Composting the Permaculture Way

16 11 2009

I often make much of recycling all the goodies we import onto the property and ensuring we keep them here… well, composting our animal manures is one sure fire way of doing this. Now we have six goats, a lot of pellets are produced daily! Because we go to all the trouble of feeding our animals extra feed that includes additional minerals (Australian soils are desperately mineral deficient) we want to make sure as much of those minerals as possible end up back in the soil where we grow our veggies…

manure 2

manure 1

scraping goat pellets off the ground

So once a week, one of us goes down to the goat paddock and scrapes as much of the good stuff as the grass will allow us off the ground. In perhaps 40 minutes, a twenty litre bucket can be filled to the brim, and mixed into the compost heap(s) along with the chicken manure. The heaps are usually kept wet by pouring the ducks’ used bath water, adding even more soil food.

pitch 1


At night, the kids are kept separated from their mums so that I actually have milk for us…. otherwise the kids would drink the lot. They are now old enough to be weaned, and I am even starting to separate them for the whole day. The first time I tried it, I managed to get 1850 mL of milk in the evening and following morning sittings.

Of course while they spend the night in their half tank, they pee and crap all over the hay, and whenever it takes my fancy (or I need more compost material) I’ll go down and muck out. It takes about three trips with the wheelbarrow, but it’s all worth it knowing we have chemical free organic manure to use on the garden.

There is one more secret to our composting habits….. our toilet!

Flushing toilets are soooo 19th century… The whole idea of mixing two critically important resources, humanure and potable water, and turning them both into waste is simply ridiculous. I recently read that in Britain alone, an entire coal fired power station is necessary just to separate the urine contained in sewage out… Sewerage may have been a good idea 150 years ago when city folks waded through raw sewage in the streets, but today there is no excuse whatever to continue with this ridiculous concept, especially at a time when the planet is being overrun by us, Homo Sapiens.

toiletSo how does it work? It is amazingly simple actually. This one was a prototype when we bought it… in fact I think it may well be the first one sold. I have since recommended it to quite a few friends who are all happy with it. The big hole at the back is for the solid stuff, which drops into a specially made composting bin. The front hole gathers the urine which goes directly into our greywater, and fertilises our bananas and mulch forest areas. That’s it, it just works, you don’t have to do anything other than sit on it, or if you’re a bloke and your aim is pretty good, we have a medium sized challenge for you! Alternatively, you can just go out into the garden and pee straight onto the compost heaps!

To everyone’s surprise, it is totally odor free… because everyone expects a smelly toilet that they could never live with. In fact, I could never go back to a flushing one, I think they are disgusting…

Under the slab, sits the bin. Bins in fact, I modified the original system to improve the stoiletchamberspeed with which all the fresh manure turns into compost. There’s a fan that runs 24/7 attached to each bin… the left one is that which is under the pedestal. This fan draws air out of the toilet room, down between your legs, and through the pile of composting un-nameables and up the vertical vent you see here. The result is that all odors are sucked out to the outside, even as you use it. Now this system uses a rotating set of three bins, the one under the seat, which when filled now shifts to the right and is connected to a second fan. An empty bin is then put into service under the toilet. The fan on the second bin speeds the composting process up, and removes any odors from the freshest stuff on the top of the pile. The third bin is the one that is removed from the right hand chamber under the floor, it now sits in the yard awaiting final composting before going onto the garden. The pipe at left by the way is the urinal diverter heading for the fruit trees!

Now I know there will be people who will turn their noses up at this (literally!!) because the thought of just moving filled bins fills them with dread. The good news is that it simply is not as bad as you would think. For starters, to call a spade a spade, only wet shit stinks….. and seeing as no urine goes down the chute, it hardly smells at all. Then if you wait until late afternoon to do the job, and throw an couple of handfuls of comfrey down the chute before doing the deed, not only will you not smell it, you won’r even see it. Once you get the hang of it, it barely takes ten minutes to do the job, and frankly I don’t even think about it anymore, I just do it.

By doing this, even every scrap of food that we still import into the place gets added to the soil to improve it. Flushing resources down toilets to pollute streams rivers and oceans simply does not make sense. If you still need more convincing, try this: