Humanure Composting in Cold Climates

The International Compost Sanitation Forum and Message Board: Humanure Composting Around the World: Humanure Composting in Cold Climates
Author: Joe (Joe)
Monday, October 20, 2014 - 2:14 pm
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Here are some updated links, October 2014:

Humanure Composting in a Snowy Winter

Humanure Hacienda - (Joe's Compost Bins)

Humanure Composting: How to Create a Cover Material Cushion

SEE ALL VIDEOS

Joe Jenkins

Author: Joe (Joe)
Saturday, May 04, 2013 - 12:00 pm
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I have fantasies of selling small quantities of my compost as an inoculant and becoming a millionaire off my shit. ;-) But then I wouldn't have compost for my garden. Catch 22.

Author: Jeffm (Jeffm)
Friday, May 03, 2013 - 11:54 pm
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Joe, I think it is fascinating that you probably have breed a cold hardy strain of shit eating guild of organisms adapted to your pile. Have you tried inoculating other local humanure piles with some of your humanure compost to see if they stay hot over the winter when they had not otherwise?

Maybe you could add some of your finished compost as an innoculant with each Lovable loo you sell.

Author: Joe (Joe)
Wednesday, April 11, 2012 - 12:05 pm
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Via email, 4/11/12

HiJoe,

Just came across the forum and thought I woud pass on some cold weather observations about composting.
Found that if bio-mass volume is large enough,right moisture,and reasonable carbon to nitrogen ratio,then break-down contiues down to minus 40 degrees
The main idea is to do whatever is necessary to maintain a happy range of these basics.
I discovered that 6 ft circular 4ft high pile covered old hay or straw worked all winter--square corners freeze or get too hot according to lconditions' Checking the centre every 4-6 weeks for moisture levels,c-n ratio and air supply will allow the average operator to make any needed adjustments for local ambients and material
Keep the good work!
Regards,
Bob in Alberta

Author: Joe (Joe)
Wednesday, January 18, 2012 - 3:20 pm
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There was a post from Alaska here:

http://www.jenkinspublishing.com/messages/messages/4/2960.html?1326838816

Author: Anonymous
Friday, December 12, 2003 - 7:34 pm
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Living North of 55th parallel, winters are long, summers are short. I'm wondering how composting humanure will work, especially since I am planning to start in the middle of winter. Am I going to get one big smelly mess when it all thaws in the spring?

FYI we also use sink dish sprayers as a homemade flexible bidet.

Author: Stephen
Saturday, December 13, 2003 - 10:28 am
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If you can keep the pile at or above freezing temps you will have no problem. Once the composting process begins, it will generate its own warmth.
You may want to enclose your bin with a greenhouse. That will keep the cold wind off the pile, and help generate heat on sunny days.

Author: Joe Jenkins
Saturday, December 13, 2003 - 10:58 am
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My compost pile, as explained in the Humanure Handbook, froze solid as a shitsickle every winter. In spring, when it thawed, it heated back up. I show the temperature curves in the book. It starts warming again around the end of March. We just kept adding to it all winter, frozen or not. In the spring, it took care of itself.

The past five years, however, the (working) compost pile has not frozen at all (the aging one freezes solid). I'm not sure why - perhaps I'm breeding cold-hardy thermophilic bacteria. It's been 24 years of compost in the same place, which means a *lot* of generations of bacteria. Last week the local (Pittsburgh) public TV *and* public radio were up here at my place doing interviews about humanure. It was 28 degrees F outside with 6 inches of snow, but it was 114 degrees F in the active compost pile (now it's a little colder outside - teens at night - but a little warmer in the compost - 116F yesterday).

Author: Joe Jenkins
Saturday, December 13, 2003 - 11:00 am
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PS: I'm talking about the compost bin shown on the web at http://www.jenkinspublishing.com/hilton.html. No shelter, completely outdoors, nothing special.

Author: Anonymous
Saturday, December 13, 2003 - 8:31 pm
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Thanks Steve and Joe. I bought a copy of your book, Joe, a while back and have enjoyed it. Good down to the earth shit. Interesting phenonema with the compost pile, could it be global warming?

Do you see any need for modifications to your standard procedure in the way I compost since the temperature here in Northern Canada is only above zero C from late April till mid Oct. Currently we've seen -25 C for lows, and - 10 C for highs (that's - 10 F and + 15F respectively)

I don't expect much time out of the year for the compost to actually reach thermophilic temperatures and so I wonder if I should compost the piles longer? As Steven was suggesting extra measures for warmth, I was planning to use straw bales around the compost and a tarp over top of it to keep the heat in as much as possible. I was also thinking of using hot composting animal manure as a "starter" compost; do you see any problem with that or if that would help? The pile is going within smelling distance, and the compost for my garden, so I'd like to get it right the first time, if possible.

Author: Anonymous
Sunday, December 14, 2003 - 7:27 am
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Joe, When will the interviews be aired?

Author: Joe Jenkins
Sunday, December 14, 2003 - 12:24 pm
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Your suggestions are good. Straw or hay bales would be very helpful as side walls for the compost. You may want to keep a thick layer of loose straw or hay on top as well and dig through it, if possible, to deposit the organic material. A tarp or cover would help keep the snow off.

I don't know when the interviews will be aired. I will post the info when I get it.

Joe

Author: Herb.Wis.
Sunday, December 21, 2003 - 12:22 pm
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Why bother trying to keep the pile warm? Let it cool down, go dormant, and even freeze solid. Like Joe says, when the temps warm up it will become active again.

In winter my system works nicely. I use a plastic bag outhouse system and when I dump out the bag it's a nice frozen ball of crap and sawdust. Not slimy like the summer version sometimes can be.

I am intrigued about the "hot" compost pile. I wonder if one could come up with a system that might use some of the heat generated to help warm ones home or greenhouse or something. Probably to get enough useful heat you would need a HUGE pile of doo-doo.

Author: Anonymous
Monday, January 26, 2004 - 5:07 pm
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I'd like to speed the compost process up because my climate is so cold here in Northern Canada and there are about 40 persons that need composting (their feces I mean).

Perhaps the solar idea or hot water coils run underneath coupled with a intermittent use of compressed air for aeration underneath would help?

Author: Leslie
Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - 6:22 pm
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I just wanted to say that I visited the New Alchemy institute down in Cape Cod about 15 or 16 years ago (it is no longer New Alchemy there now), and I was amazed by one of the greenhouses (and this was a day when the outside temps were barely above zero degrees F) because it was very comfortable temperature-wise and the only extra source of heat (besides solar) was provided by compost bins that formed a shelf along one side. They were accessed from the outside (big tip out bins) and provided a handy spot for seedlings in the greenhouse. It made me want to heat my house with compost. Maybe I need to move my pile! I wonder if it would be possible to create the correct balance of protection from the weather, access to air, smell barrier (if in or under house), to keep the piles hot and collect some of that heat.

Author: Joe Jenkins
Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - 11:10 pm
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My compost pile (AKA Gomer) was cooking at 120 degrees F yesterday here in western PA in February during one of the coldest winters on record (I think it got down to 1 last night *again*). Even though it's that hot inside the pile, there is still some snow sitting on top of the pile around the edges (it's outside, in fact, you can see the compost bin on this web site at The Humanure Hacienda From the Ground Up.

So it would not be much of a heat source as if it were a space heater.

I think my compost bacteria have adapted to the cold climate after 25 years in one place. The pile froze solid for the first 10 or 12 years, or more, then one year it didn't freeze at all, but almost did, then the next it was a little warmer, etc., etc., and this year it's the hottest it's been yet, despite the cold winter. Could be natural selection of microorganisms happening right before my eyes.

Humanure Composting in a Snowy Winter

Humanure Hacienda - (Joe's Compost Bins)

Humanure Composting: How to Create a Cover Material Cushion

SEE ALL VIDEOS

Joe Jenkins

Author: saths
Wednesday, February 18, 2004 - 11:09 am
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To Leslie
My husband & I visited The New Alchemy place before it changed too. It must have been about that long ago for us. They were growing fish in tanks with water plants to recycle the fish waste & raising lettuce over compost. It was an interesting place. At that time they had lime in an outhouse.

Author: saths
Wednesday, February 18, 2004 - 11:19 am
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By the way Leslie I have wondered the same thing. It seems like it would have to be planned.Maybe the bins should be on the North side of the house to protect from the cold.

Author: Anonymous
Wednesday, March 24, 2004 - 11:50 am
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It is definately doable to harvest the heat from a compost pile. I wonder if it might be better to let the heat stay in a humanure pile to eliminate pathogens, though.

Here's a guy that built a composting greenhouse and pulled off enough to heat water for showers!

http://users.easystreet.com/ersson/greenhse.htm

Author: TCLynx
Monday, January 02, 2006 - 1:27 pm
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To the original poster. It sounds like you have a relatively large population there for this composting. I expect that with proper management and some of the measures you mentioned for sheltering and adding animal manures to help jumpstart the beginning of a pile, you may be able to keep/get them active even when it is cold. Do you have plenty of cover material for the piles and for use in the toilets?
Some things I've herd people meantion that can get or keep a pile hot include cooking oil or wine leavings. Perhaps adding a small amount of airation could help but it might also have the effect of cooling things down too so I'm not sure about that.
Good luck, keep us all informed about your results!!!!

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