Design for humanure-based all year cu...

The International Compost Sanitation Forum and Message Board: Balance Point - Searching for a Spiritual Missing Link: Design for humanure-based all year cultivation?
Author: Patrick Murphy (Pcinca)
Saturday, October 14, 2006 - 3:34 pm
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There are some good links and thoughts here about hothouse operations and compost. The site James posted links to https://oceanarks.org -the current incarnation of John and Nancy Todd's original New Alchemy Institute where all things about sustainable closed-loop nutrient cycle and farming methods are researched.

They have perfected composting and gray water filtration (constructed wetlands) both in hothouses and outdoors.

The hothouse operations stay bacterially active all year-round. After reading about Joe's great Mongolian teaching tour, I immediately thought of sharing the hothouse/compost/gardening operations with him, but I see in this thread that he is on to it already. I hope the Mongolians have success with it and kudos to Joe for helping them out!

As for the compost heap radiating heat- Does a bear s*** in the woods? :-)

I once had a huge pile of pumkins that went bad and I decided to put them all in my big compost bin which was built off the concrete back wall of my small living space.

This nitrogen rich heap kept "cooking" all winter and kept my room warm! The following spring, I opened up the pile and it was still very hot and the ammonia filled steam boiled out, so I covered it and kept it as a ready supply of nitrogen material for my other compost piles and this lasted all through the next 2 years!

Author: Andy Collins
Tuesday, November 22, 2005 - 5:33 pm
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Here is an idea that contributors to your site might be able to help me develop, Joe.

First, let me add to the chorus of praise for your book, which is well-deserved in my opinion. It is an entertaining and compelling read, and I too can testify to the effectiveness of your method, having just completed a full ‘nutrient cycle’ with toilet and compost bin built to your spec. Not wanting to permanently convert the bathroom fittings of our suburban house in Northern England, we operated a family WC built into a large cupboard in our bedroom, and, thanks to the remarkable odour-absorbing properties of leaf mould there were no issues there at all, though a bedroom is a less than optimal site for a family bathroom, of course! .... We also had some difficulties with ‘cultural adaptation’ from the kids, (as others have noted elsewhere on this site) but we resolved these completely by a system of remuneration for their contributions. Anyway, please accept our thanks, Joe, for your lucid explanation of how to use your system!

Your book is very timely for another reason – your system facilitates the cultivation of vegetables with a minimal input of fossil fuels. Some of your readership are obviously aware of the phenomenon of “Peak Oil” (1,2). Alas, the wider public is unaware of the prediction of many former oil industry analysts that petroleum prices will climb very quickly indeed once the world’s oil well are past their production peak (i.e. any time within the next 1 - 4 years). One of the likely outcomes from this event will be a resurgence of interest in local, small-scale food production as food prices start to rise sharply, in line with oil prices. As well as individual efforts towards self-sufficiency, my hope is that we will see community groups(3) pooling resources to grow their own food – but this won’t be easy in Northern climates like this one. This is where another relatively low-tech. solution comes into play – passive solar greenhouses, designed to efficiently capture and store heat from the Winter sun and allow cultivation all year round. Although not many commercial models exist yet, there are some good instructions on the Web for building your own(4,5).

Finally, to my questions!:

Do you and your readership think it would be feasible to incorporate a version of your bin system within the structure of a large solar greenhouse (probably of a lean-to design) to be used for large families or small communities in order to facilitate year round vegetable production with no energy inputs?

The key advantage would be to use the low grade heat generated by the compost as an extra Winter heat source. I understand that one of the keys to winter growing is to minimise fluctuations in soil temperature, so some kind of simple heat exchanger between growing beds and compost pile based on undersoil pipes might be possible, maybe even one driven by a solar powered fan?. On the other hand, given a well-insulated greenhouse, just having the pile in the structure might provide a sufficient boost to the inside temperature. Having the pile within a relatively sealed greenhouse would also lead to raised CO2 levels due to the microbial respiration in the pile – excellent for plant growth. Finally, the finished compost would be ready to use ‘in situ’ after the winter season – maybe the compost bins themselves could simply be used directly as raised beds (after an appropriate time lag).

Possible disadvantages I can think of are excess condensation and hygiene issues with cultivation near to humanure compost piles. However, in essence the idea is simply an extension of the horse manure hotbeds beloved of Victorian greenhouse growers.

Is his feasible? Anyone out there got any comments that would help me come up with a good design, please? Or is it fundamentally flawed for reasons I haven’t thought of? (Handicapped, as Joe remarked, by a ‘college education’, I am not actually that practical, but always willing to learn!)

Thanks for your interest,

Andy Collins, Huddersfield, UK

Refs.
1. https://www.peakoil.net/
2. https://www.lifeaftertheoilcrash.net/
3. https://www.communitysolution.org/
4. https://www.survivalplus.com/foods/page0009.htm
5. https://www.yale.edu/ynhti/curriculum/units/1983/1/83.01.13.x.html

Author: Stephen
Wednesday, November 23, 2005 - 11:42 am
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Steve Moore located in Eastern Pa. is world renowned for his greenhouse designs.
www.newfarm.org/features/0404/moore/greenhouse.shtml
This is just one site that I found, sure there's more. As you will see he grows all year and uses no added contraptions. He does workshops also

Author: admin
Thursday, November 24, 2005 - 12:01 pm
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Compost piles do not radiate heat - it is internal. However, the piles are affected by ambient temperatrures so a greenhouse could well benefit the composting process by improving the ambient temperature around the pile. We are considering this exact system to be constructed on a trial basis in Mongolia this winter. I will certainly keep you all posted.

Joe

Author: TCLynx
Sunday, May 07, 2006 - 11:00 am
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If the greenhouse is large enough for the compost bins as well as the growing beds then you are probably golden. As far as keeping the soil temp up, you may (though this would involve more technology) want to look into solar ways to heat water to use for warming coils. Other more passive solar methods may be less technology intensive.

Author: James
Sunday, May 07, 2006 - 5:21 pm
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I beg to differ on the radiating heat... If the active part of the pile is not insulated enough (not enough leaves, cover materials, etc.) then the pile does radiate.

My pile was completely barren of leaves due to a winter storm, and also had no snow on it, where my holding bin with leaves had 3 1/2 inches of snow. When I walked up to the pile, I could feel the warmth coming from the pile. I recovered the pile with leaves until I couldn't feel the heat anymore.

Author: Joe
Tuesday, May 09, 2006 - 4:17 am
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A compost pile is like a human body - the heat is internal, but you can feel it close up. That's why the snow melts off. It's not an external heat source, however, that can heat an open space.

Author: TCLynx
Tuesday, May 09, 2006 - 3:21 pm
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In other words, there is some heat that may radiate from a compost pile, and perhaps there might be some small benefit from it. However, it might not be very good or useful to try harvesting that heat for another puropse as you may end up robbing the compost of the heat it needs to compost properly.
So, having the compost bins inside the greenhouse could be mutually benifical to the compost and the greenhouse (so long as the compost in managed properly for cover and moisture etc,) But don't depend on the compost to provide very much heating (thought it may help a little.)

Author: James
Tuesday, May 09, 2006 - 7:26 pm
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I did a quick search on the web and found that heating greenhouses with compost seems to be an old idea. They circulate water through a large pile, and move the heat around.
Check out the link below
https://www.attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/compostheatedgh.html


Cheers,

James

Author: Joe
Thursday, May 11, 2006 - 7:21 am
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If you have large compost piles you can do this sort of thing. Backyard continuous humanure compost doesn't really fit this description.

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