I recently watched a YouTube video about a couple that decided to move to the woods and create a permaculture homestead for themselves. I know that this is the dream of many couples, especially younger people with unlimited desires and expectations but limited resources. The couple bought 30 acres because they wanted to be able to “have the resources” to operate a full blown permaculture domicile. On the face of it that seemed reasonable, even wonderful, but after having once had just two acres to maintain (during my twenties and thirties), I have a good appreciation how much work is involved managing 30 acres. I would imagine that the bulk of their land will be used to provide privacy. The video also got me thinking, so I googled the question, “Per capita, how much land is available on this earth for each human being to live on?” It drove me to this interesting discussion on Quora.com. The long and short of it is that after you deduct the water, deserts, mountain ranges and other uninhabitable or unproductive land on this earth, there remains, reasonably, less than two acres for each person, probably much less. Considering all the inhospitable land and governmental constraints against development, it is probably reasonable to say that, on average, a couple could expect to have less than a 1/2 to a 1/4 acre to share if it were possible to divide the productive land up among everybody on earth. All of this begs the question, “Would you want or need more than that?”
A short while back someone sent me this link (without comment) on a YouTube video about how composting toilets are “illegal” in Utah. I dutifully watched the video and I must say that this is some serious Goober Pyle stuff and is worth watching for the entertainment value alone. Here is the link if you want to watch it but basically it is a pissing contest between Gomer and Goober disguised as a informative discussion about the legality of composting toilets in Utah. No doubt this video has elicited the desired ennui among RV and travel trailer owners that use composting toilets. I had to comment . . .
I came across a wonderful blog site when I googled “Boondocking across America,” called “Roads Less Traveled.” It is a well written, in depth blog site filled with just about everything you could want to know if you are currently boondocking or planning on going boondocking. On this page they link to my website and to a separate blog of theirs that addresses the practicality of using a composting toilet for the purpose of boondocking. The writers confess that they haven’t used a composting toilet and they make their case for using a conventional system, which they have used successfully for many years. I plan on mining their blog site for information in the near future when I get underway on my trip around the states. I went to their article on using composting toilets for boondocking and read it with interest. Here are my observations on their observations and I hope I can correct a lot of misinformation about compact composting toilets, in general, and the show the boondocking benefits of a well designed compact, composting toilet, specifically the C-Head.
In a true permaculture setting, there is no such thing as waste and the same is true for bodily waste. Everything gets used. Keeping in mind that a BoonJon Garden is designed for managing organic waste as well as providing food, let’s look at the elements of the garden and the things that effect the design of your garden. It is important to remember the goal of your garden, which is to provide system for turning carbon based waste back into food and successfully managing the hazards associated with managing organic waste. It is an ongoing learning process. Aside from neighbors and local government, there are three major natural factors that will effect the design of your garden; local climate, the lay of the land, local fauna and flora.
Things you should consider if you have a corner installation.
If you are wanting to install a C-Head in a corner, there are some things that are important to consider. There are basically three kinds of corner installations.
The first is simply installing the toilet in a corner facing out at an angle into the room. This is common with RVs and travel trailers. It can give the room the appearance of more usable foot space or standing room or it may have some other practical reason. In this type of installation the walls are at 90 degrees and extend all the way up perpendicular to the floor. Usually a wedged back or shorty model is used because of the angled back, but a basic model will work just as well if there is plenty of room in the bathroom it will simply stand out two inches further into the room.
There is something of a battle going on between the “bucket and chuck it” composting toilet crowd and the urine diverting composting toilet bunch. The bucket and chuck it followers see the urine diversion as an unnecessary step to what should be a simple process and they have a point in some respects. If you own a large piece of land with tons of compostable material so that you can create a composting mound large enough to create thermophilic composting through the winter and one that can absorb all the urine, then it could make sense to go the easier route. But the bucket and chuck it method can still be a nasty process. Sure, the toilet may not stink in your house, but when you empty it onto the composting mound it is a gloppy, stinky mess that must be washed out of the holding container. In addition, this requires the use of water to rinse out the container. This can sometimes be collected from rainwater as Jenkins system does but it still requires water which makes it less desirable in situations where water is scarce or composting material is scarce. But it is the best system in many circumstances.
If I could afford a doomsday bunker, I would probably have one. If for no other reason than the fun of it. I am, nonetheless, an unabashed prepper. Not on the scale of many, but I think that, at a minimum, knowing how to grow your own food is prudent. Ergo the BoonJon gardening system, a gardening system that I have been working on for the past seven years that is firmly based in permaculture and one that recycles everything that is recyclable on a quarter-acre residential lot including your waste. But for people who live in areas that are near significant tactical or strategic targets in the event of a nuclear war, or if you live on the hurricane prone East coast, or the earthquake prone West coast, or the tornado prone Mid-west, or the Zombie Apocalypse prone major urban centers . . . (you get the idea) having a place to hang out in safety for a while could make sense. And while a lot of thought is given to the accumulation and storage of food and water, little is given to what to do with all that food when it comes out the other end. Your bunker bombs could well become real bunker busters!
There are three ways to suddenly get a lot of
water in the bilge. Being holed, being rolled and having the large bore
thru-hull to the head fail. All three have the potential of sinking your boat.
But sinking your boat is a long shot. Much more likely are the other negative
aspects of the marine head. Few things can cause more distress or potential
havoc on board a boat than the head. There are more than enough
discouraging and disgusting events caused by a marine head to give it the bad
reputation it so richly deserves. Being filled with poop makes these problems
I am occasionally approached by a customer that only wants to buy the urine diverting portion of the toilet. They may have an installation problem that prevents the use of the entire toilet. This seems to be common in sailboats under 40 feet and some Airstream travel trailers in particular. The Urine Diverter Assembly (UDA) is basically the urine funnel, housing lid, sealing lid and toilet seat portion of the C-Head toilet. It can also include the churning bucket and churn handle. Installation of the UDA does require some important and exact alignment with the urine capturing device. The urine capturing device can be as simple as a plastic jug or a complex as a reservoir for pumping the urine out to a holding tank or drain field if it is not a gravity feed plumbing system.
As hard as it may be to believe, if used correctly, compact composting toilets don’t stink.
There are basically three reasons that people who travel on boats or RVs use compact composting toilets. First, they don’t consume valuable resources, second, there is no urgency to find a dump or pump-out station, and thirdly, they don’t smell. This is big medicine. The first two reasons are intuitive. That they don’t smell is more difficult to believe. So let’s take a look at exactly what is happening and why they don’t smell, at least like sewage. I can’t speak with regard to my competitors, but used correctly, a C-Head has no odor when closed up, even without ventilation. When you open the lid you will get a mild smell of whatever medium you are using in its composting state. Pine smells different than coco coir and different than aspen bedding. None of them are particularly unpleasant but the owner may have a preference. I do. Ad to that the fact that deodorizers can be added to the small basket in the collection bucket to give the toilet a desired smell. Mothballs will make it smell like a public restroom. Essential oils and air fresheners will give it another smell. A single spray of Febreze prior to sitting down will have you pooping in a bed of lilacs. My next experiment is sandalwood.