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

Composting toilet compromise

how to make a composting toilet the easy way

Most humanure systems use a 5 gallon bucket to collect the product, and for the longest time Anna kept trying to talk me into one of these fancy, composting toilets. I kept visualizing a less than happy picture of such a system and wondered if the juice was worth the squeeze when it comes to trading yuckiness for usable organic matter.

Regular readers to the blog will know how serious Anna takes her compost, and I knew she would eventually wear me down if I didn't come up with a better solution. "How about locating the latrine near fruit trees?....once their roots mature enough they can find the organic bounty and turn it into delicious snacks. We can add leaf matter and bio-char to make it more balanced."

It only took her a few minutes to see how a more simple approach would save us time and decrease the yuck factor. It's been a few years since then, and I'm ready to call the experiment a success.

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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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It sure beats handling "honey buckets". :-)
Comment by Roland_Smith Mon Feb 27 18:31:58 2012

We use a 5 gal bucket system in our house, with rice hull cover material. I love it. It is in the house (no trekking outside with a flashlight at night, and warm), no smell, and easy to use. The only thing I don't like is that rice hulls take so long to break down. But they take less time than cedar sawdust, which we used first. All in all, I like it.

Comment by Eric in Japan Mon Feb 27 23:42:06 2012

Roland --- Mark's sentiments exactly.

Eric --- It's funny, but once we got used to it, we discovered we actually prefer to use the bathroom in the open air. You get used to a little cold and damp so that you don't notice it after a while, but you do keep noticing the woodpecker and wildflowers in front of you. Nowadays, when I leave the farm and have to go in a real bathroom, it feels cramped and actually unsanitary --- it suddenly feels strange to have excrement in the house.

Comment by anna Tue Feb 28 08:16:00 2012

It's funny how it is perceived as uncivilized to not have an indoor toilet, yet I always thought it was really disgusting to both do your business and get yourself clean in the same room! Not sure if I can convince my better half to ditch the indoor toilet at our cabin (plus I'm a sissy when it comes to being cold), but I definitely plan to install an outdoor composting toilet with a view of some part our farm in the future!

~ Mitsy

Comment by mountainstead [] Tue Feb 28 11:36:05 2012

I know exactly what you mean! I used to not notice that the bathtub was right beside the toilet because that's what I was used to, but now it just feels...weird!

Outdoor toilets don't have to be quite so outdoor as ours if you mind the cold. A nice, passive solar outhouse around it could warm you right up. Good luck convincing your better half!

Comment by anna Tue Feb 28 12:08:32 2012

"Juice is worth the squeeze" in a conversation about composting human manure??? Did you really have to go there?

Okay, yeah you had to go there . . . :-p

] j [

Comment by Jeremiah Wed Feb 29 17:25:05 2012
Sounds like we gave you a good mental picture. :-)
Comment by anna Wed Feb 29 20:38:28 2012

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