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It's very important to understand that two factors are involved in destroying potential pathogens in humanure. Along with heat, the time factor is important. Once the organic material in a compost pile has been heated by thermophilic microorganisms, it should be left to age or "season." This part of the process allows for the final decomposition to take place, decomposition that may be dominated by fungi and macroorganisms such as earthworms. Therefore, a good compost system will utilize at least two composting bins, one to fill and leave to age, and another to fill while the first is aging. A three-binned composting system is recommended, as the third bin provides a place to store cover materials, and separates the active bins so there is no possible accidental transfer of fresh material to an aging bin.

When composting humanure, fill one bin first. Start the compost pile by establishing a thick layer of coarse and absorbent organic material on the bottom of the bin. This is called a "biological sponge"; its purpose is to act as a leachate barrier. The sponge may be an 18 inch layer of hay or straw, grass clippings, leaves, and/or weeds. Place the first container of the humanure/sawdust mix from the toilet directly on the top center of the sponge. Cover immediately with more straw, hay, weeds, or leaves - the cover acts as a natural "biofilter" for odor prevention, and it causes air to become trapped in the developing compost pile, making physical turning of the pile for aeration unnecessary.

Continue in this manner until the bin is full, being sure to add to this bin all of the other organic material you produce. There is no need to have any other compost piles - one is enough for everything produced by the humans in your household. If you have small animals such as chickens or rabbits, their manure can go into the same compost pile. Presumably, pet manures can also go into the same compost pile as well (see Chapter 3), although pet manures, like human manures, can contain human pathogens, so thermophilic composting and/or adequate aging of the compost are essential. Small dead animals can also be added to the compost pile.

You need to do nothing special to prepare material for adding to the compost pile. You do not need to chop up vegetables, for example. Just chuck it all in there. Most of the things compost educators tell you cannot be composted can, in fact, be composted in your humanure compost pile (such as meat, fats, oils, etc.). Add it all to the same compost pile. Anything smelly that may attract flies should be dug into the top center of the pile. Keep a shovel or pitchfork handy for this purpose and use the tool only for the compost. Keep a clean cover material over the compost at all times, and don't let your compost pile become shaped like the Matterhorn - keep it somewhat flattened so nothing rolls off.


[Maggie's Toilet]
[Meg's Toilet]
[Lodge's Toilet]
[Ginter's Toilet]
[Claire's Lovely Toilet]
[Dewalt's Toilet]

When you have a sudden large quantity of cover material available, such as an influx of grass clippings when the lawn is mowed, weeds from the garden, or leaves in the fall, place them in the center bin for storage and use them to cover humanure deposits as you need them. It is assumed that you do not use any poisonous chemicals on your lawn. If you do, bag the lawn clippings, take them to a toxic waste dump, and on the way, reflect upon the folly of such toxic behavior. Do not put poisoned grass clippings on your compost pile.

Filling the first bin should take a year - that's how long it takes us, a family, usually of four, with a lot of visitors. We start to fill a compost bin every summer solstice or at some point near that time. Cover the finished compost pile with a thick layer of straw, leaves, grass clippings, or other clean material (without weed seeds) to insulate it and to act as a biofilter, then leave the pile alone. Start filling the second chamber, following the same procedure as the first (start with a biological sponge). When the second chamber is nearly full (a year later), the first one can begin to be emptied onto the garden, berries, orchard, or flower beds. The finished compost does not need to be dug deeply into the soil or buried in a trench on another planet, as the fecophobes insist. It can either be used as mulch, or it can be dug or tilled into the top layer of your garden soil. You can even roll naked in it if you want to (no, I haven't tried this - yet).

[Paige and Jeanine at compost bins]
The author's triple chambered compost bins, in use for twenty years. The far bin is the active one, the near bin is the aging one, here being broken into for spring planting.

Source: The Humanure Handbook. Jenkins Publishing, PO Box 607, Grove City, PA 16127. To order, phone: 1-800-639-4099.

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weblife.org | library | Humanure Handbook | Chapter 8: Normal Composting Bin Sequence