What Happened To My Humanure?

I started to call this “Where’s My S–t?” but didn’t want to scare off any obscenity filters.

Humanure buckets fill up quickly; it takes me about five days to fill one. My first plan was to build a “humanure house” the way Joseph Jenkins described in his classic Humanure Handbook. But I had an insight while using Tractor to pick up compost to put down on Veg Hill for Amanda’s strawberries, namely that using a humanure house would make it impossible for me to use Tractor to pick up the compost.

By now, you know that we are transitioning away from reliance on fossil fuels in every way we can, but I am a 56-year-old fat boy, so at least for the time being, I’m ever so grateful to have that bucket help me move things like compost. I settled on creating a pile for the humanure and encasing it in a hog wire cage that I can remove when the pile is mature. Before I could do that, however, I needed to empty six buckets of humanure, so 2-3 weeks ago I created a simple humanure compost pile. I started with a thick layer of straw to create what Jenkins calls a “biological sponge.” Then I piled the humanure on top and covered it with another thick layer of straw and shredded paper.

Yesterday I built the cage for the pile. I used the same construction method we had used to make cages for fruit trees, in this case a length of hog wire 14 feet long that I fashioned into a circle. Unfortunately, I had made the pile too wide to fit easily into the cage, so I needed to hem it up with the bucket. That’s where the title of this post comes in. I girded my loins knowing that I was about to stir up a pile of human feces that was only 2-3 weeks old, assuming that the stench would be overpowering. With trepidation, I lifted the pile in the bucket, turned it up, and then let it fall. Then I realized: no stench. No smell at first. Then I got a whiff, but nothing unpleasant, just the simple, earthy smell of fresh soil. That’s after no more than three weeks of composting!

Now to say that I didn’t smell feces when I turned the pile is not to say the pile is safe. It still has a lot of composting and maturing to go over at least another 12-18 months before it makes it to our ornamentals. But it is encouraging to see how quickly the microorganisms lurking constantly in our soil found our humanure and began digesting it. I am slowly falling in love with the whole concept of composting.

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