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Eleven months of the composting toilet

Open-air composting toilet

One of our Egyptian onion winners included a note asking for an update on our composting toilet.  I'd actually been meaning to write a post on the topic, but it's really more of a Mark post than an Anna post --- there's not much to say when things just work.  But Mark is still not entirely excited by the idea of humanure (although he does agree our new system is better than our old one), so hopefully you will all forgive a bit of a light post from me on the weekend.

Blocking out

Keeping wildlife out of the excrement has been the only real problem with our composting toilet.  After Mark added tin to the sides last winter, we didn't see another problem until last week when something reached through one of the few cracks still exposed.  We'll cover that opening up soon, and will definitely cover all the gaps before moving to the next hole this fall.  I had originally thought the compost chamber needed those openings for aeration, but there seems to be plenty of air flow through the open seat and smaller cracks without leaving big gaps between the wooden walls (as was proven by the sniff test).  I've seen a few flies hanging around, but not even as many as are in the chicken pastures, so I figure our sawdust covering is doing its job well there.

Composting toilet seat

The size of the composting chamber seems to have been perfect for the two of us --- the goal is to fill one chamber every year so that by the time we use up the third chamber, the first is ready to empty.  Our original chamber started looking pretty full a month or two again, but summer weather also prompted rapid decomposition, so the contents have sunk down at the same rate we've added to them.  We've used up an entire bin full of sawdust to fill this chamber, meaning that our finished compost will actually consist primarily of rotted sawdust and will presumably be quite good around the base of trees.

I guess I had more to say about humanure than I thought I did.  Who knew!

Our Avian Aqua Miser is the POOP-free solution to a filthy homestead problem.

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From your photos, it appears that the seat is getting sort of warped, and maybe where it connects to the floor it might mold enough to rot...I think people tried to whitewash their outhouses (tho we never did). IT's a possibly rotting floor that might be one problem. Have you thought of nailing a screen to the opening in the back?
Comment by adrianne Sun Aug 18 10:41:53 2013
Mom --- Good point. I think the issue is that we made the box square instead of jutting out in front like a toilet. Luckily, we'll get a second chance in a month when we move to the next hole, and I might line the front-inside of that seat with flashing to shed pee. I'll bet this side will dry back out once we stop using it and be ready again in 2015. :-)
Comment by anna Mon Aug 19 08:28:17 2013

Anna Do you plan to use any of your humanure on any vegetables? I have read a few web articles on the subject it seems the verdict is split whether this is good or bad idea. I know you have to make sure it reaches a certain internal temp and some say to wait over a year. etc.

Comment by Anonymous Mon Oct 7 11:27:30 2013

Anonymous --- We have so many fruit trees, where it's much safer to apply the humanure, that I don't think we'll need to put any on the vegetables. I'd definitely be a lot more careful if I was going to put it around vegetables. I figure if the compost sits in the chamber for a full year, then I apply it around the base of fruit trees in the fall and mulch over it, by the time any fruits could possibly land on the ground, pathogens will be long gone.

This is all in the future, though. The first chamber will be shut off sometime this month, and then we'll have to wait until fall 2014 to get any humanure. A long wait!

Comment by anna Mon Oct 7 11:43:59 2013
At first I was really grossed out by the idea of it but the more I read on gardening and found even using animal manure raw and incorrectly can cause diseases. I read that all manures should be composted. I guess if you apply cow or horse manure in the fall and till it in you may be ok, I know you are doing no till which is what I hope to convert all my gardening to eventually. It seems like it would be the least amount of work after it is established. I still have to go through the rat race everyday. I do worry about no till though, my wife and I have cats and they like to do their business in the beds. I know it is just if the flesh that you eat comes in contact with faeces is when you have to worry right?
Comment by James Mon Oct 7 18:19:47 2013

Anna What about rabbit manure? Do you have all the worries you do with other types of animal manure? I have read you can apply it directly to the garden soil.

Comment by James Mon Oct 7 18:32:57 2013

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