Natural Materials

There are a variety of applications for other natural materials that may seem like useless waste, as listed below.

6:4:i) WOOD ASH
(farming, outhouse, snowy walkways, soap-making lye)

The ash remaining after burning wood is a rich resource with two main uses. One is to work it back into agricultural land to enrich the soil for growing crops. This is an age-old practice and has an alkaline effect on the soil. Another important use of wood ash is to extract lye to make soap. For more on this see section 5:3:ii.

Sifted wood ash is also a great food preserver for perishables like cheese. Place cheese in a tin container filled with ash and store in a cool, dry place for a year or more.

As well, ash is useful in neutralizing odours from an outhouse by being scattered into the pit on a regular basis. Also scatter ash over ice and hardened snow over walkways to make less slippery.


Collect dry leaves fallen from trees and bushes to add to compost. Fresh fallen leaves can be fed to farm animals, especially rabbits and goats. Use leaves as mulch over farm soil after transplanting seedlings in the spring, and in the fall to enrich the soil over the wintertime. Pine needles can also be used for compost and mulch. Fresh green pine needles should be made into a tea and consumed regularly by all citizens as it is a high source of Vitamin C.


Wood is a precious resource and should be used for fire and construction only when salvaged wood or fallen trees are not available. As often as possible, salvaged wood, fallen branches, and gathered twigs should be used for kindling and firewood. When using salvaged wood from buildings and structures, use treated wood for heat only, in ventilated areas, and never for smoking meats. Pine wood is not recommended for heating in woodstoves as the gum residues can stick to the inside of stove pipes and could eventually spark a dangerous house fire. See section 3:1 for more on fire for heating and cooking.


An alternative to wood as fuel for fire, newspaper bricks can be made and stored to use like logs. Gather all available newsprint, such as from old newspaper buildings, print shops, etc, as well as old cardboard and paperback books. Follow the instructions below to make your bricks, and when dry use in place of wood logs in a fire. A brick press is required.

[ illustration to come ]

1) Tear up materials into small pieces.
2) Place in a large barrel or container and cover with water. Stirring occasionally, let sit for 4 to 6 days until the paper comes apart in soft pieces.
3) When the paper mixture is soft and mushy, scoop mixture into a brick mould and press to squeeze out all excess water.
4) Turn out brick and let dry in open air, protected from rain and moisture, for a few weeks or up to two months. The brick is fully dry when it feels like a piece of wood.
5) Store in a dry place and use in a wood stove. Four bricks should burn for about an hour.

This is a versatile process which readily accepts combinations of paper materials with sawdust, wood chips, and dried grass clippings. Paper bricks are not suitable for construction as moisture causes paper to expand.

Read the next section, Trailers & Sleds...

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