January 2008 (sent to Joe Jenkins via email)
You may remember us. We are doing experiments with
wood chips and tree seedlings.
Anyway as these things go, the house project has
gotten mission creep and as it gets expanded it also
takes more time and thus we have been using sawdust
buckets per your book since spring 06. It has worked
so well we have not finished our bathroom!
We have had zero problems following your methods.
In fact we have abandoned our own toilet designs
entirely and are casting about for a use for this vault.
We had a Black bear tear the front off our year one
bin but we discovered that the kids had thrown fruit
in it. Otherwise no varmint or vermin or odor problems
We were caught by a sudden blizzard and a half full
bucket was left on the mountain to sit out the
winter. In the spring it was fine. The sawdust took
up enough of the moisture and provided enough flex so
the bucket did not fail and it had no odor.
We have a color bucket system, green for go red for
stop/sawdust storage. Two green have been more than
enough for the family.
The wood chip pile continues its slow decay and other
than speed of decomposition it seems to be no
different than the straight sawdust pile.
The sawdust and greens pile has Nap weed, Mullen and
other invaders we are pulling and as expected
performs better as a compost pile.
Our daily vegetable compost goes in the bucket every
day but it is not sufficient in quantity to get a
good pile cooking.
As a good deal of urine gets deposited in the
surrounding woods during the warm months we have yet
to fully load the buckets as it were. Also in the 100
F + summer the buckets dry out even in the shade
unless the lids are tight. Since our mob seems to be
incapable of putting the lids on tight we have yet to
see a fully loaded with moisture, Nitrogen and
We tried waste paper for one bucket load and went
right back to sawdust.
We planted out our first batch of seedlings and they
are doing well in their new home on the mountain. We
have an order of Tamarack seedlings due this spring
from the tribe and have collected seed from different
stands at different altitudes to plant in the seed
beds this spring.
The tribal ecology guys have been really supportive
and actually encouraged us to continue with the
sawdust composting and helped us redesign the
seedling beds by placing a stand of Cottonwoods
between the compost bins and the seedling beds. The
year 1 compost will be spread onto the Cottonwoods in
year 3 and the leeched moisture from them will supply
the extra moisture to the seedlings. The Cottonwoods
take up toxins but also re-balance the PH to the
A tribal owned saw mill a few miles away has given us
all the sawdust we want for free and several tribal
elders and members have come to the mountain to see
what we are doing. Everyone has been supportive and
So there you are. We can take photos if you want in
the spring - 4 foot of hydothermic insulation at the
moment ;) If we can be of use to you please don't hesitate and thank you very much for your work. You have allowed us to achieve a goal that was beyond our dream. You have saved us countless hours of work not to mention expense and our world and the world we all share has been improved.
We sincerely thank you.