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help! flies in my 'Sunmar'  RSS feed

 
Posts: 12
Location: On top of a mesa in central New Mexico.
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Hello, I'm new to the forum but not new to composting toilets or living off grid or alternative building. But I'd like to say that registering for this forum was the most pleasant registration experience I've ever had. Love the rules section. Had me laughing while I typed the fear and loathing code. I really really dislike those.

My wife and moved from the beach north of LA to off grid to New Mexico in 83 w/four Arco 35s and four Trojan T105s a little controller and some wire. We found land to build on near a town of 24. No I didn't forget any zeros.

The topography and pop density was just what we were looking for, wooded mesas and canyons did I mention blue skies like crazy. Our system has grown to 2kw of pv on three Zomeworks trackers, with a fixed array on the roof. I wish I had known abut cobb when we moved here. It was around but not under that name. I saw Ken Kern give a demo at the university atTempi in about 1980. But they were stuffing it in forms. Yuk. Cobb is for people with imaginations and a willingness to experiment with shapes to live in.

I was taken with adobe at the time and that's what we used. My wife and I did 95% of it our selves minus a by your leave from anyone. The only pro help we had was with the roof, it's a membrane and with how the blocks tie together. That was complex because of the shape of the house. I'll post some pics when I find the right area. I joined to find out more about dealing with fles in our Sunmar NE. We got it in 87 or so and never had any trouble with it till lately. Years after we'd been using it regularly in the bathroom I read the instructions. It's been working even better since then.... Until about six months ago when we started to have flies and moths taking up residence and petitioning for streets and a fire dept!

I tried diatomaceous earth repeatedly to no avail, flies don't have exoskeletons. I finally nuked them with raid. I figured it might kill our little buddies who were doing such a good job with our poop. But I really dislike flies.... so I took a chance. Sorry little guys.

I emptied the sunmar and cleaned out the bottom area and tray. But I must have missed some eggs. There back. So I need some suggestions please.

Since the beginning I have had mosquito netting on the top of the vent pipe which extends five feet above the parapets and is black. It is also on the two air inlets on the bottom in the front. We don't use the fan either. We have the moisture about right and the stack [ it's december here at 7K feet ] is about 70 degrees. I have never seen a figure on what it should be. I know in regular compost opps it should get higher.

So, what temps are you guys seeing? We have one of those infra red delays that really gives a right now number. So I keep an eye on it. The new stack is about 6 weeks old and I can see baby flies if I look closely.

Could the eggs be in the peat moss we use. It's hardware store stuff in plastic bags. A bale of that stuff doesn't seem like a good nursery for flies but anything is possible I guess. I have checked the netting on all the openings and it's in tact. So I'm at a loss where they get in. We also put weather stripping around the lid and around the under side of the seat to seal out bugs. It worked for 25 years or so.

But now I need some help please. What can kill flys and not hurt our little poop harvesters. BTW I already know it doesn't say to do the weather stripping and mosquito netting in the instructions. It just says if the moisture is right you won't have flies. B.S. In New Mexico we have to regularly add moisture to keep the stack looking right.

I look forward to meeting some of you and hopefully learning some more interesting stuff about living off grid.

Ron




 
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Ron Hi,

We have been using a sunmar for several years. Yes you will get the flys. Your matrix is not wet enough. They live and breed in damp peat moss or what ever mix you are using. I have to monitor the fluids close. If it gets too dry the place fills with them. Ours are more like gnats that flys though. If you have a different critter then you may want to check out what is native to the area. Moisture control is it though.
 
Ron Becker
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Location: On top of a mesa in central New Mexico.
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Greta Beach wrote:Ron Hi,

We have been using a sunmar for several years. Yes you will get the flys. Your matrix is not wet enough. They live and breed in damp peat moss or what ever mix you are using. I have to monitor the fluids close. If it gets too dry the place fills with them. Ours are more like gnats that flys though. If you have a different critter then you may want to check out what is native to the area. Moisture control is it though.



We went years w/o fly problems. The booklet says much the same tho. I'm looking for a solution to the current problem while we ramp up the moisture. One of the things I was going to do today was check out pheromone traps for the current population, last resort maybe sticky tape or something like that. Not sure how we'd manage a trap inside, unless it was the the drying area under the drum.

Thanks for responding I was beginning to think I offended everyone after weeks of nothing. Heck, I already have my scythe...... not sure if I spelled it right. I remember my uncles using those to harvest hay on my grandfather's farm. When I saw one in a yard sale I grabbed it. Soon after that memory they got a 48 Farmall and a mower.

I've recently added wood chips to our peat moss. Long skinny ones my skip tooth chain makes when I rip large pieces of unsplitable fire wood. That could be contributing to the dryness I guess. The humidity is notoriously low here in N.M. Going to heat some water to about 100 degrees to allow for immediate cooling when I add it. We have an infra red thermometer, after turning the drum about four times I measure 72 degrees in there. Do you know the temp of your matrix? Do you take moisture readings. We have a gardening probe that tells moisture levels but I don't know how it's calibrated except that it's for growing plants not a composting toilet. Do you guys measure the moisture or do it by sight?

Ron
 
Greta Beach
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All I do is add a pan of warm water whenever the critters start flying. Once they are in it they could be anywhere inside of the whole unit if there has been any overflow. Ours is electric (thank goodness) and no I don't have a gage. I just add a bit until I think it is right and see if the flies go away. They will go outside if you leave a window open. If you mix is too dry you add more peat. If it is too wet you add more sawdust. We use the horse bedding compressed pellets since we don't have any other way of getting the saw dust. It will take time to get the moisture right by sight. It's been 6 years now. We spent our first few year here in a yurt. My husband still doesn't complain about cleaning it. lol We just play it by sight now. Good luck it is a different lifestyle.
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Ron Becker
Posts: 12
Location: On top of a mesa in central New Mexico.
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Greta Beach wrote:All I do is add a pan of warm water whenever the critters start flying. Once they are in it they could be anywhere inside of the whole unit if there has been any overflow. Ours is electric (thank goodness) and no I don't have a gage. I just add a bit until I think it is right and see if the flies go away. They will go outside if you leave a window open. If you mix is too dry you add more peat. If it is too wet you add more sawdust. We use the horse bedding compressed pellets since we don't have any other way of getting the saw dust. It will take time to get the moisture right by sight. It's been 6 years now. We spent our first few year here in a yurt. My husband still doesn't complain about cleaning it. lol We just play it by sight now. Good luck it is a different lifestyle.



I know what you mean about the life style. They call it alternative for good reason. Some of the best writting I've seen on the subject is in the book Hand Sculpted Houses by Evans, Smith and Smiley. Those folks have a clear understanding of treading lightly. It's also about a great subject. Building w/cob. It's my favorite medium for building tho we built an adobe, I was able to incorporate nonlinear shapes in to our home but w/cob it just about happens automatically.

Coming for a comfortable 420 sq, ft. home in Santa Monica, we just laid out lines on the ground w/lime. I had a rough idea about how to shape it I wanted a round front where the glazing would be. Turned out like 25 percent of a circle. I just didn't get how big it would be from the lines on the ground. The arc across the front is 80 ft. We mirrored it in the back w/a smaller arc and all the long walls radiate from an imaginary center point at the back of the house like spokes and intersect the concentric walls at pleasing angles. I had no idea about building I just had this idea of no rectangular rooms. We put radiant heating in the floors so it's not too much of job to keep it warm even at 7k feet.

We'd been to Chaco canyon during harmonic convergence in 87 and had already begun the rock stemwalls. one of the rooms is based on a kiva ruin we saw there. I'm not sure how many pics I can attach. My wife kept a journal with photos, and text about what we were doing and drew great little diagrams and drawing. We have one for each year. I'll have to find out if there is a place here to upload pics other than in msgs, Looks like you folks are on the eastern seaboard somewhere. If looks familiar I lived in Maryland thru high school. When I went out west with a rock band I knew I wanted to live out here somewhere. Took about 20 years but we began the adventure in 83.

Thanks for help w/sunmar. Added a quart of warm water with a spray bottle l little after each rotation. We'll see how that goes.

Ron


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The front, passive solar glazing
 
Greta Beach
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Your place is wonderful! It just takes time to work out the bugs lol. We have 50 acres in the southeastern part of Kentucky. Our (now) trailer is in one of the hollars (in Knox County) from Appalachian tales. It's like stepping back in time at least 50 years. This county is the second poorest in the nation.

Our county still has a treaty with the Cherokees of North Carolina to share river cane for their baskets. They come in the spring to harvest the cane. Barbourville, KY was the first county seat settled west of the mountains. We live near the Wilderness Trail and are steeped in Daniel Boone lore.

Well good health and good luck!
greta
 
Ron Becker
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Location: On top of a mesa in central New Mexico.
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Greta Beach wrote:Your place is wonderful! It just takes time to work out the bugs lol. We have 50 acres in the southeastern part of Kentucky. Our (now) trailer is in one of the hollars (in Knox County) from Appalachian tales. It's like stepping back in time at least 50 years. This county is the second poorest in the nation.

Our county still has a treaty with the Cherokees of North Carolina to share river cane for their baskets. They come in the spring to harvest the cane. Barbourville, KY was the first county seat settled west of the mountains. We live near the Wilderness Trail and are steeped in Daniel Boone lore.

Well good health and good luck!
greta



Hi Greta, I hear you on the working out the bugs, there are still several major building projects to complete the house. All inside so it's a pain to disrupt the wa* of the place to finish up. *wa is a Japanese word which if I understand it properly means something like peace of mind or in a more oriental sense, one's harmony with the universe. I'm lazy would be more accurate tho.

I built a cob over on footing of large rocks and left over adobe pieces from the house. Its a Canadian down draft type w/no chimney. The smoke has to travel across the dome of the oven to exit the hole in the top of the door. The firing door looks like an H. The air gets drawn in the bottom of the H. It works great an makes great bread with awesome crust.

I was in a R&R band in Malibu in the 60/70s with a guy from Cleaton. He wrote many tunes based on growing up there. Mostly based around coal mines, trains and Rochester River. He's living back there somewhere now but I forget the town. It's most of New Mexico is rural and poor. I worked at a ski area near here in Ruidoso N.M. Its where the nouveau rich of texas come to spend their global warming money. I understand of course that all of us who drive car and use propane share some of the blame for this continuing horror of greed and glut.

We just watched The Last of the Mohicans a few days ago. They were always trying to get to Kan tuck eee. Hope they made it. I't lovely country that's for sure.

I included a picture of the kitchen area. We spend a lot of time there. Are you guys retired yet? Jennifer retired about two years ago. We have a small organic garden but we need to build a solar heated green house so we can grow more of our own food. She and I spent 11 days in an 18 foot tipi once. We loved it. So cool to have a fire in the middle of the living room floor. It was at a black powder rendezvous. I realized then that I was more in to leather and feather's than messing around with black powder. It's pretty messy. Still got the 50 caliber Hawkin tho. I was always into indian stuff. Their live style has been highly romanticized by movies and books the reality for them was much different. But to live as they did before squashed their life must have been something.

Keep yer powder dry!

Ron

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Greta Beach
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Oh I love your kitchen! I would have loved to be in on building your house.

So far the coldest night we have had was 8°F but we are pretty temperate. We have some winters with the nite temps hardly out of the 30's and sometimes in years past we have had several blizzards one after the next. Good thing for us is they seem to melt pretty quickly. In 1997 or 98 we only had snow in March and that blizzard stopped Lexington for days. Summer is hot and muggy Our humidity stays at or over 80% most of the summer. Temps in the 80's and 90's. Fall and Spring are wondeful with September being best.

I have always been footloose and fancy free. I took my kids all over to live and experience life. I have had jobs in all fields. I am left handed and get bored easily. I wish Dale was that way. He is so right handed he has very little imagination when it comes to how you are living. So we are in a little trailer trying to survive.

Dale and I drove truck together for over 4 years before we bought land here and I got off the truck. Dale retired this spring but we still have to work until the land is paid off in under 2 years. He took my job merchadising local stores for a national company over the internet and am going into a store as part time work. It will be 5 more years before I can retire. "sigh" If you are on Facebook I can show you pictures of our place and local history.

 
Ron Becker
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Location: On top of a mesa in central New Mexico.
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At 7k ft. we get a good bit of cold here. Last year for 5 days were below zero we saw minus 5 at the lowest. I''m left handed too and have always done stuff with my hands, primitive pottery, indian jewelry, leather work of all kinds but not saddles I never got into the cowboy thing. Ranchers and most folks around here are in lock step to a tune I can't stomach. that said they can be very nice, and some even after I tell them my history. There are or should be earth building seminars in your area. If you are or think you might be interested in alternative building get the local library to find and loan you [ most will do this ] a book called The Hand Sculpted House.... ISBN# 189013234-9. It is the best work on this subject that I know of. It begins at site selection and ends with the living roof over your head. Cob is a technology that enables a single working mother, if she has her own land to build a comfortable easy to heat cottage... out of pocket. Talk about liberation. It's labor intensive BUT the mixing is done standing up with all you bones aligned and using the largest muscles of your body. You pretty much have to see it. But if you like music and dancing you can pretty much dance and scrounge yourself a house.

Here's a link for some inspiration. These people build these for a living so nearly of them tug at your heart strings.

http://www.ilovecob.com/ashan/cascadiacob2005/cob2k502.htm

Each of the authors who eminently qualified to be offering this information. I wish I'd seen it before we built this place. It's larger than it should for two people on the south side of 65. Each has about two pages on their own experiences and elegantly lay out the reasons for treading lightly.

Plus you can get your feet wet on a small project like an outdoor bench or oven or wall.

DO NOT expect to build a residence in this style with a building permit. But if you have secluded land and you just about have too.... just say nothing about what you are doing at the market or hardware store....... You could however if you think ahead be building an outdoor studio or goat shed if anyone comes asking. You are already over the composting toilet hurdle. If you need no septic system, no city water, or electricity there is no reason to ever interface with the bureaucracy. In a small cottage [ and that is the magic of this technology, small and efficient use of space ] it will be very easy to heat the place expecially if you add a rocket stove. One of the authors is a specialist in rocket stove tech, another is an architect. You will be amazed who would ever build a flat roof it they could have this:

Ron
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Location: Putney, Vermont
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It's hard to know what kind of flies you have without seeing a picture, but if they are the kind I've seen in composting toilets before they could be fungus gnats. Tiny little things the size of fruit flies or a bit larger. Like this:

http://www.growgreenerguru.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Fungus-Gnat.jpg

Here is a close-up, but remember they are tiny and this is HIGHLY magnified.

http://bugguide.net/images/raw/YHUHRR6HHRUH9ZEH3HIL8ZMLNZNHRRNHWZXLUZILUZML9Z5LUZWHFHXH5Z7H1HXH6ZGLBZ5LVZWH.jpg

Some people have been saying to keep your compost dry, but I've need these gnats in both wet and dry compost.

The best control I've seen once they're established is biological. One natural predator is the hypoaspis mite, and you can buy them to introduce to your toilet. Here is one supplier: http://www.biconet.com/biocontrol/hypoaspis.html I think this is a place I have used in the past, but there a couple of online vendors. You just add the little mites (super tiny) to your compost and they prey on the gnats. I remember there is also a nematode or fungus for hypoaspis control, but I can't remember what it was right now.

Cheers,
Abe
 
Ron Becker
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Location: On top of a mesa in central New Mexico.
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Thanks, that's great news. If increasing the moisture content doesn't do the trick in a day or three I'll try the links. I appreciate the links and the pics. The wing shape is one I've seen lately. But they could be living in some potted plants we have in side. I have to check that. I'm forwarding your msg to a friend near by who has two sunmars and is having a similar problem. It's often 24% humidity here in New Mexico, so we have to add moistrure to keep the compost bacteria happy. Do you happen to know the name of the friendly little guys who are doing the digesting for us?

Ron
 
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http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003E7BGTU/ref=oh_details_o07_s00_i00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

this is what i used to kill fungus fly larva, it contains bacillus thuringiensis bacteria that kills most gnat larvae. It will stay in the bin after one use until you clean the bin out then you might have to add more.

I think it took a long time for any replies because ....well i didnt know what a sunmar was and when i googled it i got things which didnt make sense. I added the word toilet and finally found you meant sun mar brand composting toilet.
 
Greta Beach
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I appreciate all the info too. We have learned to control them somewhat but now with your input can get the little opportunist in a much better way. Fungus flies be warned we are dusting off the old credit card.

Thanks again
 
Ron Becker
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laura sharpe wrote:http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003E7BGTU/ref=oh_details_o07_s00_i00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

this is what i used to kill fungus fly larva, it contains bacillus thuringiensis bacteria that kills most gnat larvae. It will stay in the bin after one use until you clean the bin out then you might have to add more.

I think it took a long time for any replies because ....well i didnt know what a sunmar was and when i googled it i got things which didnt make sense. I added the word toilet and finally found you meant sun mar brand composting toilet.



This looks like a good bet. Wish I'd have seen it sooner. I ordered the nematodes at about triple the price including shipping. But they claim the nematodes will remain active as long as there is something to eat. Guess you could say that about most of us. Hope the bacteria are successful. If you like science and genetics and chemistry and a great story check out Greg Bear's `Darwin's Radio, and Darwin's Children. Both are very good as is his Blood Music. This guy has 25 books out I have read most of them I think. I was never disappointed. Most of his stuff is not space ships 10k years in the future, but more what if's in the next 20 years. Sorry if anyone is offended by the OT. Who else is going to tell ya?

Also, sorry I wasn't more clear about my subject. I figured since I was posting in a composting toilet forum everyone would know it was a composting toilet. I think they are made in Canada. They are well thought out and well made. The NE was about 900 bux in the 80s. `Scary to think what it would be now. It's jist biddniss iddnit?
 
laura sharpe
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sounds like a good solution to me as well. With either when yu empty and clean the bin, toss a shovelful back in to inoculate the next batch.
 
                                
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We are sorry to hear that you are having a problem with your composting toilet. If you have any questions regarding the operation of your composting toilet, please call us toll-free at 1-888-341-0782 Ext 218 and we would be happy to assist you. Your Sun-Mar service team.
 
Ron Becker
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Customer Service wrote:We are sorry to hear that you are having a problem with your composting toilet. If you have any questions regarding the operation of your composting toilet, please call us toll-free at 1-888-341-0782 Ext 218 and we would be happy to assist you. Your Sun-Mar service team.



I appreciate the help, it's my fault we got the little critters. I let the stack get too dry. Things should smooth out in a little while. It's very dry at 7k feet in central NM plus we are in a multi year drought here. Humidity is often in low teens or 20s a fair amount unless my weather station is lying to me.

Ron
 
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Location: Texas Hill Country
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Ron Becker wrote:

Customer Service wrote:We are sorry to hear that you are having a problem with your composting toilet. If you have any questions regarding the operation of your composting toilet, please call us toll-free at 1-888-341-0782 Ext 218 and we would be happy to assist you. Your Sun-Mar service team.



I appreciate the help, it's my fault we got the little critters. I let the stack get too dry. Things should smooth out in a little while. It's very dry at 7k feet in central NM plus we are in a multi year drought here. Humidity is often in low teens or 20s a fair amount unless my weather station is lying to me.

Ron



Were you able to get of the fungus gnats? I've been battling them for two years and have never been successful. I'm thinking of dumping the sun-mar and going with a Separett. I can't take it anymore!
 
Ron Becker
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T

Were you able to get of the fungus gnats? I've been battling them for two years and have never been successful. I'm thinking of dumping the sun-mar and going with a Separett. I can't take it anymore!


The quote should only quote what is highlighted. It's redundant to include the whole msg. It is already repeated above more times than anyone needs to read in order to follow the thread.

Last time I looked there were still some there. I spent over thirty dollars for dead nematoads. But why would any other composter be better? The maker claims that if the moisture balance is correct you won't have flys. I have put weather stripping around the seat/toiled body interface as well as the lid/seat interface and the air inlets on the bottom. Nature always finds a way.

Ron
 
Eric Gerber
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Sorry about that quote thing - I didn't see where it said "reply", only the quote button, but I found it now.

The reason I think the Separett will work better is that it is a urine-diverting unit, where just the poop is in the "bucket" part, and no cover material is used. There is a fan and it will hook up to my existing vent, so no smell. No heating pad, so more energy efficient. And their fan registers only 38 dB, while my SunMar hums along at a very annoying 61dB. The urine can simply go in to the grey water system and make my trees even happier. Since urine and feces don't mix, there is no horrible "tea" in the evaporation chamber. Apparently, the gnats will not be present without the moisture that makes the fungus grow on which the gnat larvae feed. Check it out. I have not been able to find any negative reviews, and they've been around over 20 years. The other nice thing is that it in a normal size, so will not be the immense presence in my small bathroom. Also, no step up. The only down side is that males either have to have very good aim, or simply take a seat to urinate. I'm cool with that if it means a quieter, smaller unit without gnats!
 
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I found a web site that discusses how to prevent bugs from getting into the composting or sawdust toilet. when I read the article, I could have kicked myself on how absolutely easy and simple the solution was! Why on earth didn't I think of this myself?

Anyway, here's the article:
http://voices.yahoo.com/how-prevent-bugs-flies-gnats-etc-9094691.html?cat=6

I rushed out and bought the bug-prevention screen for my composting toilet. A whole $2.00. This was the best $2.00 investment i ever made.

You
 
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