Friday, May 1, 2009

The first poop barrel!

Sounds gross, right? I was AMAZED! It didn't smell at all.

We moved in a year ago and turned the turntable on our composting toilet. Instead of a flushing toilet, we have an indoor outhouse. It has three 50 gallon barrels on a turntable in the basement, so that about every 6 months, we have filled a barrel and are ready for a new one. This is the story of emptying the first barrel.

It's not just all filled with human waste and toilet paper. No! We also throw all of our kitchen scraps down there. Each time we make a deposit of any kind, we add a scoop of sphagnum moss. The moss makes the worms feel more at home, I think. I add a pitcher of water now and then to make sure they have enough moisture as well. (We don't send our pee down there, it's too acidic for the worms. We have a pee separator, so the pee goes down a drain and outside.)

Yes, where would we be without worms? As soon as we start a new barrel, I add about 200 red wigglers to the bottom of the barrel. They make themselves at home and start doing their cosmic task: eating our waste and making dirt. When we turn the turntable, I add another 200 worms to the top of the barrel. Maybe I'm adding too many worms---but I'd rather have too many than not enough!

So we had come to the end of our three barrels! We had filled them all up. Now it was time to take out last year's barrel and see if it really was dirt or not. What if the worms had died? What if they didn't finish their job? What if I didn't add enough water and they died of thirst? I was filled with 'what ifs.'

We had purchased a dolly for this task. Curt got on one end and I got on the other and together we clunked the barrel down the stairs into the driveway. I donned my rubber gloves! :-) We tipped the barrel, but nothing would come out. Curt wanted me to start pulling it out with my hands. That was more than I could bare! So together we tipped it upside down and it came out with a thud.

There it was. A mound of poo! Or was it? This was the moment I had waited for and I dug in! (with my yellow rubber gloves, of course) Low and behold, it didn't smell. If I had to pick a smell, it would have been an earth smell. The worms had done their job! But it was very much like a clay. There were no worms left at all. I think that means they ran out of food and died. Sad.

So what did I find? I found the missing sink stopper. Somehow we dumped it down in there with the vegetable scraps, I guess. Should I re-use it? Hmmmm. I also found avocado peelings still 100% in tack --I found some stickers from apples, I found many, many beetle-type, silverfish-type bugs and I even found some tea bag paper. It was very interesting---kind of like an archeology hunt.

I did take a sample of the dirt and put it in the freezer so the university can tell me if it's safe to put on my flower garden. One thing I don't want is all the bears in the neighborhood to come over to smell my new dirt. Bears can smell better than we can, you know. So for now, I have my new dirt in a garbage can awaiting the time I will actually use the dirt.
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