Keeping compost active in winter

The International Compost Sanitation Forum and Message Board: Humanure Handbook - A Guide to Composting Human Manure: Keeping compost active in winter
Author: Joe (Joe)
Tuesday, March 10, 2015 - 4:36 pm
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Here's a video taken in February 2015 showing backyard compost 126 degrees above ambient (outdoor) temperatures: https://humanurehandbook.com/videos.html#hot_winter

The temperature rose after I dumped a lot of liquid into the pile from wine that I had distilled.

Author: Rman (Rman)
Sunday, March 08, 2015 - 11:50 am
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Mary I am in central Ontario Canada, north of Lake Ontaro about 3 hrs drive and west of Ottawa about 4 hrs. We have had at least 5 weeks without the temperature going above freezing which is unusual in recent memory. The frost is quite deep this year and many people have had problems with underground water and septic lines freezing. Spring is on the way though, I recently heard some very cold birds one morning. I don't think they were singing, it sounded more like beaks chattering and the occasional pneumonic hack.

Author: Mary (Mary)
Sunday, March 08, 2015 - 11:06 am
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Thank you for your replies, RMan and Ecointerest, am curious where you are located RMan, I'm in Vermont where we've experienced similar temperatures...Thank you too for the hot water suggestion - even tho' it was right there, because I use it [conservatively, to lessen the load of water I have to carry to the bins] when I'm cleaning the buckets, I didn't think to use it in that way to release the thermometer, which is now covered with a couple of weeks' worth of humanure...!
Also, still would like info re: Where can current state by state composting regulations be found? Is the information in my 2nd Ed. of the Humanure Handbook still valid?

Author: Rman (Rman)
Tuesday, February 24, 2015 - 7:36 pm
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I had to thaw my thermometer out before I could add the latest offering. One litre of hot water poured slowly down the thermometer loosened it so I could pop it out.

Author: Ecointerest (Ecointerest)
Sunday, February 22, 2015 - 3:34 pm
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The mind boggles at those temperatures! Just hoping you have sufficient fuel for the fire, warm clothing and food to sustain you and family.
It reminds me of a brief trek in the Himalayas a few years back. At 3500 meters, inside the hotel, the toilet was, errr....a shade chilly. The bucket of water intended for cleansing was a solid block of ice.

Author: Rman (Rman)
Saturday, February 21, 2015 - 11:13 pm
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Mine has frozen as well but it has also been quite cold off and on for a long time. We are getting regular lows of -28C and daytime highs of -18C. Mary I wish you had asked about the thermometer, I am fairly sure I will be able to draw mine out by applying a small amount of hot water to it. I will confirm after I try it tomorrow. I have a lot of experience with frozen things and the gentle application of very hot water generally takes care of the problem.

Author: Mary (Mary)
Wednesday, February 18, 2015 - 3:25 pm
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I've been humanuring since 2004 and this is the first winter it has frozen solid enough that I couldn't pull the thermometer, which read 20F,out of the pile when I emptied my buckets February 11, 2015 (so I just poured everything on top of it!). The only thing I can think of that I did differently with this active pile, started around summer solstice 2014, is add the six biodynamic compost preparations [#502-507: Yarrow, Chamomile, Nettle, Oakbark, Dandelion, Valerian] to it in mid September 2014...
The pile is getting pretty high, sort of climbing over the sides of the bin, so for the first time in about a decade I've been using the flush toilets for about two weeks now...The posting re: not adding soap/soapy water from washing buckets was interesting, perhaps I will give that a try.
Where can current state by state composting regulations be found? Is the information in my 2nd Ed. of the Humanure Handbook still valid?

Author: Mary (Mary)
Wednesday, February 18, 2015 - 12:05 pm
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I've been humanuring since 2004 and this is the first winter it has frozen solid enough that I couldn't pull the thermometer, which read 20F,out of the pile when I emptied my buckets February 11, 2015 (so I just poured everything on top of it!). The only thing I can think of that I did differently with this active pile, started around summer solstice 2014, is add the six biodynamic compost preparations [#502-507: Yarrow, Chamomile, Nettle, Oakbark, Dandelion, Valerian] to it in mid September 2014...
The pile is getting pretty high, sort of climbing over the sides of the bin, so for the first time in about a decade I've been using the flush toilets for about two weeks now...The posting re: not adding soap/soapy water from washing buckets was interesting, perhaps I will give that a try.
Where can current state by state composting regulations be found? Is the information in my 2nd Ed. of the Humanure Handbook still valid?

Author: Mary (Mary)
Wednesday, February 18, 2015 - 12:03 pm
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I've been humanuring since 2004 and this is the first winter it has frozen solid enough that I couldn't pull the thermometer, which read 20F,out of the pile when I emptied my buckets February 11, 2015 (so I just poured everything on top of it!). The only thing I can think of that I did differently with this active pile, started around summer solstice 2014, is add the six biodynamic compost preparations [#502-507: Yarrow, Chamomile, Nettle, Oakbark, Dandelion, Valerian] to it in mid September 2014...
The pile is getting pretty high, sort of climbing over the sides of the bin, so for the first time in about a decade I've been using the flush toilets for about two weeks now...The posting re: not adding soap/soapy water from washing buckets was interesting, perhaps I will give that a try.
Where can current state by state composting regulations be found? Is the information in my 2nd Ed. of the Humanure Handbook still valid?

Author: Joe (Joe)
Wednesday, January 18, 2012 - 3:21 pm
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There was a post from Alaska here:

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

Author: stephen
Friday, December 20, 2002 - 12:06 am
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My compost is still active even though the temps been averaging around 29 degrees. I'm wondering if any type of cover/insulation would help keep things working yet still let enough oxygen in the pile. I'd hate to add to a frozen pile all winter seeing I dont have another bin or time to build another bin

Author: dave cain
Friday, February 18, 2005 - 12:41 pm
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yes,

this is an interesting issue that we deal with here in Vermont. one thing we do is keep the pile loosely covered (to let melted water in )with a couple of old hollow-core doors so that falling snow does not add to the accumulated volume in the pile.

our pile was still cooking at around 60 the last i checked (mid january) which is great. although once the pile looses it's heated core, it turns to a big pile of frozen you-know-what. of course in the spring it magically colapses back down to a small fraction of the previously frozen size.

this is the one issue i feel still needs to be worked out. is it possible to keep the pile warm all winter long even in regions where it gets darn cold (-20's) and can average in the teens for long periods? i think one idea is to create the bin out of straw, which would become a natural insulator on the sides...

Author: admin
Sunday, February 20, 2005 - 3:13 pm
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Our humanure compost pile was 111 F on February 9th this year, 120 F on 2/21/04, hot all winter the year before, 126 F on 3/16/02. I attribute this to the fact that we process wine every winter (usually about 40 gallons) and dump the discards onto the compost. We dump maybe 30 gallons of spent wine, about 3 or 4 gallons at a time, into the compost pile and sometimes the spent wine is steaming hot off the stove. This addition of liquid food and warmth in the middle of the winter (typically around groundhog day) seems to keep the pile alive during the cold winter months. So there may be a means of stimulating wintry compost piles by dumping a pot of hot liquid on them now and then, especially if the liquid has some nutrient value.

Author: Stephen
Sunday, February 20, 2005 - 5:56 pm
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Just the other day I said to myself,"It's still alive!!!, Can't believe it,I aughta start a new thead about cold weather bins". I clicked on this one and realised someone allready did.
Anyhow, I'm in south central Pa where temps have been down in the single digits at times, in the teens overnight for at least a week straight, but for the most part averaging 25f overnight and 35 during the day.
This is the first winter out of six that the pile has stayed active.
Not sure why though.
Perhaps it's because I started my new bin late in the season. It was the beginning of December when I built my new bin and started my new pile.
Previous years I put my bin to rest in early September.
Thats really the only thing I've done differently.

Author: admin
Monday, February 21, 2005 - 1:34 pm
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My pile froze solid as a rock every year for about ten years straight. Then one year it didn't freeze, although it almost did. The next year it was warmer during the winter, etc., and now it's capable of being hot in the middle of the winter. I speculate sometimes that I'm breeding a cold hardy thermophilic bacteria strain by natural selection, since I've had this compost going for 26 years straight. That's a LOT of bacteria generations. But it's only speculation.

Author: Dan
Tuesday, January 17, 2006 - 11:35 pm
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Headline: "Global Warming helps cook poo in Arctic"

Author: heather
Thursday, January 19, 2006 - 10:21 pm
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This is my first winter with a humanure included compost pile and i just got my thermometer! The pile has been staying at about 60F and rising to around 80F (immediately after additions of humaure). this is on days with ambient air temps of 20-30F. Sound normal and healthy to all? I assume it will pick up as spring comes on.

What part of wine processing do you do on the stove Joe? (I used to make wine, but never heated it up- just curious) I suppose I could toss hot pasta water onto the pile, maybe that would give it a boost!

Author: admin
Saturday, January 21, 2006 - 1:36 am
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My compost is struggling to stay warm this year, having dropped to 40 degress F when we had the early cold spell this winter, but is now back up to about 60 or 70 F, which is much lower than the past few years, but at least not frozen. I think any compost that doesn't freeze in the winter months is doing quite well, and if it does freeze, it will heat up in the spring.

Joe

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