May
13
2013

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Getting Our Poop In a Group, Part Two: Building Compost Bins

by Tara

During the first few weeks living in our camper, I'd feel a sense of impending doom every time I lifted the lid of our composting toilet: the sawdust level would be mounting, moving ever closer to the top of the container. Invariably, the sight of this would prompt the Johnny Cash song, "Five Feet High and Rising," to pop into my head, and I'd start singing "How full's the bucket, Mama? Two feet high and risin'..."

Imagination running wild with thoughts of overflowing rivers of poo, I finally decided that we needed to make compost bins, ASAP. After toying with the idea of building a complicated and royally expensive design, we decided to follow the the simple plans in The Humanure Handbook for a "humanure hacienda" (sans roof). We'd make three 5x5 bins with open faces: the first would be filled with the contents of our sawdust toilet, the middle with cover material, and the last with more compost when the first bin was full/aging.

To begin construction, we bought the cheapest cedar boards we could find, loaded them into our truck, and hauled them home. When we started measuring, marking, and assembly, our friends and neighbors stopped by for a visit. Jeremy, Hercilia, and Roscoe were more than happy to help.

Hercilia Holding Compost Posts Jeremy & Tyler Assembling Compost Bins Jeremy & Hercilia Assembling Compost Bins Hercilia, Tyler, Tara & Jeremy

Over the next few days, we continued the assembly, finishing a panel or two when we had the time. Shortly after, progress was stymied for two reasons. First, we realized that the ground was frozen solid and there was no way we could dig holes for the posts until spring. Second, even if we could dig post holes, we had no idea where we wanted to put the behemoth compost system.

Tara Building Compost Bins Compost Bin Construction

In the end, we had to buy more buckets and hold off on finishing the project until spring.


Toilets in modern day water closets rise up from the floor like white water lilies. The architect does all he can to make the body forget how paltry it is, and to make man ignore what happens to his intestinal wastes after the water from the tank flushes them down the drain. Even though the sewer pipelines reach far into our houses with their tentacles, they are carefully hidden from view, and we are happily ignorant of the invisible Venice of shit underlying our bathrooms, bedrooms, dance halls, and parliaments.

Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

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