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Feidhlim Harty

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since Jan 15, 2015
Irish environmental consultant and author of Septic Tank Options and Alternatives - your guide to conventional, natural and eco-friendly methods and technologies.
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Recent posts by Feidhlim Harty

Congrats Cassie! Massive undertaking. Looking forward to the finished list.
Hi Tracy, and thanks for bringing this to the light. Here in Ireland, we've got fresh dandelion leaves coming up; along with nettles, sorrel and some "weeds" that are popping up in our beds and tunnel - land cress, fennel, garlic chives, garlic greens, All of which are fairly neglected, but coping well despite being mostly volunteers in the garden.

If anyone near the Ennis area is reading this, we've a Wild Food and Forging talk coming up this Wednesday Feb 22nd. See Garden of Eden Projects Ireland facebook page or for details
1 year ago
Hi Ian, I'm unashamedly showing up here simply to drop my name into the raffle for your book Enjoy being the resident Pemies Author.

1 year ago
Welcome to the Forum Ian, good to have you on board. I've got a trusty orchard scythe for annual trims around the rough edges of the garden, and it has served me faithfully for many years (with one replacement handle in that time just to prove that it has got some use).

1 year ago
Hi Letitia,

Welcome to Permies. My area is the sewage side of things... an obvious questions is "how is your septic tank functioning in such a poor site?" I realise that faced with potential structural damage to your house, sewage may not be such a priority - but if you or your neighbours have wells, then it's fairly important. I wrote a book on the subject and would be happy to answer any questions (Spoiler alert: there is a solution!) Anyway, I'll watch your replies with interest. I hope you find what you're looking for and then stay for some of the permaculture stuff.

1 year ago
Hi Cassie, good to hear from you! Congrats on the first issue of PMNA! Hope it flies off the shelves.

Just as a quick note: one thing that is sometimes an issue with the laundry irrigation systems is getting a good distribution of grey water to each of your outlet points. Well in Ireland a very effective 12-way splitter has been developed in Co. Sligo. I've met with the developer, Christ Spoorenberg (not a traditional Irish name by the way, he's from Holland...) on a number of occasions during the product development and it seems excellent for my purposes (I needed good distribution of septic tank effluent into a gravity fed zero discharge willow facility for 100% evapotranspiration). We tried it in the polytunnel with a watering can one day and no matter how small the trickle into the splitter, out came 12 tiny cascades from each outlet point.

Anyway - if anyone's concerned about getting a good distribution of grey water - or if you want to use a larger volume over a wider area with more outlets - then it may be worth importing a splitter. Here they retail for about €2-300 at the moment; but I'm not sure what the final asking price will be. Anyway, if anyone's particularly interested either drop me an email at or reply in this text.

Cassie and Burra - is this allowed? It's not a sales pitch - it's notification of a potentially helpful low-tech, gravity utilising, nifty gadget to help better protect the environment
1 year ago
Welcome to the forum Shawn. I read Katie Shepherd's review in the new Permaculture Magazine! Looks amazing. Happy Growing
2 years ago
Hi Roberto,

Great to read your thoughts on closing the loop on those nutrients. The Ecotopian chinampa fingers sound excellent! Otherwise constructed wetland systems tend to basically be a sink for nutrients and biomass rather than a useful food-growing source of them. Wetlands and reed beds are fantastic as zero energy input system for getting water clean - and providing a wildlife habitat into the bargain. However they still don't recycle those nutrients per se. Except in your version where the whole project becomes a chinampa system!

If you've any fall on the land at all then you don't even need solar pumps. Hydraulic head will push water along a flat-based wetland system on its own, displacing a litre at the far end for every litre added (precipitation and evapotranspiration excepted).

From a practical perspective, the issue of water quality is important in the chinampa system. If you have grey water only, that that addresses faecal pathogens. Otherwise a Solviva brownfilter system followed by a biochar filter may get the water clean enough to use with care - and still benefit from the brownfilter compost and nutrient enriched biochar after each maintenance process.

Ok - back to work: a space age eco-toilet file awaits me
2 years ago
Hi Jay, apologies for the long delay in answering your post. Ironically I've been working flat out designing just the type of systems that we've been discussing - so getting people interested isn't my problem at the moment!

Vis a vis the logistics - two scenarios come to mind: One is that we can gradually incorporate more and more eco-friendly technologies as clients want to have lower impacts on their receiving environment. For example in my work, many clients come to me because the local municipality demands that they meet certain environmental standards and they just want planning for their house.

Technologies such as Swedish urine diverting toilets and the Swedish Aquatron separator are both possible to incorporate into a standard sewered system without really letting the users of the toilets know that there is state of the art humanure composting going on down the line.

Also within this gradual scenario is a greater development of P removal technologies from conventional sewage treatment systems, which is happening in Europe - albeit slowly.

The other scenario is that N and P is suddenly and dramatically limited - whether by peak P (which is on the cards anyway) or by an international carbon emissions agreement putting the N-fertiliser business on a dramatically less stable business footing. Cap and Share from Ireland's Feasta (Foundation for the Economics of Sustainability) is one such programme - recently highlighted in Naomi Klein's Beautiful Solutions page (

Personally I'm not too worried about a carbon source. I've been designing willow facilities in the Irish context since 2007, in collaboration with Danish company Centre for Recycling, who have been at it for about 20 years. These are zero discharge systems whereby septic tank effluent is pumped into a plastic lined willow bed of c.6m x 35m x 1.5m deep. The willow mop up all effluent and all rainfall over the course of the 12 month cycle. Willows are coppiced on a three year rotation basis.

If we take a multi-pronged approach to this issue, then some people will want a willow system (those with no legal way to discharge to ground or water for example), some will want a dry Jenkins' type system, some will want the standard town sewer (but even here there is a move towards using willows to mop up more N and P from the final discharge). With all that willow being generated there is an abundance of carbonaceous material available for balancing N.

It takes hoop-jumpers to change the laws, so I applaud the Eco-village people that you describe. One of the things I do for a living is basically about wriggling through the existing legislation to find ways to allow clients to be more eco-friendly. And trying to get that legislation changed where necessary. I'd love to make it out to Vancouver Island to visit and compare notes!

2 years ago