The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Biochar toilet concept

Biochar in IndonesiaBiochar (aka terra preta) is the new darling of organic gardeners.  Everyone's talking about it, and no wonder since terra preta in the Amazon has turned poor ground into high fertility soil that seems to last hundreds of years without any additional input of fertilizer.

What most people don't realize, though, is that biochar is more than just charcoal buried in the ground.  Amazonians probably stumbled upon the mixture accidentally when they combined human waste, crop residue, charcoal from their cooking fires, animal bones, and plain old trash in their midden heaps.  Scientists aren't quite sure why the resulting mixture is so good for plant growth, but until a biochemist tells me otherwise, I'm going to assume that all of the traditional elements are necessary to create true biochar.

Mark and I have decided to experiment with our own biochar composting toilet as a method of adding fertility to our young forest garden.  Our first incarnation is simply a four foot pit dug in the ground.  We'll poop in the hole and intersperse our humanure with leaves, charcoal and ashes from the woodstove, and the poultry bones we need to hide from Lucy.  Presumably, the nearby fruit trees will begin to send their roots into the terra preta as it ages and will get a good meal.  Meanwhile, our system won't require us to handle the humanure at all, unlike most composting toilet systems, so there's absolutely no risk of contamination.  Maybe the biochar composting toilet will replace composting toilets in the near future.

Are you ordering chicks this week like everyone else?  If so, order an automatic chicken waterer as well to get them off to a good start.

Anna Hess's books
Want more in-depth information? Browse through our books.

Or explore more posts by date or by subject.

About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

Want to be notified when new comments are posted on this page? Click on the RSS button after you add a comment to subscribe to the comment feed, or simply check the box beside "email replies to me" while writing your comment.

Super blog post. thought you might like to see the biochar toilettes we have been making here in the camps in Haiti using char from the LuciaStoves. is there an email I can send you some photos? they have been woking like a charm and we are looking to make many many more


Nat of WorldStove

Comment by Nat Mulcahy Thu Mar 18 16:24:19 2010
I'd love to see your photos, and to read more about what you did! My email is
Comment by anna Thu Mar 18 17:48:31 2010

profile counter myspace

Powered by Branchable Wiki Hosting.

Required disclosures:

As an Amazon Associate, I earn a few pennies every time you buy something using one of my affiliate links. Don't worry, though --- I only recommend products I thoroughly stand behind!

Also, this site has Google ads on it. Third party vendors, including Google, use cookies to serve ads based on a user's prior visits to a website. Google's use of advertising cookies enables it and its partners to serve ads to users based on their visit to various sites. You can opt out of personalized advertising by visiting this site.