The best dry toilet ever

Version 2

We are fortunate to have talented friends all around us, because they are a never-ending source of inspiration.

Case in point: Our friend, Gloria, needed a toilet for her off-grid compound. She asked our mutual friend, Daniel, to make her one. Daniel is a gifted maker– all his creations seem to have an inherent grace about them. Using the classic text, The Humanure Handbook, as a resource, he built her the most beautiful dry toilet system I’ve ever seen.

See more pics of this system and read Daniel’s story on his book-as-a-blog, The Cabin Dweller’s Texbook.

Also, we interviewed Daniel earlier this year for Root Simple Podcast #044.

051 Toilets and Poultry

tandp

On episode 51 we listen to a comment about toilets from Eric Rochow of Garden Fork TV. Eric mentions a podcast episode of Tiny House Chat where they talk about composting toilets. Then we discuss poultry biosecurity lessons that “West Coast” Erik learned at a recent conference. So, yes, toilets and poultry! Take that Elon Musk!

If you want to leave a question for the Root Simple Podcast please call (213) 537-2591 or send an email to [email protected]. You can subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store and on Stitcher. The theme music is by Dr. Frankenstein. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.

The Wonder of Worms

saint worm

[Another entry in the Back to the Garden series, which you can access by clicking the tag of the same name to the left.]

As I’ve been saying for the last couple of weeks, the key characteristic of the loving landscape is healthy, living soils which foster plant and animal health without artificial inputs. Compost, mulch and worms form the holy trinity of organic soil health.

Compost and mulch we’ve covered. Today I want to talk about worms, both worms in the wild and worms in your house.

Odd facts: Did you know there are about 4,300 species of earthworms world-wide? Did you know that the Australian Giant Gippsland earthworm can grow to be 3 meters (9.8 feet) in length? Shai-Hulud! I’ve also seen references to a 22 foot (6.7 meter) long worm discovered in South Africa, but can find nothing substantial to back it up, and have decided that it’s an Internet myth. What I do know, though, is that I’m glad I don’t live under water with the sea worms.

But I digress. The real wonders of this world are invisible, or so humble as not to be noticed. Like saints of the soil, garden variety worms pass through the world quietly, leaving miracles in their wake.

Continue reading…

Composting: Nothing is Wasted

[This post is part of our continuing series on crafting loving landscapes, organized under the Back to the Garden tag.)

Apropos to our discussion of food waste last week, our friend Alice sent us a clipping from the Wall Street Journal about industry response to the problem of food wastage. (Thanks, Alice!) It seems that appliance and household-product manufacturers have, through consultation and study, discovered that consumers feel deep-seated guilt about wasting food.

“It’s a guilt that doesn’t only have to do with money. It just feels wrong,” says Gaston Vaneria, vice¬† president of marketing for Newell Rubbermaid Inc.’s Rubbermaid consumer line, which includes food storage containers. “Consumers have the feeling of not being competent…”¬† (WSJ, April 22, 2015, D1)

Despite our guilt, according the WSJ, we’re wasting more food all the time. We’re wasting three times more than we wasted in 1960. That makes sense in lots of ways, including the advent of all these super-sized retailers with their perverse economies of scale inducing us to buy food in huge quantities, combined with, perhaps, a greater recent emphasis on eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, but oddly, we’re somehow wasting 20% more now than we did in just back in 2000.

The response of the industry to our guilt is–of course–to offer us more crap to choke the landfills new consumer products to address our needs, everything from smart refrigerators which promise to keep veggies longer, to plastic storage containers with replaceable charcoal filters in the lids.

My response, as you probably predicted, is to suggest that we deal with our guilt and our rotten vegetables by first, trying not to be so wasteful, and second, by composting, because spoiled food is not the end of a journey, it’s simply the beginning of a new journey.

O, Compost, my Compost! It’s hard not to get sappy about my love for compost. If I could write a poem to compost, I would. And I don’t think I’m alone in my compostophilia. Many clear-headed, rational individuals who I know will get a little sentimental, if not downright metaphysical, when they talk about what their compost piles mean to them.

Forget that compost is the best way to keep green matter out of the landfills, to save space and reduce methane emissions into the atmosphere. Forget about the great good compost does for the life of the soil. Forget that compost is the alpha and omega of organic gardening, and that any good gardener doesn’t like to see so much as a carrot peel go to waste, because it seems you can never have enough compost. No, just forget the vast practical utility of compost and think about what it symbolizes.

Compost is the purest alchemy. It is the nigredo, the black matter of putrefaction, which is the first step on the path to creating the philosopher’s stone.

As we tend the pile, we see the scraps and clippings, recognizable at first, wither and dissolve slowly into the whole, and we think about our own individuality, our own fates, and the way our lives give back to the world.

We see how nourishment can come out of loss, how new experience rises out of past mistakes.

We see also the great cycle of life. Everything changes, but nothing is lost.

What can compost not accept? What can it not forgive?

Simply put, keeping a compost pile is good is as good for your soul as it is for your soil.

Waste Not

If you can’t keep a compost pile, agitate to make your city adopt more comprehensive “green waste” policies. Many cities have disposal bins for yard trimmings, which are composted at city facilities, but we need community composting facilities to capture and reclaim food waste from homes, schools, businesses and restaurants.

You also may be able to keep a worm bin if you can’t keep a compost pile, and we’ll talk more about those soon.

If you want to start a compost pile, check out this comprehensive, free pdf booklet from Cornell University on the topic.

I’d also recommend keeping your eye out for classes–free composting classes offered by various community agencies are pretty easy to come by, and sometimes they even come with free or discounted bins.

As you get into it, you’ll find there are different styles of composting. Don’t let this confuse you or put you off. The most important thing to remember is that you can find a method that works for you. Don’t get hung up on looking for the perfect solution, just start any way you can. You can refine as you go. Compost doesn’t mind.

And I’m not even going to talk about the…uh…fertile frontier of human waste composting here–but you know we’re always thinking about it!

038 The Ground Rules with Nance Klehm

groundrulesFLUXUS2-300x300


On this week’s episode of the Root Simple podcast we talk with Nance Klehm about The Ground Rules. Nance’s project gathers waste from restaurants and institutions in Chicago, composts that waste and then uses the resulting compost along with mushrooms and plants to bioremediate damaged urban soils. Nance describes The Ground Rules as “re-imagining waste and biological infrastructures.” You can find out more about the project on the Social Ecologies website and on Nance’s personal website. There’s also a video about The Ground Rules. If you’re in Chicago you can visit Nance and Emmanual Pratt’s exhibition, For the Common Good: Meet the Remediators.

Nance’s explanation of The Ground Rules is really inspiring. She’s developing a manual to help people develop similar programs and will be coming out with a book about soil in the fall.

If you want to leave a question for the Root Simple Podcast please call (213) 537-2591 or send an email to [email protected]. You can subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store and on Stitcher. The theme music is by Dr. Frankenstein. Additional music by Rho. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.