Homesteading Advice: Handling Gray Water, Surplus Tomatoes and Young Hens

The Ask MOTHER column provides homesteading advice. This issue covers handling gray water, what to do with surplus tomatoes and raising young hens.

| April/May 2000

The Ask MOTHER column provides answers to readers questions about modern homesteading. This issue answers questions about handling gray water, surplus tomatoes and young hens.

I love the magazine and enjoyed the article on yurt living ("A New Life on the Rio Grande") in the September 1999 issue. In the article, author Lisa Mower mentions "an easily constructed five-gallon bucket filter that goes beneath the kitchen sink. It is supposed to filter out particles, fats and gunk before the water goes to the garden . . . "How can I find out about this homemade filter? It's exactly what we need here, for our water recycling projects in Mexico!

Gina Bisaillon
Instituto de Permacultura
de Mexico
San Jose de Gracia, Mexico

Your question brings up "gray water" management — an environmentally sensible system where wash and cooking water is segregated from human waste and disposed of independently. In the process, human waste never mixes with the drinking water supply, but is left to decay naturally back to soil in an earth closet, privy or outhouse (located at least 100 feet from a water source), in a composting toilet or in a separate flow of "black water" that is treated in a competent belowground anaerobic septic system. Water used to wash diapers, sickroom linens or bandages should also be treated as black water. Only if boiled the old-time way with lye soap or modern antibacterial detergent for ten minutes can this contaminated wash water be disposed of nonseptically.

A five-gallon under-sink water filter can be adequate for a small sink that is used sparingly and cleaned often, but a 20-gallon or greater capacity is better.

Find a stout plastic or metal container with a tight-fitting but removable lid. You'll also need a few feet of plastic plumbing pipe of the same diameter as your sink's drain pipe, a 90 degree elbow, a cap and grommets to fit where pipe enters/exits the container and cement and fittings as needed.

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