Living Off Grid – Our Boneyard

Reader Contribution by Ed Essex
1 / 3
2 / 3
3 / 3

Our family owned commercial construction company had a boneyard. We often worked in the refineries and every one of them had a boneyard. I’ve worked at other construction companies and each one of them had a boneyard. Here at our little homestead we also have a boneyard.

Whenever you do a home project you have to purchase materials. You always order as close to the perfect amount as you can but invariably there is a little bit left over. Maybe you only needed ½ a sheet of plywood but had to order a full sheet. What do you do with the left over sheet? You put it in your boneyard. Next time you need a small piece of plywood you don’t have to go to the store, you go to your boneyard.

I wasn’t always a big fan of the boneyard. In our construction business we did a lot of jobs every year and some of our people had a tendency to collect a lot of left over material. When a job was done you had to pay someone to sort through the left over materials – some to go back for a partial refund, some went to the dump, and the rest came back to our boneyard. We had to pay for the sorting and hauling and stacking in our yard. Then later we would have to pay someone to go out there and sort through a pile of lumber to get exactly what they needed and then stack it all back up again because what you needed was always on the bottom of the pile.

Some places like a refinery can afford to order all kinds of miscellaneous pipe and fittings and store them in their boneyard for future small projects and/or emergency repairs. Most of us don’t have that luxury to spend that kind of money and just have it sit there.

We didn’t have a boneyard while living in a condo. It just wouldn’t have been practical in a community like that. Well we have one now. We have an area set aside down by the barn with metal scraps and plastics, mostly left over fencing pieces.
We have another area where we store leftover dimensional lumber from the construction of our home.
In yet another covered area we have a stack of plywood pieces. We also have left over finished wood products in our attic storage room from the cabinet and wood trim installation.

Laurie has her own boneyard. She loves to sew and over the years has accumulated A LOT of material. It is stored in plastic stackable containers. She almost never has to go to the fabric store. She uses the left over material for all kinds of small projects and quilts.

I built a finished kindling storage rack for our wood burning kitchen stove out of left over matching cabinet pieces; the desk and shelves we use for our business and computer; the shelf and coat storage rack in our “mud room”; complete storage racks in our storage room; shelving in our garage; chicken nest boxes and roosting racks, and numerous other small projects in both the house and barn, all without going to the local department store.

We cut the steel stake end off of a broken plastic temporary fence post and use it for staking rows in the garden. We’ve saved and reused both plastic and metal fence wire for splices when needed. Broken tools and handles get recycled one way or another. We have a huge stash of 5 gallon plastic buckets in our boneyard left over from the construction of our home. Mostly paint buckets. You can never have enough 5 gallon buckets. We have plastic pipe of all kinds left over as well. We have been using it for all kinds of things from repairs to temporary piping.

It is 23 miles one way to get to the nearest hardware store from here. The cost is currently $11.00 just for fuel to make that trip. By having a boneyard we have probably saved over 30 trips to the store the past few years. Not only did we save on fuel but we also saved on the materials! Now if I could just figure out how to get paid to sort through the pile ………

Ed and Laurie Essex live off grid in the Okanogan Highlands of Washington State where they operate their website  and

Need Help? Call 1-800-234-3368