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

Thermophilic humanure composting

Loveable looIn contrast to the more widely used cool humanure composting systems, the author of The Humanure Handbook recommends thermophilic composting.  His method is extremely safe since all pathogens die when compost achieves a temperature of 143.6 degrees for an hour, 122 degrees for a day, 114.8 degrees for a week, or 109.4 degrees for a month.  As a result, Jenkins has used homemade humanure compost in his vegetable garden with impunity for decades.

Jenkins' system uses the inside toilet as a mere collection device.  He fills a five gallon bucket partway with sawdust, then adds another layer of sawdust after each use.  Once the bucket is full, he carries it out to his Humanure Hacienda (a two-bin outdoor compost pile), rakes back the covering material in the center of the pile, deposits his load, and covers everything back up with straw, hay, weeds, leaves, or grass clippings.  After rinsing out the bucket, he pours that water on the compost pile as well, and all of his food scraps are similarly deposited.

Humanure haciendaThe Jenkins family of four fills one bin of the Humanure Hacienda each year.  On the summer solstice, Jenkins shuts off the old bin and lays down about eighteen inches of pile-covering materials in the other bin.  By the time the second bin is full, the humanure in the first bin has thoroughly composted and is ready to apply to the garden, leaving the first bin empty and ready to refill.

While Jenkins' system is definitely tried and true, I don't really see the point of carrying humanure around in buckets.  After living for a few years without a toilet in the house, using the bathroom indoors has started to feel unsanitary (and also boring --- no wildlife viewing opportunities), so I'd be more inclined to move the whole humanure system outdoors.  Tomorrow's post will end our lunchtime series with a couple of iterations of Jenkins' design that keep poop-handling to a minimum while retaining the benefits of thermophilic composting.

The Weekend Homesteader walks you through no-till gardening, cooking with homegrown goodies, keeping chickens, and much more in simple weekend segments.

This post is part of our The Humanure Handbook lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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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.

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slowly trying to convert my husband... keep posting these type of blogs so I can show him... thanks
Comment by Irma Thu Sep 13 13:22:28 2012
Irma --- There's one more post in the series coming up tomorrow. Hopefully that'll be enough to convert your husband --- I don't think it was enough to convert mine. :-)
Comment by anna Thu Sep 13 16:36:31 2012
It is warmer in the winter, and more user friendly for guests.
Comment by Eric in Japan Fri Sep 14 01:01:32 2012

Eric --- People always talk about how awful it must be to use the bathroom outside in the winter. But brushing snow off the toilet seat is really no big deal --- you get used to it really fast and stop noticing. (Or maybe my body just starts needing to use the bathroom at the warmest part of the day?) On the other hand, I never seem to stop noticing the wildlife hopping around to entertain me during my outhouse excursions.

After walking half a mile through the mud to get to our trailer, our guests are ready for non-user-friendly accommodations. :-)

Comment by anna Fri Sep 14 07:20:48 2012

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