A few short months ago I explained (or, admitted) that we use a compost toilet here on the homestead. It was perhaps the most popular blog post I had written in this series so far. In case you missed it, we built and use a homemade compost toilet system out of wood and a 5 gallon pail. We actually use three pails, and empty them into the compost bin when all three are full, because of how far away I situated the bins. I placed them ‘down back’ by the barn incase of foul odor, of which there was none. I could have placed the compost bins directly behind the house. But down back is where all of the compost is, so they are just as good there, and that is where they will stay. I promised in that blog post that I’d write an update when the time had come to empty the first bin, and so here we are.
We learned that it takes approximately six months for the two of us to fill one compost bin with just humanure. (We also have a dedicated compost bin for kitchen scraps, one for garden weeds, and another area for goat bedding. We now know that we can commingle all the compost.) Since we want the humanure to percolate, or decompose, for 12 months, we use 3 bins.
I try to keep the compost bin temperature at 120 F.
I can control this to a degree by adding nitrogen, carbon, or water, whichever I think it needs. Usually it only needs water when it is not hot enough. The hottest I’ve had the compost was 146 degrees. We cover the humanure applications with old hay from the goat stalls, and this is the carbon, and is also what keeps the whole thing from smelling bad. When we finish filling a bin at the end of 6 months, we heap it to top it off.
So, the long awaited day has finally arrived, the day when we take the front of the first compost bin off and get our black gold treasure. The top six inches or so was mostly carbon items in varying degrees of decay, but underneath that was mostly black compost. I ran it through my fingers and it smells really nice. I am very pleased with the outcome.
You might be wondering what, then, will we be doing with this compost. I used to be shy when people ask this. It is hard enough to tell visitors that we have a compost toilet and tell them how to use it. But invariably they will ask where the results will go. It is going to go into the garden. Oh, horror of horrors! In this particular case, it is going into greenhouse 2, underneath leek and kale transplants.
The urine alone from one person is enough to fertilizer said person’s vegetable garden for a year. Some people are afraid to use humanure compost, understandably, and this is known as fecophobia. People who suffer from extreme fecophobia believe that it is dangerous and unwise to use this compost to fertilize their garden, and people who suffer milder forms might be willing to use it around trees and shrubs. I will not go into the science and chemistry behind the safety of using humanure compost to fertilize a garden, to dispel those fears. The subject is too vast. I will just leave you with this: If your family is healthy, with no stomach parasites or such, then you will be fine if you manage your system properly. It really isn’t hard at all.
Think of it: You’re not taxing your water table, your septic system, and your getting the richest fertilizer possible, known to mankind, at no cost. In contrast, when you pull the handle of a toilet, you’re paying someone else to take your waste, and to deal with it, even if you have your own septic system. The cost of electricity, the environmental costs and burdens, and the loss of your valuable fertilizer, make this a lose, lose, lose situation.
You might want to consider using this great resource as a boost to your homesteading power.