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Recycling animal and human dung for sustainable farming  RSS feed

 
peter dublin
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Recycling animal and human dung for sustainable farming

Long article here, covering natural fertiliser history:
http://www.lowtechmagazine.com/2010/09/recycling-animal-and-human-dung-is-the-key-to-sustainable-farming.html#more


(from an interesting online mag for low tech compared to high tech solutions)
 
Max Kennedy
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Location: Englehart, Ontario, Canada
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Good resource on this topic.

http://humanurehandbook.com/
 
garrett lacey
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Location: Edmonton Alberta
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Great article, thanks. Just finished reading the humanure handbook also and it was very thought-provoking. This seems like perhaps one of the most difficult ideas to get people to accept, but it's crucial if we want to reverse the damage we are doing to the soil.
 
Kari Gunnlaugsson
pollinator
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FWIW, if anyone's read the humanure handbook and isn't quite sure, I'd encourage them to try it...great system...I've been using it for many years and I don't find it unpleasant at all (flush toilets actually seem gross now..) The compost pile is very innocuous, not at all a problem. Orders of magnitude better than a smelly outhouse. And it's very simple and frugal. I've seen some of the expensive commercial composting toilets at work and I think aesthetically the DIY humanure system is better.

The compost seems rich and pure, but I still plan on just using it for fruit trees and such, rather than the garden....I'm sure it would be fine but I'm that little bit squeamish yet, and have lots of horse manure available for the garden.
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
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Location: North Central Michigan
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i heard recently that animal feces contain something that is very dangerous for pregnant women..is that covered in thses books?
 
Julie Helms
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Location: SC Pennsylvania, Zone 6b
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Brenda Groth wrote:i heard recently that animal feces contain something that is very dangerous for pregnant women..is that covered in thses books?


Is it toxoplasmosis? That's the reason pregnant women should not clean cat litter boxes.
 
Kari Gunnlaugsson
pollinator
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I don't have a copy of the humanure book out here. I don't remember him mentioning anything specific about pregnancy but he goes into some detail about various pathogens and how the system handles them. I would be interested to find out if there were risks during pregnancy.

He argues that the compost is made safe both by the high temperatures achieved, and (in case this isn't uniform) by a long sitting time. If you have space for at least two, or even three bins, there would be no need to handle compost for two to four years, maybe longer...so it could probably be avoided during a pregnancy.

As far as exposure to fresh 'material'... I would say that the routine of emptying the sawdust bucket and cleaning it probably has a similar exposure risk to what you would get cleaning a bathroom and giving the toilet a scrub. If I was getting my hands dirty I wouldn't be keen on the system. Good hand washing and gloves are always a good idea.

But certainly with risks at pregnancy it's better to be safe, so it's probably something to look into more closely.

(ps. depending on your climate it is also important to manage excess water from rain that could flow through the pile and contaminate surface water...things like a roof over the shed and a liner under the bin..)



 
Ken Peavey
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I have read the humanure handbook and found it to be a useful plan, but I think the plan has a minor flaw.
The author recommends 2 years from adding to the heap until use of the product. This being the time required to destroy pinworms. The plan in the book is to add material to the heap for a full year, then allow it to rest for a full year. While this is a 2 year cycle, the time from the last addition until use is only a year. This would need to be extended to a 2 year rest period.

If the end product is to be used on food products, marketing the product in an ethical manner (in my opinion) demands disclosure to the customer that human waste was used as a soil amendment. I also think this would be a sure way to shut down a commercial food production enterprise. I dont think the public is ready to accept this.

I have a small humanure operation underway. I think it makes good sense. I do not use it on food crops. I use it in the woods to promote natural growth. I have no issues using that subsequent growth in producing compost which will be applied to food crops. I have no issues with applying humanure to pasture being grazed, or to land used for animal crops, lawns, or ornamental plants. There are plenty of places this material can be put to effective use without application to human crop land. If the crops produced are for personal consumption, I have no issue with liquid waste being directly applied, even during growth. Being out in the woods, I freely apply liquid waste liberally and without discretion or prejudice whenever it becomes available.
 
Kari Gunnlaugsson
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I agree 100% Ken. For me it's more a convenient / inexpensive / low-water way of dealing with waste...I use well composted horse manure for the gardens, and though it's probably safe I wouldn't consider using humanure on a commercial vegetable crop. I plan on using it on shelterbelt tree transplants and am considering using it on fruit tree plantings where I am many years away from harvesting a food crop for my personal use.
If I was trying to survive on a desert island I would use it as garden compost, but with so many other manure sources here, it's just not necessary.
The piles shrink remarkably over the summer, I'm on something closer to a four year rest period...i agree a longer rest time will be safer.
 
Anna Demb
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We've used the humanure system for at least 10 years at our summer cabin, and we've used the compost for food with no problem. The author has had the compost tested for pathogens at a college, as I recall, and it came up clean. My problem with the system is having to empty the buckets so often. Before we used this, we used a composter we built ourselves in the 1970s based on the Clivus Multrum. That was great until it got an insect infestation. I'd like to try a 50 gallon system--cover the barrels when they're full and leave them to compost on their own so you don't have to deal with the gross raw excrement. Here's an article by Carol Steinfeld, co-author of The Composting Toilet System Book, which I found helpful.
 
                        
Posts: 122
Location: sub-tropics downunder
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the humanure factor lost in the modern society concept of sit have a dump and push a button and let someone else deal with your waste.

last time in rural we had a composting toilet called nature-loo they are great and should be the standard even in suburbia where people grow their own food. then the EPA approval made local councils more acceptive, now this time have opted for septic (way ahead still better than those new home sewerage systems council like to approve, they pump out through the day chlorine and methane).

so this time at least for my personal use i will obtain an outhouse and set up commode seat and bucket be similar to humanure sawdust bucket, gotta keep mum about it the shire frounds on any second hand water being aplied on site other than septic, silly hey in suburbs people can water lawns with grey water but in rural on tank water we aren't allowed. the power of manipulative gov' driven by yuppy yuck factors and false fears.

whatever one does tell 'em nothing and take 'em nowhere.

len
 
nancy sutton
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Is it possible to do the humanure process without sawdust? It's becoming in short supply, as it is used for wood stove pellets. Although, I think a purchased bag of pellets could be 'watered' to return them to sawdust condition. Any other possible substitutes that could work?
 
Ken Peavey
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Leaves will do the job. They can be shredded for better coverage/more efficient use.
 
Max Kennedy
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As well as shredded leaves you can use lawn clippings and shredded paper. The finer the material is the less needed to smother odours.
 
                        
Posts: 122
Location: sub-tropics downunder
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in our drop toilet we used dried mushroom compost from the farm, it comes wet so we sun dry that works well and adding a good medium, so if i get my thunder box going i'll probably do the same that i feel is safer than sawdust/shavings as there might be some timber treatments get mixed in. if the bucket only gets incidental urine that is collect urine seperate that is then better. try adding a few composting worms to the bucket that may work, we had compost worms working our toilet, worked well didn't need to buy enzime.

len
 
Matt Smith
Posts: 181
Location: Central Ohio, Zone 6A - High water table, heavy clay.
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Been doing some reading regarding small scale biogas systems, and it's got me thinking about how to integrate such a concept into a home-scaled humanure setup.

For example, as I understand it the desired composting process in The Humanure Handbook (which I own and have read) is anaerobic. If one were to build an outhouse tall enough to accept a 55-gallon drum as the receiving vessel (or used the bucket method to gradually fill an an otherwise airtight 55 gallon drum), one could theoretically:

1) Harvest the off-gassing methane from the anaerobically composting humanure inside the barrel (which would otherwise be lost into the atmosphere in an open-composted system).
2) Utilize the heat generated by the composting process (what if the barrels were stored inside an animal pen or greenhouse that could use the heat in colder months?)
3) Incorporate the final resulting organic matter back into the growth cycle once the composing process is complete and the danger of pathogens has passed.

I would however like to know how long I would need to leave the poop slurry in the barrels before I could be 100% sure that any biological risk had passed in regards to using the result as fertilizer.

How long do you reckon that would be? Would it depend on the exposure of the barrels?

 
                        
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Location: sub-tropics downunder
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our barrels were kept warm by the sun and worked over by earth worms, in 7 months we used it with no ill effects, no smell whatsoever, and no ressemblence to what it originally was. ours was wet clay solid not sloppy that would be no good for worms.

len
 
Monte Hines
Posts: 190
Location: Andalusia, IL. Zone 5a
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Interesting subject and a lot of knowledge and wisdom provided by all the posts.

I came across Joseph Jenkins work in Haiti for GiveLove.org.

Joseph Jenkins is the author of Humanure Handbook and makes and sells Loveable Loo toilets.

I put together a blog story on all of this called,
"The story of GiveLove.org - Haiti - Joseph Jenkins, Humanure Handbook, and Loveable Loo toilets"
http://hines.blogspot.com/2012/02/giveloveorg-haiti-community-led.html

I learned a lot from Joseph Jenkins videos. His Haiti work video and his slide presentation video were "eye opening" to me.
Appears system, although not perfect, is producing greatly improved results where water is scarce and conditions are extreme.
The system appears to be a sustainable solution (possibly) for Haiti.

With respect and regards to all,
Monte Hines
 
Aza Aguila
Posts: 30
Location: Costa Rica
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We compost our humanure, as well as animal dung on a consistent basis...
We use sawdust in our composting toilets (buckets).
We use worms to help break down the manures... leaving a rich dark fertile soil.
We have found that all the food crops we have grow extremely faster and healthier using these in our soil mixtures.

Joe Jenkins book is an excellent guide on how to safely use human waste in farming.
It is safe, easy, healthier for the planet, and creates amazing soil for growing abundantly healthy crops.
 
Monte Hines
Posts: 190
Location: Andalusia, IL. Zone 5a
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I like this video...

Nick gave a talk at TEDx Canberra. He talked about stewarding nutrients, how we can solve the problem of peak phosphorous.
Taking responsibility for our poo and our wee — our most basic waste streams — is so crucial to our future.
For a long time, a mark of superiority in some cultures has been how far you can get your shit away from you.
But now, we need it back.

No one wants to think about this but a subject that is important to our future.
To create a sustainable society we need to use this stuff as local as we can.

If we live in a situation where we can do this legally, and we can benefit ourselves, why should we not do it?

Related Links:
http://permaculture.org.au/2012/02/29/nick-ritars-tedx-canberra-talk-two-things-you-can-do-every-day-to-save-the-world/
http://hines.blogspot.com/2012/02/nick-ritars-tedx-canberra-talk-two.html
 
nancy sutton
gardener
Posts: 656
Location: Federal Way, WA - Western Washington (Zone 8 - temperate maritime)
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Hmm...smallest size particles require least amount to minimize odor. I don't have shredded leaves (just original size), and local sawmills sell their sawdust to pellet manufacturers. I've seen a YouTube instruction on raising mushrooms, where a bag of pellets was moistened to return them to damp sawdust condition....that's one idea, but costly. Also, I'm thinking that coffee grounds, given away by coffee shops here, dried somewhat, might work best - smallest! - of all ;) And then, with red wrigglers in the buckets eating it all up... should process fairly quickly. Might need holes in the 'aging' buckets sitting on soil, so worms could escape when food is gone. Wonder if earthworms eliminate the pinworm (etc) live forms?
 
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permaculture bootcamp - boots-to-roots
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