Worms

The International Compost Sanitation Forum and Message Board: Humanure Composting Around the World: Worms
Author: Cianoy (Cianoy)
Wednesday, February 02, 2011 - 8:05 am
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Hi! I'm very interested in this thread so I'm reviving it. ;-)

I love reading stories of successful vermicomposting of humanure.

Author: gina wuppermann (Gina)
Tuesday, May 20, 2008 - 1:26 am
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i should add as well, that if anyone wants to try humanuring worms, then species distinction is important.

there are only about 4-6 species of composting worm that will demolish fresh organic material very quickly, the most common being eisenia foetida.

if you have different species to the true composting worms, such as allolobophora or lumbricus, then please compost your organic material first before feeding to the worms. this is because these worms prefer decayed as opposed to decaying matter.

also bear in mind that salt conditions will drive worms out (or kill them), ditto ammonia, worms drown, so drainage is important, worms need an aerated bedding - turning the bed prior to feeding every few days gently by hand will suffice, worms will eat anything small and mushy however it is the ratio that matters ie feeding only citrus will make their environment too acidic and they will either run away or die (pH of 6-7 is ideal), aged fibrous material makes good bedding but is low on nutrition for compost worms.

cheers

Author: gina wuppermann (Gina)
Tuesday, May 20, 2008 - 1:17 am
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hi,
quick update:

the poo has been eaten out by worms....and duh, silly me, because i forgot to flyscreen the bed (which we usually do), also eaten by maggots! i have now covered the bed with both cloth and flyscreen so that at least the maggots will become more worm food.

in any case, today i am going to repeat with a different bed, cover with flyscreen to keep out the flies, and see how the worms go without the help of our flying friends.

the plants being watered with diluted fresh urine are flowering madly (in comparison to those that just receive water).

now if i can just figure out how to introduce molybdenum without resorting to a chemical organic fertiliser i will be growing chemical free tomatoes from urine!

cheers

Author: Joe Jenkins (Joe)
Sunday, May 18, 2008 - 12:33 pm
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Gina - thanks for the info and do keep us updated.

Author: gina wuppermann (Gina)
Saturday, May 17, 2008 - 5:26 pm
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was looking for some other info and came across this topic so will add my two piastres worth (from cairo, egypt!).

we have successfully set up eisenia introduced from sub-tropical australian climate in beds made from "waste" agriculture materials. because of the heat, the beds were constructed from either brick, wood or a mixture with holed polystyrene foam, and lined with left-over shade cloth, double thickness. so far minimal worm walk out and no deaths. the initial bedding was a mixture of aged stabled horse manure (lots of sawdust but the ammonia had dissipated), washed cow manure (salt washed out), rabbit poo (no worm medicine - actually all the manures were checked for medicines), legume cuttings, cocopeat and lots of shredded paper. food was a bit of organic kitchen waste and rabbit poo. the rabbit poo was a problem because it was too fresh (too much ammonia) so we waited until it had dried before adding again.

last week i started separating urine and faeces - urine goes diluted to the plants and faeces into a compost pile with tonnes of shredded paper and cardboard. i also gave one worm bed one 500g pile of excrement wrapped in several layers of paper. the bed has been watered irregularly and kept covered with more damp newspaper. the worms moved straight into the poo. the bed hasn't been turned.

i will let you know how long it takes the eisenia to eat the faeces. as it is my own i am not worried about handling it (the other researchers are having a hard time with the experiment!)

joe - your red worms, if they survive at the bottom of your pile, are probably not eisenia but rather lumbricus. eisenia will tolerate 40 degrees celsius soil temperature, although will not reproduce and won't eat much, and will die at below 7 degrees celsius (sorry i don't know the farenheit equivalent). lumbricus would be more capable of tolerating your climate zone. and yes, they really do love humanure - i thought at first the faeces might generate too much heat and be a little too rich, however they dived into it. either suicidal maniacs or we should start calling them humanure worms instead of manure worms.

Author: ross mcleod (Ross)
Wednesday, January 16, 2008 - 3:59 pm
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I've just been made aware of this - A backyard wet composting/vermiculture/grey and blackwater processing system that can be retro fitted to your old septic......sublime, but expensive. I got quoted $4,550 Aussie dollars for a retro fit.

Being a committed DIY'er I'm looking for ways to get around this especially since it is so simple, but perhaps I should start a different thread for such.

https://www.wormfarm.com.au/index.php

I'm a complete newbie to the humanure concept so forgive me if this is all old news, but I couldn't find anything here about these systems and wanted to share.

:-)

Author: TCLynx (Tclynx)
Wednesday, November 01, 2006 - 8:16 pm
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Hay Shawn,
Good luck with your trial. I'm renting too and regret not haveing a normal sized compost bin but at least I have a small ground floor pattio and we are composting in large holey plastic trash bins. There are some added challenges to small space composting since it is trickier to keep the smelly stuff to the center and adequately surrounded by cover. Also leakage from the bins has been an issue since most cover materials are not super fast absorbing, especially when dumping the first couple of buckets. I found that a bucket full of some finished compost in the bottom of the bin before adding the thick cover material layer seems to have helped.
(we do have some land we dump the full bins so the compost can age.)
Worms get into the pile and do their work after the compost cools some. I can't see separating the urine out since it causes the compost to heat up so well.

Author: shawn waggener (711shamn)
Wednesday, October 25, 2006 - 5:26 pm
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I have been using a sun-mar toilet and it is a pain to get it to break up the "boli" (plural for bolus?), aka, "turds". Even if using huge wood chips i get the "shake n bake" effect as mentioned above. I think it'd be easier to just use a bucket.
Now, I am renting and don't have my toilet. I can't have a compost pile outdoors either. We are vermicomposting kitchen scraps, and want to try worms with humanure. This list is the ONLY thing on the whole web I could find on this topic - THANK YOU, CRAPTISTA and others!
I think my plan will be as follows:
1. Keep kitchen scrap tub separate.
2. Use coir, newpaper, and bioactivator in poo buckets, and don't pee in them.
3. Find the most ginormous "rubbermaid" type tub I can find, aerate w/holes & bug netting.
4. Spread thin layer of poo in tub, and cover with adequate to excessive carbon layer.
5. Take worms from kitchen tub and place on top of carbon layer.
6. Use just about any non-acidic liquid besides pee (ammonia) to moisten as necessary.
7. If worms fail to thrive, perhaps add a little kitchen scraps so they don't completely die, until they figure out poop tastes delicious (to them).
8. It might depend on the human pooper's diet. They would probably respond completely differently to raw vegan poo versus junk food meat eater turds.
9. Wish me luck!

Author: Ghia
Friday, August 31, 2001 - 1:57 pm
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Has anyone tried combining humanure composting methods with vermicomposting? I'm still in the start-up phase and I'm researching as many options as possible. Thanks!

Author: Stephen
Sunday, September 02, 2001 - 7:38 am
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I have been thinking about it. I would like to see how fast and efficient worms are compared to the pile. Normal vermiculture is said to produce a material 10 times more nutrient.
I'm anxious to hear any facts or ideas.

Author: Joe
Wednesday, September 05, 2001 - 5:16 pm
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Vermicomposting is actually a stage of humanure composting that happens naturally when there is a soil interface at the bottom of the compost pile.

Author: Stephen
Thursday, September 06, 2001 - 12:28 am
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Could worms tolerate the temperature of the thermophilic stage? Or would it be recommended to add worms to a smaller bin/heap where the thermophilic stage couldn't occur?

Author: Retreatgal
Tuesday, October 16, 2001 - 9:09 am
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Worms do not like heat as it kills them. If the compost is in contact with the soil the worm would tend to withdraw into the cooler soil.

Manure is fed to worms but it is applied to worm bins in a much thinner thickness than that required to compost manure. Perhaps you could feed the manure to the worms after composting.

https://globalpermaculture.50megs.com/

Author: vere scott
Tuesday, October 23, 2001 - 1:19 pm
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Vermicomposting humanure, containerized, indoors.

I have successfully vermicomposted hunanure (no urine content) only twice. I am trying to understand how to achieve more consistent and predictable success. I am posting this description of my experiences in the hope that someone can help by recounting their experiences and offering suggestions.

I understand that red worms (Eisenia foetida) are part of the Clivus Multrum process. Red worms are also called manure worms for a good reason.

I have failed, however, at vermicomposting cat litter (pelleted newspaper litter + cat feces and urine) moistened with water to an adequate level for red worms. The red worms almost immediately die and turn to "mush". Carnivore feces are chemically different from herbivore and omnivore feces. I suspect it is a lower pH and/or salt content of cat feces and urine that is at least part of the problem with worm survival.

I don't fully understand what has gone wrong in the times I have failed with humanure. I believe the following are critical factors:

1) Red worms apparently need a gradual transition from one food source to another. Just tranferring red worms from a food waste vermicompost bin into a humanure bin is a recipe for failure. The shock is too great apparently. For some reason (noxious gases, pH, other chemicals?) I've found the worms die almost immediately and their bodies disconcertedly turn to "mush".

2) Aeration: This is related to the possibly noxious gases from humanure in a closed container that has inadequate aeration. I use 37 L Rubbermaid Roughneck totes (No. 2214) with about 50 1/8-inch holes drilled in the bottom and a 2 1/2-inch diameter plastic soffit vent inserted in a hole cut in the centre of the lid. (37 L is the larger size I've found I can comfortably lift when full.) This ventilation has proved adequate aeration for food waste vermicomposting.

Since my most recent failure of the worms to survive when added to humanure, for improved aeration, I have now added 10 1/4-inch holes (three in each side and two on either end) cut into the tote's sides just below its top rim. I am currently testing this.

I expect that if someone with environmental engineer training or inclination were to apply him/herself to the ventilation/aeration problem in containerized vermicomposting, the ventilation required for a given size and shape of vermicomposting bin could be quantified and then standardized. This is routinely done by agricultural engineers when calculating, for example, ventilation requirements for housing for the hog and chicken industry.

3) Related to inadequate aeration is the anaerobic nature of humanure stored in closed, unventilated, non-aerated pails (I use 11 L high density polyethylene pails) for long periods of time. Over the course of the year I use about 22 (11 L) pails. Once full, I usually store them indoors in my basement overwinter.

(I usually compost the humanure outdoors and overwinter, layered with copious amounts of dry leaves, kept moist with urine in a 64 cubic foot (4-feet on a side) New Zealand design compost box. I consider it mature/finished after it has composted outdoors over one summer and two winters.)

If the humanure from these pails is placed in a vermicomposting container and worms added immediately the worms do not survive. Presumably this is because of the anaerobic conditions that have developed from lengthy storage in closed containers.

The two times I have succeeded in vermicomposting humanure have been a surprise to me. I had added the worms and they all seemed to die, so I forgot about them. On checking the container (the first time after about six months; the second time after only one month) I found the worms had not only survived but thrived and completely processed the whole 37 L of humanure so that it was indistinguishable in appearance from vermicomposted food waste. So, not unexpectedly, time is required for adaptation to a change in food source. Obviously there is natural selection going on in the transition: some survive, some don't. So the trick is to keep the vermicompost worms adapted to food waste separate from the worms adapted to humanure. This should eliminate the transitional adaptation problems.

Author: Vere Scott
Tuesday, October 23, 2001 - 2:02 pm
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Vermicomposting humanure

I neglected to mention that as a cover material in my compost toilet pails I use dry, sifted, finished/mature humanure compost started in my New Zealand compost box two years previously.

Author: Stephen L.
Tuesday, October 23, 2001 - 11:52 pm
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Well, you seem to have gotten pretty far along there, even with the failures. I can't help you at all with any questions you have, but if I find anyone in my travels I will surely enform you about them.
Good luck,
Stephen

Author: Abe Noe-Hays
Tuesday, November 20, 2001 - 8:01 pm
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I'd have to actually see your experiments to make more than a vaguely educated guess, but since I can't, I might as well jump right in to speculative territory. I have two thoughts:

First, if you are adding your worms to bins that only contain fresh materials, and if those materials contain urine, there is likely a high enough ammonia (and perhaps salt) level to kill 'em dead right there, as you described. The nitrogen in urine is very quickly transformed into ammonia, and unless there are both a thriving microbe community AND a very available source of carbon, the ammonia will accumulate when materials are fresh. Althoug mature compost does contain carbon, it is probably not available enough to bind up the ammonia released from urine. In a non-worm compost pile this is not an issue, as the ammonia that is generated disperses after a short period of time and no harm is done. However, worms are skilled at dying quickly from the briefest exposure to this noxious chemical.

Idea two: If your most recent experiment does not work out, you might try adding humanure to an established worm bin that already has a thick bed of rotting material. As long as there is a pleasant refuge for worms to retreat to, adding anaerobic, ammonia-laden material to the top shouldn't be a problem. Worms will avoid it while it is deadly, and then as soon as it stabilizes they will move in to devour it.

Does this help any? Am I envisioning correctly what you have been doing?

Cheers,
Abe

Author: Robert Retallick
Thursday, January 24, 2002 - 9:04 pm
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I was wondering about just crapping right onto a surface that has the worms in it then just covering with compost? It seems like they would just eat it. I am not talking about even slightly composted. Right out of your behind. In fact, what if you just tossed everything organic into the shit bucket? Why would that not provid everything the poop and the worms need to do thier thing. THe extra orgianic material would be a good base for the worms to work from and the poop would be dispersed throughout the medium and not get all thermophilic. Would the worms eat all the nastys? Would this work? Is it just too damn simple?

Author: Anonymous
Thursday, March 11, 2004 - 2:32 am
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I've had trouble getting a thermophilic reaction in my experimental humanure compost pile and am trying a vermicomposting approach. I'll post the details here in case anyone else wants to comment, and will try to post again to follow up later with results of the worm experiment.

I decided early on to start separating urine from faeces in the "sawdust loo" as I don't like the ammonia stink that happens when urine soaks into the sawdust (actually I'm using pine shavings as sold for pet bedding as there is no sawmill nearby, they work great for cover material). it made emptying the pails a nasty chore. whereas if only crap, not pee, is in the pail with the shavings, the contents fall out cleanly and there is little to no stench.

I fill a 5 gal pail about once a week for one adult, and the pails are emptied onto the compost heap every week and a new pail (that has been left outside in the sun/rain to air out) is swapped in. so there are three pails per adult: two are "resting" while one is in use. I find leaving them out in the open air removes any residual stink from the plastic. sure they will wear out from the UV eventually, but at present in our oil-addled culture, plastic 5 gal pails are ridiculously cheap.

peeing is done in a separate container (a big old vinegar jug from the supermarket works well for storage, with a nice snap cap to seal it). the pee being sterile and harmless is poured onto the garden, not all in one place but distributed about different beds and plants each time, and each bottle widely distributed so that it doesn't pool or build up anywhere. the result is good: there is only a very brief smell of urine when it's poured into the soil, which disappears very quickly, and then no nasty ammonia reek at all. and the roses seem to love the regular dose of nitrogen! I can't swear to this but it also seems to discourage the raccoons just a bit. they don't frolic about in the yard as enthusiastically as they did in previous Springs prior to the "mark your territory" pee experiment. I am also planning to pour a good big dose down any gopher holes that appear!

so what goes on the "compost" pile is just cover material and poop. this doesn't smell hardly at all as long as even a thin layer of cover material surrounds each "deposit" on all sides. I then throw a thin layer of carbon -- whatever's around, dead leaves, clippings, etc. -- over the very top to make sure no odour leaks out. recently got hold of a few bags of "waste" material from a chai brewing company -- tea leaves and spices -- which is the best smelling mulch ever and makes a nice "camouflage" for the humanure pile :-)

the compost pile(dedicated to the humanure experiment) is actually a bin made of fairly fine-gauge metal mesh (for good ventilation) in a cylinder shape about 3 feet across and 3 feet high. the bottom layers were carefully constructed, with about 6 inches of very coarse clippings (branches and twigs and such) next to the soil for aeration, then a good thick layer of shredded paper, peat moss, coir, and garden dirt on top of those (to absorb leachate). on top of that base the buckets get dumped. the pile stands in the shade, and on an area of dirt where food crops don't grow. the nearest food crop is about 4 feet away and not downhill :-) that's my "isolation" precautionary method. the pile does sit at the base of an ornamental fruit tree (for shade) and I'm hoping that any leachate that escapes will only be good for the tree.

OK, so I realised fairly early that I was not getting a good thermophilic "cookery" going in this pile. I have never had any luck with thermophilic composting, and turned my kitchen and garden waste compost bin into a vermiculture bin last year in frustration. it worked GREAT as a worm bin. I was fortunate in that some Black Soldier Fly larvae volunteered to take up residence; they are aggressive little eaters and attacked anything that went into the bin, even stuff that you're "not supposed" to feed worms like moldy cheese, citrus peels, etc. the combination of the larvae on the top layer and the worms a couple of inches down was very powerful -- the volume of stuff in the bin was reduced by factors of four or more. it "ate" an incredible amount of yard and kitchen waste all year. if I threw in a bunch of orange rinds from squeezing fresh OJ, within a few minutes each half-rind was packed with squirming larvae like a stuffed pepper! those little buggers are almost scary.

therefore when tackling the humanure experiment I had in the back of my mind to resort to worms if I could not get a hot pile going. I introduced 2 lbs of redworms into the pile about 3 weeks ago, and also transferred some of the last surviving larvae from the original kitchen pile. I was hoping to get the same ecology started in the humanure pile, with BSF larvae as the first wave of attack followed by the slower, less aggressive worms. so far, I have no idea whether this pile is going to work as a worm ecology.

1) it is not sealed or covered -- the sides are only mesh, and worms can easily exit on all sides and out the bottom. I am hoping they will like the wood shavings, newspaper, coir and other filler material as bedding and will settle down happily and not want to leave, but worms can be picky (so I have read) and they are not "trapped" in the bin, so they may just wander off. I would like to introduce Euros (nightcrawlers) but they wander even more than redworms and I fear they would not stick around long.

2) not being covered, it gets pretty wet in the rain (though the cover material tends to "thatch" as it gets wet and protect the inside of the pile. worms, so I read, sometimes get upset if there's too much liquid in their bedding and march off in outrage looking for better quarters.

3) it is an outdoor pile exposed to prevailing temperatures. it gets coldish at night and sometimes quite warm during the day. will the worms be happy? I dunno. the other pile is in a black plastic compost bin sitting out in the open, getting full sun on sunny afternoons; they seemed to like the warm/hot environment in there. maybe this pile in the shade and well ventilated will be a bit too cool.

4) the deposits are scattered throughout the pile instead of being on the topmost layer, and eisenia (redworms) are surface feeders. I have no idea whether they will deign to notice the older layers of the pile.

on the plus side, being a mostly pee-free pile the worms should not be poisoned by ammonia. I know it takes them a few weeks to settle in, so I have been trying not to get impatient and dig into the pile to see how they are doing. will post again in a few weeks to let y'all know whether they seem to have naturalised and are doing their job. I figure I'll know if the pile suddenly starts subsiding -- volume reduction. it was spectacular in the other (kitchen scraps) pile. if I can get them going (and persuade some BSF larvae to join in) then based on last year's kitchen scraps pile I should have an incredibly efficient volume-reducing composting system for the "sawdust loo." if not, then I fear I'll have to shut down the pile and let it molder for at least 2 years cold, abandoning the humanure experiment (I don't have a large enough yard to keep several different piles going).

btw

https://www.wormdigest.org/wormtoilet.html
https://www.wormdigest.org/article_75.html
https://www.wormdigest.org/article_28.html

have been interesting reading material. if I can't get my mesh bin to work, I'll dismantle it and try a traditional 2-compartment worm bin.

am sorry to post as "Anonymous Coward" but I have a feeling that the interfering bureaucrats who run my local City permits/works department would probably want to jail me for doing anything as unconventional as a humanure experiment, so I think I'll keep my name and address out of public view for the moment. we even have a law against building a round house -- all houses must be rectangular -- as a friend of mine found out who wanted to put a yurt on his property. I'm sure there is some law or other that would make composting human wastes in your backyard terribly illegal (whereas poisoning millions of gallons of potable water and then pumping it into the sea is perfectly legal. go figure).

Author: Anonymous
Friday, March 12, 2004 - 1:50 pm
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Anonymous again here, with news that when I dug the depression for dumping a new pail-load of humanure this morning, I saw one or two LIVE worms in the displaced material. and they looked pretty big and healthy. looks like at least some percentage of the introduced worms have decided to stay and feed, and given the enthusiasm with which they reproduce, in another month I should have quite a few more. good news!

Author: Herb_Wis
Saturday, March 13, 2004 - 10:25 am
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Interesting thread.

Anon, you must be in a warmer part of the world to see active worms this time of year. Here everything is still pretty much frozen solid.

Good luck with the worm experiment. Here my ground is too sandy for worms and there just are none until you go down along the edge of the swamp. But something is reducing my humanure pile (last summer) and it isn't worms or thermophilic activity because the pile isn't big enough for that yet. Must be those other small feces loving critters.

I also noticed a comment of having good luck using the petshop wood shavings as cover.

Author: Anonymous
Monday, March 15, 2004 - 4:12 pm
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the main prob I am discovering with petshop shavings is their bulk, i.e. you end up with more shavings than poo in the avg bucket. have to empty more often. takes up more space in worm bin or compost heap ... OTOH it is good bedding for worms I guess.

I am wondering about ways to introduce the worms directly into the bucket. Euros can be refrigerated and will survive for up to 6 weeks cold... one could imagine adding a dozen or so to the bucket, dampening the bedding (w/water not pee, as the salt and ammonia in pee can be lethal to the worms) and having a "live worm toilet" in the bucket. the trick is keeping the worms inside, as they might try to leave and that could get a bit messy indoors. a mesh lid would be required plus a darkening drape -- black cloth? -- to keep them happy.

they could be processing and reducing the waste all week, so that it was "precomposted" before even going on the pile. BSF larvae would be even better, but I dunno how to get those a-purpose, only by accidental infestation.

anyway I will let y'all kmow if I try the live worm toilet idea.

The Covert Humanurist (Crapatista)

Author: Herb_Wis
Monday, March 15, 2004 - 7:01 pm
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If there were an easy way to reduce the shavings into smaller pieces that would no doubt help. Like some kind of hand-cranked grinder, but I don't know what kind of unit that would be or where you would find it.

I imagine you have tried tearing them up by hand and that it didn't work real well.

That was a problem I had with my hand dug peat. It would tend to dry into larger chunks and I spent a lot of time chopping and pounding it up as it dried so the larger chunks would not form. That was another reason I went back to sawdust...

Author: Anonymous
Tuesday, March 16, 2004 - 1:29 am
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Ya know Herb, you hit on a pet peeve of mine there. I've long wanted a human-powered shredder/crusher/grinder for yard waste.

something along the lines of a mangle, perhaps, but with killer gear ratio and nasty toothed or splined cylinders for smashing cellulose :-)

I did a lot of googling for human-powered shredder, masher, pulper, grinder, etc. but found very little except apple pulping equipment and grain grinders. neither is really quite the ticket.

sure you can achieve the same effect by repeated machete whacks followed by hammering the material with a large heavy mallet on a hard surface, but it's awfully time consuming and noisy.

has anyone ever heard of or seen a human-powered yard waste shredder? I don't mean just dry leaves and frail stuff like that -- you can smash that by putting it into a bag and jumping on it a few times. I mean twigs and small branches to 1 inch diam or so.

Author: Herb_Wis
Tuesday, March 16, 2004 - 9:49 am
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I would think 1-inch twigs would need a killer gear ratio but why not? I thought the same thing about getting a hand cranked peat grinder but could find no such thing either.

If such hand-cranked grinding/shredding devices exist at all they are most likely made in India or china for rural use where there is no electricity and people aren't addicted yet to gas engine power for every task.

Author: Leo
Wednesday, March 17, 2004 - 8:38 am
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You might try contacting some place like Lehman's,
(https://www.lehmans.com/) I believe they have some of their items custom-made by local Amish. They might not carry such a grinder, but they might be able to point you in the right direction.

Author: Anonymous
Wednesday, March 17, 2004 - 1:49 pm
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Hi Leo, thanks but I did that. They were very nice (they use email, which gives me a bit of a giggle) but said they knew of no such thing. Grrr. there's a whole era of hand, water and horse powered devices of marvelous ingenuity that have vanished off the face of the earth thanks to the noisy, stinky, toxic little internal combustion engine.

-- Crapatista

Author: Anonymous
Wednesday, March 17, 2004 - 6:07 pm
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I saw a show on India where a farmer was using a
device which kinda looked like a ships wheel and
the spokes were sharpened on one side so that as
he fed small branches and straw through a hole and
turned the wheel,the straw was cut..it looked
heavy so that the inertia would provide the Umph,
instead of his muscles,sort of a flywheel effect.
he had a little boy feeding the machine from the
back and the cut debris fell into a basket in
front..perhaps,you could search Google for Indian
Farm implements or even China too..goodluck!

Author: Herb_Wis
Thursday, March 18, 2004 - 10:27 am
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I was reading an old farm book from around 1900 yesterday and came across a reference to a hand-cranked "Fodder Cutter," so yes, such things certainly did exist in the USA at one time.

I hate to suggest it, but are there any good economical electrical grinder/shredders on the market?

Author: Anonymous
Thursday, March 18, 2004 - 2:15 pm
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To Anon, Was that machine like a big pencil sharpener? I noticed that pencil shavings crumble like leaves.

Author: Anonymous
Wednesday, March 31, 2004 - 12:44 am
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Another report on the worm bin, I think the mesh sides are perhaps a bit too open. We had some hot weather and it was hard to keep the bin moist as the warm, dry winds would just suck the water out of it through the mesh sides. Am thinking of wrapping it in some kind of dark cloth for warmth and to reduce evaporation.

So far not much exciting going on in there, I find depressingly intact turds (coated with shavings/dust) when I dig in to deposit a new bucket full. Not much reduction in bin contents though I think the lower layers are shrinking some, and darkening. Anyway worm populations can take a couple of months to get cranking and it is still quite cool at night. There is a healthy population of sowbugs (good sign). I am still hoping, and will add some more worms soon in the hope of speeding things up.

Has anyone (who does the pee-segregation thing) tried sifting the sawdust/shavings/cover-stuff when emptying the bucket? I find I end up with "shake n bake" turds in the bucket, all coated with fluffy cover material, embedded in unused, clean dry cover material that could be re-used.

At present I'm just dumping it all on the pile. I think the pile maybe has too much carbon due to the large volume of shavings/sawdust and then the extra cover stuff I put on top each time. Have been thinking about sifting the bucketfull (as you do with some cat litter) to save the unclumped, loose cover stuff to use again.

-- Crapatista

Author: admin
Wednesday, March 31, 2004 - 7:57 pm
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Add urine to add moisture and nitrogen.

Author: Herb_Wis
Thursday, April 01, 2004 - 12:35 pm
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I wonder if worms would take better to peat-shit than to shavings-shit?

Or maybe a peat-shavings-shit combo.

Perhaps worth trying...

Author: Anonymous
Friday, April 02, 2004 - 9:17 pm
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well I think I will try coir for a while. it is about halfway between the moon dust (messy) peat and the coarse cornflakes shavings. it's kind of expensive and very nonlocal, but OTOH sustainable in other senses, it's a waste product and renewable. since it ships highly compressed at least it is semi-efficient to ship but I know in my heart it reeks of fossil fuel :-( the sift and re-use idea might get more mileage out of each brick of coir, which would reduce the guilt a bit.

I'm doing research on Hermetia (Black Soldier Fly) larvae. they look promising as they work much faster than worms. might even be able to keep them right in the bucket, though that would certainly freak out the casual visitor!

at present the pee is going on the garden, full strength into the dirt around big plants (but not much of it per plant), and (recent experiment) diluted with tap water about 4 to 1 on some smaller annuals. it might be just the weather but I swear my roses are loving their new homegrown fertiliser. they are bigger and glossier than last year. I have no difficulty distributing a week's pee about the yard, there is never enough to go around. I try to hit different areas on alternating weeks so each patch of soil gets 2 weeks w/o pee :-) have omitted adding sugar to the holding jug recently and it makes little diff to smell as far as I can tell. but it might be good for encouraging the aerobic critters after it is in the soil, dunno.

Crapatista

Author: Anonymous
Thursday, April 29, 2004 - 8:31 pm
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This is actually about cover materials, as well as worms.

It is almost week 4 for the worm population introduced into the humanure heap. It is also the end of the first complete week with a new cover material strategy.

The new cover material strategy is damp coir combined with something fluffier, at present shredded hemp animal litter. The fluffy stuff is used to pad the bottom of the bucket and to fill in around the edges as deposits build up so we don't get the "turd ski slope" effect which dirties the bucket sides (OK, OK, I'm a bit fussy, but I save many minutes not having to do serious bucket scrubbing). I have been using coir for almost 3 weeks.

Part Two of the new strategy is more recent. A new ingredient is being tried out: compost accelerator from Gardens Alive. It contains bacteria and fungal spores in a wheat base. I'm sprinkling just a pinch or two on each deposit *before* covering up with damp coir.

The results so far are much better than with pine shavings. The accelerator starts the composting process early, right in the bucket. The coir is nice and crumbly but dense enough to pack down efficiently so one bucket lasts longer before emptying than with 100 pct fluffy fill. Odour, which was starting to be perceptible in warmer weather, is reduced and changed to an earthy mouldering scent (the fungus, I suspect). The bucket when emptied smells slightly "stale" but not foul.

In the outdoor heap, it is noticeable that worms are present far more enthusiastically in the coir areas than in older areas of pine shavings. Perhaps the essential oils in pine are uncomfortable for them. When I dug a divot for the bucket dump this morning I turned up half a dozen fat redworms in rapid succession. The heap is smelling very neutral, not offensive. I water it daily in hot weather and every other day in normal weather. We had two days of killer heat (by local standards) in the near-90s, but the worms survived.

I think the worms have settled in, and the coir cover material is a success. Two bricks of coir lasted about 3 weeks for one person. YMMV but I am beginning to think I have a working system here using worms rather than the classic thermophilic method. It may be as the outdoor heap builds up that thermophilic reactions will begin in the core, but the vermicomposting is going on continuously whether or not I manage to get the pile to "cook".

No sign of hermetia (black soldier fly) larvae yet despite the heat, though I keep hoping.

Crapatista

Author: Anonymous
Friday, May 21, 2004 - 2:25 am
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More about worms. Success! Last time I dug a trench for the latest bucketful I saw a good sign. It may need some explanation however.

Due to my diverting the urine and covering with coir I end up with something like, er, Shake-n-Bake turds :-) each "deposit" being neatly encrusted with coir and other fill material from the bucket. So, while digging in the newest stuff I turned up a shakenbake item from last week or the week before. And out of it were hanging the wiggling tails of some very fat Euros and a some skinnier redworms! They have definitely figured out where the food is. The disturbed surface of the pile was not quite crawling with worms -- but it was definitely rich in worms, many per square foot.

The volume is starting to stabilise as the worms get a grip on the material accumulated before they were introduced. I think we are really in business and all I have to do is water the pile every now and then to make sure the worms don't dry out. I also spread a layer of green yard waste on the top every month or two, and add some rock dust now and then for "minerals and roughage". Otherwise, to kill odours, I spread a thin layer of cocoa husks on the top, and as a result the s**tpile smells like chocolate! Fears of ticking off the neighbours are a thing of the past.

I am continuing with the "compost starter" method. One small bag of the stuff looks like it will last for several weeks. One brick of coir seems to last one person/one bucket/two weeks. That is coir at 8/1 compression, however, lower compressions would obviously yield less "run time". The bathroom where the bucket lives, smells a bit "moldy" or "earthy" at times but not offensive.

best wishes to all. sometimes it seems like my organic veggies, my bike (no car) and my humanure experiment are the only things I do that make me feel less hopeless in the face of all the current madness.

Crapatista

Author: Nate
Monday, June 07, 2004 - 8:24 pm
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Glad to hear about your success! I too have been thinking about the possibility of vermicomposting humanure. But being an apartment dweller, ordinary composting is not an option for me. The worm bin would have to spend at least part of the year indoors when the climate is too cold out, and so I may as well just keep it indoors year round if it works. If it does start to smell perhaps I could move it to the balcony temporarily (weather permitting).

The main concerns that I have are:
1. How to keep it from smelling. I've heard that high carbon materials such as newspaper print or leaves can help with this.

2. What precautions I should take regarding safety. I know that humanure doesn't reach high enough temperatures for pathogen destruction with vermicomposting, and even though there's evidece for pathogen destruction in the worm's gut, there would still be a concern while the worms have not eaten the humanure yet or if there's some uneaten humanure left when harvesting the compost. Of course I wouldn't be using it for growing food or anything like that (not having a yard, this isn't really an option), but should I be concerned with just handling the stuff? Would it be a good idea to wear gloves? How about keeping flies and other pests away so as to avoid spreading pathogens around?

Has anybody tried vermicomposting humanure indoors? How about crapping directly into the vermicompost? Since I don't readily have access to sawdust or other large quantities of organic material, I don't know if I could control odors using the standard bucket system. I've heard the worms will initially stay away from fresh humanure, but return to it once it's settled down.

I'd be interested in hearing anyone's thoughts on this.

Author: Nate
Tuesday, July 06, 2004 - 4:24 pm
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Well, I took a risk and tried it out. I've decided to share my experiences in case there's anyone else out there in my situation (don't own land on which to compost the usual way).

I started with a small rubbermaid bin (17" x 23") which I stored in my bedroom underneath a stool I constructed to hold up some crates that I'm using for miscellaneous storage. For bedding I used a combination of shredded newspaper, pieces of cardboard, and leaves that collect on my patio. I started with 1 lb of eisenia fetida (redworms) which I got at a local bait shop. I let the worms chill out for a week, and then for the next 2 weeks I added all the kitchen waste and humanure I produce. The stool I constructed made adding humanure as easy as possible. It has a 6" gap between the 2x4's on the top of it, so adding a 'deposit' is as simple as squatting over the gap and going directly into the bin. That way I was also able to cover it immediately and didn't have to worry about the possible smell from transporting it. For 2 weeks it seemed to be going well. The bin didn't smell like much of anything except for maybe wet leaves.

However, after 2 weeks I came back around to where I had started filling the bin, and discovered that all the turds were still very much intact. And there were no worms eating them! Not only that, but once I dug them up, they seemed not to have lost any of their potent smell! So, not knowing what else to do I put several entire newspapers through the shredder and tried to mix the humanure with the newspaper as much as possible. The worms didn't seem to like the disturbance, as I found them crawling out of the bin and dying on my floor the next morning. I was afraid I had made the bin too dry, so I dumped several glasses of water in the bin. This caused a significant amount of drainage through the holes I had made in the bottom. I also put the bin out in the storage closet adjacent my patio so I wouldn't have to deal with more escapees. Upon returning to the bin the next day it appeared severly waterlogged and smelled as though it had gone anaerobic. Also, there was not a single worm to be found! So I mixed in yet another large batch of shredded newspaper and topped it off with leaves to cover the smell and left it be for about a week.

When I came back it had stopped smelling and looked like it might be able to recover, so I added another 1 lb of redworms to try to start the bin over again. I've been adding my kitchen waste to the bin for 2 weeks now, but no humanure, and it seems to have stabalized. I also did a quick calculation using Dr. Jenkin's C/N table to see how much newspaper it would take to balance the C/N ratio for a single 4-6 oz turd (the typical weight of my turds, yes I actually measured this). As it turns out it would take about 2-1/2 times the weight of the turd, or more than a pound of shredded newspaper for every turd! Some days the entire newspaper doesn't weigh that much! And that would make for a total of about 1-1/2 lbs per day, just from humanure and the newspaper used to balance it. If I add that to the 2 lbs of kitchen scraps I produce per week that's more than 12 lbs of material per week! To process that much refuse would take about 6 bins of the size I now have. It's amazing the amount of crap a single person produces!

So I see now that even for just one person, composting all their humanure just isn't feasible on such a small scale. I've toyed around with the idea of only putting in 1 turd per week, since that would at least be something, but not until I've harvested the current bin to see if the nearly dozen turds already in there will succeed in being composted by the worms. They are so thorougly mixed with the newspaper now though that I can no longer find the individual turds. If this experiment does turn out to be a success, it will at least prove that humanure composting is possible at the scale of a small wormbin, though unfortunately only for a small fraction of a single person's output.

If this "humanure experiment" does work, it will be the first success for me. Ever since I was a child I have tried various ways to try to "preserve" my poop, for what reasons I don't know. My last attempt before this one was to dehydrate the poop, hoping this would cause it to lose it's smell, but in fact all I succeeded in doing was making the whole apartment smell like crap for months! I managed to convince my suite-mates that this was the result of an overflown toilet that didn't get detected until much later. I have no idea what they'd do to me if they ever found out the truth! My current roommate is away for the summer so I figured if anything did go wrong I would have plenty of time to try to fix it. Amazingly, for all the poop that's in that bin now, it doesn't smell! That at the very least is an improvement over my last attempt. Still, it's depressing to think I'll probably have to flush away the majority of my turds until I can acquire some land and get a real compost pile going.

-- Nate

Author: Cara Lin Bridgman
Sunday, August 15, 2004 - 12:47 pm
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"The Conqueror Earthworm: Nonnative Species are Destroying Soils and Muscling Out Indigenous Flora and Fauna" by Kari Lydersen. This article was published 29 March 2004 in the Washington Post, is a reasonable summary of recent ecological studies, and is available on-line.

In brief, worms are a problem in any place that has been glaciated (e.g. Northern and Midwest USA). Non-native worms are a documented problem in the Southeast US, Russia, and Philippines.

Before you buy worms to add to your compost, consider the effect these worms might have on the ecology of your area.

As anyone who composts already knows, "The soil isn't just an amporphous muck" (see article).

Author: Nate
Sunday, October 03, 2004 - 1:57 am
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That's an interesting article. Who would have thought something so seemingly harmless as the earthworm could be threatening forests? Here in the southeastern US, eisenia fetida are already quite common in the soil, so I don't see a problem with using them for composting.

In this area of the country, a similar problem happened with the vine kudzu (originally from Japan), which grows prolifically and is killing many trees. Unfortunately, herbicides only have a limited effectiveness against the plant, and may be more damaging to the environment than the vine itself. So instead people are trying to find ways to use the plant now that it's here such as for feeding of cattle.

Eisenia fetida are common to virtually every landmass on earth (with notable exceptions being Hawaii and Antarctica), therefore for most people there is no danger of introducing an alien species to the soil with eisenia fetida (Hawaii would of course be the exception). One good way to get worms for free and ensure they originated from the soil in your area is to look for a pile of manure or rotting leaves. It will often be crawling with the worms.

Author: Anonymous
Sunday, October 03, 2004 - 6:32 pm
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To Nate, Are kudzu leaves soft enough to use as toilet paper? Are they soft dried?

Author: Nate
Friday, November 12, 2004 - 9:06 pm
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That's a good question. I don't know. In my home state of Minnesota, we had a weed we called "Indian toilet paper" that had very soft thick leaves. When I was a kid we sometimes used it for that purpose if we were playing in the woods and didn't want to walk all the way home. I'm sure our parents would not have approved; we didn't ever tell them of course! Now after reading Joe Jenkins' book I would never crap directly onto the soil again.

I don't imagine kudzu leaves would be thick enough for that purpose, if I had to guess.

I've collected my first harvest of worm castings and they seem just fine. There is no trace of the original humanure in the bin now (either by sight or by smell). Now I get to see how well the castings will work on some ornamental plants for my balcony. I don't imagine the danger in handling the castings can be any greater than wiping after a B.M. (both which should be followed by hand washing of course). I now have two 27-qt bins and one deposit of humanure per week, alternating between the bins, seems to be working. After 3 months I will get back to the same spot and see how well it worked.

Author: eltahir malik
Tuesday, September 27, 2005 - 2:00 am
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would any one provide me a list of worms that love humanure.
regards.
eltahir

Author: Joe Jenkins
Wednesday, September 28, 2005 - 9:36 am
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What makes you think any worms love humanure?

Author: Nate
Thursday, September 29, 2005 - 8:43 pm
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I don't know if any worms 'love' humanure, but redworms certainly will eat it, as my experiment has shown. Redworms are also sometimes called 'manure worms' as they are often found in piles of decaying manure. I've noticed that the earthworms are more eager to eat kitchen scraps than humanure though, so if there is a dedicated 'humanure bin' that gets only humanure and high carbon bedding such as shredded newspaper, cardboard, dry leaves, etc., that seems to work best. Keep in mind that even a 12 gallon bin, which is fairly large for an indoor worm bin, might only be able to process one humanure deposit a week due to the large amount of carbon-rich material that needs to be added. And it may not get hot enough to kill all pathogens, so if you want to use it to grow food, it would be better just to have an outdoor (thermophillic) compost pile. I would imagine earthworms would naturally find their way into such a pile without any help from humans.

Author: Dan
Friday, September 30, 2005 - 3:56 pm
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Worms, worms and more worms. I have thousands of them in my bins. First you should know that my 4'x4' bins have pallet bottoms so compost does not touch the ground. I also have a 200' driveway that seems to be a major worm crossing when it rains. Now all I need to do is get worms from driveway into bins. I take a pointed shishkabob stick and duckwalk up and down the driveway picking up worms. Sometimes I have to get out there early before my wife drives to work. I figure they are better off in my bins than flattened.
What I'm finding is that they are breeding like crazy. Everytime I start a new bin I seed the sponge layer with 5 gallons of compost full of worms. I will also put some finished compost in a bin once it is full and then put the lid on it for a year. There seems to be three types of worms on the driveway, a greenish kind, a red one with small stripes circling the body and what I would call red wigglers, the real squirmers.

Some years it is too dry and I might not get any worms but by always seeding the next bin I have managed to keep alive a very healthy colony of worms.

Author: Joe Jenkins
Sunday, October 02, 2005 - 9:48 pm
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My compost is also full of worms - thick with them - mostly red worms. I didn't do anything to introduce them. They just showed up.

Author: Nate
Monday, October 03, 2005 - 8:45 pm
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If you build it, they will come!

(Sorry, I couldn't resist. For those who aren't familiar with it I'm referring to a quote from the movie "Field of Dreams")

Author: Stephen
Friday, October 07, 2005 - 10:11 am
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The only time I have seen any worms is when I'm at the bottom of the finished bin.

Author: Anonymous
Sunday, October 09, 2005 - 4:57 am
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THANKS NATE FOR YOUR ANSWER.
REGARDS.
ELTAHIR

Author: James Klein
Wednesday, November 09, 2005 - 1:49 am
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I am doing the "bucket poop- no urine - saw dust or organic material cover up" method. Two buckets ago I noticed my poop disappearing and found worms were eating my poop just after leaving it. I never added worms, they just showed up. Before dumping all of my full bucket into the main pile, I dropped some of them into the new bucket with some of the contents of the full bucket and have been continuing with this same lineage of poop eaters. Is this good? Should I share my worms with other composters? Thanks - James in Austin, TX

Author: Stephen
Wednesday, November 09, 2005 - 11:36 pm
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Heck yea thats good. We've been wondering for awhile if this would be possible. Could you find out what species these are? How long have these worms been present? Where they there from day one?

Author: TCLynx
Tuesday, January 03, 2006 - 3:00 pm
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I noticed when reading that one Anonymous composter had trouble getting Thermolitic compost going and resorted to worms instead. I also noticed that that poster was using animal bedding for cover material and started separating urine because of the smell issue.
Most animal bedding is kiln dried shavings, not good cover material for smell control or composting.
IF one can not find good cover material for free, an option is to buy the pellets used for pellet stoves. They are just compressed sawdust and with a small amount of moisture they turn back into sawdust. They probably cost less than the animal bedding though would be heavier to carry on a bike.
A compost bin outdoors (even on cement if the dirt is near) will attract worms in any place that worms exist. The worms just climb on up as soon as the materials are cool enough for them.
I would be careful where/how I used the products if I only vermicomposted instead of the combination of thermalitic and aging.

Author: Kristabelle
Monday, April 10, 2006 - 1:41 pm
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Re: Human-powered shredder/crusher/grinder

Check it out:
https://backyardgrown.blogspot.com

Also, look up Rota-Sieve. Available in the UK. This is IT.

Author: Kristabelle
Monday, April 10, 2006 - 1:55 pm
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The real site I wanted to post is:

https://backyardgrown.blogspot.com/2006_01_01_backyardgrown_archive.html

Search for "hamster".

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