Managing the Composting Bin & Buckets...

The International Compost Sanitation Forum and Message Board: General Composting Issues: Managing the Composting Bin & Buckets
Author: Deirdrekent (Deirdrekent)
Sunday, September 13, 2009 - 9:42 am
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We are 71 and 83 year olds in New Zealand and have been doing this for four months now. I have never enjoyed turning compost until now but this compost is just wonderful. We know a couple who bought a composting toilet but went back to the bucket system. Their commercial toilet requires electricity to dry out the urine. As for ourselves, we have not built a compost heap yet and have no seat, just two stainless steel buckets and a huge bucket of sawdust in our back hall. When visitors arrive we usually quickly put the three buckets out on the side porch, but recently have not bothered too much. Heaven knows what the visitors think the buckets are for. Then today one of our garden group visited and I proudly showed her the compost. She was astonished when I told her what it was made for because all the others have to lug huge bags of horse manure from the racecourse or befriend someone who has a dairy farm. Ours is homegrown and no transport required. Our adult children and our grandchildren have yet to discover our secret. My husband is talking of getting a wormorator and there is a good new one invented for vermicomposting of excrement. Meanwhile though we just love the system and I am a little impatient to use it in the garden as spring is well advanced in the southern hemisphere now. We did put EM in the first few batches of sawdust but I suppose we will have to wait a year. Soon will build another pile, this time nearer the gate where we have mulch galore to use. Who knows what the pedestrians will ever know? No smell. And by the way it means we get to use our hay fork. Excellent.

Author: Joe Jenkins (Joe)
Sunday, August 05, 2007 - 2:47 pm
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It's 8 pints to a gallon and 2 pints to a quart.

Author: Dan Sullivan (Danl)
Saturday, August 04, 2007 - 9:41 am
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Thanks, you're right. Pretty lame mistake, huh? Should have previewed my preview.

Author: TCLynx (Tclynx)
Saturday, August 04, 2007 - 9:33 am
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I think it is 4 quarts to a gallon. And 4 pints to a quart.

Author: Dan Sullivan (Danl)
Thursday, August 02, 2007 - 10:06 pm
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For the estimation of weight of water/liquid, is the old saying "A pint's a pound the world around." still valid ? 4 pints to a gal.

Author: Anonymous
Wednesday, September 14, 2005 - 1:01 pm
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OK, after accumulating 2 1/2 buckets of humanure, I got to work and completed my composting bins (constructed out of old pallets scavanged from the scrap piles at a local carpet store and a hardware store). Lots of odd size pallets are just thrown away, but I also managed to accumulate 6 full sized sized ones, too (40" x 48"). I used some odd sized ones for the front of the bins (on each end) and on the back of the center (storage) bin. All in all, I am quite happy with it.

The SDT works as advertised--no smell to speak of and only an occasional gnat or two (or three) that seem to be interested as much in the rotting saw-dust cover as in the stuff underneath (or perhaps in the some residue of urine that hit the side of the bucket).

But if there is no smell in the house, the same cannot be said when you empty the buckets--whew! I was unprepared for the stench and didn't realize how tedius it would be to clean the buckets. I was just using a bucket of warm water with a drop of dish soap to make it sudsy and a little dish brush to scrub them off with. I think I will come up with a sprayer to rinse them off with, directing the the run-off into the center of the compost pile, of course...

But once again, after I covered the newly added humanue in the compost bin, there was no smell whatsoever beyond the damp, musty smell of the rotting sawdust that I use for cover.

FIRST MISTAKE! I should have reread the section in the humanure handook on the compost bins before adding the first buckets of humanure:

"When composting humanure, fill one bin first. Start the compost pile by establishing a thick layer of coarse and absorbent organic material on the bottom of the bin. This is called a "biological sponge"; its purpose is to act as a leachate barrier. The sponge may be an 18 inch layer of hay or straw, grass clippings, leaves, and/or weeds." [More]

I remembered that the humanure should be emptied into a depression in the middle of the bin, but I forgot to put thick layer of cover over the entire bottom of the bin. Instead, I put about 8 or 10 inches of sawdust around the periphery of the bin, punched some holes in the soil in the center of the bin, and dumped the humanure there, in the center of the bin, surrounded by a ring of sawdust. On top of that, I added an accumulation of vegitable matter that had been accumulating nearby all spring and summer. I had expected it to be a slimy mess, but it was mostly dry and crumbly--the bottom part already composted, I guess... In any case, on top of that I put additional sawdust and another odd sized pallet that fit nicely into the bin to discourage any animals from digging around in it. I have not added any chicken wire, but did not see any evidence of animals bothering it during the night.

Any ideas on how best to compensate for my innitial mistake regarding the spongy layer of cover that was supposed to go on the bottom of the bin? I do not anticipate any problems with run-off or leachate, but do want to proceed circumspectly. Also, any suggestions on the most efficient and effective way to clean those buckets would be appreciated. It took me a little over two weeks to accumlate the 2 1/2 buckets, so I expect to have another couple of buckets in two more weeks.

--
wayneferguson@juno.com
http://www.TheFourPrecepts.com/
http://www.TheFourPrecepts.com/humanure.html

Author: admin
Wednesday, September 14, 2005 - 11:51 pm
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Clean the buckets using a long-handled toilet bowl brush. It only takes a few seconds to scrub the bucket, then throw the water on the pile, then rinse the bucket again (without scrubbing) and throw that water on the pile too. We use a rain barrel for water (http://www.jenkinspublishing.com/hilton.html), but carry a gallon of water out to the compost bins in the winter months when the water barrel has been drained to prevent freezing. One gallon of water will clean two compost buckets.

Add the biological sponge now, as if the initial deposit never happened. Better late than never.

Author: Anonymous
Thursday, September 15, 2005 - 11:05 am
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Thanks for the quick reply... One more question: Is it better to use (for example) hay (or leaves or grass clippings) for the "biological sponge" and for cover in the compost bins OR is sawdust OK for those applications, too? I just purchased a pickup truck load for $10 and unloaded it in my center bin. However, it would probably not be too difficult for me to secure some old bales of hay for that purpose if it is clearly superior to the sawdust. I got the endloader man to dig the sawdust out from the bottom of the pile, so it is a partially decomposed, but not quite as far along as I would have preferred. Should be fine for the buckets, but I wasn't sure if using it, exclusively, in the compost bins would be a good idea. Thanks again!

--
wayneferguson@juno.com
http://www.TheFourPrecepts.com/
http://www.TheFourPrecepts.com/humanure.html

Author: admin
Friday, September 16, 2005 - 12:25 am
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I would keep the sawdust to a minumum as cover material in the bins - better to use sawdust in the toilet and use a bulkier material in the bins. Some sawdust in the bins won't hurt, but it's probably a good idea to get in the habit of using hay, straw, weeds, leaves, wetc., in the bins as cover.

Author: admin
Friday, September 16, 2005 - 5:06 pm
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Here is a page that includes a photo of a bucket being dumped into my compost bin. http://jenkinspublishing.com/process.html

Joe Jenkins

Author: Larry Warnberg
Friday, September 16, 2005 - 11:26 pm
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Nice photos, Joe. Simple and clear. Emptying and rinsing a bucket is no big deal, certainly less unpleasant than managing a diaper bucket. I like the gutter and rain barrel method for rinsewater. Elegant.
Larry

Author: admin
Sunday, September 18, 2005 - 12:42 pm
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I have added more photos today at http://jenkinspublishing.com/process.html

Joe

Author: admin
Monday, September 19, 2005 - 12:12 am
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I have also added a page illustrating the bucket emptying process at http://jenkinspublishing.com/bucket.html

Joe

Author: Anonymous
Friday, September 23, 2005 - 3:51 pm
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very nice garden and compost set up. thanks for the pix. but i'm curious, how did you kill the opposum?

Author: Barb
Sunday, September 25, 2005 - 5:05 am
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Hi Eveyone. Great site. we haven't started yet but will next year when we move out of town. Hubby has a question...What about loose motions, how do you keep the sides of the bucket clean if you have the runs, for instance? He also doesn't believe that there will be no smell. It has to be smelly when emptying the bucket surely? How can it not be?

Barb.

Author: admin
Monday, September 26, 2005 - 1:41 pm
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The possum was fed a short diet of lead, delivered through a rifle barrel.

Author: admin
Monday, September 26, 2005 - 1:48 pm
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"No smell" means no odors in your household or in your living space, indoors or out. Of course you may notice unpleasant odors when emptying the bucket, but they are immediately stopped when the material is covered.

Author: Linda
Monday, September 26, 2005 - 4:43 pm
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i have some opposums in the city where i live. personally, the little bastards make me squeamish and i try to shoo them off with my squirt gun. i saw one this morning, a little fellow, shuffling down the steps to my non enclosed under the porch area. my cats do nothing to dissuade their presence. i've had them before i built the compost pile. i always keep my compost covered. is there any reason i should be nervous about them? i have no chickens, only cats. thanks

linda

Author: shelly
Monday, September 26, 2005 - 7:07 pm
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I guess I've been lucky because even through we have many skunks, raccoons and opposums here in my area, they have never gotten into my compost pile. I assume this is because the earthy smell of the pile doesn't attract them. And I do compost meat, grease etc....all the not-supposed-to compost stuff. Nothing but success so far and I've been at it for 4 years now. I am however, very vigilant about keeping the pile well covered as I live in a mobile home park and we are quite close to one another. If I can pull it off, anyone can I do believe.

Author: Anonymous
Monday, September 26, 2005 - 9:27 pm
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Dear Mr. Jenkins, bought the book, couldnt put it down. My husband built the box today, I purchased new buckets from Wal Mart, I am as nervous about using the facility as if robbing a bank, ha. We are in our late sixties, I am exited to start this new endeavor. Have a question: does the hay have to be kept dry? I could get a large 1000 pound bale reasonable, about 8 dollars.For a bin can I use hardware cloth enclosure? Tomorrow we will get sawdust, it is pretty old, thank you, sincerely, Hildegard

Author: Stephen
Tuesday, September 27, 2005 - 11:21 pm
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Wet hay to cover your bin is fine and "old sawdust" is prefered, but not necessary. I have used very fresh sawdust from very rot resistant wood and the prosess still worked fine.
You will find everything easier than you thought.

Author: Joe Jenkins
Wednesday, September 28, 2005 - 9:41 am
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Regarding possums an dother "vermin," we have never had problems with them in our compost, just in our chicken coop. They do get into the compost, but as animal mortalities. If you don't have chickens or ducks or other such creatures, possums should not be anything to be concerned about. They're dumb as a doorknob, but not really dangerous - just don't try to handle one - they have lots of teeth.

Hildegard - the straw does not have to be kept dry. However, if it's wet, it will be impossible to use as a cover material in the winter if it becomes frozen.

Author: Hildegard Snyder
Wednesday, September 28, 2005 - 3:32 pm
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Mr.Jenkins is my latest hero, I found out about the Humanure book through Kevin Johnson in Mother Earth, admire all of you very much. I am from Germany, been in America since 1959, husband was in the Army when we met. My father would have loved this whole idea right away, he lived tobe 87, natural lifestyle, vegetarian...
I have to thank him for my world views,so we shall give it a try.
Used the bucket for 2 days, no oder what-so-ever, covered with rotten sawdist from a pallet mill 3 miles from here. We are in Kentucky, this toilet-business may persuade me to move to the country, even though our small town of 1000 is not big.Anyway, I am exited, also purchased Mr. Jenlkns other book" balance point", lets see what awaits me there, my husband thinks, that he has to built something else after I finish the book.||
The beauty about this web site is , there are no complicated passwords, you get on right away.
Thank you for responding, sincerely
Hildegard

Author: Dan Holmes
Thursday, September 29, 2005 - 12:07 pm
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Good morning everyone
As I write this I am sitting in a small room which is our office and bathroom. I feels kind of complete to be on this forum and looking at my toilet at the same time. My wife loves the composting toilet but sometimes she thinks I'm a little crazy.

I have been doing this for a number of years and love it. A few years back I started putting small notes to myself in a double ziplock bag and then placed it in the sponge layer of an empty bin. Wrote whatever was interesting at the time. It is usually 18-20 months before I get the bin emptied and it is quite nice to read a little note after the work of empting the bin.

I have a question regarding nitrogen in urine. Recently I have started keeping a 3/4 full sawdust bucket in my shop and use it to urinate in, saves me walking outside or to the house. Is the carbon to nitrogen ratio within the optimum range for composting? Thanks in advance for any insights.
Dan Holmes

Author: linda
Thursday, September 29, 2005 - 1:29 pm
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i just wanted to say that so far what i find the coolest is how when you add contents of bucket to the pile and cover with sawdust or whatever and it's all tall again and then in a couple of days the pile gets shorter and compacted. i find that fascinating.

Author: linda
Thursday, September 29, 2005 - 1:29 pm
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i didn't mean sawdust, i meant hay or leaves, sorry.

Author: Stephen
Thursday, September 29, 2005 - 11:28 pm
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Hey Dan Can you elaborate on what your crappy little notes were?
Interesting idea, never came close to thinking of that one. My world has become a bit brouder in an unusual plane of thought. Thanks

Author: admin
Friday, September 30, 2005 - 10:52 am
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I have used a sawdust urine bucket for many years in my office. I fill the bucket with sawdust and collect urine until full (a 5 gallon sawdust bucket lasts about two weeks, depending), then empty it on the compost, clean it out, fill it again with fresh (preferable not wet) sawdust, and return it to the office. Works like a charm. I use two buckets so I have a backup to use until I get around to emptying the full one. The buckets MUST have tight lids.

In my new office, which I am now building, I will have an entire proper humanure toilet, not just a urine bucket. I don't have room for a private toilet in my existing office, hence only the urine collector (which is very convenient, nevertheless).

Joe Jenkins

Author: Dan
Friday, September 30, 2005 - 11:38 am
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My notes consist mostly of how I'm feeling at the time, what the weather is like and a few general goals just to see if I've accomplished them by the time I read the note. Pretty much anything goes. After I've emptied the bin I love to sit down with a cup of yerba mate and read the note. I also place a note in the bin once it is filled and I've put the lid on it to sit for a year. On the outside of this ziplock I write in felt pen the date I stopped filling the bin.

Just in time for winter a fellow down the road is sawing with his bandsaw mill some fir trees for lumber. I was able to scoop 110 5gal buckets of beautiful fine sawdust. There is more to be had I just have to increase my storage place. Man, Life Is Good.

Thanks for the post Joe, sounds like your office will be great.
Dan Holmes

Author: Wayne Ferguson
Monday, October 03, 2005 - 8:12 pm
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In my message of 9/14, above, I described my first experience of emptying the buckets and my mistake regarding the use of covermaterials in the compost bins (inadequate bio-sponge and only saw-dust for cover). Since then, I have not yet managed to locate a source of hay, but did manage to mulch up several bushels of leaves and grass clippings. Some were mulched with the lawn mower and the rest were mulched with my brother-in-laws leaf-blower which will work, in reverse, as a leaf vac, mulcher, bagger--very slick! In about 2 or 3 minutes it sucks up and mulches a wheel barrow full! With lots of trees in the yard and 40 acres of woodland, I should have plenty of cover material at my disposal. I still intend to secure some hay, though.

The bucket cleaning went much smoother this time. I used a long-handled toilet brush and was better prepared mentally to cope with all exegencies. ;) All together, I added about 3 five gallon containers of food waste, 2 five gallon containers of humanure, and 1 five gallon bucket of soapy water [humanure first, then food waste, then a bit of sawdust, and finally about 2 or 3 bushels of mulched leaves (with a pallet on top to keep it contained and to discourage the varmits)].

To be continued... :)

--
Wayne Ferguson
wayneferguson@juno.com
http://www.TheFourPrecepts.com/humanure.html

Author: Wayne Ferguson
Monday, October 17, 2005 - 10:18 am
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Just wanted to report that I emptied 2 more buckets of humanure into my compost bins yesterday--followed by 1 bucket of sudzy water (used to wash the other two), and 2 buckets of additional food waste (from two households). As I pulled back the existing cover, everything looked great--moldy with white, ashy looking patches and very hot! I don't have a thermometer, but I could hold my hand over it and feel the heat! I added the new stuff and covered it back up with a real sense of satisfaction. Looking forward to Fall of '07 when I can begin digging into it! :)

--
Wayne Ferguson
http://www.TheFourPrecepts.com/
http://www.TheFourPrecepts.com/waynesworld/humanure.html

Author: Linda
Monday, October 31, 2005 - 2:32 pm
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Since the leaves are now falling, i've started using leaves as my indoor bucket cover material. I rake the leaves, put them in a big plastic container and bring them inside near the toilet. I've actually found one of my cats sleeping in this bin at night. but anyway, does anyone know if this poses any problems that i'm not aware of--like bugs or such in the leaves. i guess i could always cover the plastic leaf bin if there is a problem.

Author: S. Infante
Monday, October 31, 2005 - 5:32 pm
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We get bugs in our leaf bin. We use shredded leaves though, not whole leaves. We filled a 5 x 5 x 5 foot bin with shredded leaves to use as cover material for the whole year. They have gotten their share of bugs in them, but it does not seem to be a problem in the house. We were getting earwigs in the house, but they came in with or without the leaves, just that time of year and the fact that we put grape vines in around the windows, so there was more moisture around the house. I notice that any bugs that I happen to see in the toilet bucket are quite dead when I dump the buckets in the in the compost pile. The bugs I see are definitely not bugs that have sought it out, just bugs that happen to be in the cover material, i.e. the occasional earwig or rolly polly or a grub now and then. I think the ammonia kills them straight away.

The only time I even think about it is when it is time to change buckets anyway, ha ha

Author: Linda
Monday, November 07, 2005 - 11:00 am
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raked a bunch of leaves over the weekend and mowed them into leaf mold. amazing how big a pile of leaves turns into a littler pile of leaf mold.

linda

Author: Linda
Tuesday, November 08, 2005 - 10:31 am
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this morning i dipped into my leaf mold tub to get some cover material and noticed it was mighty warm in there. i've heard about leaf piles spontaneously combusting. anyone know of a good way to store the leaf mold so it doesn't get wet but doesn't burn the house down?

linda

Author: S. Infante
Wednesday, November 09, 2005 - 1:14 am
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It will stop after a while, it is just the normal thermophillic reaction to organic material being shredded and piled together. Mine lasted about 2-3 weeks. It was so hot that I could not put my hand into the middle of it. I just kept it in a bin next to my compost bin and would fill my cover material bucket with it weekly.

Author: linda
Monday, November 21, 2005 - 10:32 am
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hi all. i'm not sure where to put this question so i'll put it here. since starting my compost pile in september, i really don't use the flush toilet, though i haven't disconnected it cuz i keep it for guests. is there any potential problem that anyone knows or can foresee with having my flush toilet operational but only flushing it once in a blue moon. thanks

linda

Author: Larry
Monday, November 21, 2005 - 8:59 pm
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Linda, we have the same scenario: the humanure bucket sits next to the flusher, which rarely gets used. It can happen that the water in the toilet eventually evaporates, allowing smelly gases from the septic tank to back up into the room. The solution is easy: flush the toilet to restore the water seal. Or add a bit of water periodically.

Author: linda
Tuesday, November 22, 2005 - 10:36 am
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sounds reasonable. thanks Larry

linda

Author: blake
Monday, January 02, 2006 - 5:30 pm
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would innoculating your sawdust or pile with saprophytic fungul spores aid in decomposition and possibly digest or neutralize harmfull bacteria

Author: admin
Monday, January 02, 2006 - 8:07 pm
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I don't think innoculation is necessary. It seems that fungi have no trouble finding humanure compost piles, especially in the aging phase.

Joe

Author: blake
Thursday, January 12, 2006 - 5:07 pm
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how crucial is it to use raw sawdust versus untreated wood sawdust from a cabinet shop

Author: admin
Friday, January 13, 2006 - 1:03 pm
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Well, if you put *fresh* raw sawdust in a pile and leave it alone, it can heat up due to natural composting microorganisms - even fresh woodchips will do this. However, dried sawdust isn't very biologically active due to the dehydration. It seems that the microorganisms like the tree sap. Nevertheless, the dry sawdust will be rehydrated by urine and will compost in the pile.

Author: blake
Friday, January 13, 2006 - 7:25 pm
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and should the sawdust sit out exposed to the weather rather than in a aluminum garbage can?

Author: John Heckham
Friday, January 13, 2006 - 9:11 pm
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What about cow manure compost (40lb=$1.44 at one of the major home improvement stores) for the daily deposit? And leaves outside for the weekly big cover up?

Author: Stephen
Saturday, January 14, 2006 - 12:30 am
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As stated somewhere on the board some time ago, I have successfully used very dry Black Walnut, Black Locust, White Oak, and American Chestnut as cover materials.
I cant really say that I've seen a big difference from using the sawdust mentioned above and my regular batch of green poplar/oak sawdust I normally use.
I actually prefer my sawdust very dry as it absorbs more moisture. I keep a plastic garbage bagfull handy for the rainy/snowy days.

Author: admin
Sunday, January 15, 2006 - 12:51 pm
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We also use dry sawdust periodically as it's available from my own building projects and have had no problem with it.

Joe

Author: Herb
Tuesday, January 17, 2006 - 11:23 am
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I like dry sawdust mainly because if you leave a pile out in the elements here it gets wet and will freeze solid during the winter months.

Author: Michael
Tuesday, January 17, 2006 - 2:55 pm
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I use dry, well rotten cow manure for the bucket, and hay+manure from my rabbits, kitchen waste on top in the bin. Works perfectly fine.

Author: catbox
Monday, May 15, 2006 - 4:41 pm
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Can anyone tell me which is heavier, a bucket of water or a bucket of Humanure? I am trying to decide what size buckets to use. I have found some 7 gallon and some 3 and 1/2 gallon free buckets. Am wondering if I can carry them when they are full.

Author: S. Infante
Monday, May 15, 2006 - 7:10 pm
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I would go with the 7-1/2 gallon. Water is heavier, because a lot of your contents are cover material. Can you share the link where you found the metal buckets?

Author: TCLynx
Tuesday, May 16, 2006 - 4:56 pm
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Water is definitely heavier. but everyone is different as to how much they can comfortably carry.
What size is the 7 gallon bucket? Make sure it is an appropriate hight to sit upon and it might work out well. If it is too heavy when full you can always empty it before it completely fills up.
I know that some people don't like carrying a full 5 gal humanure bucket so they empty when half full.

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