Cover materials?

The International Compost Sanitation Forum and Message Board: Humanure Handbook - A Guide to Composting Human Manure: Cover materials?
Author: Showmemrs (Showmemrs)
Thursday, April 07, 2011 - 2:03 am
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Also I want to thank TCLynx for the nice rotational idea from kitchen to bathroom! Wish I had thought of it, good idea. My only other thought is that, as a very well hydrated old gal, I make use of a urinal and it helps me put off taking the buckets out until they are filled with the real stuff. I take 2.5 gallons every few days either to a garden spot or to simply to water the pile as needed. Thanks to all you contributors esp. to Joe and family...

Author: Showmemrs (Showmemrs)
Thursday, April 07, 2011 - 1:49 am
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after 5 years of using nice fresh sawdust from a mill the economy put them out of business! I have been crazy looking for sawdust when I tackled burning leaves for the first time in a few years... under the leaves was an old woodchip pile that had rotted to a nice crumbly texture. I used a spinning weed tool to spin out the roots of mycelium and then mixed about 30 pounds of coffee grounds in with the stuff and I think I am good for at least 6 more months and there is still a lot left to dig up... I am so happy as leaves were a depressingly stinky/sloppy cover medium. Maybe if I could mulch them or grind them but not set up for that yet.

Author: Cianoy (Cianoy)
Thursday, March 24, 2011 - 9:42 am
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Hi! Has anyone tried wrapping humanure in a whole newspaper (not shredded)? You'll use up about two pages per "product". Before wrapping though, I sprinkle it with coffee grounds and eggshells. I even tried adding some dried herb leaves before. It smells great.

Author: Patrick (Pcinca)
Monday, June 25, 2007 - 10:54 am
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I have hit upon what appears to be one of the best cover materials around: Dried Myrtle family leaves (Eugenias), a very common hedge bush, but actually a tree when allowed to grow to normal size.

The leaves are thumbnail in size, thin and absorbant; they are evergreen and shed an abundance of dead leaves year around; the green trimmings from Eugenia bushes are an excellent (N) source or (C) when dry: small and readily compostable.

I have noticed that when one pees on the cover application, there is some sort of reaction with the leaves and they mask any foul oders. If one stcks their nose in the bucket, they will get a sweet compost smell at most.

The use of Eugenia leaves mitigates the problem of locating a ready/continuous supply of sawdust and other materials and my test results, so far, indicate many other advantages over not only sawdust, but all other cover materials studied to date.

My particular Eugenia bushes/trees is Eugenia myrtifolia, but most all of the Myrtus family are similar and will give the same results. Eugenias are actually part of the larger Eucalyptus family, but have little in common with Eucs.

Myrtus communis "Common Myrtle", is another similar and abundant variety. All the Eugenias have beautiful, small hairy-like flowers in pink and white mostly and this about the only similarity to Eucalytus trees.

The Eugenias put out cranberry-type berries and are edible.

I have posted some photos of my humanure toilet with a bucket of Eugenia leaves next to it on www.Flickr.com and if one does a search on "humanure" (tag word) there, they should get right to them.

Heres the kicker with the Eugenias leaves as cover material: when the bucket is full, one can use a toilet plunger (so don't throw it out when you convert your water-waster to a humanure toilet) to easily compact the bucket back down to 1/3 full. When the bucket is full again, it can be compacted back down to 1/2 bucket capacity. I stop compacting after the second round. The easy, gentle compacting extends the bucket use by several days.

Author: Rich (Richard_w)
Friday, June 22, 2007 - 12:51 am
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My personal favorite cover material is a sawdust and peat moss mixture for the bucket, and leaves and straw for the pile.
I mix sawdust I get from a buddy's Alaskan sawmill and peat moss in equal amounts and toss in a handful or two of greensand (glauconite) to increase the trace mineral quality of the compost. Works extremely well.
When I take it out to the pile, I cover with the leaves then the straw. The straw is easy to pull back next time I add to the pile.

Author: TCLynx (Tclynx)
Friday, May 18, 2007 - 10:41 am
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Spraying water on your sawdust might help a little against odor but it will also hurt your bucket's moisture holding capacity.
If your only source of sawdust is from kiln dried wood you might concider adding used coffee grounds as cover matierials. You could mix them with the dried sawdust. Warning though, only mix a small bucket full at a time since moist coffee grounds will get moldy over time and that would be ucky.

Author: catbox (Catbox)
Saturday, May 12, 2007 - 6:12 pm
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If you use sawdust from kiln-dried wood, would it make a better "odor seal" if you lightly sprayed water on top of the sawdust?

Author: TCLynx (Tclynx)
Wednesday, May 09, 2007 - 10:54 am
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Our method of bucket rotation is kinda interesting. A clean bucket gets a layer of leaves in the bottom and moves into the kitchen where scraps, paper towels, grease, etc get added. When we need a new bucket for the toilet, the one from the kitchen moves to the toilet. For cover in the toilet we use sawdust or coffee grounds to cover solid deposits and shredded paper for leveling and liquid deposits. When too full to comfortably drop a solid deposite, the bucket gets a lid and waits for a few more to be ready to dump.

We are now getting shredded paper from friends with offices that shred alot of paper. We also collect the leaves around the neighborhood. There is a sawmill not too far from us. Just bummed out about starbucks, they advertise grounds for the garden but only a few stors actually bother to bag them up for customers to take.
We are very happy not using the water toilet.

Author: Michael Ozmer (Mountainman)
Monday, May 07, 2007 - 11:24 am
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I will try the leaves next. It is nice to have it all just plop out like that. I am using 2 gallons of water for two buckets now. I would feel better if I had a third and will start doing that once my water system is operational. We just went off grid and will be self sufficient and this was a large part of it. Even if the inspectors make us use a septic system, it will just be for gray water now! Thanks Joe!

Author: Joe Jenkins (Joe)
Wednesday, April 25, 2007 - 11:07 am
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Leaves on the bottom have the same effect - it all dumps out and the container rinses easier.

Author: Michael Ozmer (Mountainman)
Monday, April 23, 2007 - 4:43 pm
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Hey all,
Thanks for getting back to me. I have some success to report. I switched to peat moss and it worked fine. little odor. I have a neighbor that has a mill and asked for some of his sawdust. He makes the rough cut boards. The sawdust was fine in texture. We are half way into our first bucket. Almost zero smell! I am a happy person. The wife will be also when she returns from her trip.
Also, I found out something kewl. when I start a new bucket and "charge" the system with a layer of cover material, if I use the pet chips, then whatever after that, it all comes out when I dump it like a breeze. The other material (peat) left a bunch in the bottom to be delt with!
Thanks again.

Author: Joe Jenkins (Joe)
Wednesday, April 04, 2007 - 2:46 pm
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TCLynx is right. Kiln-dried materials such as wood shavings and even straight sawdust don't work all that well as cover materials because air can escape through them and so can odor, unless you use a LOT of cover material, which is not advisable because it causes the toilet to fill too quickly.

Sawdust from a sawmill where logs are sawn into rough boards is ideal.

Author: TCLynx (Tclynx)
Wednesday, April 04, 2007 - 8:42 am
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You are on the right track, you want sawdust from wood that has not been kiln dried. Coffee grounds work great as long as you like the smell of coffee. With the grounds be ware that you can't keep a large stock of them on hand unless you go to the trouble and $$ of drying them since they are moist and will start to get moldy after a time if you store them. Pick up a bag at a time from the coffee shope is my suggestion.
I found that shredded paper works fine as about 50% of the cover in the bucket and we cover the solid deposits with something powdery like sawdust or coffee grounds.

Your pet sawdust might work as 50% of the cover int he bucket but you should be able to find something for free that will work better.

Good luck in your search.

Author: Michael Ozmer (Mountainman)
Monday, April 02, 2007 - 9:21 pm
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Hi all,
New here. Not new to the book. I belong to a yahoo group and some of you may know me there by the same name. My wife actually was the one that suggested we drop the septic idea for our retreat and go with a sawdust toilet. I used a luggable loo for the last couple of years. Now we have the house in place. (we recycled a double wide mobile home). So, I built the first sawdust toilet and put it in the bathroom.
My surprise? smell. I had used the pet sawdust we use for our rabbits when they go to shows. In the loo it worked great. Now that we have a standard toilet seat, not so good. Is it the sawdust?
we are going to stop by and ask at a fence post mill for some and also the local coffee house for some grounds.
We must not have smell. We can deal with a bit, but not like our first experience. Am I on the right track?
Thanks,
MM

Author: Joe Jenkins (Joe)
Wednesday, January 24, 2007 - 5:37 pm
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John Smith hit the nail right on the head. I threw all my wood ashes into the compost pile for the first ten years or so until I started doing in-depth research into the composting phenomenon and realized that wood ashes don't necessarily benefit compost and can actually hinder it if the quantity is great enough. Small quantities, however, shouldn't be a problem and the compost pile may be a convenient place to get rid of the ashes in some situations (like David's). For me, it's more convenient to put the ashes directly onto the garden plot than into the compost pile because our garden is closer to the house than the compost pile is. We also use wood ashes for driveway grit in the winter months when the lane gets icy. It works like a charm. A handful of woodashes thrown under a spinning tire can work miracles. So we keep a five gallon *metal* bucket of wood ashes handy on the back porch during the winter months at all times, if possible.

Author: John Smith (John)
Wednesday, January 24, 2007 - 11:20 am
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Depends on how much ash you'd use.

You could easily raise the pH of the mix, which would hamper the thermophyllic process.

Because your contributions to the hog manure pile were probably relatively minor, the additional ash wouldn't greatly affect the entire pile.

When exclusively composting a pile of human poo using the ash as a substitue for sawdust, the ash effects would be greater, possibly creating a caustic mix in which the thermophllic process couldn't occur.

Author: David Milligan (Quietbean)
Tuesday, January 23, 2007 - 9:49 pm
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Just a little personal testimony here.

I wonder how out to lunch the idea of using wood ashes in lieu of saw dust is really? I dunno but the three years of homesteading life had us using the 5 gallon pail, of both the plastic and metal variety. A layer of ashes separated the fecal matter from contacting the pail sides and a toss into the existing composting pile of hog manure/barley staw on a per use basis aka flush, and no problems seemed to occure to me anyway. The dung pile heated up the same as it always did, ashes or no ashes. The pail remained clean and dry as (i suspect) that the lye in the ashes would seem to absorb and perhaps react with and soak up any remaining fecal matter/odour. The pail did remain out doors however.

I had no real evidence that would seem to support the theory that the ashes would slow up or stop the composting process. If it did then I suspect that the daily application of hog dung and bedding would counteract this.

Thoughts?

Author: TCLynx (Tclynx)
Sunday, December 10, 2006 - 5:28 pm
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I believe originally talcom powder came from a particular pulverized rock.

I have another easily available cover material (expecially good for city/apartment dwellers.) Used coffee grounds!!!!! Starbucks coffee bags them up especially for use in gardens and compost. Most coffee places will give you used coffee grounds if you ask. Often they are just in the trash bag from the waste basket behind the counter. Often there will be paper wrappers from the sugar packets but they compost just find too. Coffee grounds tend to be slighty moist but still seem to work well for covering solid deposites. We use shredded paper for liquid deposits. I don't recomend stockpiling used coffee grounds, they are hard to dry out and will start to mold if kept around for extended periods of time. I don't see this as a big problem since you are more likely to find coffee grounds at a coffee shop if you make it a regular thing.

Author: Ted Walther (Tedwalther)
Wednesday, December 06, 2006 - 2:53 pm
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I tried cedar sawdust. But it stank and I stopped doing the composting toilet for a while. Here in the city it is hard to do composting when you are renting an apartment. I don't recommend cedar sawdust as cover material, nor do I recommend those cheap pine wood shavings that you use for pet gerbils.

This morning, I tried flour. Cheap, easily available white bleached flour. It worked pretty good. They call it communist superglue, so you probably want a plastic bag lining your bucket if you use this stuff; it could be a lot of work to wash it out. White flour has a very fine particle size, so it really blocks things well. It was like handling baby powder or talc. I wouldn't be surprised if baby powder is just white flour with a little scent added.

Author: Ted Walther (Tedwalther)
Wednesday, December 06, 2006 - 2:48 pm
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A friend made soil out of household waste in a mere two days. But to do this, he wrecked a 1/2 horsepower garburetor processing it into a smooth sludge. Then he threw a handful of soil from his backyard into it. Two days later, it was soil. So, if you are willing to preprocess the inputs, you can get your output very quickly. Another input may have been heat; he left the bucket out in the hot New Jersey sun in one of their hottest summers, in the concrete jungle.

Author: vavrek (Vavrek)
Wednesday, September 27, 2006 - 6:39 pm
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this is a test message.

Author: Alexander Selkirk
Thursday, December 06, 2001 - 1:49 pm
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I live in Southern Arizona and there are no sawmills in this area. Consequently, sawdust is available only by the sack, at a high price. I have tried wood chips but the spaces between the chips are big enough to let flies get to the humanure. The flies then go immediately to the kitchen. Not good.
My land is Desert Scrub and there is very little natural vegetation. What would you recommend as a carbon material to cover the humanure? I don't have money to buy material from a landscaping store. It would have to be something I could get for free or very cheap. Otherwise I will have to go back to just burying the humanure in a pit, the way I have done for years. This is not a problem for the water supply as the water table is 350 feet down, but I would like to use the composted humanure in the soil.

Author: Rob
Wednesday, December 12, 2001 - 12:19 am
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If you've been burying your humanure for years, it might have decomposed to the point that it could now be dug up and used as a cover material. I've read a couple of postings on this board from people who use finished compost as a cover material for their current pile. Soil might also be an option, given a dearth of other materials.

Author: T.H. Culhane
Friday, April 12, 2002 - 3:39 pm
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Hi!

I follow this thread with interest!

I'm living proof that you don't need sawdust.

I've been using a homebuilt indoor composting toilet system in an apartment in the city of Los Angeles for a year and a half now and it works great. I use a five gallon bucket in a box with a toilet seat -- the Jenkins sawdust bucket toilet concept, but without the sawdust -- I use leaves and grass clippings and other green waste that I gather from the vegetation around the building as my cover material. At times I've gathered weeds from cracks in the pavement and I mix in shredded bills and junk mail. As long as the predominant cover material is "green" it all works great! When I can, I use aromatic green leaves and flowers which make the bathroom smell really nice.

I store the green material in a box above the toilet, made to look like the water tank of a conventional toilet.

Each week or so I dump the full 5 gallon bucket into an adjacent 45 gallon plastic trash bin (the kind on wheels. All of this goes on in a very tiny urban bathroom. The 45 gallon bucket was innoculated with garden soil and critters down where the depression is where the wheels are, and this was covered over with sticks to keep from compaction. Then I put two PVC tubes into the bin with holes drilled into the bottom and ran plastic aquarium air-stone tubing down down them, through which air is pumped every day by a dual 12V bait and tackle pump (the kind people use to keep fish buckets aearated on boats) powered by a 10 watt solar panel located on the roof of the apartment 2 stories up. The air is pumped into the bottom of the bin and percolates up all day.Thus no need to turn the pile. I introduced earthworms and sow bugs early on in the game and they are doing great, since their are always cool parts of the pile for them to retreat to. After dumping the mixture of leaves, grass and humanure from my 5 gallon bucket, I cover with an inch or so of the same green material.

I stuck a dryer type exhaust hose (the slinky plastic kind) into the top of the 45 gallon trash bin, sealed with silicon, and I run that into another 5 gallon paint bucket filled with garden mulch. Thus my entire system is indoors and there is no venting to the outside.

Except for the 15 minutes each week or so when I dump the 5 gallon bucket into the 45 gallon bucket, when a strange sweetish decomposition odor fills the bathroom -- easily flushed with a fan -- I have had no appreciable odor problems at all (the only odor really has been an occasional ammonia smell and once or twice a H2S smell, nothing objectional, nothing that ever initiates the gag reflex) and the only fly problems have occurred when I didn't maintain enough cover material. That was quickly and easily remedied.

Because I put all my kitchen waste in the same indoor compost bin, I did get a fruit fly problem that persisted for a time, but fruit flies are inoffensive.

After a year and a half of use I am just now about to "retire" the first 45 gallon compost bin, which I will wheel into a closet and seal up for a year to "cure". I will start on my second 45 gallon bin, and next year will use the cured compost around the bushes and trees around the apartment.

This urban experiment is proceeding very well and I have "The Humanure Handbook" to thank for all this! Me and my associates in the non-profit group "Mundo Iximche/Solar South Central" have also implemented this technique in both rural and urban Guatemala and South Central Los Angeles. We hope others will follow suit!

(Articles have been written on it in the Christian Science Monitor and the L.A. Times if anyone is interested in more:)

https://therainforest.com/solar/CSM.htm

https://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-000022817mar30.story?coll=la%2Dheadlines%2Dcalifornia

Hope this helps!

Author: Joe Jenkins
Saturday, April 13, 2002 - 1:42 pm
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Great information! Can you send me any photos? Would you let me post this system on the web? I'll be posting other owner built systems on the web soon.

How do you get a year's worth of material in one 45 gallon bin? Do you separate the urine? Is the compost heating up?

My address is Jenkins Publishing, PO Box 607, Grove City, PA 16127 (Ph: 814-786-8209)

Author: taliesin
Saturday, September 07, 2002 - 8:29 pm
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I work in a restaurant and we go through tons of coffee and tea, and I thought, hey, that stuff might make a great (free!) cover material for my "sawdust" toilet. So I started collecting it and am trying it out. And I found a tea company that is giving spent tea away. Any thoughts on this one? I also live in a place were there are just tons of pine needles. I know they don't break down very fast, but maybe the small amount used to cover the poo wouldn't hurt anything. The biggest reason that I have been looking for alternatives is that the materials listed for cover materials, i.e. peat moss, hardwood sawdust, rice hulls, aren't readily available. Peat moss is expensive, I've been told, hardwood sawdust is in large demand and the price is way up, and rice hulls, when available, are also expensive. The only readily available material I found is redwood sawdust at $27 a cubic yard, not a bad price, but the stuff may not be any better than the free pine needles that are everywhere around here in terms of degradation time. What does everyone else think?

Author: stephen
Sunday, September 08, 2002 - 8:48 pm
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Coffee and tea grounds will work great.
If you don't spend a whole lot on cover material,and it comes from a resource that would otherwise be waste, thats even better.

Author: admin
Tuesday, April 15, 2003 - 9:34 pm
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After Reading The Humanure Handbook, 2nd Edition, I set up a "sawdust" toilet in our house. I took out our water-powered stool and set the new unit in its place. I noted in my reading that you wondered a few times if shredded news print would work like sawdust. It seemed to me that it would, after all cellulose is cellulose.

Well, I have no good source of sawdust or news print, so I've been using junk mail and cereal boxes. I run the papers through a confetti-type paper shredder. This material has worked well for cover, and the compost bin seems to like it, too. The pile thawed a couple of weeks ago and has heated up to 100 degrees F now.

So now thanks to your guidance, a number of materials that were being treated as waste are now being used as true resources.

Happy Composting,

Author: lajalby
Saturday, April 26, 2003 - 3:46 pm
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Hi all, The above was from my husband, Dan. The book answered a lot of my concerns regarding using this wast system and is working very well. I was planting yarrow in my garden and noticed on the package lable that it said yarrow leaves will speed up composting. It says to use one yarrow leaf per wheelbarrow of wast. I can not find any other info about this idea. Anyone out there hear about this before. I am starting the yarrow from seed so it will be a while before I can test this idea. Bye for now, Lonnie

Author: Angela
Monday, February 23, 2004 - 1:46 pm
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Hi,

My parents and I have been reading the Humanure Handbook & are very excited about it. My dad is working on building a sawdust toilet. We read (in Chapter 8) that the sawdust needs to be deciduous & were wondering why. My dad does lots of woodworking, so there is lots of sawdust around here, but I guess not much of what he works with is deciduous. Do we need to find another source of cover material?

Thanks,
Angela

Author: Herb_Wis
Tuesday, February 24, 2004 - 10:57 am
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Almost none of the sawdust I use in my system comes from deciduous trees, but mostly from pine (coniferous) trees. It seems to work okay, but maybe takes somewhat longer to rot down. That's what comes to mind anyway. In the past I have also used peat. I also add yard rakings and garden waste to the humanure pile for covering purposes. It sure works good for me.

Author: emily rain
Monday, May 10, 2004 - 7:47 pm
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i just set up my sawdust system three days ago, and i'm deeply in love. i bought a big bag of peat moss to use as a cover material (i'd prefer sawdust, but wanted to get started right away and didn't take the time to source it...), and alas, the peat moss doesn't smell very good. is that weird or what? anyway, thanks to this thread i'm going to start adding pine needles, cedar duff, grass clippings, etc and maybe that will help. maybe i can get my dad to save his coffee grounds, too. :)

thanks, all!

Author: Marjorie Stein
Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - 1:08 pm
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Hello Everyone,
I live in rainy, usually snow-free California and am wondering if I need to tarp my compost piles in the wet months to keep out the rain.
Will the thermophilic activity be disturbed if it gets too wet? Any ideas or feedback?

Thanks!

Author: S. Infante
Monday, November 15, 2004 - 3:51 pm
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I know that leaf mold will work as a cover material, but will fallen leaves from this fall from desidious trees (cottonwoods) that have been run through a mulcher work? I did not want to wait untill next year to use them. I am in Albuquerque, and am having a hard time locating saw dust. I will eventually explore some lumbar mills in the northern part of the state, but I did not want to wait until I could go there. I just got 2 truck loads of fallen leaves from a neighbor who has cottonwoods. I am running them through a mulcher for cover material for my compost bin, and I was wondering about their viability as cover material for the "sawdust toilet"

Author: admin
Tuesday, November 16, 2004 - 12:09 am
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Fresh leaves will work for cover material, run through a mulcher or not. Mulched would be better.

Joe Jenkins.

Author: S. Infante
Tuesday, November 16, 2004 - 7:32 am
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Thanks, I am anxious to get started, as I mentioned.

I made a 2 bin system with the plans to make a third bin after my first got full, but now with all the leaves, I think I'll have to make a third bin just to hold all the cover material.

Author: Hugh
Wednesday, December 01, 2004 - 7:50 pm
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Anyone have an opinion on the best cover materials you've found to prevent a fruit fly infestation problem?

Cheers,

...Hugh
www.deadeasy.com

Author: Larry
Wednesday, December 01, 2004 - 9:13 pm
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Fruit flies have never been a problem in our Humanure Harvester because no food is deposited in the bucket. But the kitchen compost bucket is a strong magnet to the little beggars, so it is kept outside on the porch. In late summer fruit flies are common here, and kept under control with an old country trick: mix a tablespoon of honey and a tablespoon of lemon juice in a pint jar. Cover with yellow paper, secured with a rubber band, poke a few holes in the paper with a ball point pen. Flies crawl in, seldom get out. It's cheap and dead-easy.

Author: admin
Friday, December 03, 2004 - 10:34 pm
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We keep our kitchen compost in a covered bucket (about 1 or 2 gallon) before it's dumped on the compost pile. This prevents fruit flies. No problem with them in the toilet or the compost.

Author: Neal Pressley
Sunday, December 05, 2004 - 11:19 am
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Is leaf mold the same as leaves that have decomposed for some time? I mulch mine through the mower in the fall and pile them back on beds and trails (no grass here), and also use them in the compost. If they are gound up with mower are they now "leaf mold" or do they have to decompose (mold) some? Thanks.

Author: admin
Sunday, December 05, 2004 - 5:26 pm
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Leaf mould is simply leaves that have been left in a pile outside and are decomposing.

Author: Lynn A.
Tuesday, December 14, 2004 - 11:11 pm
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I'm very excited about setting up our humanure toilets, but in our area of the southwest the only sawdust I can find is from Douglas fir or mesquite. Will either/both of those work OK? Have started using the fir already and it smells nice, but don't know how it'll break down in the compost.

Author: admin
Tuesday, December 21, 2004 - 1:12 pm
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The fir should work, although it has a relatively low decomposition rate, as illustrated in the Humanure Handbook, 2nd edition, page 57 (Chapter 3). Douglas fir has a relative decomposition rate of 8.4, white pine at 22.2 and white oak at 49.1. The lower the number, the lower the rate of decomposition. Red cedar is at 3.9.

Author: Anonymous
Friday, April 08, 2005 - 9:14 pm
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We have been using cedar sawdust in our sawdust
toilet and have 3 full bins with minimal decomposition. When we began we thought that the
cedar would have aromatic benefits and did not
realize that it isn't going to rot because cedar doesn't rot! I am feeling very foolish and am wondering if there is some way to redeem the bins. Will it ever be safe to use as compost in
my garden?

Author: admin
Saturday, April 09, 2005 - 12:48 pm
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It wil probably take a lot longer to decompose than other sawdusts. Is it possible to allow it to just sit undisturbed for a couple years? That may be your best bet.

Joe Jenkins

Author: Anonymous
Wednesday, April 20, 2005 - 5:10 pm
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What about putting the humanure/cedar sawdust in a composter that claims compost in 14 days? If it is added in with kitchen scraps and grass clippings and other necessary ingredients maybe it would decompose?

Author: admin
Thursday, April 21, 2005 - 9:52 am
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You can't make finished compost in 14 days. Those claims are just gimmicks.

Joe Jenkins

Author: Ronald Mazerolle
Monday, April 25, 2005 - 10:03 am
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Sorry Joe, You can get a finished compost in 14 days but you have to have everything just right. The materials have to be right and the mixing times have to be right. A mixture of leaves and fresh grass clippings mixed every 3 days will give you a finished compost in about 2 weeks. You are right though that other materials, especially slow rotting things like cedar chips will take considerably longer. The drum or tumbler type composters achieve the quickest results, hence their fantastic claims but not all materials break down that fast.

Author: Joe Jenkins
Monday, April 25, 2005 - 7:00 pm
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Unaged compost is notorious for containing plant killing compounds, which is one reason why it's not commercially viable to try to make quick compost. Thermophilic compost made in large quantities sometimes takes months just to cool down, not to mention age. I have seen a pile of compost a year later still hot inside (that was fish material and ground shells in Nova Scotia - a pile about fifteen feet high). It takes months to break down lignins when composting woody materials, including sawdust - a job usually handled by fungi. Sure you can break down grass clippings in two weeks, but I wouldn't call that making compost in two weeks.

Joe

Author: Anonymous
Tuesday, June 28, 2005 - 9:12 pm
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Beet pulp has very absorbing abilities. Has anyone used this product? We have just started, I emptied the first bucket yesterday, and found it to be very wet. We had used a medium of straw and dirt and know this is not the way to go. Sigh , it worked in the dire emergency we had but I want to do this right.

Author: Anonymous
Friday, March 10, 2006 - 4:32 pm
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Has anyond tried the expresso grounds from Starbucks? They are quite fine and i wonder if they would allow enough air to penetrate.

John

Author: Rangdrol
Friday, March 10, 2006 - 7:06 pm
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Its been a year since the cedar sawdust person posted. Any news on how it is going?

Author: jockey23kids
Friday, March 10, 2006 - 8:40 pm
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I love coffee grounds from Starbucks. I am new to humanure composting - 2months. I have found this resource to be excellent because it's free and easy because there are 4 within a 20 minute drive. The best advantage is the reduction of odor. The sawdust I use is from newly cut trees and has a green smell that was making my younger son queasy, so the sawdust is mixed with coffee grounds. I live in the city. I don't compost my feces, because I don't have the room to let a compost cure.

Author: Anonymous
Wednesday, March 15, 2006 - 5:25 pm
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Compost needs to cure even if you don't compost your feces. Letting it cure is as much to let byproducts of the composting to disapate. The byproducts include compounds that can be hard on your plants. These byproducts are produced by all composting methods that heat up and have nothing to do with humanure. Humanure, even if it never reaches really high temperatures can be allowed extra curing time to make it safe to use. Either way, compost should be allowed to cure.

Author: linda
Friday, March 17, 2006 - 10:15 am
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anyone know how long coffee grounds can sit before losing their nitrogen value to plants and compost piles?

Author: Rangdrol
Friday, March 17, 2006 - 11:30 am
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This is a very good question for a student project.

Do you mean that you want to store them in a lidded pail for a few weeks or spread out in the open or what?

Anectdotal eveidence from the composters is a week or two in the pail has no effect on N "potency". This may be partly because N "Leaches" very well and each new layer helps to force down the N.
If you are concerned you are losing N via outgasing or not getting the biggest bang for your [star] buck, place some heavy carbon material, like say, oh, soiled sawdust or something, on top of the grounds when you pile them so the N gas gets "Perked" by the cover layers micro-critters.


One bit of amature science. It has been demonstrated that the average used coffee grounds are pH neutral, contrary to folk lore. Hot water it seems is a nearly perfect solvent for the acids in the roasted bean.

J.R.

Author: jockey23kids
Saturday, March 18, 2006 - 4:21 pm
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I didn't mean to give the impression that I wouldn't let my compost cure at all. Again, I live in a very urban environment and space is an issue. I was thinking of saving water, recycling and cutting the curing time in half. Please help me tweak this concept. If you don't compost feces isn't the curing time less? It's 2 years if you use feces, so if I let it sit a year with just urine wouldn't this be long enough?

Author: Anonymous
Sunday, March 19, 2006 - 12:02 pm
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actually with feces the curing time is only a year if you feel it reached adequate temperatures. That is curing time after you stop adding new material. For instance, our compost bins are small as we live in an appartment and are using trash bins with holes on the patio. Once the bin fills up we transport it up to some property we own, dump the bin there cover the pile and let it cure for a year.

The pathogens are killed by the high temp composting that takes place in the bin and the curing time of a year lets the plant damaging compounds disapate.

The recomendation of an extra year of composting is if you don't think your compost heated up enough, the extra year will take care of any pathogens that were left over.

I'm not too worried about our compost heating up. Two buckets into the bin and we are usually into the 130's range. We compost using sawdust and shredded junk mail in the toilet bucket, and leaves, hay, palm fronds etc as cover out in the bins. We put urine, feces, toilet paper, food scraps, cooking oil, shredded cerial boxes, etc all right into the buckets.

We are doing this in Florida so we don't have to worry too much about cold weather freezing our compost. I suspect that when we go up to the property to use some of our finished compost, we won't find much of a pile left. It will likely have disintegrated into a nice firtle patch of ground and weeds will have taken over.

Sorry I won't post my user name or e-mail when I discribe our composting technique. So far no one has had anything to complain about at the appartments but I'm sure if someone stumbled onto what we were really doing, they'd freek out.

Author: Joe Jenkins
Sunday, March 19, 2006 - 8:20 pm
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Sounds like you're doing some valuable pioneering research that could have important global implications one of these days.

Author: Rangdrol
Thursday, March 23, 2006 - 10:33 am
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Hi Linda.
I did assign the problem to my "Ace" science student. If you find any information would you please let me know?
I also asked in the composters forum. So far nobody seems to know.

Author: Giles McNair
Thursday, March 23, 2006 - 11:58 am
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Can anyone help. We have been running a compost toilet for about 8 months now. We use sawdust as an initial cover material in a dustbin, then empty it into a pallet-made compost deposit and cover it in old straw. The breakdown seems very slow and we have now have two full 4 ft by 4 ft compost deposits. We are planning to build an 2 deposit system (where you use a toilet for a year, and then seal it, whilst you use the other) into our house but don´t want to end up with two toilets full after eight months...and no where to poo! Are we doing something wrong?...or not doing something we should be?
Any help much appreciated.

Author: TCLynx
Thursday, March 23, 2006 - 8:40 pm
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Giles,
Some more information is needed before people will be able to help much.
How many people using the system? (4' by 4' bins may be too small for a family of 5
Where are you (what climate)?
What all are you putting in the system (everything you would normally put in a toilet plus kitchen scraps and cover material or just poo and cover material)? see poo and cover alone do not compost as well as when other stuff is mixed in, urine helps cover material break down.

Author: Stephen
Thursday, March 23, 2006 - 11:55 pm
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Probably too much sawdust and straw with not enough moisture.

Author: Anonymous
Friday, March 24, 2006 - 2:05 pm
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The smaller the compost bin, the larger the ratio of surface area compaired to contents. Which means that there is more cover material compaired to contents so the bin therefore fills up quicker with a smaller amount of buckets.

Larger bin allows for somewhat lower cover material ratio and hence will not fill up as quickly.

Author: Rangdrol
Wednesday, May 10, 2006 - 9:07 pm
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The coffee grounds question: How long does it take for coffee grounds to give up their Nitrogen.

It was a suprise to find out that the coffee producers dont like this question. Perhaps the fear "Tree huggers" or some rot. In any case when contacted they chose not to comment - draw your own conclusions I guess. Some "Expert" composters got down right hostile about it but had no answers.
A simple and humble student test has been devised to find an answer. Grounds in a container VS grounds in a sealed container are sitting on a shelf until we resume in the Fall and they can be tested for Nitrogen.

Along the way it was discovered that our Nitrogen cycle - perhaps THE most important of the elemental cycles - is not only getting little attention, it is getting intentionaly ignored by the US government. It seems some very powerful people dont like this subject.
I encourage all you who wish to step lightly on the Earth to read up on the subject. Woods Hole has a nice starting place.
https://www.whrc.org/policy/global_nitrogen.htm

If anyone finds any relevant info please post.

Thanks
J.R.

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