Friday, March 27, 2009

nitrogen independence - it's only a piss away!

A week or two ago some other subsistence farmers were complaining about the high price of nitrogen fertilizer. They mean nitro fertilizer suitable for organic growing methods, not good-old industrial-grade urea. I thought to myself, at least that's one soil amendment you shouldn't really have to buy. You can make it yourself. Unlike lime or bonemeal - unless you have your own knackeryard and crematorium.

A fair number of my friends do not have flush toilets (although they all have hot-and-cold running water) and I have always thought septic tanks were a waste. :) Unless you're Japan, or whatever country is currently buying our cooked down septic waste. (Yes. That's what your shit and cleansers are going into - faraway fertilizers that may be coming back you as the food on your table. We got that info from someone who pumped tanks for a living.) Septic tanks are not just a waste, they are terrible bother when you need to dig a new leach field, because you're old one got buggered, or when you have to dig up the line to find where the clog (or break in the pipe) is between the house and tank. Yuck.

But it's hard to make the time to build a composting outhouse when there isn't anything broken about the toilets. (For now.) We have so very many other actually broken things to work on around the place. A humanure (google that word if you want more information on composting your waste) bucket isn't hard to set up but I figured we'd want to compost all that stuff separate from our regular compost. Give it a little extra time and all that. This would involve building another, and fairly large compost bin somewhere - which puts us back to that this is just not a priority project for us. Fencing a new pasture is. Building a lumber shed and a recycling shed is. So is putting a veranda on the west side of the house to end another of the various rain runooff and drainage problems this place has. A new milking parlor ... A compost bin just for our shit when we got goat and duck shit out the wazoo, and their shit needs little if any composting down, just isn't on the list for the next five years of things-to-do, probably. But a simple bucket just for pee is easy enough to manage. I've just been being lazy. Between us and the rest of the animals here we should be able to make all our nitrogen needs, easy-peasy.

I found a five gallon bucket and a lid and scrubbed it out and set it up in the bathroom. The five-gallon size is not for anywhere near that amount of pee. By day 2 or 3 the pee in the bucket will be starting to ... uh, ferment ... and getting mighty smelly. No, the large size is for making it easier to squat over and for fairly splash-free carrying even without the lid.

Ronan had already said she would switch to a humanure bucket if I got a decorative toilet seat for the top of it. Something with sea creatures, please. But Matt, Mr. Natural, baulked on the humanure plan - noted above. Just pee doesn't need a special seat, because you don't really need to sit at all. Ronan complained that it wasn't comfortable having to hover over the bucket for a piss. I countered with the fact that for the hundreds of thousands of years of this species existence, women have sat down for a pee only in the past 100 or so and that even then that's in a minority of the places on this world. With all the mod-cons we have here, losing this one tiny one is only going to make us both (very slightly) stronger people.

Ronan has been doing her share. So far she has not volunteered to be the one to distribute the urine in the garden. I'm doing that. With the watering can. That way I can get the pee directly into the ground without spraying any on leaves we'll be wanting to eat later. I can also dilute it (adding the water, first, of course). It isn't always necessary to dilute the urine, but dilution will dissipate the smell, which even at its strongest doesn't last very long and is not so bad compared to fish emulsion. The smell of fish emulsion is also harder to wash off y0ur hands. I am guessing people living on small plots in cities should opt for dilution before applying.

So there you have it. One little thing you can do to make yourself more independent and self-sufficient. Reduce, reuse, recycle.

For those of you wondering about pathogens: generally it's the shit that has the pathogens; pee is usually pretty sterile when it first comes out (some people used to say it was completely sterile but that opinion has changed). It also contains antibodies, your own homegrown ones, unless you're taking antibiotics. Fresh urine can be used to cleanse and disinfect wounds in an emergency.

1 comment:

  1. well, I finally made it back to read your pee post. Of course as a humanurearian, I am an advocate of using our wastes in the garden. But I take issue with comments you make regarding your laziness. Nothing of the kind! That is simply unfair! I find it impressive that you would take the time to separate your pee from the rest and get it out onto your plants. I used a 5 gallon bucket inside during the winters for a few years, simply to avoid going outside in the cold. Is that why the blackberries behind my back door are so lush? Yeah, that pee never made it further than 10 feet from the yurt. I'm impressed by any lugging of pee that you find the time to lug. Meanwhile, a little graphic input. Yellow type, and pale colors as a rule a more difficult to read for us aging elders.