Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Humanure and You

Dear Readers, 
My friend is honoring us with a guest post on humanure, and why he does it!  We've talked about his soil, or lack thereof, here.  I bet he has practical tips for composting  humanure effectively and healthfully. Yay!

By the way, to be all official, his post represents his thoughts and feelings, not mine.  I offer alternative definitions at the end of his inspiring post. 
That is some low soil moisture soil right there.
My first experience with a composting toilet was 10 years ago in Boone, NC. A friend of mine was living in a yurt on his girlfriend's parent's land. I dreaded using the thing, but I was oddly curious about it. When the time finally came to choose between the toilet and digging a hole in the woods, I opted to try it out. The toilet was right under the deck that made up the yurt's flooring. Literally, right under the kitchen. There was no stink. Not walking up to it, not even when opening the lid.

Looking back on it now, I think it's interesting I almost opted for digging a hole in the woods. There really aren't a lot of differences, a matter of time mainly. In the right circumstances, if you dug a hole out of an old tree stump, it could actually be a single use composting toilet. The main difference is the rate of the breakdown  into "humus". Not to be confused with the Greek chickpea dip, humus is what organic matter (ie poop) turns into when it breaks down, but before it becomes soil [Well, I beg to differ.  Humus is actually a component of soil]. As it turns out your poop is very useful, nitrogen-rich organic matter. When rendered down to humus it makes a very good and healthy supplement for soil. If animals don't dig it up, a poop in a hole in the woods will eventually break down into humus (and then into soil [same comment here, it is already a part of soil, but I still love you Shindagger]). But a good composting toilet will very quickly turn your poop, which is nasty, stinky and rife with dangerous bacteria, into benign, odorless humus.

Compost, which has become fashionable in recent years, needs nitrogen to be healthy and active. Most compost safe materials are carbon rich, so you really need [a good source of nitrogen such as] the manure from a large animal to keep your compost balanced and working. You can get manure from lots of sources, but don't forget that you are a large omnivore creating nitrogen-rich manure every single day.

I own land in the Chihuahuan Desert, where all my water is brought in by truck, or caught from the sky. The average flush toilet flushes 2-2.5 gallons of water every time you pull the handle. In most cases, they don't use spare grey water caught from sink/bath drains, they use 100% potable drinking water. Once flushed the water is useless, disease infested "black-water". Either it is piped back through a sewage treatment plant, treated with various unbelievably complex techniques and turned back into potable water, or it all goes into a nasty concrete pit in the ground called a "septic tank," where it festers, and leaches slowly back into the ground. There's nothing pretty about a flush toilet. It's an out-of-sight, out-of-mind way to easily deal with your poop, but past all those pipes, mixed with all that water your poop is still poop, and it has to be dealt with. My hero Joseph Jenkins, author of "The Humanure Handbook: A Guide to Composting Human Manure," says "Organic material should be recycled by every person on the planet, and recycling should be as normal and integral to daily life as brushing teeth or bathing." Composting my own poop I'm able to conserve thousand's of gallons of water, which is a precious resource where I live. I feel good about taking responsibility for my own organic bi-product (poop!), and i'm composting it back into safe, usable, and fertile soil. Anyone can do it.


Creosote Composter

Thank you, Shindagger!
He sent me a funny picture with his post, but I just couldn't put it on my main page, because it has a "bad" word on it, albeit in another language (Spanish).  So, knowing this, if you are ready to see his toilet's anti-theft system, have at it.

Humus: "That more or less stable fraction of the soil organic matter remaining after the major portions of added plant and animal residues have decomposed (refrence #1)."

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