Ladies of Manure 2013 Calendar

Just when our Kickstarter fatigue has reached terminal limits, this crazy pitch shows up in our mailbox to make our day. Two words: Humanure Cheesecake.

(Err…two words you really don’t want to see together, ever,  now that I think about it. Sorry.)

As teachers, we spend a lot of our time trying to convince people to mulch and compost. Return it all to the earth, people!

We’re particularly fond of throwing down the humanure* gauntlet, partially because it really is a very important subject,  and partially for the shock factor and the giggles. Some audiences are primed for this challenge. For others, it’s the first time they’ve ever heard of the concept, and by the look on some faces, I imagine them thinking:

  • “Nope. Not even if civilization is burning down around my ears.”
  • “Note to self: Never visit these people at home.”
  • “They want me to keep poop around the house. Poop. Around my house.”
  • “Hmm, I’m sensing some sort of potty-training trauma here. Definitely an unhealthy anal obsession.”
  • “Funny, they don’t look like hippies.”

It’s an hard nut to crack, the poop nut. This environmental non-profit called The Fertile Earth Foundation is going about in a bold way, by trying to make manure sexy and fun. To be fair, the calendar isn’t all about humanure. (Then it would have to be called Jenkins Girls Gone Wild or something.) It’s about composting of all sorts, but humanure certainly gets much more play in it than it does in your average cheesecake calendar.

Take a look. They’re doing a Kickstarter to raise printing funds. What do you think? Think it will turn people on to the wonders of decomposition? What do you think it will take to make even basic composting a more commonplace activity? Do you humanure? If not, what keeps you from doing so?

*If humanure is new to you, check out the Humanure Headquarters for everything you could possibly want to know.

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  1. When I first heard about using cloth for pee and poop and washing the cloths, I said that I would be the last holdout. No one was taking my tp. Now, I am an evangelist for washable tp substitutes.

    My #1 reason for not having a humanure setup. I won’t. I just won’t!

    Okay, so I thought about it and have two other objections or problems: What do I do with my commode? I have the world’s smallest bathroom. When I had knee surgery, I had to get a quad cane to get into the bathroom because the walker would not fit. I would have to put the compost toilet in the hall or kitchen.

    The other objection is health-related. If I am in the same room with leaves or sawdust or any particulates, I start choking and cannot breathe. This quickly ends up being a serious problem since I have chronic bronchitis. I have not heard of anything being put into a compost toilet that does not hinder my breathing. Have you?

    I grew up with an outdoor toilet until I was seven and continued to use one when I visited my aunt. (When a child, I used a pot in the house, never even entering the outhouse.)Even in my 40s, I used outdoor toilets at a church I visited. So, this is not a squeamish issue. Okay, it is a squeamish issue, one I have experienced. Actually, it really was the wasps in the hole that horrified me.

  2. Having used a compost toilet elsewhere on a couple of occasions, I’ve been impressed with the complete lack of odor. So just this week, when I had a (thankfully minor) problem with my septic I didn’t hesitate to temporarily rig up a bucket toilet to use for a day or two. No way was I gonna flush again until I could get somebody to check things out.

    I used a spare 5 gallon bucket, removed the seat and lid from the toilet and set it on the bucket. I positioned the bucket in front of the vanity so when open, the lid could rest against it. I happened to have a bag of shredded paper on hand, so that’s what I used instead of leaves or woodchips. It worked great.

    I’m on a well, so if my power goes out, I can’t flush. Most times you’re not going to know this in advance – or how long it’s gonna last – so it’s impractical to have dozens of buckets full of water sitting around so you can keep flushing for several days. (And in this recent situtation, while the power was on, I didn’t dare flush anyway.)

    Honestly, in an emergency, if given the choice between a bucket full of “deposits” buried under woodchips/paper vs. a toilet full of deposits waiting to be flushed I’ll take the bucket every time, thank you. I only needed to use the bucket for 24 hours so it was a good learning experience under otherwise normal conditions (heat, lights were on, etc.). I’m now back to the normal routine of flushing, but at some point a composting bucket setup now seems a lot more feasible. As another poster noted however, I’m not sure where I’d locate a full-time one in this small house though.

    In this instance, since I don’t have a permanent setup, I discreetly buried the contents in my woods behind the house (where nobody ever goes) topped off with a very generous layer of woodchips.

    • Exactly! This is what I try to get across to our audiences. You may not want to adopt a composting toilet as your regular toilet, but you should know about the technology and be able to use it when you need it– whether there’s been a hurricane or you’re just waiting for the plumbers to show up. It’s safe and dignified–far better than pooping in plastic bags!!! Or waiting in line for the FEMA porta potty.

  3. For now, I think I’ll just stick to discreetly urinating in my compost pile for the extra nitrogen boost.

  4. I know exactly what you mean. Christy and I will be talking to a rapt audience about all of our DIY, environmental ingenuity, until the topic of our composting toilet comes up. You can watch people mentally take a step backwards. From there, they’ll either smile politely and think silently that we’re nuts, awkwardly excuse themselves from the conversation, or, occsionally, burst out laughing and loudly tell everyone in the room that we “shit in a bucket and then turn a crank!” as happened during one trip to visit relatives for Thanksgiving.

    Before pouring the foundation for our house we were almost begged by a plumber to put a toilet flange in, not wanting to believe that we were serious. The county stared out our undersized pipes and made several phone calls to make sure this was really a thing that people can do.

    For the record, we’re installing a SunMar Excell in our home. For the past year and a half, though, we’ve been living in a yurt and using the classic 5-gallon-bucket-with-a-seat setup. That being said, I don’t know that I necessarily want a calendar hanging around with pictures of girls on toilets. Call me prude, I suppose.

    • John, Do you, in your neck of the woods, actually have building codes that allow a compost toilet without an installed septic system ?!?!

  5. A good friend told us that she knew some people who wanted to do an eco-thing like ours, including some permaculture stuff, some eco-construction, etc. They were very excited and totally devoted to the concept of ecology, she said. Oh, except they want regular toilets.

    I understand that in an urban or even suburban situation it might be difficult to integrate a dry toilet setup. But I really can’t understand any environmentally conscious person doing a new construction with flush toilets. Now, planning our dry bathroom but still living in the city, every time I flush I think of the gallons of priceless drinking water being turned into poison and it just makes me cringe. Not to mention the extra plumbing expense and complications of connecting to a sewage system or – please no – installing a septic – Yuck! But people like the idea of flushing icky stuff away. The world will be a much better place when people realize that away doesn’t exist.

    Any effort to lighten up people’s attitudes about this issue is welcome in my book.

  6. It would be really nice, every once in a while, to see something sold or otherwise promoted without the use of boobs. To not promote yet again the idea that women are decorative objects/blank canvases/things that exist for other people’s amusement. You know, just as a change?

    • STH,
      Thank you. The women of the world and the men who truly love them thank you!

      Does the video imply that we women who are not beautiful can quietly excuse ourselves? Ouch

      Does anyone really want to think about sitting on a commode on a compost pile in plain sight?

    • I wanted to be on board until I saw the objectification of women. Come on, progressives. Don’t you know your audience? We are over 50% women and we hate being sexualized all the damn time.

  7. Naked women and manure?! This combination can only be topped by the successful fusion of bacon and beer.

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  9. I think one of the best ways to shut someone up when they start talking about how awful it is that they can’t do or buy “X” is to look them point blank in the eye and say: “What the hell’s YOUR problem? I poop in a bucket” and walk off. Granted, this was (initially) a conscious choice. Then after a house fire we moved into an off grid cabin that we had been slowly working up to livability. Thank goodness we already had Big John prepped and ready to go. Two years later, and vicariously living through one friend’s septic hellsplosion, and I LURVE Big John. Easy. No pipes to burst in the freezing cold. The urine can go onto my straw bales and break them down for spring planting. It doesn’t stink. And I don’t have a water bill to fight over when the flapper doesn’t close totally. Mr. Jenkins has painstakingly helped even noobs like me to understand the natural processes involved.

  10. The title of the post made me read the whole article. I really got intrigued by this Humanure thing. Well, it is not really nice to see someone sitting in a commode.

  11. Two reasons:

    1. I live in an urban area that only barely allows chickens, and I have a small yard that I rent. I highly doubt I could ever get away with it, even though our landlord is cool and allows us a cat, dog, chickens, several gardens and clotheslines.

    2. As an archaeologist who has occasionally worked on historic period sites, I’m just a little too concerned about human waste. I’ve had colleagues contract diseases from even 100-year-old privies. This stuff is serious.

    • Hey Jen,

      The ancient waste you are referring too must have been long-drop/cesspit setups, no? Humanure done correctly is exothermic and it kills viruses & bacteria that are harmful to us. Had the ancients known how to compost their “output”, I believe that the black plague and cholera epidemics would not have occurred at the scale they did.

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