Category Archives: composting toilet

Gardening in the blood

This is a photo of my grandfather, George, taken in the 1960s. He lived in Lincolnshire and had a big fruit and veg garden with amazing soil. He came to the UK from a farming family in Australia sometime around 1917.

Whenever we visited there was always a tour of the garden. It was a log strip running down to a stream. I always wanted to go on the tour but had to ‘behave’.  Grandad would turn to my father and say “what do you think of them” and a discussion would start about what was doing well this year and what was a waste of time.

Sometimes we would walk up to the top of the lane and look at his small field of sugar beet. It is only recently that I realised that he cultivated, planted, and harvested the field on his own, much of it by hand. The field has gone now, incorporated into another hedge less prairie used to grow grain.

For a long time, I never worked out how he grew such huge crops year after year then the penny dropped. There were no main services at the cottage, it was totally off grid. No mains water, there was pump outside the front door. No electricity and no mains sewage, there was an Elsan in a small shed in the yard.

A few years ago, I remembered that he would not pay for the Elsan to be emptied and it went into the trenches I saw in the garden. I did ask my dad once what they for but was told to be quiet. Evidently, he dug a trench a couple of feet deep and added the contents of the Elsan and any other kitchen and garden waste he could find and filled in with soil.

It was not just marrows that were huge; I remember carrying an enormous cabbage back to the cottage when I was about seven years old. It was a two-handed job. The garden kept them in fruit and veg and both grand parents lived well into their 80s,

However much some will find it hard to believe and even be slightly repulsed by using humanure there is another way to live like many families did around 60 years ago. They were very much before their time and all lived virtually zero carbon lifestyles. I am proud of what the grandparents showed me all those years ago.

Now I know where the gardening, self-reliance, off grid, and sheer cussedness genes come from. It also explains why I want some brown bib & brace overalls, because both my grandad and dad always wore them for gardening and they both grew bumper crops.

Composting Christmas trees

Over the that last couple of weeks I have shredded 12 Christmas trees to make compost. That produced was about 0.75 cubic metre from the branches and tops. It was less than I expected and next year I will start collecting the trees earlier and aim for around 20. The main trunks were too thick for my small shredder and will have to go to green recycling.

The shredded material was mixed with a small amount of garden and kitchen waste. It was then damped down with a mixture of equal parts ‘universal compost activator ‘ or urine* and water.

The next day the bin had heated up to almost 23C. Not a big rise in temperature but considering we have been having sharp overnight frosts and cold days I am happy with the results so far.

* We are trying to reduce water consumption and would line to convert to either rainwater toilet flushing or composting toilets. The estimated average is 130 litres of drinking water, per household per day, is used to flush toilets!

Low tech water saving toilet

Saw a tweet today from “Environmental technology” about waterless toilets being the way to save water “… the answer to conserving the most precious resource on our planet – water. Nicknamed the Nano-Membrane Toilet, this completely waterless unit separates waste out into solid and liquid, before recycling and disposing of it effectively.”

In 2008 we had a composting toilet at the allotment, a box with a toilet seat and a bucket underneath. The instructions were simple: 1. make a deposit, 2. cover with sawdust 3. close the lid. When the bucket was full the contents were composted. There was no smell and no flies. I would gladly have one in the house!