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what is a willow feeder

 
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It may be too late since you asked for feedback quickly but I always had a LOT of blood collected in my cup. I read the instructions where it says "a little blood is fine" and I think okay where do I put a lot of blood? Will I contaminate everything with a lot? I don't know. And I imagine some poor shy woman NOT wanting to ask Paul. So that's my question / suggestion that I didn't see from anyone yet.

 
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Are we talking about five gallons?  Two gallons?

The moon cups hold about two tablespoons ....  maybe three ...  

But I do see your point ...   somebody could be thinking that what is in the diva cup is more than "a little" ...  

I wonder if the concern would be mitigated by seeing how big the can is.  And the idea of adding a cup of sawdust.

??
 
Sonja Draven
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Why not just say blood is fine?
 
paul wheaton
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Sonja Draven wrote:Why not just say blood is fine?



Good point!
 
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Sonja Draven wrote:Why not just say blood is fine?

After all, it is just blood. Mostly water and quite biodegradable.  ;-)
 
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paul wheaton wrote:

Sonja Draven wrote:Why not just say blood is fine?



Good point!



Do we want any words about the sawdust, or is this good?
shark-week-wheaton-labs.png
[Thumbnail for shark-week-wheaton-labs.png]
 
paul wheaton
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Nicole Alderman wrote:

paul wheaton wrote:

Sonja Draven wrote:Why not just say blood is fine?



Good point!



Do we want any words about the sawdust, or is this good?



Grammar.

How about "blood in the cans is fine"    ??

 
Sonja Draven
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Yup!
 
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"Oh yes, there will be blood."
-John Kramer, Jigsaw

Given that someone, sometime, is going to show up with a bladder infection, or an inflamed bowel, or an anal fissure, or a bleeding ulcer, there's almost always gonna be some blood in the mix.
 
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Not about the signage, but relating to the video script.

I am all for the concept, but the bit that sticks out for me is the pharmaceuticals being raised as a problem in the video script, then peeing on the ground being okay. Many if not most pharmaceuticals are excreted via urine. Will those be broken down by soil bacteria, or still make their way into groundwater?

Obviously they have more of a chance to be broken down by the soil compared to just being dumped directly in the river, so it's still the best option, IMO. But just wondering if this point needs to be raised in the video.

Oh, and "clean used sanitary towels" - ewwwww! There is no such thing! Once used, even the most determined scrubbing won't get the things really clean!
 
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I'm with Jane on this one. Asking a woman to use "clean used sanitary towels" is like asking a man to use "clean and used jock straps" or "clean and used condoms." If the immediate reaction was "eww" then there's the answer, even without the whole issue of potential transmission of blood-borne pathogens. It's highly unlikely that the previous user of the sanitary towels autoclaved them to make sure they were clear of pathogens.
 
Nicole Alderman
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paul wheaton wrote:

Nicole Alderman wrote:

paul wheaton wrote:

Sonja Draven wrote:Why not just say blood is fine?



Good point!



Do we want any words about the sawdust, or is this good?



Grammar.

How about "blood in the cans is fine"    ??



Done!
shark-week-wheaton-labs.png
blood in the cans is fine
blood in the cans is fine
 
Nicole Alderman
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Paul had a few little changes he wanted made to the Willow Feeder sheet, and a boarder put on it. Here's the new, revised Willow Feeder page!
willow-feeder-boarder-copy.jpg
Click to enlarge!
Click to enlarge!
 
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paul wheaton wrote: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.



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?



When you say "quick and simple" and "kinda short" to me that means making multiple, smaller, pointed videos rather than a long all encompassing one.  I recommend going for the "ethos" and "pathos" angle before the "logos" one.  Looking through chaeau de poo, willow bank, and willowonka threads, I saw no pictures of that finished product.  I need that gut feeling of "yeah, this is safe".  That's not a logical persuasion, but rather a gut one, based on quickly earned trust.

I really need to see someone taking a big, bare-handed whiff of 2 year old, semi-composted petrified poo in order to personally become convinced to watch or learn more.

1. So a first video could be purely intriguing, rather than informative.  1st video purpose is solely to visually convince people that "It works!" enough to earn their trust so they want to learn more.
Scene: an Outhouse
  • Guy or gal (or even better, a family) goes into an outhouse to do their duty.
  • Reads a magazine.  The duty is done.
  • Adds sawdust, walks out, washes hands.
  • Walks around and looks at the Rubbermaid and gives a thumbs up.

  • Text transition appears: ~"Two years later!"~  
    Scene: a forest garden.
  • The very same person(s) (even better, their kids) are using bare hands to dig into the same material which was deposited into the Rubbermaid two years ago.  This emotionally proves it is safe enough.
  • Close up as they lift up the finished material and take a big, satisfying whiff.  More proof.
  • Then they apply the rest of it to the willows and happily walk away.


  • 2. The second video could explain problems/benefits of the current, mainstream sewage systems used in Western cultures.

    3. Third video could explain problems/benefits of current alternative or green systems.

    4. Fourth video explains the benefits of your "Willow Feeder" system, convincing people that this new alternative is actually better.

    5. Operation sequence explained in enough detail that someone who believes it is better feels confident that they could operate it.

    6. Construction and maintenance explained so that they are now confident they could build it, too.

    The proof is in the pudding poo.
     
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    The Humanure Handbook by Joseph Jenkins is now in its fourth edition. He covers nearly all of these topics. It is a highly informative book and a relatively quick read. I highly recommend it.
     
    steward
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    For those who would like more information on the The Humanure Handbook by Joseph Jenkins:

    https://permies.com/wiki/44341/Humanure-Handbook-Joseph-Jenkins

    "...the most comprehensive, up-to-date and thoroughly researched book on the topic of composting human manure available anywhere. It includes a review of the historical, cultural and environmental issues pertaining to "human waste," as well as an in depth look at the potential health risks related to humanure recycling, with clear instructions on how to eliminate those dangers in order to safely convert humanure into garden soil

     
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    Just curious if anyone has tried to vermicompost their poo before it gets to the willow feeder?
     
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    I'm in my 70s now, but, as I recall, bandannas are next to useless (though a few minutes might be enough to get back to my own space and find what I brought) and safety pins tear up my pubic hair painfully.
     
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    Rob Teeter wrote:Just curious if anyone has tried to vermicompost their poo before it gets to the willow feeder?



    Worms are NOT anaerobic nor hot compost - it will not break down any pathogens.  Human Poo generally needs 3-5 years in a sealed container before it is considered 'safe'
     
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    Briana, worms are fantastic at breaking down pathogens in human waste.  Take for example this paper on The Effectiveness of Vermiculture in Human Pathogen Reduction for USEPA Biosolids Stabilization.  I'd have to try to find the link again, but using worms in a poo only toilet that is later planted is an option being used elsewhere.

    My hesitancy with the Willow Feeder is not sanitation, but social buy-in.  One of the major learnings from international efforts to improve sanitation is that it works much better to consult with the people about their culture, needs, fears, etc. before implementing a sanitation project.  Here's one example.  In my own journey I've seen this as well.  I too had come to the conclusion that dry composting toilets were the best theoretical option.  I even successfully managed dry composting toilets for a group of over 75 people for a weekend and the result was that people walked away in awe about how well they worked.  They even suggested I should turn it into a business.  Then I started asking if they would want one in their house and everyone I asked said no.  Why?  It's just too far of a stretch from where they're at.  Not everyone wants sawdust continually spreading over their bathroom, or can haul a 5 gallon bucket, or wants to even see their waste, or wants to constrain their house design for a vertical chute, or is willing to take a hit in their home resale value.  In order to spread better sanitation we have to understand the issue in context and apply Systems Thinking, which may result in different solutions for different people and different situations.  In my family situation, we've had urine diverters fail, peed outside, done Joe Jenkins composting, Omick barrel toilets, etc., but they still want a flush toilet for our permanent house.  So, the permaculture approach for my family involved finding a DIY flush toilet option that could holistically treat the wastewater.
     
    paul wheaton
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    Burton Sparks wrote:My hesitancy with the Willow Feeder is not sanitation, but social buy-in.  One of the major learnings from international efforts to improve sanitation is that it works much better to consult with the people about their culture, needs, fears, etc. before implementing a sanitation project.  Here's one example.  In my own journey I've seen this as well.  I too had come to the conclusion that dry composting toilets were the best theoretical option.  I even successfully managed dry composting toilets for a group of over 75 people for a weekend and the result was that people walked away in awe about how well they worked.  They even suggested I should turn it into a business.  Then I started asking if they would want one in their house and everyone I asked said no.  Why?  It's just too far of a stretch from where they're at.  



    Which is why I think it is so critical that we build lots and lots and lots of structures that demonstrate them indoors and outdoors.

    Sewage treatment plants are a bit shy of a solution.  Humanure systems tend to not scale well.  

    As permies, we want better.  For all the reasons.  The willow feeder design is a strong step in the right direction and has a lot of room for further optimization.  But the testing for optimizations does take years.  It's a lot of hard work to push into a better space.  All we can do is try.  And, in time, it is possible that the skittish will become not-skittish.  
     
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    Paul, I agree that the Willow Feeder drying can make poo safe and add nutrients to the soil, but I think that the concept that there is a one-size fits all perfect solution is erroneous. The Willow feeder is a very simple, effective system, but there are a number of other very viable and effective options that also stay true to the fundamentals of permaculture values.  For example, worm treatment not only makes poo safe and adds nutrients but also adds beneficial microbes that can perpetually further etch nutrients out of the soil to support plants, and worms are 1 of only 2 known natural methods for increasing soil macrostructure.  As far as sewage treatment, a Vermifilter flush toilet met the WHO guidelines for the safe re-use on crops (Wikipedia), can be built with fairly accessible recycled options such as used IBC totes (vermicompostingtoilets.net), and secondary treatment stages are very scalable and readily achieve even more assurance of safe treatment (see vermifilter.com).

    I agree that managing humanure toilet 5 gallon buckets for a large event can quickly become unreasonable.  For that reason, when we hosted an event we switched to an Omick barrel toilet, which is a poo only collector that was certified in Arizona and completes treatment in as little as 6 months, dramatically reducing maintenance crew efforts and storage needs.  Perhaps there are benefits from either or both of these that we could pull into the Willow Feeder design as well (e.g. worms and aeration).
     
    paul wheaton
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    A new video about the willow feeder system

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cxk50Q9GbWw

     
    pollinator
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    paul wheaton wrote:A new video about the willow feeder system

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cxk50Q9GbWw


    Hello, I'm hoping this post catches Paul's attention, or anyone else at Wheaton Labs familiar with the operation and design of the Willow Feeder system as it currently operates.

    I am wondering, did you ever produce the video scripted at the start of this thread?  I did a Google search but couldn't find anything similar.  I think it would be a good one!

    I am attempting to set up a residential humanure system based on 5- or 6-gallon buckets in rotation.  My proposed system would embrace many of the principles featured in your Willow Feeder system: a) urine separation, b) pathogen destruction via 24-month aging (as opposed to reliance on thermophilic composting), c) return of nutrients to the soil, and d) avoiding the need to transfer or shovel or wash out or in any other way handle raw humanure.  Rather, I intend to close my filled vessels and not handle the contents until fully aged.  I have read Jenkin's handbook cover to cover.  While it is delightful and informative, I prefer these aspects of the Willow Feeder approach over his open-composting approach.

    However, I fear that I don't fully understand your approach.  I have read all of the threads and watched all of the videos I can find on Poop Beasts, Willow Feeders, and humanure in general.  I've also listened to all of the relevant podcasts (though I'll admit that some of those were years ago and I should probably re-listen).  The problem is that a lot of the info I'm finding is dated at this point, whereas I know this is an experiment in progress at Wheaton Labs that has already passed through several iterations.  So I was exhilarated to find this thread focused on the most recent version of the system!

    I had previously understood (misunderstood?) that the filled collection bins aging in the Willow Feeder Warehouse essentially contained a moldering compost process, i.e. a slow, low-temperature composting action.  But you indicate above that the intention is NOT to compost.  The bin contents remain relatively dry, containing only sawdust and poop, no urine or added water - and thus more or less biologically inactive...? - until such time passes that the pathogen count asymptoticly approaches zero.  Then the material is fed to your willows, as per the new video above.

    I think I get that.  But in that case, my questions are...

    1) In the video, the 24-month aged material they are spreading around the willows looks a lot like humus!  It doesn't look very much like the sawdust-plus-mummified-turds-and-TP that I might have expected.  How does this humus occur if the contents of the bins aren't composting?  Or am I misinterpreting the texture and contents of the finished materials seen in the video?

    2) By keeping the bins sealed up during the entire aging process, don't the contents go anaerobic?  I imagine that the lids have no gaskets, and thus don't produce a hermetic seal, but still it wouldn't seem like they allow much air flow in and out of the bins.  How are the contents not reduced to slimy, anaerobic yuckiness?  Or are they, and then they proceed past that stage to something better?  Or, if the contents aren't truly composting, is the entire concept of aerobic vs anaerobic inapplicable?

    3) If the Willow Feeder approach isn't relying on composting, then there should be no need to achieve a "critical mass" of materials within each bin, such as is necessary for achieving thermophilic compost.  Thus, I can see no reason your approach wouldn't successfully scale down from the plastic garbage bins you use to my 5- or 6-gallon buckets.  Am I missing anything important in this assumption?

    4) Can someone please elaborate on the purpose of the PVC pipe inserted into each bin?  It would seem to be for aeration, yet I note that it would only move air from the top of the bin's contents to the bottom and back; it does not exchange air from inside the bin with outside air.  If composting isn't happening, what good does aeration do?



    5) Do the PVC pipes extend all the way to the bottom of the bin and touch plastic, or are they sitting atop the sawdust bed?  I can't tell for sure from these photos.  Also, it looks like the pipe is solid, not perforated along its length, except perhaps for notches at the very bottom...?

    6) I notice that the most recent Willow Feeder instructions have increased the recommended application of saw dust per load from 0.5 cups to 1 or 2 cups.  Why was this change made, and how is the newer method working out?

    I will greatly appreciate any feedback!
     
    paul wheaton
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    The lid is snug enough to keep insects out.  During the two years, the can "breathes".  As the temperatures go up and down each day, they gases inside expand and escape, and 12 hours later, fresh air enters.  So the material in the can slowly dries out.

    I think that five gallon buckets will need to be moved/processed far more often.  The math says that a five gallon bucket will need to be processed 7 times more often than a 35 gallon can.  But I think that with a 35 gallon can, there will be more in-place composting, so it might be closer to 15 to 20 times.

    The pipe has a jagged edge on the bottom.  So watery stuff will come to under the pipe and get a chance to dry out.

    More sawdust leads to more drying and more preservation.
     
    Matthew Nistico
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    paul wheaton wrote:The lid is snug enough to keep insects out.  During the two years, the can "breathes".  As the temperatures go up and down each day, they gases inside expand and escape, and 12 hours later, fresh air enters.  So the material in the can slowly dries out.

    I think that five gallon buckets will need to be moved/processed far more often.  The math says that a five gallon bucket will need to be processed 7 times more often than a 35 gallon can.  But I think that with a 35 gallon can, there will be more in-place composting, so it might be closer to 15 to 20 times.

    The pipe has a jagged edge on the bottom.  So watery stuff will come to under the pipe and get a chance to dry out.

    More sawdust leads to more drying and more preservation.


    Thank you, Paul, for your prompt attention to my questions!  That confirms fairly well my understanding of your system.  I think I am ready to give it a go with something very similar to what you're doing already.

    After reading your response, I also did a lot of reading on "drying toilets" as opposed to "composting toilets."

    Regarding the use of 5-gal buckets, your point is well taken.  But I have no choice, so I will have to make the best of it and see how they work out.  I garden from a wheelchair and I live alone, so there are no outhouses or stairs or platforms of any kind in my design that might accommodate a larger collection vessel.  I can lift and move a full 5-gal bucket (barely).  I cannot lift or move a full 35-gal bucket.

    Unfortunately, this means that storage space will become a prime issue.  I am guestimating that it might take me 2 weeks to fill a bucket, plus or minus, and depending on whether I use 5- or 6-gal buckets (6-gal buckets are more $$ and heavier once full, but they have a wider mouth, offering obvious advantages when making deposits!).  If I'm right, then I'll need approximately 52 buckets in a 24-month rotation.  That's a large footprint to fit into my small property!

    It's all an experiment for me, so we will see how it goes.  I might start a thread to post my progress.
     
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    I wonder if the normal 5-gallon bucket lids are too air-tight and how they might be altered to let them sigh as Paul describes of the cans he uses.
     
    Matthew Nistico
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    Christopher Weeks wrote:I wonder if the normal 5-gallon bucket lids are too air-tight and how they might be altered to let them sigh as Paul describes of the cans he uses.


    I've wondered the same.  Don't know.  Anyone have any experience with this?

    I've also considered hedging my bet by drilling a ring of holes around the circumference of the buckets towards the tops, just under the lids, in order to ensure air exchange.  They would have to be very small holes, so that flies cannot crawl in.
     
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    Christopher Weeks wrote:I wonder if the normal 5-gallon bucket lids are too air-tight and how they might be altered to let them sigh as Paul describes of the cans he uses.


    To be clear, you can buy the lids for regular 5-gal buckets from LOWES or Home Depot with or without gaskets.  Still, I can see even the lids without gaskets fitting more snuggly than the lids on those big plastic trashcans Paul uses.
     
    You guys haven't done this much, have ya? I suggest you study this tiny ad:
    full time farm crew job w/ housing
    https://permies.com/t/178213/jobs-offered/experiences/full-time-farm-crew-member
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