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what is a willow feeder

 
steward
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I'm not sure what came over me, but I just started to write this script for a future youtube video.  Something to give a quick and simple outline of what is a willow feeder.

To get a general understanding of the willow feeder idea, let's first take a quick look at alternatives.

A septic tank and drain field mixes all the poop, and greywater together, then dumps it into a tank where all the sinkers sink and floaties float.  Organic matter breaks down in time. The average septic tank is pumped every four years.  If you do a good job caring for what goes into the septic tank, you can go decades.  

The watery layer is a sort of poop koolaid that goes to the drainfield which is placed about 18 inches below the ground level.  There is a lot of bacterial activity that eats up the poopy bits from the poop koolaid, all year long.  It does a pretty good job.  But not a perfect job.  So some poop koolaid makes it to the ground water supply.   Which is why when there is enough population density, it is time to get everybody switched over to a sewage treatment plant.

The missoula sewage treatment plant, like most, collects poop, greywater, and a whole lot of awful that should not be there

    (list appears.   Unwanted paints, herbicides, laundry bleach, powerful soaps and detergents, household toxins, industrial toxins, industrial waste (both legal and ilegal) ...)

It also contains a heavy dose of pharmaceuticals that made it through the people that need pharmaceuticals.

Everything is sorta stirred up into a slurry, and then screened - this separates the garbage from the sewage.  Garbage like flushable wipes, some TP, feminine hygiene products, plastics, etc. Garbage goes to the landfill.  The remaining slurry goes to settling ponds.   After 24 hours, the poop koolaid goes past a UV light and is released into the river.  The floaters and sinkers go to a composting facility.

Let's try to do better.  And since I am bonkers about gardening, my attempt at a solution is going to involve gardening.  

A good solution requires an understanding of pathogens.  For a few ailments, a person's poop can have bits of that sickness in the poop that can make other people sick.  This is called a pathogen.  If 4% of all people poop out pathogens, then we need solutions that will ensure that that number does not grow.  For the sake of creating a good solution, lets assume that a sick person is pooping in every system.


There are some alternatives out there called composting toilets.  Some of those styles actually compost.   So you get a whole bunch of poop, toilet paper and sawdust together in a pile.  The pile gets hot in the middle due to the composting process - often exceeding 140 degrees which makes that part of the pile sterile!  Yay!  Ding dong the pathogens are dead!  In the middle.   ... The stuff on the outside sides of the pile didn't get hot enough and still contain pathogens.  Advocates for this technique encourage turning the pile frequently in an insulated container so everything (hopefully) gets hot enough at some point.  

When done well, the final product is a high quality compost that smells like good soil and is gardener's gold.  But ....    I have some cocerns ....

I have seen some efforts at this that involve an open pile outdoors.   During the composting process, can a fly land on the pile, touch a pathogen, and then fly over to somebody's food and make them sick?   And if it rains, are fresh pathogens driven down into the groundwater?  Further, most of the piles I have seen are either not turned, or turned only once - this makes me think that most of the contents never reached a hot enough temperature.  

But here is another angle about composting in general that has *gardeners* divided.  

When you compost, you might put in 100 pounds of compostable materials.   To make excellent compost you turn it several times.   When it is done, you have about 10 pounds of magnificent compost.  Where did the rest of it go?  Nearly all of what is now missing is water, carbon and nitrogen.   The water went into the ground or into the atmosphere.  The carbon and nitrogen went into the atmosphere.  But the carbon and the nitrogen are the very things we desperately want in our soils to make our growies happy!

So I want to come up with a solution that is safer when it comes to pathogens, and brings more carbon and nitrogen to my growies.  

An interesting thing about pathogens ...  99% of them die in about two months.  That number goes up to 99.999% in six months.  And 99.9999999999% in two years.  Faster in a dry environment.  

As it turns out, a dry environment also stops the composting action.

So I want to dry it out and set it aside for two years - just to be super duper sure it is safe.  I also want to keep it from getting onto the ground too early and keep flies out of it.  

So we put it in a garbage can with a lid.  The lid fits well enough that flies cannot get in, but air can move in and out.   As each day warms up, the air inside expands so the moist gasses are pushed out.  And as it cools at night, dry air is drawn in.

We put a piece of breather pipe in the side of the can.  Then fill will four inches of sawdust.  And add three more inches of sawdust to the nearly full can.  Any moisture that gets to the bottom of the can is exposed to the open air through the breather pipe and can evaporate.


After two years, we have rich, pathogen free fertilizer.  It would be completely safe to put on a veggie garden.  Or to spread out on any garden element.  But just to make sure that nobody gets weird about human poop and food, let's stick to using it on something non-food.  

As the years pass, we find we want to empty the cans quickly and move on. Most plant species cannot handle this much nutrient at once.  But there are a few that can.  We call them the "poop beasts".  Willow, cottonwood, poplar and bamboo. They will greedily gobble up as much as we can give them and then lick their plate clean.  (Om nom nom nom nom)

This material is not a waste, but a valueable resource.  I call all of this "the willow feeder system." Safer than a sewage treatment plant.  Cheaper and scalable too.



Of course, there are a thousand more details to add in.  The idea was to try and have something kinda short - just enough to give a person a general idea of what a willow feeder is.

Spelling? Grammar?  Ways to make the message simpler and shorter?





 
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I think I understand what you are doing but I spy a spot where confusion might be reduced.

After explaining that hot compost nutrients to the atmosphere, you say "a dry environment also stops the composting action. So I want to dry it out and set it aside for two years - just to be super duper sure it is safe."  The strong implication is that you're doing something other than composting.  

But then, after contrasting the willow feeder to composting by saying you are drying it out to *prevent* composting, you say "After two years, we have rich, pathogen free fertilizer." I think at that moment people thought you were *storing* the stuff for two years without letting it compost.  So they may be expecting petrified turds and TP and sawdust to come tumbling out of your cans.  I'm guessing (?) that what you actually get out is more homogenous, because of cold decomposition processes? But I don't actually know.  Probably your video will be making that plain.

 
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As much as I realize most people think a single page is too much information and too much to read, North Americans seem so hung up on the whole "bathroom" thing, for some valid reasons based on history, I think you may need *more* information to have a sufficiently compelling argument to get people to change.

Example 1.

It also contains a heavy dose of pharmaceuticals that made it through the people that need pharmaceuticals.

Do you have evidence that some or most of those pharmaceuticals are disassembled by the combination of 2 years of being held in an aerated garbage can followed by surface application around a tree? If not, once released around the tree, will they get washed into the soil and into the ground-water?

Example 2.

After 24 hours, the poop koolaid goes past a UV light and is released into the river.

Why do we care? I would add things like: this flushes all the valuable Nitrogen, Phosporus and Potassium into our waterways where it encourages algae blooms and dead zones, when in fact, kept on our land, those chemicals are a valuable resource for our plants.

Example 3.

But there are a few that can.  We call them the "poop beasts".  Willow, cottonwood, poplar and bamboo. They will greedily gobble up as much as we can give them and then lick their plate clean.

Again - how does that benefit the individual?  Firewood, natural cooling, feed stock for biochar to improve sandy or clay soil, feed stock for basket weaving or furniture making - I'd choose a couple of possibilities that you feel have a wide audience.

Lastly, what is your audience? If it's small acreage owners, they could easily plant a row of trees as a wind-break, or copicing for fence posts, or even privacy, but if you need to appeal to city dwellers for this to really help fix the planet, how can you make that happen? Would you personally be prepared to have people bring you their wheelie bins to store for 2 years, then dump on your trees, then return the bins for re-use? How many people could your land support in that way - a small village of 15 families? More? Less?

Granted, I live with two science fanatics (both engineers also), so they would want this information. I have no idea who you might be planning to use this for. That said, I admit when I heard references to "Willow feeders" on perimies in the past, I got a very different picture in my head - more along the lines of an above-ground outhouse with lots of absorptive material in a ring so that you pooped into the center of the ring, and plants/trees grew around the ring sucking up the relatively fresh poop with the help of microbes and mycorrhizae. So from that incorrect image, what you've written clarifies things much better!
 
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I was confused by the breather tube paragraph

We put a piece of breather pipe in the side of the can.  Then fill will four inches of sawdust.  And add three more inches of sawdust to the nearly full can.  Any moisture that gets to the bottom of the can is exposed to the open air through the breather pipe and can evaporate.



I think some more detail in this area would be helpful because there is a strong possibility that if not vented correctly the contents of the can will go anaerobic. For clarification, is a perforated pipe placed/attached vertically to the interior side of the can before use? Is the pipe or the can filled with 4 inches of sawdust followed by three inches of sawdust?
 
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So you put 4 inches of sawdust in the bottom of the can before using correct? Also, in your ranking of sewage handling systems you might want to add convenience and social acceptance. How many of your friends & family won't visit you because you have a dry outhouse or willow feeder?  
 
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I agree with Aaron, plus I'm thinking there's an incorrect word in that sentence "Then fill will four inches of sawdust."  Maybe the "will" is supposed to be  a "with"?
 
paul wheaton
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We are wrapping up our first indoor willow feeder and our willow feeder designs have changed enough over the years that the little piece of paper inside needs a big update.   Here is what I have written so far:

willow feeder

This is not a toilet, not even a composting toilet.   This material is not "waste", it is a valuable resource - it is "candy" for willow trees.


pee outside For all practical purposes, urine is sterile.  

Urine is a nearly magical fertilizer.  A bit salty, but with a bit of rain, the salt is all rinsed away while the nutrients remain.

Some plants will gladly take enormous amounts of urine (willow, rhubarb, most grasses ...), while other plants enjoy just a little.  If you pee in one spot about a foot away from a plant, the plant can take as much as they like.   If you pee all around the plant - it could be a bit overwhelming for the more delicate plants.  Try to pee in a new spot each time you pee.

Urine mixed with poop causes a lot of stink and creates about ten times more work for this system (the cans will become too heavy for two people to lift).  Please pee outside or do your best to use the provided urine diverter.


eat organic! Nearly all non-organic food contains persistent herbicides.  These herbicides are used on grains and will concentrate in the fat cells of animals - so meat contains more persistent herbicides than grains!  The persistent herbicides are unaffected by composting or passing through an animal. They have a half-life of 7 to 11 years. So when the willow candy is presented to the willow tree, these persistent herbicides will kill (or stunt) the willow! Please do your best to eat strictly organic.


sprinkle sawdust sparingly For us, the primary function of the sawdust is to improve the view.  Maybe one cup of sawdust. Too much sawdust will fill the cans a bit too quickly.  Sawdust is great for mitigating smells, but it is the general design of the willow feeder that should make it never smell and, thus, never have flies.  Please do your best to keep sawdust out of the urine diverter!


close the lids/flaps This system is designed so that the box is slightly pressure negative.  This makes is so there is no smell and no flies.  But it can only be pressure negative when the lid is down and the can access flaps are properly closed.  


poop beasts Most plant species find willow candy "too rich" - if you put a lot of willow candy near such plants, they will die.  But there are some species that will gobble up all the willow candy you provide.  Trees that appreciate willow candy in a cold climate include willow, poplar and cottonwood.  Om nom nom nom.


composting vs. not composting Most of the material that goes into this can is carbon and nitrogen.  It is therefore possible to compost it all down to just ash - about 1% of the mass of the original material - all that carbon and nitrogen go into the atmosphere.  But carbon and nitrogen in their solid form are the very thing that growies desperately want!  And gardeners are always searching for good sources of plant nutrients.  So our willow feeder systems will attempt to keep all the carbon and nitrogen in a solid form for the willows.  In other words, we will try to prevent composting by keeping this material dry.


poop and pathogens Some people are sick and their poop carries pathogens. In an effort to allow those people their privacy (and to develop a poop management system that can scale to a big city) we will treat all poop as if it contains pathogens.  Those pathogens are nearly all dead in two months. And they are absolutely dead in 2 years. All of our willow candy is aged two years before feeding it to willow trees - just to be sure.

 
paul wheaton
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I think I need to find ways to say all this, but take up less real estate.  After all, it needs to fit on one page.
 
Paul Ladendorf
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Has anyone actually built one of these and can share the results? Thanks!
 
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This sentence is a bit puzzling:

A bit salty, but with a bit of rain, the salt is all rinsed away while the nutrients remain.  


If the urine is placed on the ground, the salt ends up in the soil. Not quite a biblical level of "sowing the earth with salt", but it still implies a salt buildup.
 
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I think that based on what you've written I can understand the system as a whole, and where the waste goes and how it's used. I don't quite understand the physical implementation aspect, of how I would actually build this system. I think a diagram would be helpful.
 
paul wheaton
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Paul Ladendorf wrote:Has anyone actually built one of these and can share the results? Thanks!



chateau de poo https://permies.com/t/25481
willow bank https://permies.com/t/47814
willowonka https://permies.com/t/65018

the first indoor willow feeder (under construction) https://permies.com/p/1274214
 
paul wheaton
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Dc Stewart wrote:This sentence is a bit puzzling:

A bit salty, but with a bit of rain, the salt is all rinsed away while the nutrients remain.  


If the urine is placed on the ground, the salt ends up in the soil. Not quite a biblical level of "sowing the earth with salt", but it still implies a salt buildup.



Buildup is possible with areas of very low rainfall.
 
paul wheaton
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Malek Beitinjan wrote:I think that based on what you've written I can understand the system as a whole, and where the waste goes and how it's used. I don't quite understand the physical implementation aspect, of how I would actually build this system. I think a diagram would be helpful.



This new document is to be placed inside the willow feeder so people can understand what they need to know.  

The script at the beginning is designed to introduce the idea on youtube.

 
paul wheaton
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We are trying to get to the point that we print up new "information sheets" for all of the willow feeders in a few hours. The front of the information sheet has general info about the willow feeder and the back has information about shark week.  

Here is my attempt at the shark week side:

shark week guide


moon cups

A little blood going into the cans are fine.  A bit of a water spritz with the water going into the can is fine too.


re-usable pads, sponges, tampons or luna panties

A bit of a rinse in the sink is fine.  


compostable pads or tampons

Really excellent options include grasses, moss, cat tail fluff and wool.  All of these can go right into the can.

Commercial products labeled as biodegradable and compostable (such as seventh generation and natracare brands) are fine in the can.


conventional feminine products

Please place these in the waxed paper pouches (provided) and into the garbage can labeled "land fill".  

 
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First, I am curious as to why you want to shorten it.  As a visitor last year, it wasn't too long of a read for me =)  Is it for others?

Maybe put the "Pee outside" part outside, on the door?  It can be split in two that way.  

I still think it is very helpful to have a boot give the visitors a tour, including a brief tutorial on how the willow bank works.

As a woman: the Shark Week paper looks fine.  It is very helpful to know that it's okay to dump the moon cups into the cans.  

I will say, that the little sink I remember would be insufficient to rinse out cloth pads well.  In my 20s, I would have been very insecure about using the outdoor sink and drying lines, but now I'm 40 I would be fine with it =)
 
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My 2¢ worth on wording. I’m just going to set this over here — soak up whatever parts of it you need

Since you mentioned trying for one page, this version accomplished that, but in doing so cut out a lot of your ‘explanatory’ text. Stuff in bold is what I thought were the key takeaways from each section, so they would stand out on the page.


Willow Feeder
This is not a toilet (not even a composting toilet!). This material is a valuable resource. One could call it "candy" for willow trees.

Pee outside or do your best to use the provided urine diverter. Urine mixed with poop causes a lot of stink and creates about ten times more work for this system (the cans will become too heavy for two people to lift).

Pee in one spot about a foot away from the plant so it can take in as much as it needs.

Do your best to eat strictly organic. Nearly all non-organic food contains Persistent Herbicides. They aren’t affected by passing through an animal, and when when presented to the willow tree, these herbicides will stunt (or kill)! [/b]

Best to use perhaps one cup of sawdust per visit. The system is set up to mitigate smells; too much sawdust will fill the can too quickly. [/b]

Please do your best to keep sawdust out of the urine diverter.

Close Lids & Flaps. This system is slightly pressure negative (no smell or flies), but only works when the lid is down and access flaps are properly closed.

Most plant species find willow candy too rich. If you put a lot of willow candy near such plants, they will die.  Trees that appreciate willow candy in a cold climate include willow, poplar and cottonwood.  Om nom nom nom.

Compost or Not to Compost? Gardeners are always searching for good sources of plant nutrients — the solid form of Carbon and Nitrogen are exactly what Growies desperately want!  Our systems will attempt to keep in a solid form for the willows (will try to prevent composting by keeping this material dry).

Aging the Willow Candy. Some people’s poop carries pathogens. To develop a poop management system that can scale to a big city, we will treat all poop as if it contains pathogens. Such pathogens are nearly all dead in two months, and absolutely dead in 2 years.  All of our willow candy is aged two years before feeding it to willow trees — just to be sure.
 
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Briana Great wrote:I will say, that the little sink I remember would be insufficient to rinse out cloth pads well.  In my 20s, I would have been very insecure about using the outdoor sink and drying lines, but now I'm 40 I would be fine with it =)

I get that - my son's 20 something girl-friend is seriously shy about such things. I could see this as an area for "educating in advance". I'm assuming most visitors to the Labs have to give basic identification in advance about age and sex? I might be a bit blunt for the job, but maybe a group of us women (ideally multiple ages - I'm in menopause, and the world's a much different place than it was when I went through my 20's!) - could write up something that could be emailed in advance. I'm guessing there's already a thread somewhere on permies that covers some of this stuff, but I've never needed to look for it? But having a name - "PM me if you have embarrassing questions" type volunteers with the link sent to the target group ahead of events?

Maybe put the "Pee outside" part outside, on the door?

I know that Paul believes in the "pee in one spot and the plants will find it" concept, however, how do the Boots and visitors choose that "spot"? I recall reading that peeing on the big manure water-heating coil was a thing - is that still happening? Is it possible to make a large mulch pile that some sort of a "pee only" shelter could get rolled over for women who need a little more privacy than men to get the job done? (with nitrogen-loving plants around it) Again, some women are more private than others, and older women may not have the knees for squatting (some days yes, some days just not!) I cut an old toilet seat so it fits fairly securely on a 20 liter bucket with biochar and mulch in it which I keep for emergencies in my back field. At some point it will have to be emptied, but mostly it evaporates due to minimal use, but that's all I need on days when squatting is a bad idea.
 
paul wheaton
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Briana Great wrote:I will say, that the little sink I remember would be insufficient to rinse out cloth pads well.  



I think that the mission at this point would not be for "well" but for "well enough".  

My guess is that women will have more cloth pads with them that are super clean and dry and something to carry the "no longer clean pads".  Some women will simply put away the used cloth for cleaning later, or maybe do a little bit of cleaning now and the deeper cleaning later.

But ... I am a guy and have no real idea.  So this is all guesswork on my part ....   and little bits and bobs i have learned when women talk about this sort of thing around me (this is a permaculture site, so people are less shy about these topics).  

(it does seem a bit off that i am composing this document)
 
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Ashkey,

I see how you reduced the footprint in two ways.  Brevity was one.  And the other was to move the text up with the title (or, in your case, to make the message be the title).  

I have not fully read all of what you wrote, but a few things I kinda felt like "that leaves out an important thing I am trying to convey."


Part of writing this is that if we write something REALLY good, not only does it go into four willow feeders now, but maybe three more in the future.   And Maybe into thousands for those that choose to adopt this technique in the future.  And I enjoy the idea of some of these fine points getting into more brains.   And what better time to get that stuff into brains than while at this particular moment - famous in history for doing a bit of reading.
 
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For the women, we do provide these things:



I am told that the most bashful women find these to be perfectly fine to use.
 
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Shark week can sneak up on a gal, especially if she's in a new or stressful (even in a good way) situation. I don't use pads, but I keep some in the main bathroom in case a guest needs them because I've been in that situation. It would be hospitable to provide some biodegradable pads in a basket near the toilet for the women caught by surprise. Not sure if you've done this before since I haven't been to your place.
 
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paul wheaton wrote:

Briana Great wrote:I will say, that the little sink I remember would be insufficient to rinse out cloth pads well.  



I think that the mission at this point would not be for "well" but for "well enough".  

My guess is that women will have more cloth pads with them that are super clean and dry and something to carry the "no longer clean pads".  Some women will simply put away the used cloth for cleaning later, or maybe do a little bit of cleaning now and the deeper cleaning later.

But ... I am a guy and have no real idea.  So this is all guesswork on my part ....   and little bits and bobs i have learned when women talk about this sort of thing around me (this is a permaculture site, so people are less shy about these topics).  

(it does seem a bit off that i am composing this document)



I use cloth pads. I can see when a small rinse might be handy. Some pads come with backs that you attach to your underwear to protect the underwear, and then you attach an insert to that. Usually the backing doesn't get soiled, so you can change out the insert (put it in a baggy to wash later) and put in a new insert. Here's one like that:

washable pad with removable insert

I made one of these type of pads here PEP: sew a feminine pad

With these type of pads, especially if you have a PUL waterproof layer, you might end up needing to rinse the waterproof layer, while changing the insert.

I'm thinking the document might need information on where a woman can wash her washable pads/inserts. They take a lot of washing, and the water that comes out is very bloody (I tried washing mine with a manual washer last week, and it was a bit...gross). I don't know if you want women washing their pads in the Ringer Washer. Maybe a note about how--during events--they can use the Fisher Price washing machine (if that's where you want them washing them)?

I usually save up all my pads and wash them all in one go after my period is finished. I'm not sure how other women do it, but I'm thinking that's pretty common. So, if there's a lady there for a two week event--or bootcamp--they might need to wash their pads before they get stanky.
 
paul wheaton
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Here is the front and back of the document we are about to create.   I think we have about six minutes until they are printed ...

Thanks Nicole for making them pretty!
willow-feeder.png
[Thumbnail for willow-feeder.png]
shark-week.png
[Thumbnail for shark-week.png]
 
paul wheaton
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Hmmmmm ....  maybe we can provide some bandanas and label them with something like "in case shark week caught you by surprise"  ??

The trick is that it would need to be in a container that critters cannot get into.  Something that could tolerate freezing - but would keep the bandanas dry and clean.  Inside there could be a further note that says "these are clean.  Feel free to take one and keep it."

Maybe something like this https://amzn.to/3gcLNhs

 
paul wheaton
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Maybe we need a box like this for the bandanas https://amzn.to/2Tq4G7B

 
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I just wanted to point out a typo in the willow feeder doc:

In the "close the lid/flaps" portion, in the second sentence the first "is" should be "it". So it should say "This makes IT so there is no smell..."


Also with the shark week doc, the part about organic and composable products; I think it would be more clear if you had the pictures above the writing so people don't think that the pictures are for things that have to go into the landfill.
 
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I think that a sign outside the door would be the best urine diverter of all.
Maybe it is a shortened version of the "pee outside" section on the inside memo, just what they need to know to get going. ("while you are waiting...wait, you don't actually need to be waiting, GO!" )


We welcome you to pee outside, if you feel comfortable doing so, and the plants will be grateful.

Urine is a nearly magical fertilizer, and for all practical purposes is sterile.
Try to pee in a new spot each time you pee, about one foot away from a plant, to not overwhelm the more delicate plants.



I think the signs for inside are good, a thorough treatment on the matters at hand.
I might rearrange the words though, to get the message across first, followed by the explanations. There coexists, in this space, both an urgency and some time to ponder...
 
Nicole Alderman
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Jackie Frobese wrote:I just wanted to point out a typo in the willow feeder doc:

In the "close the lid/flaps" portion, in the second sentence the first "is" should be "it". So it should say "This makes IT so there is no smell..."



Fixed!
Willow-feeder-parchment.png
Is has been turned into It
Is has been turned into It
 
Nicole Alderman
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Jackie Frobese wrote:
Also with the shark week doc, the part about organic and composable products; I think it would be more clear if you had the pictures above the writing so people don't think that the pictures are for things that have to go into the landfill.



How about I just scootch the compostable products up, and put a bigger space? The moon cup and reusable pad section both had relevant images under the text, so I'm thinking it makes sense for these to go under the text, too. It just might need a bit more of a visual break before the disposable products, to help distinguish it.
shark-week-copy.png
How's this?
How's this?
 
Nicole Alderman
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paul wheaton wrote:Maybe we need a box like this for the bandanas https://amzn.to/2Tq4G7B



I like the idea of a box, and of the bandannas. Though, I know shark week takes me by surprise, and my first day is heavy...and a banana wouldn't cut it They're just not that absorbent (and my flows are lighter than they used to be before I changed my diet and switched to non-toxic pads. So I know flows can be pretty heavy). I'm also not sure how to attach a bandanna to my underwear. When I've had a light-flow day and tried putting something like a bandanna down there...it's just slipped off. And I've been doing cloth pads for 7 years. So I'm thinking other people might be even more confused. I think big safety pins/diaper pins might help (that's what I've used, and it helped).

But, I'm thinking people who have irregular periods/heavy flows usually come really prepared, and if they didn't happen to be, a bandanna is a good stop-gap until they can get more resources that evening at a store.

I think bandannas+safety pins in the box is (1) a really generous idea that goes above and beyond, (2) a great way to get people to think outside the normal menstrual product "box." And it's a lot more affordable than providing hand made or machine-made reusable or compostable pads.

Added plus to the wooden box: You could woodburn something like "shark week attack" on it!
 
paul wheaton
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Maybe we can start it with bandanas and we can leave a suggestion inside that women passing through might add their favorite thing to the box for future women?

 
Jay Angler
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Paul Wheaton wrote:

Maybe we need a box like this for the bandanas

Yes, a wooden box is lovely, but my neighbor found a used metal lunch box like this at a swap sale:

which he hung vertically in the corner for holding the toilet paper, and it is *very* secure from critters!

Regardless of what container you settle on, you could add instructions inside the lid. If the box was large enough, it could be divided in two, with bandannas on one side and moss on the other and women could add a layer of moss if they thought they needed extra absorbing material - the educational benefit of that would be awesome!

And call me old-fashioned, but I didn't have a clue what people meant when they referred to "shark week" - so please at least add "menstrual products" underneath for those of other cultures?

Is someone generally assigned the task of checking toilet supplies daily, or will there be instructions somewhere of where to go/who to contact, if something runs out?
 
paul wheaton
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I have ordered four of the wooden boxes.

Nina and Magdalene have offered to wood burn the outside with a message about "in case shark week caught you by surprise."

Magdalene suggested black bandanas, so I bought some:  https://amzn.to/2TqRNtW

Maybe some women would like to add some re-usable stuff into the boxes?  If so:

     ladies
     c/o paul wheaton
     2120 s reserve #351
     missoula, mt  59801




 
Nicole Alderman
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Paul Wheaton wrote:Nina and Magdalene have offered to wood burn the outside with a message about "in case shark week caught you by surprise."



Jay Angler wrote:
And call me old-fashioned, but I didn't have a clue what people meant when they referred to "shark week" - so please at least add "menstrual products" underneath for those of other cultures?



Would it be more self-explanatory if the box was placed right under the sign labeled "Shark Week Guide"? I'm thinking the sign does a pretty good job of explaining via context what shark week is. The signs covered in pads and tampons and has the words "feminine products" etc scattered over it. So, if someone sees the box and goes "What's shark week?" and then they look up and see the sign saying "Shark Week Guide" it should hopefully make enough sense for them to look inside?



I'm thinking we probably want little signs to go inside the box, too. Something like:

"
Time of the Month Come a Little Early?
These are clean.  Feel free to take one and keep it.

If you have a favorite (unused) product you'd like to donate to future women, you are welcome to add it to the box!"

Anything to add to that? I'll see if I can determine what size the interior of the lid of the wooden box is, and make a sign that fits.
 
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I love the idea of having a woman (boot or staff or volunteer) be the point-of-contact for your women guests!  Paul,  you are right it is a little more awkward asking a man for "How does this work?" and having a woman who is already there ready to answer/explain is a much better experience for everyone.  After all, the goal is to help move us towards sustainability.  If someone who lives there has more experience to share, that is amazing!

Even just emailing ALL participants both of those docs before they come would help prepare them mentally for that shift in thinking.  It wasn't something I thought about when I came last year, only staying for a week.  

Now I am over here rethinking our bathroom usage again.  . . .
 
Nicole Alderman
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I tried drafting something out for inside the box. I'm thinking it'd be nice to have instructions for the bandannas...but since I haven't figured out how to use them without safety pins, maybe someone else can chime in with instructions?

I'm not sure if there should be pictures of products to inspire people to donate, or of I should just have the bandanna...or no pictures? Maybe we want more description?
time-of-the-month-early-copy.png
Draft!
Draft!
 
paul wheaton
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Magdalene thinks it would be good to have half the box with stuff that is brand new (never used) and the other half with clean (used) stuff.
 
Nicole Alderman
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Just speaking for myself, but I'd never want to use someone else's pad. A lot of pads are harder to get all the way clean than most cloth, because there's so many layers of cloth for the water to go through, and because there's just SO MUCH blood that needs to get washed out (I go into detail about the whole subject here, and it's why I went to having a wool back and foldable insert for my pads). It's the same sort of problem that can happen with thick diaper inserts.

Having dealt with both diapers and pads not liking to come clean, I would never want to use someone else's pad, nor would I offer one of my reusable pads to them. I keep some 7th Generation pads here at home, at in my purse, just in case anyone else ever needs something for their flow.
 
Jay Angler
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I tend to agree with Nicole, particularly multi-layer pads.

I did wonder if we could make little cards (paper is fine - I'm thinking business-card size) with links to permies threads about making your own re-usable  pads, like the link to the PEP page for it, and any others that might be appropriate.

Or just go for Briana's idea of emailing "instruction" sheets to expected visitors with some extra links added. Most of us just grew up not thinking of the impact choices like this make on the planet!
 
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Greenhouse of the Future ebook - now free for a while
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