We’ve been busy building a compost bin and wood store, not least because material for composting has been piling up from both the composting toilet and kitchen, and our firewood has been both rotting and remaining damp underneath its tarpaulin.
Oonagh helped for a while, but was really more interested in rehearsing her outfit for carnaval. So Helen and I did most of the work. Both compost bin and log store are now functioning, but we still need to build the roof to keep the rain off.
Poles were provided by the fallen trees I cleared and prepared earlier, planking a combination of sawmill offcuts and some recycled remains of the big cowshed at Whitmuir, our local organic farm in Scotland, which I brought out in a vanload of other stuff. Pallets courtesy of a local builders merchants.
We’re following Joe Jenkins‘ method for our composting toilets, so this is how we built our compost pile, using bracken as our organic sponge. Bracken harvested at this time of year has the additional advantage of holding together very well when it’s shaped into a ‘nest’ to hold the material to be composted in the centre. As well as mixing in green stuff with the humanure and sawdust, we also add kitchen scraps and the wood ash from the stove.
We started the heap going with 6 bin-loads. I accidently managed to splatter myself with the contents emptying one of the bins. Unpleasant as that may sound, it underlined to me what I’d assumed when I chose to follow this composting toilet method – that this is not a particularly offensive job. Certainly far less obnoxious than emptying septic tanks, clearing blocked house drains or even cleaning out chicken sheds.
The toilet itself follows the same principles as Joe Jenkins’ “Loveable Loo”s, but rather than construct a purpose-built container for our bucket, I’ve adapted an old chest. The WWI-vintage wooden army chest (then the property of one Company Sergeant Major Grist of the Royal Corps of Signals) has seen over 30 years’ service with me as a linen chest, toy box and dressing-up box before ending up as the thunderbox. A circular hole is cut in the lid of the chest which exactly fits the diameter of the 20-litre plastic containers that fit inside, cut off-centre so that the space in the chest to the left of the toilet accommodates a substantial bulk pack of toilet rolls. The sawdust is kept in an ‘Edinburgh bin’ – a traditional Scottish heavy duty hot ash or coal carrier which has a lid and carrying handle.
Total cost (excluding the chest which I can’t remember the cost of): around £32. £15 for 3 x 20-litre white plastic containers and €19,95 for the toilet seat. Time: around 2 hours to cut the circular hole in the lid, fit a wooden brace across the centre of the lid, fit the circular cut-out from the lid to the base of the box to create a raised base of exactly the right height to slot the rim of the plastic containers into the hole in the lid, and fit the toilet seat. Ease of emptying: couldn’t be simpler! Lift the lid, take out full plastic container, swap for empty one. To my way of looking at it, this system’s advantages over any other composting toilet system are a no-brainer.