Straddling the Trench

The International Compost Sanitation Forum and Message Board: Humanure Composting Around the World: Straddling the Trench
Author: Fatih
Tuesday, June 13, 2006 - 7:30 pm
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An unusual more fertile or darker soil compared to the nearby pieces of land -just like how Alex's garden will look like in 2100s if he keeps "straddling the trench" or some other kind of humanure recycling all along his life at the same plot- might be an evidence of humanure recycling done by Native Americans.

Author: alex
Monday, January 14, 2002 - 4:34 pm
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I live in Arizona on Desert Scrub land and there is almost nothing available for a cover material. The simplest solution that I have found to deal with human waste is to bury it in a trench.

I dig a narrow trench about a foot deep. I use a trenching shovel that is about four inches wide. I dig a trench about 40 feet long in a spot where I will want the garden in the future. Then I deposit the waste directly into the trench from a squatting position and cover the waste immediately with the soil which came out of the trench to keep away the flies. Kitchen waste also goes into this trench.

When the trench is full, I dig a new one right next to the first one, as close as possible, a few inches. I will continue this way, trench next to trench until I have filled an area 40 feet wide giving me a 40 x 40 garden area.

My neighbors are far away and it is unlikely that they will see me depositing the waste. But I have a tent I could set up over the current squatting place if that became a problem.

Author: saths
Monday, February 11, 2002 - 6:57 pm
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Have you done this before? Maybe after a year the soil would become fertile. I bet you should use the tent.I wonder if native americans did this before the white man came. Maybe they used a covered tripod as a moving outhouse.

Author: Alex
Monday, February 18, 2002 - 12:10 pm
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To Saths

No, I haven't done this before. Nor have I heard of anyone who has done it. It seemed the simplest solution to the problem. The problem is; How to use decomposed Humanure to fertilize a garden. I couldn't use the method recommended in the book because there is nothing available easily and cheaply where I live to use as a cover material. So I thought, why not just deposit the Humanure directly at the spot where it will be used?

The purpose of the tent would be for modesty, but my nearest neighbors are about a mile away so I am not concerned that they should see me straddling the trench. If somebody moves onto the parcel next to mine then I will have to start using the tent.

I asked an Archeologist your question. He said that decomposed Humanure is not distinguishable from other decomposed organic material in the archeological record so there is no way know for sure.

Author: saths
Monday, February 18, 2002 - 6:31 pm
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To Alex Jews must have done it at the time of Moses because it's in the Bible at Deuteronomy 23 verse 13. Also Jesus said to dig around a tree and fertilize it and see if it produced fruit the next year in Luke 13 verse 8 of the Bible.
The Humanure Handbook proves that its not good to be in the water supply.
Maybe there would some type of history written by Jews on a success story with this method.

Author: Herb
Monday, February 18, 2002 - 7:39 pm
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My current method is like what Jesus said. I use a sawdust or peat toilet, then place it in trenches around apple trees on a rather dry hillside. I've been doing this for about 10 years and it works fine.

However, after reading the Humanure Handbook I'm going to take the next step and compost it above ground.

Here fortunately, there is no end to carbonaceous materials: leaves, pine needles, sawdust, and peat.

What did they use for toilet paper in the Bible?

Author: Anonymous
Tuesday, February 19, 2002 - 4:39 pm
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Haven't noticed anything but my guess is soft leaves.

Author: Anonymous
Sunday, September 01, 2002 - 8:55 pm
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What is happening with the trenches Alex?

Author: Anonymous
Monday, September 02, 2002 - 12:00 pm
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Are the ones started in January turned back to good Soil yet? Did you have a problem with rodents?

Author: Alex
Saturday, September 21, 2002 - 6:25 pm
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Well, the way I do my trenches, when they are full I cover them about 6 inches of dirt and let them decompose for a year or so and then just plant the garden over them. Just for curiousity, I do dig into them to see how the soil is doing. So far, it looks good. I will plant that area in the spring and next year will tell how well it has all come out.

No problems with rodents, but the neighbors' dog did dig into the trench a couple of times. Some people did move onto the parcel of land next to mine so I built some light weight movable walls to squat behind so that they can't see me. I am not especially shy but there is the matter of the indecent exposure law. Life would be easier if there was no civilization.

Author: saths
Sunday, September 22, 2002 - 9:22 am
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To Alex- Does the soil look different than other soils that you haven't done this with?
What are your movable walls made like?
I think that one good thing about civilization is being able to read and write but not the polution of civilation.
Thanks for answering the questions.

Author: Alex
Monday, September 23, 2002 - 5:27 pm
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The soil with decomposed manure in it looks much as you might expect, somewhat darker and browner with an odor more like good gardening soil as it gets older. Nonetheless there isn't a high percentage of humanure in it, in any case. It is not black like potting soil. The soil here is sand and clay mix, a light reddish color. My walls are really just three 4' x6' sheets of plywood, hinged together so that I can unfold them and stand them up around my current squatting place, but then fold them together and lay them down if the wind blows strong.

Civilization wasn't so bad when it was twenty miles away and I could go there and do what I needed to and then come back to my quiet little patch of wilderness. Now that it has come right up to my property line it sometimes gets uncomfortable.

My way of dealing with my excrement is really just a modification of the old outhouse method. I just distribute my waste product over a wider area instead of confining it to one small hole.

Pollution of the water table is not a problem. The depth to water in my well is 350 feet. There is no way that harmful waste products could leach down so far.

Author: saths
Tuesday, September 24, 2002 - 8:56 am
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Do you have earthworms working the humanured soil or is the temperature to high? I read that something like 77F degrees is the limit high temperature that they will work in & maybe 45F low. I think that the daily application of humanure is in working with the living soil and making it fertile again. Maybe the worms come to the topsoil when the temp is right for them. Also I read that they go 15 feet underground to get away from heat or cold that is to extreme for them or from extreme polution and come back up when they can cope with the amount. The old type of out house must have been extreme for them.
It sounds like your darker soil is turning into a rich loam that some people call black gold.

Author: Alex
Thursday, September 26, 2002 - 12:39 pm
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I live in a desert. I have seen no earthworms in the soil here. I have not measured the soil tempurature, but the air temp in the summer is often over 110. And the the soil is very dry. I dont think that earth worms could survive here.

The soil in my trenches is dark only by comparison. As I have said, there is very little humanure in that soil. This is because I cover the humanure with soil after every deposit to keep away the flies. Not black gold but slightly brown.

My whole point in writing these messages is that there is not only one best method of dealing with waste. But that at each location, in every climate, the person living there must figure out what works best. The one thing that we agree on is that disposal of of excrement by use of potable water is not wise.

Author: Anonymous
Wednesday, January 29, 2003 - 12:29 pm
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Alex, It has been a year. How are you doing with your project? How is your soil doing? Did you bury waste all year?

Author: Mike Gibbons
Wednesday, December 29, 2004 - 11:33 pm
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I just had an interesting conversation with my father.

Turns out his family pooped into a bucket that was located in an outhouse. No sawdust though. My mother said it really stunk (as it would). (How close they came to a good idea - a little sawdust and they could have used it inside)

When it was full he dug a trench beside the rhubarb and tipped it in. Rhubarb grew very well.

Healthwise? My grandparents are dead of unrelated things (I suppose). They would be very old now if they weren't. Everyone else is alive and outwardly healthy. And they all like rhubarb.

Author: Anonymous
Tuesday, January 04, 2005 - 2:17 pm
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Mike
two points 1) the manure should be thoroughly composted before it is put on plants. this whole site is all about that process. 2) the manure will stink while composting, even with the sawdust. indoor composting is not recommended.

Author: Mike Gibbons
Wednesday, January 05, 2005 - 1:03 am
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Yes, you are quite right. The post was to point out how close they were to a good idea at the time (40-50 years ago), and how much discomfort they endured throughout their lives by not knowing what we now know.

Mike
Auckland

Author: tittiger
Thursday, May 26, 2005 - 1:10 am
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Alex,
This is off topic but if anyone knows of any reasonable desert property (Sonorian Mohave, Chiauian)I am looking...

You aren't doing BLM land are you?

I know straw/hay is expensive in the desert but I was planning to add it in as a gardening expense (offset by no sewer bills) for the carbon to heat up the pile and for soil structure. Peat moss might be a good alternative.

Joe

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