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The Humanure Handbook

Discussion in 'Survival Reading Room' started by RightHand, Oct 30, 2005.

  1. RightHand

    RightHand Pioneer in a New World Moderator Founding Member

    The following link has lots of valuable information about waste and how to deal with it in non-urban settings. Truly what to do with the S before it HTF!!! http://www.weblife.org/humanure/
  2. melbo

    melbo Hunter Gatherer Administrator Founding Member

    Has to be dealt with at some point...
  3. Clyde

    Clyde Jet Set Tourer Administrator Founding Member

    Poop Fertilizer

    My mother inlaw told me a story about her mother from the 1940s:

    Every year our nextdoor neighbor, a stout russian lady, would plant tomatoes in her garden. My mother never had any luck in downtown Chicago with her tomatoes, but couldn't get over how big, plump, and juicy the russian lady's were. The neighbor was happy to share her abundance of tomatoes with them. They were the best tasting tomatoes ever. The next spring, her mother was washing dishes as the russian neighbor was planting her tomatoe plants. And the secret of the high quality tomatoes was revealed. After filling a bucket with dooty from the outhouse, a hand trowel of this rich fertilizer was placed into the hole and some dirt was then put on top. Then the tomatoe plants were placed on top of the dirt and poop. They never ate another tomato from that garden again.
  4. Clyde

    Clyde Jet Set Tourer Administrator Founding Member

    What, did I poop on this thread?
  5. RightHand

    RightHand Pioneer in a New World Moderator Founding Member

    Actually, your story reminded me of the Easter Sunday morning we went out to find the cesspool had caved it. My dad and granddad got it fixed up and working again. A few months later we had volunteer tomato plants spring up with the biggest tomatoes you have ever seen. Having previously lived in Japan, we were not unaware of 'humanure' but we contributed those particular tomatoes to the compost pile. BTW, the cesspool is still working fine
  6. ghrit

    ghrit Ambulatory anachronism Administrator Founding Member

    Don't be in such a hurry to throw out perfectly good food. Humankind has lived a long time using and recycling all sorts of "stuff." Aside the "eewww" factor. tomatoes don't carry anything over into the fruit, the plant is a pretty effective way of isolating the not so nice elements used in feeding themselves. Ever read the ingredients in commercial fertilizer? Nibble a handful of that if you are looking for dead time. How about the fish the indians showed the Pilgrims to put in a corn hill with the seed. Talk about a smelly crop.

    If you are really nervous about the tomatoes, you might can them, the heat should allay some fears.
  7. RightHand

    RightHand Pioneer in a New World Moderator Founding Member

    Since I was only about 15 at the time, the "eewww" factor pretty much did it for me. I've come a long way baby b::
  8. melbo

    melbo Hunter Gatherer Administrator Founding Member

    Read an interesting article once on composting toilets.

    The gist was that we are collecting and throwing all of our Nutrient base into Landfills and the Ocean. Our commercial fields are already pretty barren of many nutrients. We add NPK to the soil as it makes for a full and pretty tomato. But doesn't add the other stuff that that tomato used to find in its soil.

    What little nutritional value we manage to get goes to Water treatment plant and then flushed out into the rivers where it heads out to sea. The scraps go to the trash can. I can see the cumulative nutrient deficiency of our soil happening from this.

    Maybe it's also why we are having health issues too; reduced immune systems, etc
  9. ghrit

    ghrit Ambulatory anachronism Administrator Founding Member

    Well, yes and no. As of now, many treatment plants are using some forms of composting as a step toward reuse of sewage solids. There are regulations in place for reuse at different levels, depending on the composition of the solids. Quite a bit of the materials from some of the larger plants are recovered and reused in agricultural areas, and a lot more experimentation and research is ongoing. There is a commercially available fertilizer called Milorganite easily availabe for those that wish to use it in their garden plots. Straight output, treated properly, from waste treatment streams.

    The idea is that we took it out, and should put it back.
  10. melbo

    melbo Hunter Gatherer Administrator Founding Member

    But what about all of the other, non human deposited stuff that gets flushed down the sink?

    Do these process' remove Drano, Rat Poison, Meth Lab leftovers and other nasty chems?
    I'd think that that 'recoverd' supply may be a bit hazardous myself, especially if the quality control is left up to a Municipal Agency.

    I've seen people dump paint stripper and some other very toxic stuff down the drain.

    enlighten me on the systems
  11. ghrit

    ghrit Ambulatory anachronism Administrator Founding Member

    Generally, the processes get rid of MOST of the toxics by one means or another, by chemical, physical and biological processes. There are allowable limits, set low enough that there is no current reason to think there might be a problem in human systems. That said, there is a lot remaining to be discovered in research. Yes, the fox is usually watching the henhouse, but there is oversight by dot gov agencies, and yes, I know that is small comfort, but without an extensive organic chemistry lab there is no practical way for the average joe to check up on the dot gov. Most (again small comfort) the muni guys hire external labs to do the quality control on stuff that is being sent anywhere but a landfill. (They do their own analyses for process control internally.)

    Note that some green plants are low on the food chain, and are remarkably effective in sequestering toxics and are widely used as a final stage of cleanup of waters before returning it to the "receiving waters" such as local streams or wetlands. Some wastewater plant effluents can be directly reused as potable water in domestic applications, tho' current regulations do not allow it. Most of the very high quality effluent is used for recharge of aquifers by direct or indirect injection. Note that waste water is reused directly or with limited treatment in isolated environments. (Think spacecraft and the biosphere project in Arizona several years ago.)

    So far as reuse of "biosolids" goes, the best current use is fertilizer for green things that are not directly in the human food chain, say for fodder. Some of the higher quality stuff is used for food grains and vegitable fertilizer, but that use is limited. Between the direct treatment and proper composting and finishing, all pathogens are effectively removed, and toxins to below the range of detection are also taken out. Not much remains to present a risk AS LONG AS THE PROCESSES REMAIN STABLE. (Emphasis mine, and it is a critical control aspect.)

    For what it is worth, the processes used are not too difficult to understand, but they are complex in that they are not linear, meaning it isn't like neutralizing caustics or acids by adding the opposite materials. (Well, you can do that, but it is incredibly expensive. Not worth the cost, since there are equally effective and far less costly ways to git 'er done.)

    Rat poisons, drano, oils, greases, lab effluents, industrial wastes are pretty well taken care of in the normal WW plants. Where there are heavy contaminants, say from manufacturing facilities that represent a major load on the plant stream, there are usually industrial pretreatment requirements before the effluent goes to the muni plant. The results of allowing these wastes to enter the stream are about like you would expect if you dump your used oil into your septic tank. The biological action that stabilizes the waste is upset and no longer does it's thing. Think of that, you city dwellers, when you dump your used oils and leftover paints down the sink or in the street. While the plant can take small amounts out of the stream down the kitchen sink, that ain't so if you dump it down the storm drains which go to the storm outfalls direct to the river.

    It's worth noting that Mother Nature can and will recover if you smack her around a bit now and then, like the Exxon Valdez business, or forest fires, hurricanes and floods, but she won't recover from continuous abuse nearly as well. As a society, we need to get our act together, and quit shitting in our own mess kit.

    Jeez. I had to think for this. End rave and rant. [cof]
  12. melbo

    melbo Hunter Gatherer Administrator Founding Member

    Thanks ghrit for taking the time to explain that. I know you have some expertise in this area, hence my question.

    What effect does 'super rich' yet treated effluent have on the waterways it enters? I sometimes see a heavier growth of Greens around certain waterways.

    What do you think though about mineral and nutrient depletion in Commercial farm soils and the fertilizer we normally add back to it? My example of the 10/10/10 NPK was generalized I'm sure, but that is about the only fertilizer I see at the Local Farm Co-Op supply houses here.
  13. melbo

    melbo Hunter Gatherer Administrator Founding Member

    Some good info on composting toilets can be found by googling composting toilet
    I saw a large setup at a remote area of a resort. I saw a full set up once at a local Luxury resort. They have Unimogs that will take you down to there 'remote' riverside nature area. (Complete with plasma TVs in the Timber frame gazebos and a Fire boy to stoke the massive fireplace). Clydes been there. The Lodge at Buckberry Creek, IIRC.

    ANyway, I walked into the Loo and turned on the lite to find a tube with a seat on it. I assumed this was an outhouse and then noticed that there was zero odor. You peer in the hole and see the same thing you'd see in an outhouse but this was a large scale composter. Very interesting and I believe the GSM national Park service is converting to these as well.

    Some cool applications on 1970's ideas
  14. ghrit

    ghrit Ambulatory anachronism Administrator Founding Member

    If I understand the question, "super rich" effluents seem to me to be under treated. The green is algae that is consuming excess nutrients that were not taken out by treatment in the plant. As the algae flourishes, it takes out oxygen, leaving little for the fish and others organisms that need it for life. Among other things, this is why the Chesapeake is sick, and also explains the dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico, off Baja, and in the Atlantic off NJ among others. "Anoxic zones" is the official name for it, a direct result of too many nutrients left in the river deltas and discharges into the oceans. The blame is laid on farm runoff (non point discharges) that cannot be collected and treated like sewer flows are handled. Fertilizer, by definition is nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) that are applied to farms to replace nutrients removed by the growing things. These nutrients are applied broadcast, and are not all taken up by the crops. Your average farm pond will go the same route in dryer times, stagnant water will do that, green up (then darken) and get foul smelling from the anerobic (low to no oxygen encourages bacteria that operate on low or no oxygen, and incidently stink) conditions.

    By the way, that is why our deposits in the twa-lay smell. Our guts are anerobic, and the beneficial bugs that naturally exist in our guts (and cows for another example of mammalian excreta) operate on a different chemistry, based on a no oxygen environment.

    "Normal" fertilzers do NOT replace all the good stuff removed from soils. Trace amounts taken up by crops are not usually part of the fertilizer formulas. Long term effects of these trace material removals is not well studied, there is no history that I know of to base a study on.

    My brain hurts.
  15. melbo

    melbo Hunter Gatherer Administrator Founding Member

    Thx, one last thing...

    I was once told that Humans are really not very genetically different from an Oak tree. That seemed absurd at the time I heard it but I'm sure you can explain it [peep]
  16. monkeyman

    monkeyman Monkey+++ Moderator Emeritus Founding Member

    IIrc its anhydris amonia that is used a lot in most comercial farm operations now to 'squeeze' all the neutrients out of the soil for the plants. It works well for several years but eventualy its just like squeezeing a wet spounge and sooner or later you get everything out of it. A very large amount of the problems can be avoided just by crop rotation. Different plants use different neutrients and even while growing replenish certian neutrients that they dont use, kind of like humans inhale O2 and exhale CO2 then the plants inhale CO2 and exhale O2. So if you rotate them properly then the plants themselves will do a LOT of the replenishing of the soil on thier own even without composting or anything else being added. The problem with this is that with the way our farmers have learned they have to farm (think 250k tractors, 250k combines, loans in the spring to get the crops in with intrest due in the fall, high priced fertalizers and herbacides, etc.) its nearly impossible to make a decent profit, so they have to grow whatever will make the most money and some of the things that you need to rotate in are things like potatoes, and IIRC peanuts, and other low (or as farmed now pretty much NO) profit crops, so the farmers cant afford to stay in business if they rotate properly (at least farming the way they have be taught they have to do it, some have figured out they can go smaller and more 'green' and make a higher profit by cutting out the cost of the chems, intrest on loans, high end equiptment and so on but few have figured this out).
    As to the fertalizers, we moved to our farm 3 years ago and the place had been vacant for over a decade. We broke sod for a good sized garden 50' x50', and it takes the soil a while to adjust to growing vegies but we spread cow, donkey, rabbit, and goat manure on it then till it in and before planting in the spring I take a day or 2 and go fish for bluegills (or whatever little fish I can catch tons of) and drop a fish under each plant. Even the first year we had great luck with tomatoes, peppers, in the fall after harvesting it the critters are turned loose on it to eat what they want and add a bit of manure then it is burrned off, the second year we did well with the same things plus cucumbers, more kinds of peppers, and radishes. We did the same thing and this year we did so so on cabbage, decent on brusselsprouts, mellons, turnips, great on the tomatoes, peppers, radishes, green beans and peas. Contrary to what you might think it also dosnt even smell bad and theres no bad effects on the food, to the contrary the food looks, tastes and grow great and even if it was human manure raw from the cess pool and it was on the food, I konw I would feel safer eating that than something covered in a lot of the stuff sprayed on the ground and on the plants comercialy. A lot of the comercial chemicals are so toxic that if you get a little of it on your cloths the cloths have to be disposed of as hazardus material, and I know of at least one case personaly of a man who got some of the fertalizer (IIRC) on his brand new cloths and so rather than dispose of them he washed them about 10 times before he wore them again, within hours of putting them back on he was sick and by that night he was dead and the family got sick from the residue in the washer. So while there are some health concerns with useing untreated human manure for your food growth dont be fooled into thinking that its NEARLY as hazardous as what you buy at the grocery store.
    Just something to think about.
  17. ghrit

    ghrit Ambulatory anachronism Administrator Founding Member

    Well, I don't know about genetics, but I do know some folks with hard heads ---

    MM has a lot of it right about farming and profit. Used to be, when economics made it right, corn was rotated with beans or peas (I think it was) to allow the veggies to add nitrogen back to the soil that the corn took out. There are/were other rotations (comes to mind shade tobacco and rye) that worked for other crops, no clue what they were. Anyway, natural fertilizers are the way to go, I guess, whereever and whenever possible. (Not too sure I want enough pigs or turkeys around, tho'.) The tribe will have to figure it out when that is all that is left of society. If MM is with us, we'lll be a step ahead.
  18. monkeyman

    monkeyman Monkey+++ Moderator Emeritus Founding Member

    Thanks G. Actualy it dosnt take as many critters as you might think. We have about 10 rabbits for breeding stock and utcher the offspring or turn them loose for better hunting when wanted or needed without thier feed bill, 3 goats (2 does we milk and 1 buck to 'freshen' them), 1 donkey, and one steer. Between those critters and tossing most of the ash from the stove in the winter on the garden and the fish it seems to be doing wonders. One fact I failed to mention is that this is central MO soil, a bit of clay and sand with a touch of real dirt to hold the rocks together, and in 3 years just that little bit of treatment (and yeah have used a little miricle grow the first year or 2 but not nearly as much as recomended) has made that patch quite fertile. As far as how many critters it takes to fertalize the fields, it seems to me that it pretty much balances out to about the same number of critters you would need for meat, milk, breeding stock, and work animals if not a little less, but then the extra can always go on the hay fields that feeds the critters. In other words, if you need a 100'x100' garden to supply your vegie needs you would need several animals to provide your meat needs (and post SHTF probably your power/transportation needs) that you would have plenty of fertalizer.
  19. ChemicalGal

    ChemicalGal Monkey+++

    Humanure Composting

    I have read the Humanure Handbook and I really like the idea. My kids highly object, but I think it will take showing them.

    I am going to put one of those toilets in the house I build and start a compost like he shows, Also, MM's ways with the animals is great. I used rabbit pellets one year and everyone said they were too hot...but I had the best Vegetables.

    Used to bring home dried cow manure right out of the fields at my uncles place and use on the garden. Got great veggies and a side bonus...tee hee. The neighborhood kids came over and said we were growing pot. Turns out there were some hemp seeds in that manure and one got missed in weeding....but it got killed later.

    I know they collect what they call night soil and put it directly on gardens and it works great. My concern on something like that would be diseases being transmitted. Wouldn't worry too much about my family's alone as we are healthy as horses. But still think composting is a better way at least with human manure. Not so with animal.

    The fish idea is good and another one is Banana peels .... you cut them up and put a piece under each plant. Great fertilizer. Coffee grounds is another.

    Anyway, just wanted to throw my 2 cts in
    Chemical Gal
  20. RightHand

    RightHand Pioneer in a New World Moderator Founding Member

    Save all your egg shells, let them dry thouroughly, then run them through the blender to create a powder fertilizer for houseplants and outdoor garden. I've been doing this for years. I have a friend who works in a nursing home so she has the kitchen toss all their shells in cardboard boxes I supply and I pick them up every few days.

    I also keep a worm box going which produces high quality fertilizer and I never have to worry about bait when the urge to cast a line hits.

    "Eggshells are 93% calcium carbonate. In addition to the calcium, the eggshells contain about 1% nitrogen, about a half-percent phosphoric acid, and other trace elements that make them a practical fertilizer. Calcium is an essential plant nutrient which plays a fundamental part in cell manufacture and growth. Most roots must have some calcium at the growing tips. Plant growth removes large quantities of calcium from the soil, and calcium must be replenished, so this is an ideal way to recycle your eggshells." by Christopher Nyerges& Dolores Lynn Nyerges Reference http://www.backwoodshome.com/articles/nyerges44.html
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