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brambles for humanure compost pile

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Hi permies,

So, i am currently in the (rather slow and long) process of creating a humanure compost pile/bin/thingy as desccribed by Joe Jenkins in his Humanure Handbook.
I have a question though about the compost pile.

We have many brambles (blackberries?) of which we need to cut back a fair amount (fire hazzard near house etc).
So i was wondering if we can use those cuttings/clippings as the base and/or cover material for the humanure compost pile.

The Humanure Handbook describes digging a shallow hole and put a thick (2feetish) layer of cover material to act as a sponge for excess moisture.
when adding the toilet bins to the compost one would rake away the cover material, empty the bucket and re-cover also using fresh cover material.

So, can we use those brambles we cut back, which are rather woody and hard?
If so, do we need to add softer material like straw or hay together with those brambles?

Any advice is welcome.

Thanks also to Joe Jenkins for such a great and instructive book!
I shall promote it every oportunity i get

Posts: 415
Location: Central Texas zone 8a, 800 chill hours 28 blessed inches of rain
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It has been a while since I have read the book.  My recollection is the author went to great lengths to ensure safety and hygiene in an already foreign concept to most people.  And he did an excellent job.

Excess moisture is a problem with leaching into the soil and potentially contaminating ground water.  Plenty of bedding at the bottom of the hole prevents this.  The more absorbent the better.  If you are not near a water table or contamination is not likely, and you are not effecting others around your property, the soil does a great job of filtering that excess water on its own.  That is what a leech field in a septic system does.  More than half the world and (probably a third of the US) uses leach fields to safely filter leach water.

Having said all that.  Yes, you can use the brambles.  They are not ideal.  I would use a thicker (by maybe a factor of three or four) to compensate for the lack of absorbency.  Mixing them with other material would be good as well.  If your water table is high then know the risk of illness goes up.  What is the percolation rate of the soil?  How close is it to other's property?  

The one thing I loved about the author's writing was the take away of ownership of one's self and life.  To think outside the norm.  Know the science behind the issue.  Make responsible choices for yourself and family; and don't blindly follow customs, myths, and cultural norms.  With that ownership is the responsibility to not get yourself or others sick.  Use what you have but do it safely.  Take the steps and precautions necessary to ensure everyone's safety.  If using a marginal material, build in a buffer by either amending it, or using more of it.  But at the end of the day, it is your life, health, and happiness.  Enjoy.

I personally would not use brambles solely.  They don't seem to compost well in normal piles.  I certainly would not have any reservation adding them to the composting material; but I think you will not get the results you desire for buffer absorbency.  
Posts: 52
Location: nw ohio
chicken bee
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I would add enough wood chips  to keep on drier side.  I would use comfrey  and make a comfrey bed with plants about 4-6 feet apart.  I would only add in spring to mid summer and store the rest till spring.  I think adding during winter months when there is no plant growth allows leaching into soil and contaminating ground water. Comfrey is a very good at absorbing nutrients and can be used as fertilizers.
dalo franss
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forest garden fungi bee
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Thanks for the answers!

I chose not to use the brambles for the bottom layer. And wont use the brambles for cover material just yet.
Mixing the brambles seems best indeed.
Maybe i can do a little test by creating an extra compost heap (non-humanure) and see what happens with
those brambles.

It is very woody, but i think, they might soak up some moisture when a bit wet...

Then there is the question of how to add the brambles too. Chop them up to 10" or smaller?
Long branches are difficult to work with and i do not have a chopping device...

Experimentation will tell.

Posts: 12
Location: North Eastern Ontario, Canada Zone 3B
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I would absolutely use your brambles in the compost heap but it would be pretty prickly for cover in your composting toilet. No matter how hard you try you will end up with cover falling out of your scoop before it makes it into the bucket.
I would suggest shredding or chipping them. I have a wood chipper which I admit, is overkill for brambles (I know because we are awash in wild raspberry brambles), but you could get away with using a weedwacker in a metal garbage can as a shredder. It works great.
We've been doing the bucket method of Humanure composting for 4 years. I have evolved my processes sometimes, always going back to Jenkins Humanure book because he really worked it all out with his family's 30 years of practice. Why reinvent the wheel?
My only upgrade I want to somehow make is to include a way to rotate the bucket in the toilet receptacle without it having it be such a hands on process (I'm pondering a lazy susan idea). The reason is, no one but me seems to rotate it and so the biggest contributions to the bucket end up at the back. The bucket becomes 'full' when it's really not. Plus, a male urinating on the pile uncovers that large pile too readily, causing odour and need for extra cover material.
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