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The Humanure Handbook

Humanure HandbookThe Humanure Handbook is another book that epitomizes self-publishing.  There are some flaws here and there --- rants that will turn 80% of the audience off and scattered trains of thought --- but the positives far outweigh the negatives.  Instead of producing a book watered down for the masses, Joseph Jenkins has distilled his passion for composting toilets into 250 pages of essential reading for the serious humanure advocate.  (Plus, there are fun cartoons.)


Due to our book club Wednesdays and popular meat rabbit Tuesdays, my humanure lunchtime series is going to be scattered across the next two weeks.  That gives you plenty of time to pick up a copy and read along...especially since you can download a digital version entirely free.  Stay tuned to learn why we don't compost our humanure yet and what kind of system we'd like to use if and when we do.

The Weekend Homesteader helps you choose fun and easy projects to begin your journey toward self-sufficiency.

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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IMO, chapter 1 & 2 can safely be skipped. E.g. the comparison of Earth to Mars in chapter 1 is just plain wrong.

I've just started chapter 3. There is good stuff there, and a lot of the material is referenced. The author does take some time to get to the point, now and then.

The section on the ability of compost to degrade pollutants seems a bit weak at some points; it often doesn't mention the original concentration of pollutants. The anecdote that microorganisms removed cesium contamination seems doubtful; its source is an interview in Acres USA, which we've come across before as not the greatest source of good information. Also the fact that composting can remove traces of explosives like RDX and TNT is not that surprising; those are nitrogen-rich compounds.

All in all, I think chapter 3 makes a good case for thermophilic composting (the main benefit IMO is controlling harmful organisms).

Comment by Roland_Smith Mon Sep 3 14:54:23 2012
I loved the book. He has definitely done the research. And the cartoons are hilarious. And after using one for 7 years now I don't think I would go back to septic systems.
Comment by Eric in Japan Mon Sep 3 17:30:16 2012
Roland --- That's hilarious --- my notes on the book say tell me to just skip chapter 1. That's what I meant by the problems with self-published books....
Comment by anna Mon Sep 3 18:16:43 2012
Eric --- Did you design your composting toilet around this book, or use a different design? (Maybe you'll post about that on your blog too? I really appreciated the information on the greywater, although I stand by my complaint about lack of photos. :-) )
Comment by anna Mon Sep 3 18:20:10 2012
Eric in japan, what is your blog about? what is the url? thanks
Comment by Irma Mon Sep 3 23:37:55 2012

Hi Irma, the post about my humanure toilet in my blog should be linked in my name. Just click on it and you will fly there.

Yes, my toilet was designed around the one in book. I use rice hulls instead of sawdust, but the "end" result (hee hee) is the same.

Comment by Eric in Japan Tue Sep 4 06:29:28 2012
Eric --- Thanks for the followup! Since I'm relatively sure I was already reading your blog when you made that post, I must have been one of the 4% who gave it serious thought but didn't do it. :-)
Comment by anna Tue Sep 4 13:42:47 2012

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