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Humanure Composting vs Alternatives - Why Go More Complex?

 
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I know this post will go no where, but i read this book years ago and love it so much.

BUT. Why do so many articles i read or people (geoff lawton, paul wheaton) create alternatives to this? like the overly complicated toilet designs that have very specific instructions. and many articles i read are afraid of using it in their gardens. jenkin's book specifically recommends this. it clearly lays out some of the big diseases and plagues through out history and how they were caused mostly by bad poop management. but when done well, his method is very very safe. our humanure makes everything at our place grow beautifully and we've never been sick, or even smelled anything off in our compost or hummus.

jenkins design mimics nature. lawton's quasi septic on wheels and wheaton's willy wonka etc are attempts at creating a human engineered do-hickey that as a permie, i am readily skeptical of. i readily trust nature's designs.

the only think about jenkins i would as is - twigs and branches should be put in the mix to help with leaves sticking together.

anyhoo...what's the deal with complicating and re-inventing the wheel?
 
pioneer
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I think other designs are usually an attempt to avoid having to carry and empty 5 gal buckets of waste. Coming up with a way to compost material in place saves a tremendous amount of time and labor over the years, and that is one of the things my permaculture strives for. Ideally, I want systems in place that take care of themselves after becoming established.  Much like perennials need care at the beginning and later, much less so, good systems should, at some point, become nearly self sufficient.  At least, that's the way I see it.
 
pollinator
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I agree. That particular method is comprehensive, but to say there aren't places where it could be improved for usability would be going a bit far.

Personally, I don't want to have to handle buckets. I think that a method that figured out how to do in situ waste processing for garden use that didn't feel any different than using a plumbed system would be the gold standard for widescale adoption, and I haven't seen anything like that, really, even here on permies.

I think people look at alternatives because they assess their situation against what is in the book and decide that there's an easier way to do the same thing. Of course, their objectives might be slightly different than those in the book, such as the need to deal with dozens of guests over a weekend, or a month, for instance. Sure, the book may have addressed these to some extent, but those might become magnified with scale to the point where the solutions in the book aren't feasible. Do you want to be lugging 5 gallon pails of other people's fresh contributions during a PDC?

And those objectives vary based on situation.

Paul's situation might suggest that he stress capacity over rapid nutrient cycling, for instance, so he will focus on separating urine and maintaining a proper carbon/nitrogen ratio to encourage composting, and use large wheelie-bins, and a storage area with a draught-inducing chimney to handle the smell.

Some might only be using it themselves, so the methods discussed in the book might be perfectly adequate.

And some might want to see a model that couples easily with water-based plumbing, and so might come up with a viable, likely aerated and vortexed compost extract-based active decomposition, or one with an incorporated blackwater treatment lagoon (permie-style, in a sealed pond area, aerated by wind-pump, and probably filled with cedar wood chips for carbon), or one with a worm-screw-based system that obviates the need for human attention, save for breakdowns.

Or their situation might be arid enough that a catch screen and drawer set up, in an outhouse with induced draught for the purpose, would dessicate contributions sufficiently quickly that, after a sufficient rest period, in which any really durable pathogens finally die of dessication, addition to a hot compost would be appropriate.

It's like some of the specific information on permaculture coming out of respected institutions in specific climates. While I respect very much the work being done, and I can use the science and some of the techniques being presented, because I am in a temperate climate and they in a tropical, an attempt to directly replicate their operations would fail miserably.

It is also the nature of good natural systems to make themselves more complex. Further, it is human nature to "reinvent the wheel," because the specific needs placed upon the wheel change over time. You try switching to oxcart wheels on whatever it is you drive. I'll wait, but I expect pictures. I'll bet there were oxcart proponents that couldn't understand why chariot wheels needed to be designed differently until they went into battle in their oxcarts.

-CK
 
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I can't speak for anyone else, but I'm one of those people who decided to change the process. My property is steep enough that there's not really any place I could put a compost heap where the stuff wouldn't wash downhill. And I have a neighbor who has decided that everything I do is his business, and who thinks nothing of traipsing all over my land looking for excuses to have a conniption, even though his house is 3 miles away.

(I don't have a house on the land yet, but I'm working on it. And I recently learned that other neighbors have been working to reign him in, since he's been causing problems for everybody.)

At the same time, I wanted to amend my soil with lots and lots of biochar, but don't have enough wood to do that.

So, I'm using one problem to solve the other. Instead of a plastic bucket I use steel ones. The solar furnace is still under construction, but the idea is to use solar power to cook the contents of the bucket into charcoal. It needs to get a little hotter than a normal solar oven, but its doable.


If I had flatter land and more privacy, then maybe the normal humanure system would work better. But everybody has different situations to deal with.
 
master pollinator
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Chris Kott wrote:
Personally, I don't want to have to handle buckets. I think that a method that figured out how to do in situ waste processing for garden use that didn't feel any different than using a plumbed system would be the gold standard for widescale adoption, and I haven't seen anything like that, really, even here on permies.



I think worm composting flush toilet systems are as close as anyone has gotten so far.  That's what I would retrofit our septic system to be if I could figure out how to do it plus time and energy for the project.

I first learned about the idea from Anna Edey  https://www.solviva.com/wastewater.htm

And later learned others were making them, even commercially  http://www.vermicompostingtoilets.net/
 
pollinator
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There is no one-size-fits-all solution.

Some people may want to use something like a tree bog, where trees are planted and a toilet is installed among them, or some may want something like an arborloo, where a hole is dug and the trees are planted after the hole is filled.

Some may want to compost in-situ or some may wish to transport to a separate composting location, for aesthetic reasons or any other.

Some may wish to separate urine, some may want to produce biogas, some may want to integrate other infrastructure like ventilation or running water. Some want to comply with local regulations.  Everyone's circumstances are different, and it's not always a matter of want or wish.

In my opinion, Terra Preta Sanitation is superior to the system proposed by Joe Jenkins. It integrates lactofermentation, biochar, and vermicomposting, all of which are antipathogenic by themselves, and integrated together can produce finished results in 60 days (30 days lactofermentation, 30 days vermicomposting).

https://sswm.info/sanitation-systems/sanitation-technologies
Whatever your particulars are, there's an app for that.
 
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