Composting with wood chips

The International Compost Sanitation Forum and Message Board: Humanure Composting Around the World: Composting with wood chips
Author: Ted Walther (Tedwalther)
Wednesday, December 06, 2006 - 2:56 pm
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After trying cedar sawdust for several months, I can say that I don't like it. It will do in a pinch, but it does not block all odor. If you have a separate room to put your composting toilet in, cedar sawdust may be acceptable.

Author: TCLynx (Tclynx)
Thursday, August 24, 2006 - 9:23 pm
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We just had to take down a couple of big old basswood trees that were threatening to fall. The tree service grinds up anything small enough to fit into the hopper. (In this case anything about 6" or less.) All the leaves and small branches get ground up too.

Anyway, now we have a huge pile of fresh wood chips mixed with leaves. It started heating up imediately and the smell is pretty strong. Basswood leaves don't smell very nice when you have a bunch of green stuff cut down. I'm certain I could get these wood chips composting rather well but I'd need something else to cover the odor.

Author: John Smith (John)
Tuesday, August 22, 2006 - 9:47 am
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Rangdrol asks...

"We are also interseted in knowing if anyone is doing any experiments with metal or toxin fixation.
We are designing a test bed and would like to know what others have found efficatious."

I respond...

Google "Rufus Chaney" . He has performed these scientific studies.

Author: Rangdrol
Thursday, March 09, 2006 - 5:13 pm
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We are currently running experiments on wood chip composting.

We would like to know if other folks have been composting humanure with wood chips and if so what has been the experience.

We are also interseted in knowing if anyone is doing any experiments with metal or toxin fixation.
We are designing a test bed and would like to know what others have found efficatious.

Author: Rangdrol
Friday, March 10, 2006 - 7:55 pm
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The wood chip system.
1. Our BIG piles of wood chips get split into compost bins, 5 of pallet size because we have a stack of them.
2. Humanure from our composting toilet goes in to the chips in bin #1 the first year, #2 the second year and so on. WOODCHIPS! for cover on the piles.
3. 3 to 5 years later the compost gets removed to the tree seedling bed next to the bins. Bin #1 starts over etc etc
4. Any uncomposted chips get dried [because we have the dryer parts] and burned as heating fuel in the wood stove we burn WOODCHIPS! in, some held back as innoculant.
5. "Black water" from the bathroom sink and shower go to the subsurface of the seedling bed [made of gravle sand char shell and WOODCHIPS!].
6. Replant the mountain with the seedlings.
7. Finish writing 101 uses for WOODCHIPS!

We have had woodchips on the ground in piles for 3 years, adding each year. We were all gungho to go check them and then we got 7 more inches of snow Wednsday. The compost slowly but they do compost.

We figure even if our humanure pile "fails" we get another bite at the apple so to speak with the chips.
The chips take so long most pathogens will expire and the results go to a non food crop.

We will try to grow a green cover crop on the seedling beds that can be used in the humanure or chips piles.

The humanure vault is half done, the drain tiles are buried and the foundations are literaly set in stone so we are going for it. If we had read Joe's book first we would have designed the vault a little bit bigger so we would be able to reduce the number of interactions at the service end.

So thats the WOODCHIP! part.

Author: Anonymous
Saturday, March 11, 2006 - 1:20 am
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If you want to get your woodchips to compost a little faster, add the urine to them.

Author: Rangdrol
Saturday, March 11, 2006 - 3:50 pm
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The urine problem.

The vault sits on top of drinking water. We can not afford even a single leak. We are draining off almost all the liquids from our pile to a Tazmanian evaporator.
We did consider digging a new line all the way down to the chips for about 5 seconds.
We are just too far along in the building and it would present a new risk we have not had time to look at enough.

We are kind of stuck.
We need the urine to move down the pile to get it cooking so we cant seperate it before it goes into the vault but we cant afford the risk of liquid accumulation in the vault.

Have you tried composting chips?

I thought we might make some kind of sign for the chips to invite people to whizz on them.

The small test piles I put urine on did not seem to be any different than the others last year but they are not big enough I think to hold the urine long enough. As soon as the snow melts I will check them again.

The other thing about the chip ideas is this study that says Tamaracks suck up heavy metals and toxins. The seedlings we are growing are Tamaracks. Our 3 and 4 year old seedlings are doing well but the survival rate is so low we needed a big bed to grow hundreds at a time.

Author: TCLynx
Saturday, March 11, 2006 - 8:46 pm
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I've never tried to compost just wood chips, usually want them as mulch so don't want them to break down that fast.

The recomendation for the urine helping speed composting comes from when a friend said he used urine to rot away an old tree stump he needed to get rid of. Each day he would save a bottle of urine and on the way out to the mailbox each day he would pour that bottle on the stump. Of course he was in Florida so the rotting could continue all year. It was far cheeper than trying to have the stump dug out and far quicker than letting it rot on it's own.

What is a Tazmanian evaporator anyway? Could you collect urine from this thing and use it before it evaporates?

Author: Rangdrol
Sunday, March 12, 2006 - 12:00 pm
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Hi TCLynx,
Is that a penguine handle?

The Tazmainian government did research into composting humanure 6 ways to Sunday for its high mountain remote camps that had been pit toilet spots. They had this cool Robbie the Robot thing going. I can try to find the article if you want it. Anyway they put out some money to study evaporation and came up with a very cute little unit but did some real science on the way. They did not want to pollute but packing out the volume was not practicle.

The basic design parts are a zigzag cotton web wick over a rack in a "kitty Litter" pan. We worked out a better super structure for our build and increased the evaporative surface area and a few other minor things.

We live on the side of a mountain so we share enviromental conditions as well as ideals.


If we could just figure out how to collect the volatiles that go up the vent pipe with a passive design we would be very happy with it.

Author: TCLynx
Wednesday, March 15, 2006 - 5:31 pm
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Not sure what a penguine handle is?

Lynx was a CB handle of mine a long time ago but the screenname was already taken when I got online back in the earily 90s so I added the TC to the front of it. TC standing for Traverse City.

Author: Rangdrol
Thursday, March 16, 2006 - 6:19 pm
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The "penguinization" of cyberspace relates to the Linux O.S. TCLynx has a double double O.S. O.S. meaning ;)

I am going to meet with my Tribal "Woodchip connection" Saturday.
The chipper runs about $20K so he is my new best buddie! I may be washing his car for life.

He is a mechanical guy and it may be possible to use a screen to sift out sawdust from the chips as they are "chipped" so that the sawdust could be used in the vault.

We got a foot more snow so we are still waiting to check our piles.

Author: TCLynx
Sunday, March 19, 2006 - 12:15 pm
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Ok, I'm much of a hacker and haven't gone the way of Linux though I'm sure it is better than the others. Think more of Lynx the cat.

Anyway, good luck on the chips and sawdust. Even if the wood chips don't compost much I'm sure they will be useful as mulch for your seedlings.

Author: Rangdrol
Sunday, April 02, 2006 - 1:18 pm
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We checked the experimental chip piles and took pictures if anyone else is interested in them.
The chips on the edges and bottom - in direct contact with the soil - are the ones that actually are breaking down after 3 years! The small chips are now crumbly brown punk-like and earthy smelling as if fungus has consumed them.
The chips just below the surface of the piles and down in the middle show no visible sign of difference between year 1,2 and 3.
There is some fine particle debris we hope are a sign of compost to come.

We aquired a stack of pallets to start our bins and a windfall of 2 yards of composting material from the bottom of a goat shed to kick the piles with and start our seedlings.

We are going to try the bucket method with different mix ratios of woodchips until the vault is done to try to find an ideal mix. We have a seat that fits a bucket and we found a local source of some saw dust.

Well begun is half done we hope.

Author: Joe Jenkins
Sunday, April 02, 2006 - 10:32 pm
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You can eliminate the chips entirely from the bucket method system and just use sawdust if you want to achieve complete breakdown of the organic material in a reasonable time.

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