Author Message
susan vita
Post     Subject: Can i use new compost technology to add living spaces to my homestead?

P Lyons that is exactly the type of site and firm---thanks!
Cristo Balete
Post     Subject: Can i use new compost technology to add living spaces to my homestead?

susan, for what it's worth, I've lived with a composting toilet for 15 years, and one of my basic principles of buying property is make sure it has drinkable water and that the infrastructure is working properly, or expect huge expenses regarding it. Septic systems are one of the most basic infrastructure items, and one of the most expensive. It doesn't sound like you've ever used a composting toilet, so that is a crucial thing to know whether you even like it and can live with it, and understand the scientific way it works, before you commit to it, especially on a large scale.

Despite what the manufacturers lead you to believe, you do have to deal with the contents of the toilet. You will have to see it, dump it, pour it, stir it. And it won't always be in pristine, unrecognizable condition.

Just for starters, there are insects, like gnats and flies that are almost always an issue. Some seasons are worse than others, namely the summer. And composting toilets do not use "new technology". It's the oldest "technology" on the planet, composting. And all the rules of composting apply, all the very scientific rules that involve how carbon and nitrogen work together in the breaking-down process, and how to keep those levels at a workable state. Meaning, if you get too much liquid in there (the drain tube plugs up, you get a group of people who are only peeing) the levels change around all the time. Someone has to be in charge of making sure that large amounts of "compost" are not too wet, not too dry. That all is affected by the weather, whether it's warm or frozen outside, or humid or dry.

There are levels of mold (that are crucial for composting, because that is how it works) and bacteria (that is also how it works) that are always in there. Taking care of that, knowing how not to handle it improperly, or breath in airborne mold is crucial.

The basic principle of composting is that you make a big pile and stop adding to it so it can get hot and be a working pile. If you keep adding to it, everything changes. It can't get hot if the contents keep getting added to. Drain tubes block up with sludge, and who wants to unblock those?

Then there's the psychological part. Knowing there is a container with poop in it, to be perfectly honest about it, sitting right there, nearby, or close under your backside when using it, is that going to creep you out? Do you want to see contributions to it and white paper? Not likely, but it's there and it's part of what has to happen. If someone gets nauseous, they aren't going to want to throw up with their head hanging over the edge of that thing.

Even when it's going well, it still smells like the floor of a forest, which may seem like a great thing, but you know what's in there, and that gets connected in your mind with that scent, and it can become, psychologically, an unpleasant scent.

There are homemade composting shacks shown on this website that use wheelie bins underneath them, that then get wheeled away and composted elsewhere. Those seem to be the most successful for large crowds. But someone still has to deal with the contents of those wheelies, and a solid-sided, plastic container cannot breathe and allow proper composting. Even if you have dozens of these wheelies for a large crowd and leave them until the contents seems done, they crack in the sun, and you need somewhere to park them where they are out of sight and in shade. And just imagine the fungus gnats and flies around those wheelies. They can easily get in under the lids and lay eggs, and it's what they do, it's what they are best at.

And even when some people are okay with all of the above, many are not. And you can get really tired of the contents of those things, and just not want to do it anymore. Then you are faced with a really expensive septic system that doesn't get cheaper each year you put it off.

Just be really, really sure you, and everyone who lives with you, really enjoys this major addition to your lifestyle.
P Lyons
Post     Subject: Can i use new compost technology to add living spaces to my homestead?

I believe it would be wise to contact several experienced companies, consultants and/or engineers familiar with local regulations and specializing in alternative or ecological wastewater treatment systems. You should be able to do the preliminary contact and discussions without divulging exact name and location of the campground. You should receive (at no cost) information about the company/consultant including refererences, potential treatment options, associated costs and potential risks.

I have not directly had any experience dealing with the Ecological Engineering Group webpage , but they do specialize in the type of system I believe you are looking for. David Del Porto founded the group and I have read several of his books and publications, a quick google search should provide you with his relevant background information.

Good luck, these systems can be costly and require significant effort in obtaining all necessary approvals and permitting.
susan vita
Post     Subject: Can i use new compost technology to add living spaces to my homestead?

I've got some more info and maybe, just maybe I can get a community system in the hollow which is used now for overflow parking.

There are almost 100 units (mostly campers, plus several rental cottages) using the property from May 1 until October 1 and that septic load needs to be handled WAY better than it is now.

Hoping to hear from a consultant about alternative community systems, once I have a better idea of what is possible I may be able to find funding for it.

Sure would appreciate any input from those who are familiar or have some knowledge of big systems if possible...THANKS!
susan vita
Post     Subject: Can i use new compost technology to add living spaces to my homestead?

Thanks so much for your responses--it really helps me to have folks to chew it over with!

So yes to humanure or other technology--criteria being ease of use and costs.

The campground is making enough money to support two families if we keep the payments low---and the sellers are willing to do so.

The septic is ancient and babied, the culture here is to avoid state involvement at all costs, so its not been inspected or permitted through the years, but kept functioning right along.
We want it all legal, and the state is actually pretty generous when it comes to newer technology these days, so while I want to stay off the radar until I know more, I am still wanting to explore the options.
Dog forbid my research gets the place shut down!!

Also the campground is quite a different animal than the homestead---the work here will be to run the business while turning the place into a more productive food garden---the gardens are actually already in great shape---and creating better water management infrastructure, etc.
We'd turn the four small year round cabins into actual homes, and build the retreat side of the business a bit more.
There are 70 rv sites, all of those are permanently rented. They change hands within the park occasionally, overall it is a very stable 50plus year old group with some members coming here since the 1950s. Several original members, lots of their adult kids and grandkids are in the family sites, so a well established clientele.

Rose Pinder
Post     Subject: Can i use new compost technology to add living spaces to my homestead?

Are you wanting to run the campground commercially? What about the other property? What do you mean by 'new compost technology? eg are you ok with a Humanure system, or do you want a system you buy and install?
Dale Hodgins
Post     Subject: Can i use new compost technology to add living spaces to my homestead?

Property number two is commercial and eventually your tenants will buy it for you.

 My dad had seven different rental properties when he died. He was fond of saying that he didn't personally buy any of them. The tenants bought them on his behalf, in exchange for constant aggravation and his maintenance services. If the numbers worked for the campground, I would pursue that one.
susan vita
Post     Subject: Can i use new compost technology to add living spaces to my homestead?

I know I need to check with zoning, but sort of want to think it through so I ask the correct questions.
We are looking at two properties, one with a single family home on ten acres, the other an old but thriving campground on 36 acres.

The single family has a conventional septic and has maximum number of bedrooms already.
We'd like to add a couple of cottages and maybe a bunkhouse and use composting systems in them. maybe build something they could all tie into type of thing.

The campground has ancient grandfathered septic systems--not sure its even a system. but it all is mostly working with not too often back ups or odor, mostly in the spring as it all gets going again. Its been a rainy summer and its worked pretty flawlessly as far as I can see or smell.
However the sellers want an outrageous sum for the campground with unknown septic, if we can make it work with new technology and get their numbers down it is a vastly superior property in most every other way.

The land is ledgy and wooded and adjacent to a pristine glacial pond--that's what i'm told they call it here---so keeping it pristine is paramount.
Otoh, their price is so high I think we have time to come up with a plan, lol, and they are offering very generous owner financing...