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Tag Archives: composting toilet

Fine young folks around home, and projects

My twenty-one-year-old daughter landed a job via her boyfriend as a ski lift operator at Copper Mountain this year.¬† All was going well, and she was enjoying the chance to improve as a skier, when an infection of suspected Covid-19 hit about twenty in staff quarters, including my daughter’s roommate. This was about the same time as things were heating up here in Washington State, with our ski hills and otehr tourist faciliities shutting down preventatively, schools readying to do the same, and social distancing being encouraged. Copper Mountain closed and was keeping everyone quarantined, with pay and meal delivery. But testing revealed it was the flu after all, so my daughter and her boyfriend (I’ll call him Corey, not his real name) were able to catch a flight home.

They, and we, are fine–no flu, and it’s nice having them around. For one thing, since I have a secure state job, I’m able to have my daughter pitch in with stuff around the house for her room and board, and also hire Corey and his best friend, call him Jack, to do some outdoor building projects I’ve had in mind for years. The guys happen to be studying engineering and skilled with tools, as well as to love working as a team. I basically told them what I wanted done–the roof and floor of my tool shed replaced, showed them where the tools and scrap lumber was, and away they went. Pretty soon I realized the potential there and the project became a tool shed to chicken house conversion, with a three-bay rat-resistant compost system to follow. I might even have them remove the unused garage style door on back of the house after that, and replace it with a regular wall and window.

They are hard workers, and weren’t really doing it for the pay, my daughter told me–they just love to work together on stuff like that, she said. Of course, I will pay them, the market now being flooded with unemployed people of all ages. My other daughter and her boyfriend have also been added to my casual labor pool, doing the landscaping and spring cleanup when they have the time.

Outdoor projects, at least, are still feasible in the current shut down. I have used materials lying around, and can have others delivered if needed or track them down in the community. We’re keeping our pool of people contacts low, and I’ll be clarifying with the young people that we need to keep it that way and not hang out with others right now, to keep infection risk low. None of us is high risk, but we all have older friends and relations.

The evening after the shed project commenced, as we were sitting around trying to figure out next steps, we got to talking about this and that. Corey and Jack turned out to have a real breadth of knowledge and interests. They showed themselves to be intelligent, well read, thoughtful, and very interesting to talk with–just about every idea I brought up, they had read/thought about; they knew works of literature and philosophy, could talk politics, religion, history, and science; in the course of the evening we all got some leads from one another for further learning.

This evening I shared with Corey the compost bins plans, as well as a book I brought home from my school (getting some things before they disinfect and lock up completely for a month or two) called The Toilet Papers on how to build human waste composting systems. That’s something I’ve wanted to try too (see this post, as well as this and this), and Corey was interested as an engineer and builder as well as on principle, so maybe it could happen sooner rather than later after all (possibly through a permit process). Which would integrate well with another idea that occurred to me as I was discussing with a friend the latest toilet paper shortages: to challenge my at-home students to create homemade toilet paper from some kind of fiber they have at home, preferably one that occurs in the local ecosystem.

 

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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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