Compost not hot

The International Compost Sanitation Forum and Message Board: Humanure Composting Around the World: Compost not hot
Author: Susan Fontaine
Sunday, July 07, 2002 - 11:00 am
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My husband and I started using our sawdust toilet 6 weeks ago. The compost pile is only 80 degrees F. (60 degrees F outdoor today) I built a compost trial heap early last fall out of partially rotted hay, eel grass, and horse manure. I didn't expect too much because of cold winters but when I turned it 2 days ago the manure looks fresh as the day it was born. There is no decomposition visible and it doesn't smell. I don't want to screw up my humanure pile.

We are following the humanure book instructions (except we separated urine for the first few weeks). I am using old hay as cover. It is black and slimey in areas. The sawdust is kept outdoors and is damp. The heap looks high enough to my uneducated eye to have started heating. The bin is built of wooden pallets. The weather has been cool and wet but a friend's compost is nice and hot. I am taking high levels of antibiotics (doxycycline). Could that poison a pile? Is it just too early? Not enough air because hay is black/slimey? I am adding coffee grounds with filters and veg scraps.

thank you

Author: joe
Monday, July 08, 2002 - 9:46 am
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Why did you separate the urine? That's exactly what the Humanure Handbook says not to do. What else are you separating out?

Author: Susan Fontaine
Friday, July 19, 2002 - 8:12 am
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Would separating out the urine cause the pile to not heat properly? The main reason for the separation is lack of cooperation from my spouse. We are including some of the urine now but not all. Would urine poured onto the pile from a chamber pot have the same effect as it being mixed in the sawdust toilet? I also include all food scraps except meat and dairy (I know you say they can be included) and coffee grounds with bleached filters. For everything else the book was followed. I started turning the pile once a week and adding green weeds to try to increase oxygen and the pile is heating now but is still less than 100 degrees. Please let me know if you think the primary problem is urine separation and whether pouring the chamber pot on the pile would work ok.

thanks
Susan

Author: joe
Friday, July 19, 2002 - 5:47 pm
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Pouring the chamber pot on the pile would help.

Author: Susan Fontaine
Monday, July 29, 2002 - 12:38 pm
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Thank you for all of the help. We are now putting all urine and feces into the sawdust toilet and spreading all food scraps around the top of the compost heap and covering everything with fluffed up hay. It still isn't heating.

I don't think I am building my compost heap correctly. When I follow the humanure book's instructions for dumping the toilet exactly I end up with a pile that is mostly dry hay on the outside edges with a center of almost nothing but sawdust sludge. Here are the steps I am following: Scrape away the hay (cover material)to make a depression in the center of the compost heap. Dump toilet contents in center. Rinse bucket with water and a bit of ok soap. Pour soapy water onto compost. Cover whole heap with fluffed up hay so the heap is flat again.

Should there be a (small?) layer of bulk cover material between each sawdust sludge deposit to allow air entry? Should I be covering the toilet contents with more sawdust after I dump it in the compost or is the hay sufficient?

Thanks

Author: maddy
Monday, July 29, 2002 - 7:17 pm
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Susan, my bin heated up right from the get-go....about 3 days after my first "deposit" I could see a ring of damp straw at the top of the heap (from steam, I presume). And I could feel the heat when I pulled back the straw in the center to make another deposit.

1)I started with 18 inches of mixed straw/chicken poop, leaves, hay, and fine wood shavings.
2)I poured the first deposit into the center of this.
3)I added some fine cover material (mixed leaves, wood shavings, chicken poop over the top, then covered this with a layer of straw.
4)Next deposit, I pulled the straw away from the center in all directions, dumped the bucket, then added fresh fine cover material and then fresh straw over this.

I am not pulling the old straw back over the deposit, I am adding new each time.

Your post makes it sound like you are pulling the hay away, dumping, then pulling the same hay back over. I think if you don't cover each deposit with fresh cover material, your pile might get too wet and turn anaerobic.
Hope this helps!
maddy

p.s. I am using fine sawdust obtained by wetting woodstove pellets, and I am mixing this sawdust with some peatmoss, for my bucket cover material. So it goes into the bucket already damp...just enough to make the pellets fall apart. It is hard to wet peat moss, so I have a bucketfull soaking ahead of time, just add a bit of this to my damp sawdust and mix.
I don't have access to large quantities of sawdust, but these bags of pellets are cheap, and when you wet it it really swells up!

Joe, if you read this, if you used fresh sawdust instead of "well-rotted" sawdust, would you let the compost work for an extra year, or does freash sawdust compost fast enough for a one year cycle?

Author: Joe
Tuesday, July 30, 2002 - 11:48 am
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Fresh (raw) sawdust composts quite readily, actually. I just had a load dumped last year here at home and after a couple of days I stuck a 20" thermometer into it and it was above 120 degrees F inside the sawdust pile. It takes a long time to break down enough for plant (soil) use, but it will be good enough for your garden after a year or two in a compost pile. The thermophiles seem to really like plant sap, so freshly ground plants, such as sawn trees or even chipped brush (also weeds, grass clippings, etc.) seem to really encourage thermophilic populations.

Author: Maddy
Wednesday, July 31, 2002 - 4:21 pm
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thanks Joe, I REALLY like my new system...I decided to rename my sawdust buckets "earth-buckets", it doesn't make people squirm as much, hahaha...

Author: Anonymous
Thursday, August 01, 2002 - 8:13 am
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I think that is a good name Maddy. In recycling that's where they're going is back to the earth.

Author: Joe
Thursday, August 01, 2002 - 9:03 am
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It's a lot better than "shit buckets," which is what we once called them. I now call them "compost buckets." "Earth buckets" sounds good too.

Author: Susan Fontaine
Sunday, August 04, 2002 - 6:35 pm
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Thanks Everyone. My compost is about 103 degrees F now! Better but still not great. I am intrigued that the sawdust alone should go thermophillic. My sawdust piles are only around 65 degrees but they might not be big enough to get hot. My sawdust is spruce. Spruce is almost as rot resistant as cedar. Joe - is spruce anti-bacteria?

I didn't give my compost as good a start as Maddy gave hers. I just put down a bunch of old hay some of which was slimy. I was thinking of it as an absorption layer not an air adding layer. I guess it should serve both purposes? I tried to fix this by tossing the pile with lots of hay and big weeds and then treating it as a new bottom layer. (This compost is destined for a flower not vegetable patch.) I am also not using any fine cover material. Maybe I can chop up some weeds with a machete otherwise I will just have to use more sawdust. The ugly weeds now have pretty flowers so I stopped adding them but the bacteria definitely seemed to like them.

I stopped leaving a layer of hay between deposits and that also seems to encourage heating. I am thinking of the hay now as an outer layer to protect the hot inner core without denying it air and water. I thought back-to-back deposits would not get enough air hence the layer of hay between them. The heap is heating better without it and is easier to manage, although it is getting high quickly...

I was thinking of my sawdust toilet as an indoor outhouse or human litter box. Earth bucket is definitely going to replace shit bucket as the preferred name.

Author: mark skelding
Tuesday, April 29, 2003 - 6:49 pm
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hi everyone

compost novice online!!

i was imagining a system which combines worms and compost using domestic refuse wheely bins as soil buckets inside the toilet box [accessible through trapdoor in wall]. the worms would be in this bin.

since they don't like urine, i was going to put holes in the bottom to drain urine into a pipe system that would also carry the water from the bathroom handbasin. this mixture will go across garden in pipes to be distributed [subsurface] into a large, deep bed where we will grow banana trees.

the wheely bins will be dragged across garden to a "compost parking lot" where there will also be access to the ground below [via the holes in the bottom of the bins] so that the worms can come and go.

the logic for this is that we live in a steep, high rainfall, clay soil area [coromandel, new zealand] and this seemed a solution that would work best. any thoughts anyone - songlines@xtra.co.nz?
thanks
mark

Author: admin
Saturday, May 03, 2003 - 2:00 pm
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Don't know about the system you envision, but I am curious about New Zealand and am thinking about traveling there to check it out. Seems like a progressive country. Can foreigners like someone from Pennsylvania, USA, buy land there?

Author: Joe W
Friday, May 30, 2003 - 12:18 pm
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Grass clippings will heat any compost pile, just put fresh grass clippings with your hay.

Author: Edith
Monday, July 28, 2003 - 9:44 pm
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Also from New Zealand. Yes, Joe "foreigners" may buy land here, and many do. (At least we don't term them "aliens" when entering the country)! There's lots of interest here in alternative approaches, and the zero waste group is very active, but again mainstream folk aren't about to change too quickly. There is a lot of interest too in using worms for remediation purposes, but the most recent results I heard of (a trial in treating sewage sludge held in the Rodney district north of Auckland) was singularly unsuccessful in reducing pathogen levels. In fact I thought the presenter was very brave given that her results did not validate her expectations. From the book (the Humanure one, not the bible one) I can only conclude that its the thermophilic process that makes the difference, but would value your opinion.
Thanks, Edith

Author: Robert Krueger
Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 8:16 pm
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HI
I wanted to suggest you try waste vegetable oil as a way of increasing temperature of your pile. I just started a new conversation regarding sparking a compost pile into the thermophilic range. I have been composting our humanure for 3.5 years and have consistently seen results by using used waste vegetable oils from resturants. We use it and have large quantities due to our use of veggie oils in our diesel vehicles. I usually add 2-3 gallons to the pile and usually see the temp jump into the 105+ range immediately like in a day or two.
Our piles also become very hot (155-160 degrees) and stay this way for over 2 months. I would really like to know and understand why this happens...anyone have similar experiences?

Author: Mary Metcalf
Saturday, May 14, 2005 - 5:38 pm
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Here in Vermont I'm a little puzzled and discouraged that my compost pile isn't heating up more with the warmer spring temps...Since I started my sawdust toilet/compost bin system Nov. 2004 I've been measuring the temperature of my compost pile with a Reotemp thermometer every time I empty my buckets (about every 10 days unless I'm away). Yesterday's temps were 72 degrees F (at the top) and 62 degrees F (at about 16" depth) vs. 66 degrees and 85 degrees F at 16-18" depth on April 30 and April 11, respectively...? I thought, what can possibly be contributing to a DROP in temps now that spring is here? After some headscratching all I can come up with is that maybe the stuff I'm using to clean my buckets--a few-to-several sprays of diluted Thieves Household Cleaner (mfg. by Young Living Essential Oils, Utah), containing pure essential oils of clove, lemon, cinnamon bark, eucalyptus, and rosemary and I realize, purported to have 99.6% microbial kill--could be having an adverse affect on the microbial life of the pile...?? To me, it seems that the small amt. of diluted liquid I add as rinsewater wouldn't impact it that much...? I welcome any feedback, suggestions, tips, as well as anyone's experience with using this product in this way. Many thanks!

Author: admin
Tuesday, May 17, 2005 - 11:36 am
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Try switching to standard biodegrabable dish soap to clean your buckets. Also, are you including all of your urine, kitchen scraps, etc. in your compost pile? (you should be) Are you using wood shavings or chips for cover material? (you should not be - you should use sawdust or something like that that will break down easily). Make some adjustments and see what happens. Give it some time - it's still pretty early in the spring and my guess is that your pile was frozen over the winter.

Joe Jenkins

Author: Stephen
Wednesday, May 18, 2005 - 11:33 pm
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Yes, all of your kitchen scraps help. And you would be suprised at how much odor is disipated after a water scrub and a few days of airing out.

Author: TCLynx
Tuesday, January 03, 2006 - 11:30 am
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Another think I saw mentioned above with the first poster having trouble getting pile to heat up, turning. Turning the pile may allow some air in but it will also cool things back off. A continuous pile does not need turning!!!!!!! The added cover material, sawdust, hay, straw, weeds, etc allows air in. If the bucket contents are more like sludge, perhaps more fine cover material is needed. (also if the sawdust was from kiln dried wood, it will not be as effective.)

There was also mention about trying out composting horse manure and that it still looks the same. If it was dried out, that is probably why it didn't compost well. Compost requires a mixture of ingredients to get a good cook going.

Good luck!

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