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Why is everybody hating on the bucket/cartage system?  RSS feed

 
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I was absolutely sold on humanure composting after reading the Humanure Handbook but it doesn't seem very popular on these forums.

People talk about having "another chore" but it is only 10-15 min once per week, right? I can't imagine that making up a significant portion of basic household chores. In fact, it doesn't seem like much more work than it takes to compost anything else.

Everyone is worried about pathogens but from my understanding, all pathogens die within 6 months of being outside of a host. That isn't even taking into consideration the heat that the pile is subjected to. The exception is hookworm which is destroyed by the heat. Some people are concerned that one cant be sure that EVERY square milimeter is exposed to enough heat, but I imagine leaving an extra-thick final layer of straw on the last deposit would accomplish just that.

Some worry about pathogens leeching out of the pile but anyone who has read the book knows that it isn't a concern when done properly (thick bio sponge of straw or other material at the bottom).

Some just can't deal with the aesthetics (my wife will probably take some convincing) but it's hard for me to understand how these same individuals are totally cool with using livestock manure. Personally, i clean up raw, fresh dog poo everyday so poop just doesn't scare me anymore.

In the spirit of permaculture, one absolutely needs to return their manure to the land because doing otherwise means that one must being nutrients on their farm from the outside via fertilizer or composts. The bucket system requires little infrstructure and allows the resulting compost to be used directly in the garden. No need to use it on inedible plants and then chop those plants for mulch.

So what is the reason that most of everyone on the forum wants to make tree bogs, outhouses and other systems that puts the manure out of sight, out of mind and keeps it seperate from food crops? Is it just aesthetics or is there something more? Because it seems like i'm the only one on the forums who thinks the bucket system seems acceptable, it makes me think that maybe there is something that i'm missing.

A bit off subject, i would like to use humanure to raise BSF's for chicken and fish then put the leftover BSF poo through a hot compost system like the one in Humanure Handbook.
 
Mother Tree
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First of all - you are not alone!

I've been doing the humanure system for years and don't see myself changing until I'm too old or infirm to carry buckets around once a month. I think part of the reason you don't see many posts about it is that once you've read about it and tried it there isn't really much left to say about it. It works. It's well tested. After a while there's not much left to discuss.

I don't worry about pathogens as I follow the system pretty much as it is written and make full use of a compost thermometer to check that everything is heating up as it should do.

The aesthetics is a different issue entirely, and I think a lot of the discussion here is because there are many people who just can't get their head around dealing with the buckets. Or they have family members who can't get their head around it. And for these people, a lot of discussion might be necessary to find a solution that works for them.

As for raising BSF on the humanure, there's something about that which makes me feel very uncomfortable. Justified or not isn't really the issue, I wouldn't feel 'right' doing that, so I don't. And ultimately we all do what we're comfortable with. Humanure for the cabbages, and then cabbages for the chickens at my place!

 
dan long
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Burra Maluca wrote:First of all - you are not alone!




Thanks for your input. I guess your right. Anyone who agrees with the HH probably doesn't have much to say about it beyond that and that is why i'm not seeing a lot of posts about it. It makes me feel much more confident knowing that i'm not the only one who was sold on the concept!
 
author
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I used the system for years. It works well. Dumping buckets is a gross chore, that's all.

We used to use it as a penance around here. Like if somebody screwed something up, or was a jerk, or whatever, then their 'punishment' was to empty the pooper bucket. I loved it when the wife burned breakfast So worth it to not have to dump the poop. It is heavy, sticky, stinky, and, well, just gross. YMMV.

The composting side of it works fantastic. So long as you add sawdust to your bucket as you fill, it is pretty much automatic. Nothing gross at all to the composting process or the end result. I had no concerns about pathogens and such. I used the compost on non-bearing trees. They loved it.

It is a good system. If it works for your situation, go for it. good luck!
 
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I am not grossed out by the compost but I don't love carrying around heavy yucky buckets. And if you carry them when they're not heavy yet you carry them more often.

My sawdust supplier dried up and I have enough poop to sling washing diapers for one and wiping the twins' behinds so I'm not carrying buckets right now. I think some people might have a problem with carrying poop because of society's fecal hangups. Not only is it stinky but also feels demeaning.

I have an electrical composting toilet that someone gave me that I need to figure out. It's missing a part.

A friend of mine had a humanure bucket system at her herb farm and shop that worked well for a while but she stopped using it fir a couple of reasons. One main one was that she is an herbalist who treats a lot of cancer patients and chemotherapy radiation is passed along. Yikes! Don't want to put radioactive waste in the pile.
 
pollinator
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Adam Klaus wrote: Dumping buckets is a gross chore, that's all.

It is heavy, sticky, stinky, and, well, just gross.



I've lived at a few places with the bucket system and personally as long as no one is pissing in the buckets its not even very smelly or gross - and that part last like a whole 9 seconds anyhow. They are heavy though - the worst part in my experience is when people are too lazy to carry out the buckets when they are full (usually due to weight or ick factor coupled with being a lazy bum but occasionally due to being in a rush) and you're left without ample room. *squish* yuk - actually There is an even grosser thing about composting toilets but I'm not sure I'm comfortable bringing it up even with this crowd. Mind the sidewalls if you don't wash your buckets thoroughly and regularly - how 'bout that. But yeah, I've been to plenty of places that use these systems and lived at a couple for extended periods. Its the system I am most likely to use. In all my experience I am unaware of anyone catching anything via this method - though I must admit an irrational fear of it anyway - probably a good thing as it leads to extra caution.
 
pollinator
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That is exactly the reason we still don't have a composing system, carrying heavy yucky buckets around and in the end you have to clean them too. And these sidewalls must be cleaned too. It is the yuck factor nothing else.
 
Burra Maluca
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And if you carry them when they're not heavy yet you carry them more often.



Or you have more buckets to deal with. We can't get those lovely big buckets you guys all seem to use so we have shorter ones, and we have enough so that I only deal with them once a month. Plus I get weeks when I can't really do much so sometimes that month stretches to five weeks. We end up with a lot of buckets!

And these sidewalls must be cleaned too. It is the yuck factor nothing else.



I find that so long as there's a good layer of sawdust on the bottom then there's no problem with 'sticking' there. And as the buckets have straight-down sides you get less 'side sticking' with a bucket than you do with a porcelain toilet so in all there's less cleaning. Plus you just cover everything with sawdust so you don't have to clean it there and then like you do with flush-toilet. Again, with me that's a big deal because I'm often too ill to deal with things and have to wait days until I can catch up with all those chores. With the humanure system it's just a matter of having enough buckets to tide us over until I'm up to the job again. I have a hose-pipe and toilet-brush set up at the heap and scrub the buckets out directly onto the pile. The sawdust in the bucket keeps any skid-marks soft enough to scrub out easily.

I actually have a strange relationship with my humanure heap. It's *always* me who deals with the buckets, and I feel good about doing it. It feels like giving part of us back to the earth. We once had a complaint from a permies member about the use of the phrase 'Holy Shit', which they claimed was religious, and I mentioned that maybe it was indeed slightly religious and that later that day I had to go out and make my monthly offerings to the compost goddess. The rest of the staff promptly appointed me 'Grand Poobah of the United Church of the Holy Shit' and I was then morally obliged to adopt the compost toilet forum. So, here I am!
 
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We have used the Humanure Handbook method in the past to great effect. Yes buckets occassionally need cleaning, but if you use plenty of sawdust it never gets too bad. I think problems sometimes come about because of people rationing the sawdust.

It has some distinct advantage over other systems:
It is portable - you can build a box with a toilet seat that fits a bucket beneath and take it with you when you go out into the woods or out on a work site. I've seen people take them to use at music festivals (beats using disgusting communal toilets!). Personally I've used them with large school groups when camping out in the woods. With 50+ people using two toilet cubicles you need someone responsible for monitoring them, but I'd much rather take care of sawdust toilets over chemical ones. For a start they never smell nasty.

Provided you use fine sawdust, rather than pine shavings, it breaks down incredibly fast - within a week all deposits are unidentifiable, have been cooked hot and are crumbly like soil. No smell, or what smell there is is no worse than the pungent smell you get from a big heap of grass clippings composting.

If buckets are heavy, use smaller buckets or don't fill them so full. Easy. Part filling buckets so there is plenty of room when you empty them makes emptying and cleaning faster and easier.

To make cleaning easier you can stick a few sheets down inside the bucket, wrapped around the walls. A layer of sawdust in the bottom holds it in place. When you empty the bucket the newspaper just goes in the heap with the saw dust. A quick rinse and the bucket is clean - no nasty smears.

 
steward
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Every time this gets brought up I have flashbacks to that "72 bricks" talk when Paul was talking about poop. Something to the affect of "I'm gonna shit in this bucket. Once it's full I'm gonna fuck with the bucket". Most people (and I'm one of them) don't like to handle this material more than once. Know what I mean? I'm interested to see what happens with the larger trash can system that some folks are trying out. I'm much more comfortable with a system that I can fill up, cap off and leave alone as opposed to moving, cleaning and reusing small buckets.

I do think it's important to note that most medications, toxins and all that junk we put in our bodies (willingly or not) comes out in our crap. You may wish to have a plan for times when people are sick and on medications that you may not want to be messing with. If you're trying to promote a good ecology in your bucket, you definitely don't want somebody pooing it up with heavy doses of antibiotics or other not-so-fun chemistry for bacteria and microorganisms.

Some gastrointestinal illnesses pass very easily from one person to another by way of the poo. Especially the diarrhea related ones. In a system like this everyone must be very aware of sanitation.

I'm not hatin, I'm just sayin.
 
Michael Cox
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Craig Dobbelyu wrote:
I do think it's important to note that most medications, toxins and all that junk we put in our bodies (willingly or not) comes out in our crap. You may wish to have a plan for times when people are sick and on medications that you may not want to be messing with. If you're trying to promote a good ecology in your bucket, you definitely don't want somebody pooing it up with heavy doses of antibiotics or other not-so-fun chemistry for bacteria and microorganisms.

Some gastrointestinal illnesses pass very easily from one person to another by way of the poo. Especially the diarrhea related ones. In a system like this everyone must be very aware of sanitation.

I'm not hatin, I'm just sayin.



Antibiotics mess with ALL composting systems, not just jenkins style ones, they also mess with septic tanks etc... With a bucket system it isn't too hard to have a separate bucket for an ill person and segregate their waste into a smaller heap that will not be used in the garden. How does this work when you have a single large bin for the whole house to use then seal? I'm sure there are ways around it, but as with most permaculture things they just need a bit more thought.

Regarding sanitation - this is still a problem with conventional loos. If people have bad hygeine in any system you can end up with problems. Cleanliness matters, but I think this says more about the need to have a dedicated and convenient handwash facility than the pros and cons of a given toilet itself. I've emptied and cleaned hundred of buckets and never felt like I was exposing myself to hazard - certainly no more than picking up the dog's deposits every morning does. If hauling, emptying and cleaning buckets is extremely dirty then you may have a problem with how you are running the system, rather than the system itself - too little cover material, over filling buckets, poorly built seats where the bucket doesn't line up properly etc...
 
Matu Collins
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I am with Burra on the "holy shit"

Compost is the essence of the divine for me.

 
Craig Dobbson
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I think the thing specifically with antibiotics is that people who are on them typically take a multiple daily doses over the course of ten to thirty days. Maybe more if you're really in some trouble. So they would probably be dealing with a bucket or two with much higher concentration of those drugs on a very infrequent basis. I agree that it's best to segregate those contaminated buckets from the rest. But because they are not likely to amount to much material, you'll have to add more stuff to get it to compost properly. You'll also have to have a place where you're comfortable leaving that type of waste.

What I like about the large trash can idea is that when it's full, you just throw a lid on it and then wait til it composts in the can. You don't have to empty, clean or risk cross-contamination. You simply move the can to a place that's out of the way for a year or so. Probably 2 years would be best. Then just tip it out and use on appropriate landscape. I would still segregate the poo from ill and drugged people (I mean that in a polite way) and depending on the situation, may have it removed from the property. It wouldn't be such a loss of energy or biomass to be worth messing with in my opinion. To mix that small amount of waste with enough other material to get it to compost would only make the problem bigger (though slightly diluted). I would probably line a bucket with a plastic bag and have the sick person use that and then tie off the bag and dispose of it off site. That is, unless you have a place on your site that would be safe to dispose of that stuff.

It's also important to know that a lot of the medications we take are passing right through our systems and into the piles where they affect the organisms in the pile as well as those that eat those critters in the pile. And because critters don't stay still, they can transmit illness or chemical compounds to their environment. Food chains right? Contaminants can leech into water as well and get spread very easily to other element of our environments. We know that the septic systems and treatment plants are contamination nightmares, and I agree that a dry, composting system is best. There is a myriad of ways to accomplish it and each of us has our own limits and expectations. For me... the less I have to mess with it, the better. If I had the choice of cleaning small poo buckets once a week or capping a large bin once every 6 months and forgetting about it, I go with the big bin. Also, what happens if you accidentally dump a fresh bucket of poo on your way to the composter? Is there a procedure for cleaning that up?

As to the clean out process and sanitation. Clean hands are by far the biggest thing to preventing transmission of illness. Never put dirty hands near your mouth, nose, eyes, or genitals for the obvious reasons. The one thing people forget most often is that when you dump a bucket out, things splash. There's no controlling for that fact and it means that you end up with contaminants on more than just your hands. There's micro-spray that you never see, which is carried in the air just like when you sneeze. It's being flung off the ends of brush bristles, towels and just the motion of air currents while your scrubbing buckets. This material is deposited like dust everywhere and you do end up breathing some of it in. Chances are most of the germs being carried on this spray are familiar to your immune system or mostly harmless, but in some cases you can become very sick from this small amount of material. I like the idea of skipping any steps that run even a small risk of serious illness. you may consider a quality medical face mask when dealing with sick or unfamiliar poo. A box of masks are cheap compared to poo-sickness. Just saying

Have you all seen this thread? The first pooper
 
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There's nothing wrong with the bucket system, just like there's nothing wrong with spreading a tarp over a few saplings and calling it a low impact house. Both represent the most primitive and expedient solution to a problem. If everyone who lives under a tarp, could be taught to shit in a bucket, the world's shanty towns would be vastly improved.

I presented my young brother who often lives in squalid conditions, with an unused bucket at a jobsite. He just glared at me and said --- "My ass doesn't work unless it's over a toilet". He walked a block to the gas station.
 
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I'm new here but enjoy all of the information I'm reading. We're about to purchase 2 Loveable Loo bucket toilet systems for our 4 bathroom house (yes, we're modern, suburban folks trying to go "off-grid" or at least straddle the grid!). Anyway, I can't find sawdust anywhere... and if I can't find sawdust, then I'm hesitant about investing time, money, effort into the bucket toilet system. Where does everyone get their sawdust from? How much is it? Are there good alternatives to sawdust if it's not available? Thanks!
 
Matu Collins
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I had a woodworker friend who have me his sawdust for a while for free, he even delivered it but his employment changed and he's not making sawdust any more. I could track some down, I admit it, but I'd probably have to pick it up.

The first place I'd ask around is local wood workers and if there is a sawmill around. Ideally it would be a waste product for them and they would be happy to have you take it off their hands.
 
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I use peat moss. A 3 cubic feet bundle (cost $10.00) lasts me more than a month. YMMV. I got an end of season bargain buying up all the torn bags at Home Depot for $5/bag.

* I think the holes in the plastic bags are a plan of Canada's tax service.
 
Bill McGee
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@ Bree,
I've also read of people wetting wood pellets to get sawdust. Check out the forums on http://www.jenkinspublishing.com/messages which has otherideas on biomass covers
 
Burra Maluca
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Where does everyone get their sawdust from? How much is it? Are there good alternatives to sawdust if it's not available?



Since giving up the car we've had a problem collecting free sawdust, so we have been known to splash out and buy a wrapped bale of shavings from the agricultural merchants. They sell it as animal bedding, and if we order animal feed or fruit trees at the same time they deliver free.

There's nothing wrong with the bucket system, just like there's nothing wrong with spreading a tarp over a few saplings and calling it a low impact house. Both represent the most primitive and expedient solution to a problem. If everyone who lives under a tarp, could be taught to shit in a bucket, the world's shanty towns would be vastly improved.



Most primitive? Hah! It's only a year or two ago that our village still had an occupied house with no bathroom whatsoever and you had to watch where you stepped if you went into the back yard.

When I was in hospital a year or so ago I had a very long chat with a trainee doctor who was not only delighted that I actually bothered to compost the family's poop, but did so in a vaguely scientific manner and got my temperatures up to 65C. She was seriously impressed with that temperature! But the fact that a modern trainee doctor would be so interested in what I did with my poop suggests to me that there are still a lot of people out there who have even more primitive solutions to the the problem of what to do with it. Humanure is high-tech around my part of the world!
 
Michael Cox
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As far as finding sawdust goes, get the phone book out and ring around timber yards in your area. They usually have to bag it up and pay to dispose of it. We collect 1m^3 bags from a local guy who specialises in making fence posts from chestnut coppice. Nice fine dust, very absorbant, has some residual moisture and breaks down really hot and fast.
 
Dale Hodgins
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Burra Maluca wrote:

Where does everyone get their sawdust from? How much is it? Are there good alternatives to sawdust if it's not available?



Since giving up the car we've had a problem collecting free sawdust, so we have been known to splash out and buy a wrapped bale of shavings from the agricultural merchants. They sell it as animal bedding, and if we order animal feed or fruit trees at the same time they deliver free.

There's nothing wrong with the bucket system, just like there's nothing wrong with spreading a tarp over a few saplings and calling it a low impact house. Both represent the most primitive and expedient solution to a problem. If everyone who lives under a tarp, could be taught to shit in a bucket, the world's shanty towns would be vastly improved.



Most primitive? Hah! It's only a year or two ago that our village still had an occupied house with no bathroom whatsoever and you had to watch where you stepped if you went into the back yard.

When I was in hospital a year or so ago I had a very long chat with a trainee doctor who was not only delighted that I actually bothered to compost the family's poop, but did so in a vaguely scientific manner and got my temperatures up to 65C. She was seriously impressed with that temperature! But the fact that a modern trainee doctor would be so interested in what I did with my poop suggests to me that there are still a lot of people out there who have even more primitive solutions to the the problem of what to do with it. Humanure is high-tech around my part of the world!



I stand corrected. I hadn't read the part about the hot compost. On the rare occasions when I've resorted to a bucket at job sites, I dig a broad, shallow pit and dump the bucket. A small amount of litter covers it. I figure that by having it all spread thinly in the top few inches of soil, it will break down quickly. The sites usually sit idle for a while. I generally dump in an area that will not be excavated. So far, I've never received a call about these latrines after vacating a site.
 
Michael Cox
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Jenkin's bucket system, as being discussed here, is definitely not what you are describing Dale. The "Humanure Handbook" is well worth a read.
 
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Michael makes a very good point. "The Humanure Handbook" should be a basic reference for every sustainable/permaculture homestead. The bucket system is just one part of this book and it is the system that the author, Joe Jenkins, uses and strongly recommends. The book also goes into detailed explanations of other systems and really all things "poop". In my opinion, the book does a very good job of addressing the yuck factor. It's a very good read and I would highly recommend it to anyone.

-Tom
 
Dale Hodgins
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Michael Cox wrote:Jenkin's bucket system, as being discussed here, is definitely not what you are describing Dale. The "Humanure Handbook" is well worth a read.



Thank you. I'm taking my daughter to a restaurant later in the week. I'll read it aloud.

I do plan to give it a look.
 
pollinator
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i've done it for years and years and its definitely a chore, you put it off and keep putting it off, start a new bucket even to put it off. ah its not too bad....but truth be told i prefer something a little better set up...i will not use it on food crops, personally, it just seems wrong. i much prefer a large dug pit in the woods.

a simple thing that i discovered worked better, line the buckets with a paper bag and fold up the edges so that it fits it in there. if i dont have any recycled large paper grocery bags use newspaper or some other scrap paper to line it.
 
Bill McGee
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Leila,
I wonder if some combination of septic grinder pumps and air systems could work on grid Urb/Suburb areas?

I think 70% US population is considered urban and 50% of world?

See http://eone.com for grinder pumps and
http://sludgehammer.net for an air compressor driven composter.

Some of these grinder pumps are such powerhouses for below grade septic use that you may not need the sludge hammer. Just carburate and vent the eone?
 
leila hamaya
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its been a very long time since i lived in anything remotely like an urban area...and i have never messed around or tried to figure out plumbing very much.

actually of all the various things involved in building for whatever reason plumbing intimidates me the most !? i have managed to get over my intimidation enough to run water lines, do an outdoor shower, simple stuff...but never tried to wrap my brain around trying to set up a real septic system...
 
Bill McGee
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Ooops- Sometimes when your only tool is a hammer (sludge hammer) everything starts looking like a nail
I'll start a seperate post on this idea.
 
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Just want to put in a quick word here about sawdust. I would think you would not want to use dust from chemically preserved woods. Lumber shops have to get rid of it some how. Maybe they sell it to those making those wood pellets? Be sure to ask. Also, I understand dust from cedar is toxic to breathe, so keep the dust factor down.
 
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I'm a bucket lover!!! I should make that into a tee-shirt!

@Bree, I use anything and everything as cover material! Weeds, grass, straw/hay, paper, cardboard, cow/horse poop, dirt... you name it. The higher the carbon content the better, but sometimes I can only use what I can get.
 
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Another one here, been shittin in buckets for three years now. Definitely only pee when pooing and the buckets are much lighter and I think, a better moisture content for composting. It's kind of amazing how many buckets worth can fit into my 4' x 4' piles. It takes a full year for our family of four to build that pile up to 3' high. We just started a new pile. It gets reduced as it composts. I'm planning on putting the finished stuff around our dogwoods here. I don't monitor the pile with a thermometer. I also have noticed in a weeks time, there's no sign of turds and no shit smell. Usually I dump and cover but sometimes, I don't have cover material close by and am in a hurry, so I pull open a hole in the pile and dump into it. I'm using oak sawdust from the local sawmill and covering with leaves from the oaks here on the property.
When I couldn't get sawdust, I used partially decayed leaves by raking the full leaves off the top of the forest floor and taking the partial decayed ones from underneath.
 
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Here's a video made especially for bucket poopers:
 
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..I was in the same situation as far as sourcing sawdust.. I collect grass clippings (which is the Only reason I 'mow'), and use then as bedding in the deep-bedded chicken rooms in the barn.. it stays dry and is reduced to a coarse powder.. after 6 to 18 months it is replaced with fresh clippings and stored in 55-gallon drums, to be utilized as toilet compost.. there has never been evidence of odor or creepie, etc- only the occaisonal feather..
 
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It works fine for us. Two years using it now, three? It was either buy a septic tank, make an outhouse or use this.

But I'm actually on this forum now looking to learn what a tree bog is.

This works fine for my wife and me for now. I usually pee outside, so it isn't getting filled up too needlessly, and thus about once a week I have to empty it. But we have two small children and a third on the way, so I can see in a few years the emptying becoming an every other day chore.

We have a source of sawdust, and I made with plywood some higher side walls for my car-trailer, so I can carry three cubic meters at a time. This probably would be enough for a year, but I also use it under chickens, as mulch here or there, etc.

The problem for us is taking it out, especially in winter, and mainly because we let the bucket get really full so it ends up often at night that I have to go dump it so I can use the toilet!
 
Valerie Dawnstar
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I just finished watching an Elaine Ingham video where she says that antibiotics are taken care of with good composting. It's part of her free online videos and can be found on this
page
under manure.
 
Mavie Bucy
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Thanks Valerie! You have no idea how close I was to messing everything up!!!
 
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Andrew you need extra buckets.
 
Andrew Ray
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Wyatt Barnes wrote:Andrew you need extra buckets.



We had one extra bucket when we started. It still has to go outside, and then be dealt with at some point!
 
Wyatt Barnes
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That is true but with multiple pails you can pick a time within a larger frame to go to the compost. I was dumping pails once a week in the summer and fall but changed to once a month when the weather got very cold. I can potentially stockpile for 6 weeks if I want or need to. Also means no-one has to take over my chore if I get sick or injured.
 
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