Friday, February 20, 2009

I Will Grind Your Bones To Make My...

I love eggs. I eat them every day and every day I get two egg shells. Such things should never go to waste. They are rich in calcium. I save them. They get cooked in the oven whenever the oven is being used. It isn't worth heating the oven up just for them, but I am paranoid about salmonella, so unlike some people I cook them. Then I roughly crush them and put them in a ziplock bag in my pantry until it is full. Once or twice a year I take the bag out and powder the contents in my food processor (warning doing so will cloud the bowl of your food processor). It is probably not necessary, but I think the large eggshell chunks look funny in my garden and they take forever to break down.

So what does one do with saved eggshells? Some people make their own calcium suppliments with them. I'm not quite ready to try that yet. Others swear roughly crushed eggshells kill slugs. I've tried it. My slugs laugh at such attempts to kill them and multiply.

I use it as fertilizer. Sometimes it gets sprinkled on the compost pile, but my favorite way to use them is on my tomatoes. They love them. I put the powder under them as a supplement when they get planted. If I suspect blossom end rot, I make eggshell tea to water them. Blossom end rot happens when the plant isn't taking up enough calcium. This is often the result of erratic watering, but since I can't time my rainstorms, I supplement with egg shell tea and it works.

The other day I made roast chicken. The next day of course was chicken soup to use up the carcass. As I was throwing away all those bones, I started thinking. I keep my eggshells. Why don't I keep my bones? Instead I buy bone meal for the garden. This seems kind of silly. Was there a way to grind up the bones for use. Thoughts of sledgehammers went through my mind. Though I did toss that set of bones, I started searching the web for more information.

My initial thought as I typed in my search was, "This is an awfully grisly search." I was wondering how much of my web traffic was getting monitored by some government computer somewhere and what someone would think about me wanting to know about how to grind up bones. Well it turns out it is a very common subject among pet owners that feed their cats a more natural diet. Yes they grind up chicken bones all the time with meat grinders, but raw chicken bones are easier to grind than the cooked ones. So on I went with the search.

Lots of people burn them and then put them on their garden. Not quite what I was looking for. One person uses a Vita Mixer. Another uses a pressure cooker to make his soup. It turns out when you cook chicken bones in a pressure cooker they get really soft and then break up easily. Interesting, but I don't have a pressure cooker.

Then I found my favorite site (scroll down to the article "How To Make Bone Compost"). Ah yes go back a hundred years and see how they did it then. Wood ash, bones and water together will turn bones into mush in about three months. In fact you get both your P and some K with that mixture. I'm assuming it will still be very alkaline, so great for liming my garden. If only I still used my fireplace, I'd have a steady supply of wood ash. Hmmm. I'm thinking I can get wood ash on camping trips. Or maybe I'll just go buy myself a pressure canner/cooker and make my life easy. I really would love one to can pumpkin this fall. I've been thinking of a pressure canner for some time. Then again the sledgehammer idea sounds like it might be fun.


  1. That's such a great idea! I alway throw the bones away after making stock so making my own bonemeal would be one less thing to stuff into the landfill. I actually keep things like crab shells and fish heads/guts in the freezer to put into the compost or underneath my tomato plants.

  2. Very interesting. I put my eggshells in the worm bin.

  3. post title is priceless. I also use mine for tomatoes but just throw them in the tomatoe bed all year...I have never actually pureed them, good tip!

    Now for the bones...bleck! I can't imagine it myself but if you have the stomach for it I say go for it, just another reason to raise chickens!!! I must say it is an interesting concept. \

    Great post! Kim

  4. I always toss most of my egg shells in the blender with the morning coffee grounds and a bit of water, then I pour the resulting sludge around a plant or two in the garden. I'll be sure to do this around my tomatoes this year. Even if the coffee adds a slight amount of acidity (and "they" say the used grounds don't) my alkaline soil would benefit from that.

    Actually, I toss a lot of my kitchen garbage in the blender and pour it on the compost. Might as well give that decomposition a head start!

    I do boil some of my egg shells, dry them and grind them in a coffee bean grinder, then add them to my dogs' food as a calcium supplement. I used to bake them, until I burned a batch...that smell was just nasty. My dogs eat chicken thighs for most meals, so I have a lot of chicken bones. I think I'll buy a pressure canner ;-)

  5. Wow! I didn't see that one coming! Ha! It went straight from " I will grind your bones to make me" to "I love eggs". I just crush my egg shells with my hands, and sprinkle them onto my compost piles.


  6. Funny I was just doing the same thing in preparation for my tomato plants. I agree about the slow decomposing. When I sift my compost (not necessary but more aesthetically pleasing) I always have seen eggs shells that seem to look exactly how I put them in. I have my baggy full ready to pulverized them into powder.

  7. Now that is being self sufficient. By the way, I have your envelope addressed and your seed pack all ready to go but I am still waiting on my seed order to arrive. The anticipation is killing me!

  8. How interesting Daphne. I never considered saving the bones to make my own bonemeal. Let us know how it works out for you. Now I do save my eggshells for the compost bin, but thanks for the info about using them in the veggie garden.

  9. Just another reason why I love your blog.

    Recently we had the subject of pressure cookers come up. Dh was talking to an Indian friend of his. We've been hesitant because of the idiocy to technology ratio can be pretty high around here (at least with me).

    He pointed out that pressure cookers use less fuel and less time and many people in less affluent countries uses them because of that.

    So get a pressure cooker and save some gas or electricity. ;)

    If you think the government thinks a websearch is crazy, wait until they get a look at your barrel of homemade lye and bones.

  10. Great idea, Daphne! I use eggshells in my compost and have often ground them in my food processor too. I've never cooked them, but have considered it many times- especially recently. Of course, if I were going to get Salmonella from them, you would think it would have happened when I ate the eggs! I think I may just have to cook them anyway!

  11. Michelle, hmm I've never thought of keeping fish parts. I usually have them cut even the skin off my fillets so I rarely have extras. I have thought about asking for fish heads from them this spring. I'm growing a three sister's garden, so would love to do the old way of growing the hills, ie add fish for fertilizer.

    Sheila, so many people don't actually use their eggshells. Shocking I know. But my non gardening friends don't save such things.

    Kim, Ha, surely there are disgusting chores that you do with that camel of yours. Bones can't be that much worse.

    Annie's Granny, oh yes they do smell so awful when burnt. I try to keep them in for about 15 mins. If they end up in there longer, I put the container out to cool outside so I don't have to smell it. Wow pureeing your vegetable scraps. I doubt I would do that since my blender doesn't live on my counter. I rarely use it.

    EG, I thought of some transition, but decided just to let y'all deal with it. But don't you think that story is a perfect gardening story. The beans weren't really magic at all. They just grew well because of all the spilled bone meal from the giant.

    Cheap Vegetable Gardener, I think it is funny how we do things like that for purely aesthetic reasons. I'm sure the egg shells are slightly more available in powdered form since they have more surface area, but I only do it because it looks nicer.

    Dan, your envelope went out today. I forgot I had to start my bunching onions (thank goodness for schedules or I'd forget to plant half my seeds). If they don't make it through customs, let me know.

    Perennial Gardener, I'll blog when I do it, but it may be a while. I won't have any ashes until the summer.

    Tam, I might just do that. I want one for canning anyway and tt would save a lot of time with my beans too. I soak them overnight, but they still take a long time to cook. The only flaw with that would be I wouldn't know when they are done. I like really soft beans so usually wait until they just start breaking in half. I'm sure I'm sure I'd figure out the general timing eventually, but I love to pick up weird varieties and they all cook so differently.

    Tessa, good point. I haven't gotten sick on my eggs yet and I eat them over easy, so not fully cooked. You would think that would make me sick first. They haven't. But then again, the cooking doesn't take more than about 10 seconds of work and my oven is already on.

  12. There should be no customs problems, there is no restrictions on seed unless it is commercial sized shipments. You just sent them lettermail right?

  13. Wow, this is great. Several barrelsful of bones I don't got, but since I do have ashes, I'll try this in a bucket.


  14. Bone fertilizers, huh? Now, that's something! I read that before. Those eggshells are very useful. Aside from using 'em to fertilize plants and pets' food supplement, can humans consume 'em, too? Searching for an item in the internet can be challenging, especially if you're not quite sure what you're looking for the first time. But once you find it, make sure to bookmark it. Good thing you found that "How To Make Bone Compost".

  15. Try out this link

  16. Hi, this is an old blog post, but I was searching for an solution on breaking down bones for compost and this was all I could find. Unfortunately, the link to the article is no longer valid. Could you please give me the recipe/process for this to work? Thanks

    1. The only one I remember is the one that I wrote about myself. Mix bones, ash, and water together. It takes about three months for the bones to turn to mush. But if you want something faster wikihow has an article: