[Anna] Over the past 9 months or so we’ve been using the Envirolet Composting Toilet in addition to our sawdust toilet. Each has its good and bad sides. Before I go any further, for the phecophobic, I refer to the Humanure Handbook (http://www.jenkinspublishing.com/humanure.html). If you’re squeamish about poop and such then you might want to read that first. Anyway, I’m sure really tall people would like sitting on the Envirolet but short people need a stool (no pun intended) to climb up on the thing and I’m not just talking about babies but their mommies’ too.Â That’s our happy little EC’er in the photo below.
Another lesson we’ve learned is not to put any toilet paper in it. There is a very biodegradable paper that can be bought but it is expensive and resembles translucent sandpaper. We just put the TP in a separate container and put it in the compost pile at a later date. One of the Envirolet’sÂ plusses is that it only needs to be emptied every 6 months or so. However, it’s really sloppy when it is time to empty and we’ve had problems with theÂ overflow hose kinking, causing urine drainage to back up and leak onto the floor (very gross but at least the 3 year old was disgusted enough by the smell to not insist on “helping”). The toilet has a very effective double fan that causes most of the liquid to evaporate. Any remainingÂ urine drains into the bottom tray; if it builds up, the “finished” compost (resting there below)Â gets really wet and smelly when it is time to remove the tray.Â Wink is pulling out the bottom tray in the photo on the left below and on the right is a top viewÂ of the deposits after they’ve been added and raked. The view takes a little time to get used to but it doesn’t smell and we’ve 4 adults using the thing. You’ll notice in the right photo that the removable rim is cracked. We’re still waiting for a replacement but supposedly it is under warranty and should be replaced for free. That is the only piece that has broken on us. After cleaning out the bottom tray we put the sloppy “compost” into the hot compost pile outside just to “make sure” it gets good and cooked down.
[Jo] The biggestÂ problem I think we’ve had with the Envirolet is getting the rake to move back and forth distributing the waste.Â This seems to be the reason we get “sloppy” compost. Some waste dries hard; areas get too wet or too dry; composted material doesn’t fall to the bottom of the pile. We’ve found that using peat as a cover material is less effective than our own 50/50 mix of fine sawdust (cut from our own timber so non toxic in any way) and coffee grounds. The mass seems to dry more evenly. If the rake won’t move and solid waste builds up, we use a stick to distribute it more evenly. The fans run 24/7; if they get turned off, things get malodorous fast. On a cold night, this can mean a cold bottom.
[Anna] The downside of the sawdust toilet is that it needs to be emptied every oneÂ to three days (depending on the number of people using it). Its plussesÂ are that it is lower to the floor, less messy to clean out, and with the cover material there is no “view” of the last person’s deposits. It is also only the price of a five gallon bucket plus toilet seat whereas the envirolet was $800 on sale. Eric is the family compost jedi and is quite adament that he would rather empty the sawdust toilet buckets than kitchen scraps which smell to high heaven after sitting for a week orÂ two in a 5 gal bucket (he does compost building once every week or two which also means we have about a dozen poo buckets that have to be stored in the interim which isn’t a problem except in the winter when they become poo popsicles). Of course, once we get chickens there will be no kitchen scraps. [Jo] They also are not drafty like the envirolet, and they use no power to operate.
We’ve been lucky to have some help from students taking a sustainability class at UNM. On March 29th, nine students worked on two projects here on the farm.Â Half the groupÂ built the second (of ten) raised beds, including running the tractor and the sawmill to cut the logs, and then assembling and filling the bed.
We talked about tera preta, or dark earth, andÂ talked aboutÂ some of our research on the fertile charcoal laden soils of the Amazon.Â In the photos, The wire on the bottom of the bed is to keep gophers out! Rebar is used to pin the logs securely.
The remaining students worked on our 2nd forestry thinning project, learning about basal area, and some of the reasons thinning is important to the health of the forest, and importantly, how to safely use chainsaws and logging paraphernalia.
The students apparently enjoyed the labor–and are planning another work day out here!
We’ve spent the last couple of weeks repairing irrigation lines The lines were drained for the winter and should have been fine, but we had bad breaks in half a dozen places or more.
We’re replacing the pvcÂ pieces above ground with galvanized! The well has also been repaired–a little excitement when we started it up after putting in new leathers without greasing them. The liftingÂ rod bent like a pretzel. All had to be taken back down, beat into shape, and remounted. Eric took it down, and Israel put it back up–scary stuff.
Despite our lack of irrigation water, we continue to plant, hauling water in buckets when necessary. We recently put in two pecans, a pixie crunch apple, bartlett pear, intrepid peach, and a nectarine.
[Anna] The disaster with the potting soil last summer was unfortunate but at least it appears that the apricot grafts from Davis, CA were not a complete loss, almost, but not complete. Of the successful grafts that definitely survived the winter, we have new leaves on one each of the following: Almon, Chaksa, Garkmish, and Paiwand. We have rootstock (Manchurian apricot) coming back on 12 trees. There are an additional 11 grafts that we’re still waiting to still if they leaf out and about a dozen never grafted Manchurians that may still be alive. The in-ground apricots, Hunza and Harglow, have swelling buds and appear to have overwintered on the farm just fine. As mentioned previously, we lost the Chinese Montgament to a tractor incidence last Spring. The rootstock has come back but we’ll probably take it out since it isn’t Manchurian.
[Anna] Bruce has been helping with stirring and adding things to the pot/skillet for almost two years now and I realized the other day that we didn’t have any photos so tonight I documented him making scrambled eggs. Cooking has been a great technique for us to help him learn about counting, control & coordination when at the stove or mixer, and stove safety. I’ve been amazed at what he can handle at such a young age, with close supervision of course. So far he has never burned himself or taken up a knife and cut himself … knock on wood. He has gotten the spoon stuck in the mixer beaters and it took a long time to convince him that the ingredients go in the bowl not next to the bowl.
The important but somewhat dull stirring of the eggs…
Pouring in the eggs …
The fun part …
The delicate task of artful presentation of the meal …