Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Several months later.

Back in August last year I posted here about eco-bathroom habits, including composting one's poo in bokashi bran (the process is all explained in the post I've linked to).

So I collected a summer's worth of poo and composted it as I'd learnt how to do, using the bokashi bran and then leaving it to age under a covering layer in a big enclosed compost bin.  The layer covering it was ashes from the woodfire and earth from the garden.

Fast forward to this week.

Spring has come here, and the garden is coming alive.

The tulips are out

and the forgetmenots

and drifts of celandines 

At the end of last summer, troubled about the many threats to bees and other pollinators, we decided to do our garden differently this year.  Last year we had raised beds and lots of veggies.  Then in the autumn the Badger took them up again and instead we planted trees - mainly fruit trees.  We sowed meadow grass seed and extra meadow flowers.  This way our garden will still grow food, but will also be a happy play space, and a kind of wilderness; and, most importantly, a haven for birds and bees and butterflies.

Our house is on the top of the hill that rises up from the sea, and though our garden is on the south facing side of the house and often very warm, sometimes the wind comes tearing up the hill and does a lot of damage to tender plants - as in, instant death.

Although it was a mega-wet winter here, the wind this last couple of months has been strong and frequent, drying out the surfaces of the earth where it is exposed in the places the raised beds used to be and the new seeds are only just sprouting.

The Badger said what we needed was a compost mulch to both protect and feed the new little plants from the seeds we'd sown.

So today was my Compost Day.  We had two seriously unsuccessful heaps that didn't know what they were - all kinds of sticks and leaves and roots and wodgy mats of grass chucked in together and frankly not looking good.  So I turned those over, took out the biggest fibrous chunky things and put them in the bin the council takes for composting on the municipal site, then amalgamated the remaining mess into one bin where it can just stay and rot down until Jesus comes again.  Though if he delays, we may get some use out of it eventually.

Thus we now have one empty composting receptacle, strictly for leafmould this time!

I left the current enclosed compost bin alone - it's going great guns, heaving with worms and full of veggie peelings etc.  No problems there and lots of space yet.

Then I thought I'd tackle the Ageing Compost bin - which contained in the top half a summerful of poo and bokashi bran layered with ash and earth.

Oh.  My.  Goodness!

You never saw such perfect compost!!


Look closer!

That is Hallelujah Compost and no mistake!  The best we ever made.

Once I dug down the bin to the level of the original ageing compost - kitchen veggie bits - I stopped digging it out.  We started our time at this house collecting the kitchen bits in compostable bags, but found they need exposure to light to break down - hence the compost was always full of raggy bits of bag; not a joy to behold.  I pulled some out and binned them, and I'll go back to the bin to dig it out completely at some point; but by this time I felt a bit tired and I had dug out two wheelbarrows full of the good stuff, enough to sprinkle a layer all over the badly cracked earth that is turning into orchard/meadow.  You're not meant to put it on veggies in case of pathogens etc - though why horse and chicken poo that you can buy should be any better I can't imagine.

That eco-venture turned out brilliantly, and saved the money for about four bags of compost (perhaps £20 [US $30.50] in all).   What interests me particularly is that of all the simple living earth-friendly things I have tried, composting one's own poo is the one where almost everyone to whom I've mentioned it draws the line - "Er - no thank you!"   And yet it's been a total success; odour-free, clean and simple, and is a better thing by far than flushing away beautiful fertiliser with gallons of water to a figment of my imagination called "Away".    I stopped doing it in the winter, just because I ran out of counter-culture oomph.  But we've already begun collecting pee for the plants, as they need feeding now the time of growth has begin, so I think collecting poo must be next on the agenda.


Julia Bolton Holloway said...

And weavers were not liked because they collected their pee to be ammonia which stank but was needed in the dyeing process.

Ember said...

Yes indeed - and I think it may be good for softening nettles for spinning, too. x

Julie Graff said...

Absolutely brilliant, Pen. I'm so glad you showed us your final result, as this is the method I intend to employ once my tiny house is built. At this time, I manage my pee just as you do yours. It's collected in a chamber pot (which is very comfortable to sit upon, by the way...) and then diluted and distributed onto the garden daily. I really apreciate you sharing just exactly how you do these things. Thank you. xx

Ember said...

:0) One of the things I really like about this method is that it is fly-free. Especially living as I do, in a densely populated urban setting, any system that allows flies to settle on any form of dung guarantees the pathogens being generously shared around the neighbourhood! Of course birds, foxes, dogs, cats, badgers and all the rest poo all over the place, so a human contribution shouldn't make too much difference: even so, I like that the bokashi system is completely sealed - people are freaked out about this quite enough without adding in *real* hazards!

Rapunzel said...

Wow-that is loverly compoo yopu have there! Ours from my sawdust toilet looked the same, all rich and dark and earthy, only the Manimal had it all around the fruit trees and mulched over before I thought to take a picture.

The whole process makes me feel all 'one with the earth', a feeling I am coming to like more and more.

Anonymous said...

Ember, do you dilute the pee before you give it to the plants?
You are an inspiration! I have a friend who lives off the grid and has a composting toilet. She uses its compost in the flowerbeds. Has the best looking flowers around! Thanks for a lovely post!

Ember said...

Hi friends :0)

'At one with the earth', Rapunzel - yes: it feels like joined-up living, a cycle of life. It seems to me that consumerism operates by multiple disconnections - like Monsanto's interventions that stop people saving seeds - and this creates our downfall. Something isn't Shalom, isn't made whole, if it's wasteful and interrupts the cycles that make up sustainability.

Ruth - yes to diluting pee. I think it's meant to be about 5 parts water to one part pee. Because I wash rather than use toilet paper, water gets added as the pee is collected - then I liberally wash out (plain water no soap) the pot into the watering can. So it's all a bit approximate, but thoroughly dilute, or I think it can burn the plants.

Ganeidaz Knot said...

This post cracked me up ~ though I've not tried the poo process. I do, however, own a number of males of the species & ammonia for the garden has never ever been a problem. I think they think loos are unhygienic or something! ☺ Unfortunately its compost for the veggies I need. So happy this was a successful venture.

Ember said...

Ah, yes - men. Built-in watering can! x

San said...

I'm finally back on line as we've been helping with our newborn grandaughter, hoping to post some pics later today.

Interesting post and link. love your garden and it certainly is benefitting from all that human recycling! I might try the diluted pee idea but would be pushing it with the other, especially where the kids are concerned!! Gotta admit though that compost looks absolutely perfect!

Love to you

San xx

Ember said...

Oh - congratulations! So looking forward to seeing the photos! x

BLD in MT said...

I am so glad you did a follow up to this! I am super intrigued.

Ember said...

:0) Waving! x