Here is an interesting article I found.
55 hours after setup, the life in the mud of the forest has spoken, in the blinks of an LED light.
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Here’s what I’m watching waiting for the MudWatt to light up. So far after 49 hours of setting up the microbial fuel cell the volt meter is reading around 100- 210 mV, but I’m thinking Thursday it will light the LED when it reaches 350 mV. In this Microbial fuel cell there is about 2 cups of dark brown clay heavy soil from a birch/maple forest floor, and 1/2 cup of char and ashes from an old bon fire, 1/4 cup of char from a barbecue (no water has rinsed any of the alkaloids out), and another 1/4 cup of chopped up plant matter such as fresh kale, 2 week old broccoli, fresh banana peel, and stinky old prepared corn grits that I neglected to eat about a month ago…I chose these ingredients to simulate a small compost pile.
Preparedness is just not complete until you know what to do with the poop that hits the fan (or better yet before it has the chance to). We gotta get our poop in a scoop and bury it in moist carbon rich plant fluff. Now, I know you are looking through narrowed eyes thinking “Whaat?!”
We’re so used to the toilet, or for our wasted old food to go in the trash bin that we may have not given it much thought. What other choice do we have than the way that we have been eliminating waste since the days of Roman civilization? Well, for one thing, the finished product of thermophilic compost is completely different from the inputs that undergo this biological process by being digested by microorganisms, heat, and thousands of little insect like invertebrates after it cools down. After a year or so, this pile transforms into a fertile agricultural resource. A business can be built around creating these resources as well as harvesting the heat energy, thus creating jobs. This resource closes the energy cycle between us and the land, giving back to the soil so it is not depleted, preventing plant disease. Reducing fuel loads in wilderness (7) while producing humus a resource that can hold nutrients and moisture in the soil. Plus, less water and fossil fuels are needed to transport the waste to a facility where it will need to be processed with chemicals that may end up in the environment. It saves wastes from going into a landfill. When using this method, there is no odor because the carbon filters it (8). The carbon materials soak up biological contaminates probably fixed in plant cell walls where it get destroyed or digested before it can get into the air, soil, or water (1). In-fact organisms in compost can even break down toxins into inert substances (2)! This industry has plenty of opportunity in identifying and finding uses (or properties) of bacteria, actinomycetes, fungi, and small creatures that roam the dark corners of compost piles (2).
Are you as excited about this new idea as I am? Well, I guess we must ask ourselves, do we have enough time for a project like this. A couple of compost bins can be built with pallets that can be gifted from a grocery, department, or hardware stores. We’ll have to go and get sawdust, or make piles of leaves to rot and turn into leaf mold. Then there is the chore: once the four buckets are full, bring them to the compost pile, bury the contents within in the pile, cover it with the carbon material, and then rinse the buckets out over the pile. It sounds like this probably takes about 20 minutes once a week for a family of four (1). If you have the time, do you have the space?
Where can you keep a compost pile? You may need to set one up if the power goes out for an extended length of time, going camping, or if you are out a ways from your house in a barn or shop. I think it is advisable to locate it 150′ from a body of surface water like a river, pond, lake, or marsh. A flat well drained area that is in the sun can collect thermal energy in it’s mass. It’s also a good idea to shelter it from cold winds. A compost pile will not be active when frozen but will be ok when unthawed. You’ll want enough access to be able to cart a wheel barrel to it and have it a comfortable distance from the nearest door to your home. Try to look for a place that is not in direct line of sight of neighbors, and avoid putting under tree branches. That is the area where tree roots extend and they may try to grow into the pile. Evergreen trees have their own PH level going on, a compost pile may interfere with that (3).
Here is the basic set up. Start with bare ground, a lot of little creatures will join in the party from this channel, plus it allows airflow for everyone to breath (3). Thermophilic compost piles generally work better above ground (but is not limited to that) because the air flow is easier. Cover the bottom the the bin with 18″ of cover carbon materials like sawdust, hay, straw, dry grass clippings, weeds, or rotted leaves. Some small dead twigs or wood chips about 1″ or less will help aerate the pile, but may create a coarser texture of compost which can be sifted. Probably it would be good to start to add carbon cover materials around the sides as green and browns are added. The key is to bury the goods inside the compost (not resting on top) and cover it with lots of carbon materials. If you even think you smell anything, add more carbon. The ideal carbon to nitrogen ratio is 20-35 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen. Also, it is good to make sure the compost pile does not dry out. You will want at least two bins so while one is full and baking (it takes a while) You can start another (1).
How long does it take? This takes about a year, or a year an a half, if your really squeamish. Once you have a pile that is at least 3’x 3′ or 1 cubic meter it needs to get hot, go through a decomposition stage, and then it needs to cure. No turning is necessary and in fact it is better not to because then nothing will evaporate from it. This prevents gases like carbon, nitrogen, and methane from escaping into the air, and you save all that food for the organisms, less work for you, less inputs, and nice compost. Waiting for your compost to cure ensures that whatever pathogens that were not killed by heat and microorganisms, will suffer and dwindle because of a lack of a host (2).
Now you may be thinking, how do I make sure, sure my compost is sanitary? This is the part that amazes me. We’ve got the three things that happen biologically and insane case studies that need to be verified, because if it is really true, then we’re saved! The angel wings that have been holding back the wrath of evil all this time were the very little creatures many of us wash and try to scrub away. Not to say we shouldn’t wash our hands or anything, but lets just take a look at what happens in a compost pile. First off the good microorganisms found in the soil, carbon plant materials, or other inputs see the pathogens in our crap and wastes as competition, so that means they fight and even eat those bad buggers. Finally as the thermophilic bacteria gain energy they start to heat up their environment this allows the pile to reach temperatures of 35-450 C (95-113.0 F) to 45-550 C (113-131.0 F), which will kill stuff that doesn’t belong there from 1 week at lower temperatures to a couple hours at higher temperatures (2). There has been case studies where rats were exposed to soil with lead in it. the rats that were on the soil that was inoculated with compost did not suffer from lead toxicity as opposed to the control that had soil without microbes. Rest in peace poor fellow <:(5). Also there are records from an Austrian Farmer who was affected by the Chernobyl disaster who was helped by a microbiologist and agriculture scientist named Dr. Ehrenfried Pfeiffer (6). Basically they sprayed compost tea on the spent green manure crop and tilled it under. The next year, the contaminants of cesium that were there before, were now gone!
Are you ready to get started? You may want a wooden box to hide the fact that you are pooping in a bucket, at least until the lid is lifted. Then you will need four buckets or so, about 5 gallons or 20 liters all the same size and shape to fit in the box., a toilet seat for the box, or a toilet seat (for a bucket), a steady supply of raw sawdust, grass clippings, or rotted leaves. You may want a lid remover in case the lid on the bucket gets stuck, a couple compost bins (YouTube DIY), a 20″ compost thermometer, and a pitch fork for harvesting the compost. You can click the blue links in this paragraph to get the items on Amazon, or you can follow this link to get most of what you need plus biodegradable bucket liners (if you prefer not to have to rinse buckets) as the Lovable Loo kit at humanurehandbook.com. If this was really interesting, you can reed the book for free, each chapter is a separate PDF with it’s own link (4). I’ll leave you with a little poem to sum everything up:
When you do your doo in the Lovable Loo, keep it all covered and it will provide for you too.
1. http://humanurehandbook.com/manual.html (5/28/2016)
2. http://humanurehandbook.com/downloads/Chapter_3.pdf (5/28/2016)
3. http://compostguide.com/how-to-choose-a-compost-site/ (5/28/2016)
4. http://humanurehandbook.com/contents.html (5/28/2016)
5. http://permaculturenews.org/2006/04/22/compost-miracles/ (5/28/2016)
6. http://www.ibiblio.org/steved/Luebke/Luebke-compost2.html (5/28/2016)
John Kohler and his Info packed YouTube channel: Growing Your Greens, (5/28/2016)
What would you say if I said there is a way to heat water, kill dangerous pathogens, sequester carbon, and have rich compost for the garden all in one project that can use local materials? That’s what you can learn to achieve in the Compost Powered Water Heater: How to Heat Your Green House, Pool, or Building With Only Compost. The Author, Gaelen Brown, has a business networking site called www.compostpower.org. In this book you’ll find real life existing projects with pictures and helpful institutions like farms and universities from around the western world; places like Vermont, Canada, Chile, and more. Inviting you to start your own project.
Thermophilic (Heat loving bacteria) Composting is not new. For centuries people from Eastern Europe used manure and/or livestock quarters to keep their homes warm and the Chinese used horse manure buried in their garden to lengthen the growing season by up to a month. Much of the pioneer work for the modern use of thermophilic composting was laid out by a french organic farmer in the 1970s named Jean Pain. As simple as the concept is though, using modern technology like thermometers, tubes, tanks, and pumps, that means these systems are elaborate, but they can produce heat for 16 months.
Halfway through, this book reads like a step by step recipe book for creating the heating system that is illustrated on the cover. The next chapter discusses heating a green house with compost and shows off various applications with picture. And if you ever had problems with getting your compost hot, there is a couple chapters devoted to materials. This can help open the possibilities to understanding the usefulness of materials that are locally available. It also has a trouble shooting section and tells you which materials can cause problems.
I highly recommend this book to those who have the space, tools, and the luck to be able to locally obtain resources like sawdust, wood chips, rotting leaves, horse manure, straw/grass/hay and so on. Perhaps those groups would include farms, organizations, towns, or city waste municipalities. I was watching videos on YouTube about “thermophilic compost + heating” and I found their videos so intriguing because it is so resourceful, I had to get the book they suggested. This kind of thinking is what we need to achieve sustainability. The only drawback I can foresee, is if fossil fuels become so expensive to extract, then the common man would have trouble moving large amounts of materials and buying tubing and other parts of the system for heat exchange, plastic pipes, and fittings. Hopefully, when that is a realization, there will be affordable products made from plant oils like hemp or algae or we can lower our energy density needs like using more lightweight equipment that runs with bio-methane, hydrogen, wind, or solar as an energy source. Overall, this book proves that the metabolism of bacteria are more efficient in creating energy than using combustion alone, especially because compost byproducts are useful.