Lady Urine, Water Conservation and Halfway Humanure

red auto store funnel/ pee cup for ladies?

I approve of the oval shape of the opening of this funnel– and the sporty color.

Fact 1: Human urine is an excellent source of nitrogen for your garden. It can be applied directly to a compost pile, or diluted 10:1 and used on plants.

Fact 2: Nature has equipped the male of the species in such a manner that it is easy for him to contribute nitrogen to the compost pile. For women, it’s a bit more tricky.

So, how do ladies give back to the soil?

Yesterday we had a comment from an anonymous female reader, telling us how she adds urine to her compost pile. She uses an inexpensive funnel from an auto-supply store. (Auto parts for lady parts?)

funnel

This funnel has a handle, which is convenient. But I’m not sure how to interpret the look of the thing. It’s sort of disturbingly medical-techno.

The advantage of this type of funnel over, say, a kitchen funnel,  is that it has a very long nose or nozzle. This, she explained, allows her to neatly direct the urine into a watering can. Very smart.

I wondered if other female readers out there had tried-and-true methods for urine collection that they’d be willing to share? I’m terrible at it, myself.

This is particularly pertinent for Erik and I right now because, as regular readers know, we’re trying out this strawbale garden thing. We can help to get the bales going by peeing on them.

But there’s a lot of bales, and Erik only has so much pee. My contributions would be useful. Plus, this method of gardening is undeniably water hungry. I feel like we should partially offset this expenditure by conserving water as much as we can.

One simple way to save water is to stop flushing the toilet so much. And if all our pee went outside, it would not only save water, but it also would add water and nitrogen to the soil. Win-win.

Now, I imagine our more feisty readers will ask, why stop at pee? We’re big supporters of the humanure concept and have kept a dry toilet in the past. It’s not difficult to compost human waste , but you  do have to be careful, and you need a dedicated humanure pile–more than one, really. More like three. We just don’t have room for that right now.

But there’s a compromise solution. I call it Halfway Humanure. It’s easy to institute a urine-only dry toilet in your home or yard.

dry toilet

Our milk crate toilet.

That means you get yourself a five gallon bucket and one of those camping toilet seats which snaps onto a five gallon bucket. Or you build yourself a deluxe model, like ours. You put a nice cushion of  sawdust or wood shavings or crushed dried leaves or whatever works for you at the bottom of the bucket (maybe 3-4″) and start using it. Top it off with a sprinkle of dry stuff each time you use it. Keep the lid closed. It will not stink.

Reserve #2 for the flush toilet. This keeps things simple. If you’re only collecting urine, you don’t have to be a talented composter. And for the flush-toilet trained, it’s much easier to pee in a bucket than to poop in a bucket. It’s just not such a big psychological leap. (It’s actually a great stepping stone to full humanure composting, if that’s your goal).

The material you collect can go straight onto your regular compost pile–no special treatment required–and it’s a valuable resource.

So, to sum up this meandering post, while Erik is “watering” the straw bales, I think I’m going to be collecting my nitrogen inputs in the dry toilet. (That it, unless I trot myself down to the AutoZone and get myself a funnel.) Both of us, in our different ways, will be contributing to the fertility of our garden.

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44 Comments

  1. How unexpected !
    In certain parts of the world, people are concerned about the fact that men and women are not equal, even when facing the toilet. But this is the first time that read about “watering the bale”.

    Here’s wiki for this : http://www.wikihow.com/Urinate-Standing-up-As-a-Female

    For some pictures, and some visual how-to, google “femme uriner debout”. You’ll see that the shape of the funnel is quite similar.

    As a child, when we went to the cabine, we would pee in a dry toilet too, a bucket, we named “Catherine”. Memories !!

  2. I almost asked in the previous post if this would work on the straw bales. I’m very hesitant to bring fertilizer into the process for our little straw bale garden when I know my pee has such a similar makeup.

    (first time I’ve shared this) For privacy sake, I usually keep a jar in the garage and pee in that and then pour it on the compost pile or whatever.

    • Nitrogen is nitrogen, right? The question is, how much urine do you need? Wonder what the NPK of urine is?

      I think it is just a question of how long you want to wait for your bales to be ready. The nitrogen inputs speed the process up, and the more nitrogen, the faster it goes, but I believe you can just let a bale sit for a season with no inputs other than water, and get the same result.

  3. A word of caution: many people are on medication and that might render the urine unsafe to use. I am no expert, but I have read concerns about e.g. contraception traces in purified drinking water.

    Otherwise a great post.

    • The heat and bacterial action of composting does a great job of breaking down organic molecules. Pesticides and herbicides, for instance, are broken down by composting. (Except the new-fangled persistent herbicides–which makes me want to beat my head against the counter.)

      This isn’t studied enough, and I can’t speak to every item in the pharmacopeia, but speaking generally, I think it’s actually better to put chemical-laced pee on the compost pile than down the toilet, where those drugs are pretty much guaranteed to make their way to the water supply.

      You may wish to refrain from watering plants with urine for absolute safety–but even then, you know, sunshine, soil and worms are good scrubbers. All in all, I’m just not too worried.

    • The main thing I’d worry about is radionuclide therapy, such as treatment with radioactive iodine vs. thyroid cancer.

      I guess I’d also worry a little about people who are on chelation therapy to flush toxic heavy metals from their system. If it’s not concentrated enough to harm your kidneys, though, I’m thinking it’s not enough to worry about in soil…perhaps that is me being naive.

  4. What about a urine collection hat? Sounds weird but that’s what they’re called. They use them in the hospital for measuring urine output. It sits just inside any regular toilet.

  5. Dudes got it easy, on so many levels, this is just one more example. One cautionary note, urine on young sprouts can have a high salt content (‘specially me after movie theater popcorn), that can be detrimental.

    • Definitely! You always want to dilute your urine for use in watering plants– 10:1 being the general recommendation. Whenever you give little seedlings a feeding with some sort of organic “tea”, that fertilizer, whatever type it is, needs to be super diluted, because they are delicate. So maybe 20:1 in this case? And maybe this shouldn’t happen the morning after movie night?

  6. My daughter is quite adept at adding her contribution to our backyard “pee bale”. Has been since she was 4. It involves stripping from the waist down and adopting an impressive bow-legged pelvic tilt, and it may only be an option for females with impressive flow rates, but she manages just fine.

    • LOL! I have seen this in the past when my two-year-old tried to emulate her older brother’s actions.She was doing a lot of pulling and searching for a nozzle to pull out. I did turn her around and place her on the toilet. She was very disappointed to learn she did not have the same instrument hidden somewhere.

  7. I have used a mason jar mug (with a handle) to pee-swipe-dump into the compost. I have used a custom-made heavy-bottom no-spill pottery chamber pot (mostly at night, for dumping in the morning).

    I have also dug a post-hole and filled it with straw and peed on that. We live rural, so peeing al fresco is an option.

    I could also imagine putting a bale down into a trench and peeing directly on that.

  8. In China, night soil and urine are so valuable that the farmers build lovely and elaborate outhouses, well maintained, beside the road to entice passersby to stop and make a deposit. Everyday the farmer empties his treasures. Mrs. H, you could put a pretty outhouse next to the sidewalk in the name of green to entice your neighbors to offset your urine deficits.

    The problem with going to Auto Zone and buying a funnel is that because I have problems walking, I would have to ask someone to show me or fetch one for me. THEN, in the name of good customer service the guy would quiz me as to what purpose I needed a funnel. You cannot just be vague with these guys, because they are persistent questioners. I feel like I am being grilled and expect to be waterboarded next if I don’t give up information. (Most of the time, I am just unsure of what I need or its true intended purpose, just am fuzzy in my mind because I am not using it for automotive.)

    If I persisted in choosing one and asked for an oval opening, all the guys would want to help. I know I should be brave and just say, “I want to pee in it.” However, I am thought of as being eccentric as it is.

    • It’s for measuring out liquid fertilizer into your garden watering can without spilling. Mostly you want it to keep the fertilizer separate from your kitchen funnels, but you’re going to be particular about what it looks like. (This is true, so far as I know, if a little misleading.)

      And you want it to fit your watering can (maybe bring this along?), but also to work with any container of liquid fertilizer you have at home. It would be a real production to test all that out in the store, but you’re familiar enough with what you want to do to, to know what you want when you see it.

      Some dissembly required.

  9. I meant to say that a bedside commode, placed whereever, could facilitate collecting urine. Even if a person did not use the little pot, a five gallon bucked could be placed underneath. Soon, I will have to use one of these, so I will be all set. One of these potties could be used anywhere a person deemed it handy for deposit.

    • Great idea!

      I happen to have one left over from a kneecap I broke a couple years ago. I never thought about getting the *$^% thing out of my closet and into the garden.

    • DH took one of those “invalid” bedside loos, broke it down to make it portable, and takes it camping. Sets it up over a hole in the ground and became the envy of his mates! Looks like I’ve found a new use for it!

  10. Ah, what a perfectly timely post. We too have started “conditioning” our straw bales, and I have actually said to the husband, “You don’t have enough pee for all of this!” Have to figure out a way to make my own contribution – I think the funnel might be the trick. Squatting over a bucket is NOT the answer. ;p

    • I originally contributed the thought of using the funnel but I’ve been experimenting since others contributed other ideas. One of the things I’ve found is that a two-liter soda bottle turned upside down with the bottom removed works just as well or better. The soft but secure plastic sides mold easily to a comfortable profile.

      It can perform as a funnel with the cap removed. Or with the cap screwed or glued on securely it can function as a container to carry the urine to the compost pile.

      Hey! It’s a couple different kinds of recycling/reusing and if you don’t buy soda I bet you’ve got a neighbor who wouldn’t mind supplying a bottle.

  11. A post near and dear to my heart! My husband and I have a small orchard, and that is where we both “fertilize” the soil. It’s a bit imprecise, but I figure the direct application won’t hurt the trees as it might a smaller plant, especially with regular irrigation of the area. I use the pStyle, which I found after a bit of research, and it suits my needs perfectly. It’s contoured to fit your pee area, and hard plastic so you use the back edge as a drip-scraper so you don’t need to wipe afterward – very practical, and a great tool. As a bonus, it makes me laugh every time I use it. It’s the whole peeing-standing-up thing – it is just SO foreign to my body.

    • There was a time when women dressed for this. Panties that had an open crotch or no panties at all and lonf dresses would facilitate even squatting. Now, women have to expose themselves to pee squatting or standing with a device. Even if it is in the woods, I always think someone must be watching.

    • Yup, ladies aren’t ill-equipped to pee outdoors. It’s fun to pee in the woods. We’re just ill-equipped to do so–modestly–in pants. This whole discussion simply was not an issue until we adopted the trouser as daily wear. Not that I want to wear a skirt every day, much less when I’m hiking and camping–but as you say, long skirts and no underwear, or split underwear, was how women in the western world, at least, negotiated nasty toilets, chamber pots and al fresco peeing for millenia.

    • An elderly person 40 years ago said that they just spread their legs in long dresses and did not squat at all. They could pee without assuming a pose in the field.

      Once a friend and I were going on a little day trip around the area. I needed to pee. He told me to go into the corn field by the road. I refused after I got out. I complained the weeds would touch my bottom. He said, “Those weeds are less than a foot high! How can they touch your bottom?” He was shocked when I said I squat and am lower than one foot when I do go. He said he had just forgotten about that since he stood. ???

      There is a way to squat and pee and a way that does not work. Never pee on rock hard ground because the pee will splash. Ask me how I know. Never pee where the pee will run under your feet. Even on the bottom of your sandals, there is the chance it will dam up and run into your sandal. Ask me how I know. It is just so complicated for females.

  12. I’m glad to know about the auto parts funnel, because I can’t, for the life of me, get my husband to pee on the compost pile (he’s shy).

  13. Your Humanure toilet design is brilliant! As for the lady urine…I will keep mine to myself LOL I am in a house full of boys old and young. They are more than willing to “contribute” to the garden. (I only had to ask once!)

  14. As Noelle mentioned above, there are specialized products for the purpose of helping ladies stand up to pee while wearing pants. The ones I’ve seen are the pStyle and the P-Mate.

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  16. My mother did that years ago.
    She just placed a chamber pot in the toilet.
    But she never used the pure urine.
    Fresh urine ( not older than 24 hours) has to be mixed with water.
    1 part urine with 10 parts water for young plants
    and 1 part urine with 30 parts for potted plants.

  17. This has been quite the liberating article. Tried some of the female specific funnels a few years ago after some very rather disgusting public restroom encounters one road trip. after coming out with totally soaked pants, have switched to skirts/dresses pretty exclusively. Still have to watch where and how you spray or you’ll find the skirt wet anyway! Right now, am using a large mouthed plastic container and then dumping the urine in the compost. Was given several big bags of sawdust a few years ago, and then held off using it because of the nitrogen depletion when it composts. Problem solved! Will be building my outdoor privy this week and improving my soil! BTW, buy long skirts/dresses at the thrifts, so even if they get trashed after a season of hiking, garden work, etc its no great loss. You will be amazed how much cooler things are in the summer and yes, you leave the underwear at home! Winter, I wear a cotton slip and knee socks . . .

  18. Repurpose a gallon milk jug. Cut the top off, leaving the handle in place and sloping slightly downward from there to the other corner. Works great; nice large opening catches everything and doesn’t splash. And no new plastic “stuff” to buy.

    • Great idea! Seems like this would work well for squatting around the house, where you have some freedom of movement and privacy — you could even insert one straight into a straw bale. The specialized funnels for women are different in that they have a narrow profile, which allows them to be used with pants lowered just a bit. Good for hiking, etc. Different funnels for different folks!

  19. One of the best tips I got was that Nestle’S Nesquick Chocolate Powder container is perfect for capturing female urine. Just the right size and shape, with a snap on lid…plastic, and it’s even yellow ;) I started with the small size but the large is even handier…got them stashed in discreet locations about the house and garden. When filled, they are dumped in the partially water-filled watering cans.

  20. Oh, forgot to add that I made brownies out of the chocolate stuff…best I could come up with to ‘get rid’ of it ;)

    And filled with water + baking soda for a day ‘deodorizes’ when desired.

    btw, my fist attempt was also using the hospital in-toilet ‘hat’… but Nesquick is much easier. This ‘miracle go’ really does make plants (including weeds) grow like there’s no tomorrow!

    • Oh, good idea! I was wondering what in the heck I would do with the powder!

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