David grows about a quar­ter acre of var­i­ous veg­eta­bles. She has a third on ro­ta­tion as well, for use as needed. “This one here I emp­tied this morn­ing for my flower pots and my flower gar­den.” Af­ter a decade and a half, Ryan has picked up a lot of tips and tricks about re­cy­cling and re­duc­ing her en­vi­ron­men­tal foot­print. She only puts out one bag of garbage a month from her house­hold, and one a year from her side busi­nesses cut­ting hair. Ryan says she does a lot of read­ing and used to watch a gar­den­ing show to ed­u­cate her­self. “I’ve been com­post­ing hair for 15 years,” says Ryan, who has been cut­ting it for at least 40. “Hair is re­ally high in pro­tein.” For the Ryans, com­post­ing isn’t just about en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact, but a to­tal ne­ces­sity. “I find even the leaves are more vi­brant,” she says about the dif­fer­ence com­post­ing makes. She also used a wood chip­per to make her own mulch un­til David asked her not to use it any­more over wor­ries she might in­jure her­self. “He said it was too dan­ger­ous.” A tree that got blown over went into the chip­per, ex­cept for the huge logs that wouldn’t fit. She burned those in the fire pit and then used the ashes to scat­ter around her gar­dens, par­tic­u­larly the hostas. Ashes, eggshells and salt are the best slug re­pel­lents, Ryan ad­vises. Most card­board and pa­per go into the fire pit in the sum­mer. While she does the bulk of the com­post­ing work, Ryan some­times finds her­self run­ning un­ex­pect­edly short. She once opened a ready com­post bin and found it com­pletely empty – David had used the en­tire lot in his veg­etable gar­den. “We grow turnip, car­rots, pota­toes, beets, peas, beans, Swiss chard, rape, and spinach. This year we had zuc­chini, cu­cum­ber and I grow my own toma­toes.” She had a bumper crop of those.

“I don’t know what I’m go­ing to do with all my toma­toes.” Ryan also does her own bot­tling and makes jams. “If I buy a chicken ev­ery blue moon or a ham that’s about all I buy. We have our own meats. David raises his own pigs.” They also use moose in­stead of ham­burger – Ryan fig­ures she hasn’t bought ham­burger meat in close to four decades. The most she spends on gro­ceries a month is about $100, and she buys as much as she can, like eggs, from other pro­duc­ers in the val­ley. She only wishes there were more pro­duc­ers with a big­ger va­ri­ety to buy from. “Gro­ceries aren’t cheap.” She doesn’t just focus on or­gan­ics ei­ther. There’s not much Ryan doesn’t try to re­use or re­cy­cle. “You know the Sty­ro­foam that comes in boxes? You can chop that up and use that in your flow­er­pots.” She once bought a bunch of ce­ramic tiles and smashed them up to make a mo­saic for her base­ment floor. It’s strik­ingly orig­i­nal and, like most of what Ryan does in her spare time, a lot of hard work. Cur­rently she’s ren­o­vat­ing her kitchen, paint­ing cup­boards and switch­ing out all of the hard­ware. Ryan doesn’t ex­pect much to change in her house­hold when the new waste man­age­ment re­cy­cling sys­tem comes on­line next sum­mer. She’s been well ahead of the curve for a while now. “I com­post, I re­cy­cle, and I re­use.” She thinks peo­ple just need to be prop­erly ed­u­cated and that if big­ger cities can adapt, so can New­found­land. Ber­na­dine says land­fills are just ro­dent catch­ers, and that folks can eas­ily do bet­ter. “I go along­side the road and there’s peo­ple around here – there’s only one in the fam­ily – there’s more garbage in their curb for one week than what we put out for the sum­mer.”


Ber­na­dine Ryan has been com­post­ing for over 15 years.


Like many in the Co­droy Val­ley area, Ryan and her hus­band keep a gar­den full of fresh veg­eta­bles.

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