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Pee Pot Chronicles #3: The Idea Spreads

I handed the book to the Norwegian psychiatrist, who had dropped by to see my husband. Liquid Gold: The Lore and Logic of Using Urine to Grow Plants. “Gross,” he smiled slightly, eyebrows raised. I explained that it was much less distasteful than some of the other historical uses of urine described therein, and that I was working on a related idea which I had not fully disclosed to my husband (although he was in the recliner beside me when I said this).

I like to tease this man. We are similar in a way, we–the four of us including our spouses–have discovered. INTP is the type in Meyers Briggs personality testing. For example, we enjoy similar authors and films, and share a love of food gardening, though his plots are much more carefully planned and neatly kept. But we are different, and not only in the ways our genders flavor that type. He is very refined and careful in speech, you see, also somewhat severe in matters of ethics, tradition and social norm. I am also a little intimidated by him, having experienced and witnessed several of his frowns and rather scornful remarks. Usually preceded by a silence and contraction of his eyebrows. My dear friend, his wife, seems in some ways under his thumb. But because of her loving and accommodating ways, as well as the values they share at a deep level, their marriage works. And I do appreciate his kindness to us (he has really been a faithful friend), his loving shepherding of his children, and tenderness to his wife and his over ninety-five-year-old mother. Sometimes I have been concerned that I have offended him, but his wife confided in me that he likes me and does not mind my teasing. I believe she enjoys it too, and watches for its effect.

My husband took up the topic of urine, and to my surprise did not reject the idea but considered how to make it work. We arrived at my previously envisioned idea of keeping a bucket of sawdust in the bathroom. Well, perhaps it was only I that visualized it in that location, but still, I felt it was progress. I shared with the men the importance of quick composting with a carbon-rich material in order to quickly capture the nitrogen before it escaped into the atmosphere and prevent odors, and that adding sugar was a quick way to begin the process, as sawdust breaks down slowly.

This week I found an appropriate piece of furniture for the pee pot at the used building supply store. It’s a two-door upper kitchen cabinet, about the height of a toilet, in good, strong plywood. I would cut a hole in the top, attach a toilet seat, and leave the box as is or refinish. Probably should paint the interior for liquid waterproofing and easy cleaning. Still, I thought it might be a wee bit large for the bathroom, so I’ll see if I can find a one-door cabinet. I do think I’d better finish my kitchen cabinet refinishing project first, though. I am trying to be organized like our Norwegian friend. Perhaps he will be so impressed with my urine composting system that he will make one and place it in his family bathroom, just beside the cat’s litter box.

 
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Posted by on January 5, 2014 in Ideas, Interviews and Conversations

 

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Urine, You’re on!

So cynical, perfectionist, always looking for what’s wrong with the way I and most other middle class folks live. The things we use, technologies on which we depend, kilometers we drive (or miles, for that minority backwards folk called the USA and UK–oops, I did it again), the expectations of the good life, ignoring for the most part people who can’t reach it no matter how hard they work.Except we have compassion if they live very, very far away. Such as in Africa. We give money to them thanks to Bono. Not to group all of “Africa” as if it’s homogeneous, full of Africans and mysterious hot diseases. There is also South Africa, which has white people (and took a long time to recover, too!). And Egypt–no way, is that a part of Africa?

Always I harp on problems. Isn’t it time to offer solutions? Yes, I like solutions, don’t you? Except you’re not going to like this, and neither do I. From what I can tell, we’ll be able to make huge strides toward solving the energy and water crises (to start somewhere) by all becoming anal. For example, every morning I get up, rinse my mouth guard, and take a pee. How can I make that a better process, I ask myself? Maybe I rinse the guard with rainwater and dump that in my watering can, and maybe instead of using a flush toilet I pee into sawdust (from the local wood shop, delivered for a tip by children pulling wagons), flip the handle and it drops down into the compost pile below, like one of those hatches in an airplane toilet except without the sucking sound. It’s nitrogen-rich, you see. But I mustn’t be taking antibiotics or eating anything with heavy metals in it. Someone once told me that was the reason we can’t use human waste as fertilizer, so we’d better make sure.

That’s the first five minutes. You see, there are so many little events in life where we can make a difference. But there are certain barriers to each one. The composting and reuse of urine as fertilizer, for example, has a psychological barrier in that most people think it’s gross, I mean grosser than it is necessary (the other gross things we do, we see as necessary, so they don’t bother us as long as they don’t show up in movies or books). But I’m sure we’ll change our minds eventually, when natural gas-derived and mined fertilizers become too expensive, so why not just switch over now based on practical logic, matter over mind? Do we really need to jet activists and government officials around to conferences, debate environmental bills, create educational campaigns, wait for the big plumbing corporations to retool so they can get in on the updates (“Wal-Mart sells pee pots for less”), before we do the right thing?

I for one don’t care if it’s gross–not any more, since I’ve been living with this idea and have got used to it. It’s way less gross than all the diapers I’ve had to deal with and than picking up dog poop, anyway. I’d be proud to work on setting up a waterless pee pot in my bathroom (though I’d want it outside in the summer). But I’m intimidated by my children and husband’s probable reaction, to tell you the truth. Shall I do it anyway, put my sawdust where my fertilizer is, and just update you on how it goes down at my house? I feel bold. I’ll do it. Back in a week. If you want to join me, here’s my plan (any refinements you can offer are welcome):

Toilet!

  1. Nail together or adapt a simple bench with hole, strongly constructed and nicely refinished with marine shellac (I have my tools out already from another project). Covered in front, open in back. Room for extra stores of sawdust. Stir stick?
  2. Install toilet seat on top. I’ll use the one from the not-yet hauled toilet in the back storage area. WIth a prop for seat-lifters.
  3. Put sawdust in bucket or tray below.

I’ll have to experiment with the right amount of sawdust and the dimensions of the apparatus to minimize splashing, of course, and for now I’ll do all the dumping and refilling.

Wish me luck!

Week 1 update

 
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Posted by on December 11, 2013 in How to

 

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