In 1966 I met a Yogi by the name of Prince Natan. He had an office on Sunset and Vine. He told me that Yoga was created to give the non-farmers the benefit of the exercise that traditional farmers received when carrying out their farming activities. I remembered this when I read the reference to "farming yoga". I have no informed opinion about this being correct or incorrect, but he was a ™ rather remarkable person who changed my life and redirected my personal path in a much healthier and positive direction. Can farming, practiced wholistically with the properly formed tools be a form of yoga? I'm thinking of Broadfork as opposed to plowing or double digging.
In 1974, the Los Angeles Times, HOME MAGAZINE published a series of designs for multifunctional living that was inspired by the way that the traditional Japanese home made multiple use if their limited space. This was a DIY article showing a western adaption of multiple use western style furnishings that would allow the same room to be used for multiple uses. This was later picked up by a Los Angeles Furniture Manufacturer and put into production in metal instead of wood, but with increased comfort and functions. These may have been the first "Permaculture" Furniture Designs and, perhaps, the first Futon Bed/Sofa. They all were awarded U.S. Patents. It was my first attempt to help "make the world a better place."
I love you the way you are, "warts and all". I agree with you that the Great They "should be the change that they wish to see in the world." I come to permits.com and listen to your podcast because I like what you say and how you say it. No one forces me and I recommend you and permits.com to all of my friends who are interested in Permaculture. You are real, funny, and honest. How many people can we say all three to these things about? Am I always real or funny or honest? Not always, but your example has helped me follow the path of most resistance and have fun doing it. It is always easier to go down hill, but you'll never get to the summit and have the awesome view by taking the easier path. Keep doing what you are doing an evolve as you will according to your own time and inclinations. Thanks for being such an awesome dictator in your pursuit for "world domination"!
From listening to the podcast and reading Sepp's book, it seems that the hugelkultur beds should not be exactly on the contour lines but slightly angled down hill so as not to supersaturate the first bed and leave the others dry. This will allow the water to continue to flow, but slow it down in sort of a zig zag motion and not allow it to punch through the dam and cause erosion. It was also mentioned that cold air flows down hill like a cold gel and can be dammed up by the contour line hugelkultur bed. I've been collecting my wood to build hugelkultur beds, listening to podcast and reading, so this does not come from my personal experience, but it seems logical.
Re: Pill bugs
For all of those who live in climates where it freezes in the winter, mulch gardening works very well, but a according to Steve Solomon in California Vegetable Gardening and other books, who has written extensively about gardening in climates where it doesn't freeze over, the mulch beds become a breeding ground for pill bugs and earwigs. In San Diego, it never freezes at lower altitudes and mulch gardens become those pill bug paradises. Perhaps this is true for other Mediterranean type climates?
I'm glad that it seems to be working out for you. Urine has been called Liquid Gold and for good reasons.
One idea that might work out for you next year is to sheet compost one bed, plant the adjacent one and compost the next one. After your harvest, compost the bed the vegetables were grown in, and plant the one that was sheet composted, but is completed and not taking nitrogen to break down the carbon materials. The advantage of such a system is that you are always feeding the worms in the garden in the sheet composting bed and they will leave their casting there in the adjacent growing beds as well, so you will always be feeding your garden worms and they will always be cultivating your soil, a win-win for you and the worms.
There is not a lot of detailed information about the use of urine in corp fertilization as to how much to use. The ratios go from straight, to 1:1, to 1:5. to 1:20. Most of the information that I have read from technical studies were concerns about safety and suggesting that you stop before fruiting, etc. I don't feel that this is an issue for the home grower, if you are not ill. However, the concern that I would have is that nitrogen produces lots of leaves and all leafy vegetables love it like cabbage, kale, spinach, but the over use of nitrogen can cause a plant to produce leaves and few or no fruit, so it is possible to over do it. One unexpected side effect that I have noticed is that we were fertilizing a nopales cactus and it was doing terrifically well, producing new growth and flowers, but it out grew its ability to support itself and a large section broke off because of the weight of the cactus pads to the strength of the supporting stalk. We may have overdone the nitrogen with the urine?
Check the fertilization requirements of the plants that you are concerned about and treat the urine as a nitrogen fertilizer and not as water and follow the recommendations.
I was asking, while I don't have a composting toilet, I do collect urine for my compost and my garden and I shred all of my newspaper, plain paper mail and envelopes, and other misc paper to use in my compost pile. I would think that it would be a great way to get rid of the paper "waste" by giving it a second use and would eliminate the need to try to find or buy sawdust, wood chips, etc.
When you add a nitrogen source such a urine or "Grounds for your Garden" from Starbuck, you can help to accelerate the decomposition of your mulch and speed up the process that will make the nitrogen available to your garden.
As to the stare from your children. Canadian actress, Ellen Page visited an eco village in Oregon while there was asked to pee in a bucket. It was added to the compost pile "where it's quite a highly prized commodity and an incredible nitrogen source" she told Jay Leno on The Tonight Show. (There is a video of this conversation online.) Also, get Liquid Gold by Carol Steinfeld from your library or order if from Amazon; it is an entertaining and informative book on the uses of "Liquid Organic Fertilizer" as urine is often referred to.
Re: Bermuda Grass; University of California, Integrated Pest Management: "Cultural Control "Although bermudagrass tolerates some drought, it grows best when irrigated. If the area where the bermudagrass is growing can be dried in summer without injuring any nearby ornamentals, withhold water to dry the stems and rototill or spade the area two or three times during summer months. This will bring rhizomes to the surface where they dry out. Raking to remove rhizomes and stolons will also help. If water is applied during the process or it happens to rain, the remaining bermudagrass will regrow. A single, deep (down to 6 inches) cultivation may be adequate to bring the majority of shoots to the surface, but the time required to dry the remaining rhizomes still buried in the soil will add additional weeks to months. Be careful not to cultivate bermudagrass if the soil is moist or the weed will spread, because cultivation chops the stems into segments and each segment becomes a new plant. While cultivating and drying can effectively kill established plants and rhizomes, they do not kill seeds in the soil."
While Bermuda grass is great for turf, it is not good for the garden because "each segment becomes a new plant" when added to your garden as a mulch. While it can look complete dead and lifeless, add water and watch it grow!
While I don't use or see the need for sawdust in urine collection, if it is kept in a closed container, I have seen bulk products at my local feed store that are used for horses stables. You might try there to see if it is more economical than what you are using.
The dilution is quite arbitrary and everyone has a favorite dilution rate. I read that Chairman Mao like 5:1, but being Chinese, "5" represents the 5 happiness's. The Swedish study sited with a link on an earlier post (Practical Guidance on the Use of Urine in Crop Production) referred to undiluted and 3:1 dilution and Mother Earth Magazine referred to 20:1 as the proper dilution for a urine tea, which required no fermenting and could be used right away. If the plant is salt sensitive such as beans, than a greater dilution could be used to minimize the salt content, if the plants are not, then an undiluted urine would be appropriate.
Since saw dust has a 100:1 carbon ratio, why would you want to tie up all of the nitrogen in the urine by adding sawdust. In the Humanure composting toiled, I can understand the need for sawdust for odor control, but urine is much less of a problem if it is fresh and used daily, it is only after the urine starts making ammonia gas that the smell becomes a problem and we should want to avoid that as the ammonia means a loss of nitrogen for use as fertilizer.
Bermuda grass hay is the last grass that I would use in my garden. It is hard enough to get rid of it, but if you add even the dried Bermuda grass hay, you are, in fact planting it.
Using the urine either neat or in a 3:1 dilution as is recommended by the Stockholm Environment Institute in their report Practical Guidance on the Use of Crop Production is a good way to restore nitrogen, but you need to also add fresh water before adding the urine or you may build up to much salt in the soil. Bermuda grass will thrive with urine fertilizer too and is very tolerant of the salt content.
From practical home use experience of about 6 months, having a smaller 1-2 quart container, with a screw on lid, that one can easily carry outdoors and pour into a watering can may be better than a larger, although more attractive, container that is heavier and breakable (?).
I haven't seen these, but I prefer a closed container. I use a recycled, larger white plastic container with a lid, similar to the type that sports protein supplement come in. They are light weight easy carry and as I use them daily, the convenience of handling them and the low cost (free) makes it possible to have several available so that I can only deal with using it in my garden, around my fruit trees, or in my compost pile, once a day. Also, and open container will attract flies and ants.
I wouldn't recommend putting sawdust, even with urine added on the beds directly. If you are using sawdust, put it in the compost bin or pile and let it full decompose as the microorganisms will take nitrogen directly from the soil until it is fully decomposed. Pouring pure or diluted urine in the beds is a better way to give the plants the benefit of the urine.
From a practical uni-sexual way of collecting urine, my wife came up with using a big gulp cup which people where she works supply daily (we reuse it and rinse it each time with a small amount of water we collect from the shower as it warms up), and we can both use it easily. We pour it into a large mouth plastic jar, with a lid. We recycle it daily into our garden, around our fruit trees, or onto our compost pile. We don't use sawdust as we are only using urine, which has little or no odor if it is fresh. As it ages, it gives off an ammonia smell which indicates a loss of nitrogen, so use it fresh, or pour it into your compost.
I second the suggestion about using urine and wood ashes. The plants are competing for the same nutrients that the microorganisms use to break down the mulch. The yellowing and loss of color is typical of plants starved for nitrogen.
Read The Humanure Handbook by Joseph Jenkins for the most complete information on composting toilets. I would suggest that you look into Coir, it is a more environmentally sustainable material that comes from coconut husks. It sells inexpensively at big box retail stores such as Home Depot as a substitute for peat moss. Perhaps it would work for your composting toilet too.
I've been using urine in my garden for about 6 months and it is a great source of nitrogen which is especially good for all greens. We have used it for our nopales cactus and it has incredible growth. My wife has been using it on her herbs and the basil and sage love it. We use it on our orange, tangerine, kumquat, guava, Japanese Persimmon, and Cherimoya trees and they are all doing well.
Carol Steinfeld has written a book called Liquid Gold that gives a great overview on "the Lore and Logic of Using Urine to Grow Plants".
Some interesting information that I have found:
The average Westerner's urine has a N-P-K of 11-1-2.5.
One person could supply enough urine to fertilize roughly 6,300 tomato plants a year, yielding some 2.41 tons in one season. Researchers at the University of Kuopio in Finland sue wood ash and human urine in their studies. The tomatoes had more beta-carotene, higher levels of magnesium, and more protein than those not fertilized with Urine. The wood ash was to furnish more potassium.
The salt content of urine was the one draw back and it can be controlled by watering the plants before the urine is added, helps protect the plants from taking up too much salt. There is a caution to not apply to waterlogged or high clay soil, since these soils will hold onto salt no matter what you do.
Will Brinton, PhD, president of Woods End Laboratories developed recipes for Free Homemade Liquid Fertilizers for Mother Earth New. Urine Tea is simple, it doesn't have to be steeped, just diluted 1:20 with water. He says that teas made from steeped tea of grass clippings and/or urine come closest to providing the optimum N-P-K ration of 3-1-2. If you don't use it all in 2 or 3 days, dump it to your compost or pour it out beneath your perennials.