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Options for a small homestead

 
Tina Paxton
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Location: coastal southeast North Carolina
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Hi Feidhlim,

How fortuitous! I'm facing a failing septic system and considering my options. The more conventional options are replace the septic system (obviously) but that would cost $3000-$5000 and digging up a large portion of yard (and disturbing the old pecan trees) or connecting to the sewer system at a cost of $10,000. Both options are outside my financial reach.

The other option I'm looking at is using a hummanure composting toilet (Loveable Loo) and diverting the greywater from tub and sinks to a graywater system (greywater from laundry and kitchen sink are already being diverted to a greywater system).

My homestead is only .6 acres and I do have neighbors so I need to be mindful of that fact. I'm on the coast of NC where we have very wet Winters and Springs and then there is hurricane season.

Given those perimeters, are there options other than hummanure & greywater that I could consider?
 
Jerry Evans
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Doesn't seem like you are likely to disturb the pecan trees. They would probably benefit from the added nutrients and moisture. I would avoid getting too close because odd the roots growing into your lines and causing problems down the road. Just my two cents.
Good luck.
 
Tina Paxton
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Jerry Evans wrote:Doesn't seem like you are likely to disturb the pecan trees. They would probably benefit from the added nutrients and moisture. I would avoid getting too close because odd the roots growing into your lines and causing problems down the road. Just my two cents.
Good luck.


...I wish I had a good picture of the camellia tree that is near the current septic "tank".

In order to dig up and create a septic leach field, it would be difficult to avoid the pecan grove (a group of five very large pecans). We probably could run a long access pipe and put the leach field in the front SE corner where there is only grass at this point but the new system is more than we can finance at this point. Thus, I am looking at alternatives.

As mentioned, I have a greywater system for the kitchen sink and laundry that goes off to the west side of the house. (It was "designed" long before I arrived here and I'm working on correcting it's flaws.) I would like to send the bathtub and bathroom sink water to a new greywater system to the east side of the house and then process the toilet through humanure.
 
Steve MacConnla
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Tina Paxton wrote:The other option I'm looking at is using a hummanure composting toilet (Loveable Loo)


I'm looking at purchasing a home on 13 acres and want to do a similar thing outdoors and call it the Poopy Palace, which takes after the name of the composting toilet at Mountain Light Sanctuary in NC.
 
Tina Paxton
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Steve MacConnla wrote:
Tina Paxton wrote:The other option I'm looking at is using a hummanure composting toilet (Loveable Loo)


I'm looking at purchasing a home on 13 acres and want to do a similar thing outdoors and call it the Poopy Palace, which takes after the name of the composting toilet at Mountain Light Sanctuary in NC.


LOL...cute name. Reminds me of The Green Berets -- Provo's Privy...

13 acres would give you more room for sure. You can find an out of the way location for the humanure compost pile. Of course, too far and it becomes more of a chore to carry the buckets to it. That much space also allows for a larger lagoon/pond. I'm going to have to be much more strategic and compact about it. I would so love to have a larger pond and sit on my porch and watch the crane's fish in my pond. sigh.
 
Feidhlim Harty
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Hi Tina, from what you're saying it sounds as if you can choose a system that will dig up your garden, knock your pecans, cost loads of money - and then give you a satisfying "flush!" sound each time you use it (and save you a certain amount of work it must be said); or you can choose one that will leave your garden and your trees intact, provide a yield of excellent soil enhancing compost, provide you with exercise (there's always a bright side to the drawback of physical work) and cost a lot less to build, particularly if you can find old timber to build with.

Hmmm…

Actually, it's not necessarily that simple either. If you have a working flush toilet system, it's usually easier to sell a house (how long do you plan to live there?); it's usually easier for friends and family to accept a flush loo than a compost loo; it may even be easier for them to dine with you (see Humanure Handbook for anecdotes in this regard).

Something I would say, is that I've seen expensive fancy dry toilet systems and actually, the nicest ones are often the €50 Lovable Loo versions.

Is there any possibility that the existing flush toilet would continue to work for very occasional use (family and friends and a potential house sale), and yet rely almost solely yourself on the compost toilet. If you wanted to clean up the percolation area, you could also plant willow trees on it or near it. Bear in mind that the willow roots are very invasive, and they will probably block the pipes over time, so you'd want to be sure that it is really for occasional use only.

In terms of the area of your garden. We live on half an acre, and have a dry toilet set-up. However it's not the Jenkins' approach. The loo I use is a Dutch Nonolet that separates faeces and urine, so the faeces can go in a sealed compost bin with lots of cardboard and the urine can be used on a comfrey bed to really fuel their growth. After a year I bury the composter contents beneath the comfrey and then use the leaves in the garden. All either sealed in or soil-covered all the time. If you go for a compost heap I'd say plant some quick growing willows, or a screen of Jerusalem artichokes to give yourself a bit of space coming and going from it if you can.

Regarding grey water, you could route it though a comfrey bed to recoup the nutrients. There are many approaches to this, such as using brash wood as the fill material in a long narrow trench and then planting the comfrey either side to soak up N, P and K. Proceed with care to meet local regulatory requirements and neighbourly aesthetics. Or you could use a grey water constructed wetland or reed bed. Be sure to screen out solids in a grease trap first. This should then go to percolation anyway, and local rules should be followed both for planning and environmental reasons.

Steve, your extra site size offers a lot of opportunity for following this route too. Have you any questions to add to what I've said above?

 
Tina Paxton
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Feidhlim Harty wrote:Hi Tina, from what you're saying it sounds as if you can choose a system that will dig up your garden, knock your pecans, cost loads of money - and then give you a satisfying "flush!" sound each time you use it (and save you a certain amount of work it must be said); or you can choose one that will leave your garden and your trees intact, provide a yield of excellent soil enhancing compost, provide you with exercise (there's always a bright side to the drawback of physical work) and cost a lot less to build, particularly if you can find old timber to build with.


Yep, that is pretty much the options. I value the pecan trees over the "flush" of a toilet. Exercise is good for me, so that is a plus as well.

Feidhlim Harty wrote:Hmmm…

Actually, it's not necessarily that simple either. If you have a working flush toilet system, it's usually easier to sell a house (how long do you plan to live there?); it's usually easier for friends and family to accept a flush loo than a compost loo; it may even be easier for them to dine with you (see Humanure Handbook for anecdotes in this regard).


There is no plan to sell the house/property. It actually belongs to my sister (her inheritance from her father) but I have live-time rights to it as she lives in another city. The issue of company needing to use the "facilities" is more of a concern. I'd rather not have to explain to guests (most of whom do not have a homesteader/permie mind-set) that I compost human feces.

Feidhlim Harty wrote:Something I would say, is that I've seen expensive fancy dry toilet systems and actually, the nicest ones are often the €50 Lovable Loo versions.

Is there any possibility that the existing flush toilet would continue to work for very occasional use (family and friends and a potential house sale), and yet rely almost solely yourself on the compost toilet. If you wanted to clean up the percolation area, you could also plant willow trees on it or near it. Bear in mind that the willow roots are very invasive, and they will probably block the pipes over time, so you'd want to be sure that it is really for occasional use only.


Yes, I think it would be possible to keep the flushable toilet for occasional guest usage though our bathroom is rather small so the dry toilet would need some strategic placement. Willows...I'm in the process of establishing bush willows for rabbit fodder so I could plant some near the septic percolation area.

Feidhlim Harty wrote:In terms of the area of your garden. We live on half an acre, and have a dry toilet set-up. However it's not the Jenkins' approach. The loo I use is a Dutch Nonolet that separates faeces and urine, so the faeces can go in a sealed compost bin with lots of cardboard and the urine can be used on a comfrey bed to really fuel their growth. After a year I bury the composter contents beneath the comfrey and then use the leaves in the garden. All either sealed in or soil-covered all the time. If you go for a compost heap I'd say plant some quick growing willows, or a screen of Jerusalem artichokes to give yourself a bit of space coming and going from it if you can.


Good thoughts, I like the idea of a screen of Jerusalem artichokes around the compost heap.

Feidhlim Harty wrote:Regarding grey water, you could route it though a comfrey bed to recoup the nutrients. There are many approaches to this, such as using brash wood as the fill material in a long narrow trench and then planting the comfrey either side to soak up N, P and K. Proceed with care to meet local regulatory requirements and neighbourly aesthetics. Or you could use a grey water constructed wetland or reed bed. Be sure to screen out solids in a grease trap first. This should then go to percolation anyway, and local rules should be followed both for planning and environmental reasons.


I had not thought of comfrey in the greywater system. I have canna lilies growing in the trench for the existing greywater system processing the laundry water...I will add comfrey as well. Yes, the greywater system I make for the tub water going to the east of the house will need to be well designed for asethetics so the neighbor doesn't complain. As long as no one complains, the county will leave me alone.
 
Feidhlim Harty
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Hi Tina, great stuff. It sounds as if you've a fairly clear idea of what you want to do.

Is there space in the bathroom to put a lovable loo beside the flush loo. You could keep a plant in a pot on the old loo seat, or just stack up towels or magazines… to remind you to use the dry one! Did you say you had Joseph Jenkins' book? That's a must-read if you don't have it already. Best to visit others with a compost loo as well if you haven't done so already.

I hope that the project goes well.
 
Tina Paxton
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Feidhlim Harty wrote:Hi Tina, great stuff. It sounds as if you've a fairly clear idea of what you want to do.


I have the general idea but the details need some fleshing out.

Feidhlim Harty wrote:Is there space in the bathroom to put a lovable loo beside the flush loo. You could keep a plant in a pot on the old loo seat, or just stack up towels or magazines… to remind you to use the dry one!


No, not really. It is a tiny bathroom.

Feidhlim Harty wrote:Did you say you had Joseph Jenkins' book? That's a must-read if you don't have it already.


I do have it and have read it several time. <shameless begging>I'd sure love to have yours as well.</shameless begging>

Feidhlim Harty wrote: Best to visit others with a compost loo as well if you haven't done so already.


ummm....not recently. I have many years ago visited a home with a composting toilet. I also had the privilege of using a composting outhouse on the Appalachian Trail.

Feidhlim Harty wrote:I hope that the project goes well.


Thanks! And, thanks so much for answering questions here on the forum!
 
Feidhlim Harty
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Hi Tina, I'm a dry toilet enthusiast. I really believe that for the vast majority of the population of the globe, we really can't all be using flush loos and wasting valuable biomass, nutrients and water. That said, if you've already got a flush toilet, and you've not had much experience with compost toilets - I'd say don't rip out the old to put in the new. There is always the risk that you won't like a compost system, or that somebody you care about will take a set against it and stop visiting. (it happens)

So, how to try out the compost approach… If you really want to you could very carefully remove the flush loo and keep it in a shed for a year to see how you go with the compost set-up. Naturally you'll need to block off the down-pipe in such a way as to stop all gasses moving up the pipe; while also making the 4" pipe accessible for possible future reconnection. It's also very difficult to remove ceramic loos without breaking them, so bear that in mind too. Then put the lovable loo box in the place of the old loo and use when built

Another approach - and this one I favour for my own garden and family: leave the flush toilet in place; build yourself a fine privy outside (having checked ground conditions etc to make sure it's environmentally safe) and use that instead of the indoor one. That way you always have the flush loo in place inside if needed, but the water loading on the septic system goes well down. If you plant willows around the outdoor loo, you'll get great firewood before long, and plenty screening.

Read The Specialist by Charles Sale http://journeytoforever.org/farm_library/specialist.html for a lovely scenic educational journey.

Permies.com has 4 books to give away - but I'm not sure how their distribution will be decided. Nonetheless I must say that I'm rather impressed at your innovative use of html coding.

How do you know the current system is under pressure?

 
Tina Paxton
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Feidhlim Harty wrote:Hi Tina, I'm a dry toilet enthusiast. I really believe that for the vast majority of the population of the globe, we really can't all be using flush loos and wasting valuable biomass, nutrients and water. That said, if you've already got a flush toilet, and you've not had much experience with compost toilets - I'd say don't rip out the old to put in the new. There is always the risk that you won't like a compost system, or that somebody you care about will take a set against it and stop visiting. (it happens)


I have thought about that. And, all it would take is one negative reaction and my Mother (age 71) who lives with me would want to go back to the flushable. Keeping the flushable for our "civilized" guests would reduce the failure potential.

Feidhlim Harty wrote:Another approach - and this one I favour for my own garden and family: leave the flush toilet in place; build yourself a fine privy outside (having checked ground conditions etc to make sure it's environmentally safe) and use that instead of the indoor one. That way you always have the flush loo in place inside if needed, but the water loading on the septic system goes well down. If you plant willows around the outdoor loo, you'll get great firewood before long, and plenty screening.


That is a brilliant idea! I could probably continue to allow the bathtub water to go to the septic and percolate from there...with time, the solids would degrade and it would just have to process water.

Feidhlim Harty wrote:Read The Specialist by Charles Sale http://journeytoforever.org/farm_library/specialist.html for a lovely scenic educational journey.


Will do!

Feidhlim Harty wrote:Permies.com has 4 books to give away - but I'm not sure how their distribution will be decided. Nonetheless I must say that I'm rather impressed at your innovative use of html coding.


Like that cleverly shameless coding, did ya? Thanks! I hope it gets their attention and they think it so clever it is deserving of one of those books!

Feidhlim Harty wrote:How do you know the current system is under pressure?


Odor. And, during rainy seasons (winter and spring) we have occasions when the toilet won't flush. So far, no surface puddling or backing up into the tub or anything gross like that but the signs are there...the writing is on the wall...

 
Feidhlim Harty
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So it looks like an outhouse is on the cards. I'd say you'll still need to do your research. The Jenkins' approach is the one most guaranteed to sterilise the contents - but a deep pit is easier to use, day to day. Make sure if you dig a pit that you have enough depth of dry soil beneath the pit base and the groundwater. At least 1.5m if possible. I'd also separate out the urine if possible so that you limit the wash-down of bacteria and nutrients into the groundwater. I'd also plant willow trees around the loo to mop up nutrients and provide firewood. There may be local codes that you need to respect as well. Does anybody on the forum know more about this?

One thing that you could also do if you wished is to route the bath through a "garden feature" wetland to filter it a bit and to route it around your ailing percolation area.

Hope it all goes well.
 
Feidhlim Harty
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Well Tina, Congrats on the new book!



Féidhlim
 
Tina Paxton
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Feidhlim Harty wrote:Well Tina, Congrats on the new book!



Féidhlim


Thanks! Shameless begging works!

And, thanks again for the advice and willingness to share your expertise here on the forum!
 
Feidhlim Harty
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I've enjoyed the process!

 
I agree. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/email
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