Compost Pile Too Hot?

The International Compost Sanitation Forum and Message Board: General Composting Issues: Compost Pile Too Hot?
Author: Mmm (Mmm)
Tuesday, August 07, 2012 - 1:50 pm
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Great, that's good to know.
We have 2 bins and will be alternating them, so we'll have 1 year of aging after the last deposit.

Author: Ecointerest (Ecointerest)
Monday, August 06, 2012 - 8:05 am
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Joe, I am booked to return to Haiti in early November and will stay for 2 months.

Author: Joe (Joe)
Sunday, August 05, 2012 - 12:28 pm
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You don't have to worry about it. We had compost temps near 170F in Haiti and the piles were fine. Just make sure you let it age adequately after the pile is constructed (a year is recommended) until the entire pile cools down to ambient temperatures.

Author: Mmm (Mmm)
Saturday, August 04, 2012 - 2:29 pm
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We just started our humanure composting about 2 months ago. Well I'm pleased to say everything has been going great. Couldn't be happier with the results we have had so far.

We bought the Loveable Loo kit, and I built a 3 bin, 5'x5'x5' composting pile out of cedar. We had a dump truck load of "green" sawdust delivered, about 13 yards, and had a few bales of straw, so we were finally ready to start our humanure toilet.

We are a family of four with 2 kids and 2 adults. We have one loo that we all use. Initially we were going through a bucket a day(caused by using too much cover material), and the bucket was light and didn't have enough moisture. Now we have optimized our usage and get a bucket to last 2 full days or longer, depending on how much urine is deposited. We normally only cover solid deposits and add sawdust/shredded paper to urine as the liquid level comes up. This allows the material to stay compact as possible and maximize the usage of the bucket.

We have a 4 bucket system. When 3 buckets are full, we take them out to the compost along with a 4 gallon kitchen scrap container(we had to buy a large pot to use in the kitchen so we could time the dumping of this waste with the toilet buckets, as I want to make this the least work as possible). I dump the kitchen scraps first and then dump the toilet buckets on top(to keep animals from being tempted to dig into the food scraps. Initially, during the first 2 weeks there were signs of mice burrowing into the pile(we have it covered with a course metal mesh cover). Also during this time I noticed the cover material(straw) was getting wet on top of the pile, and realized this was due to the pile heating up and the moisture from the pile condensing on the straw. At this point I decided to use the 20" compost thermometer, and was surprised that the pile was around 115F. After about 2 weeks, all signs of rodents were gone(I think the heat and more coverage of the food scraps with toilet material drove them away).

Since then, the pile has been steadily rising in temp. After the first month the pile was up to 135F. Then rose through 140, 145, 150, 155F and now after 2 months, the pile is up to 160F!!!

When the pile first hit 140F I started adding extra water when emptying the buckets as I have read it is better to have a cooler but longer high temps. Well adding more water seems to just make the pile happier, as it just gets hotter. Currently when I empty the buckets, I use lots of water to clean the buckets(~5 gallons) and then fill one of the buckets with 5 more gallons and dump it on the pile(this also helps flatten out the top of the pile as it washes the material into any voids in the pile). I have been covering the pile with cardboard(soaked in water and torn up onto the pile), weeds and grass from the garden and straw when I don't have enough yard materials collected.

I have noticed the pile thermally cycles between adding to the pile. Currently, right before I add to the pile, it is about 5F down from the peak temp during the week. After adding to the pile, the temp is about 80F. After the first 24Hrs, the temp is up to 120F and after another 24 hours it attains it max temp(currently 160F). It stays at the max temp for about 3 more days and then drops slowly over the next couple days to 5F less than the peak, and the cycle repeats.

We compost everything in this pile, including a dead chicken(was nicely slow cooked after a week), all kitchen waste(cooking oils, meat, dairy, fat, etc.) I bought a microcut shredder to turn junk mail and paper waste into cover material for the toilet. I find it works great when mixed with sawdust and bulks it up(I want the sawdust pile to last as long as possible).

So, at this point I don't know if I should just be really happy about the 160F(as it seems everyone is worried about a too cool pile), or should I be concerned about anything(as the thermometer is now officially out of the "Hot" zone and into "unlabeled" territory.(thermometer is labeled "Steady", "Active", and "Hot"))???

I assume as long as I keep it wet, not to worry?

Anyway, I just wanted to share our story so far and say we are very happy with everything working so well.

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