Archive for May, 2016

How to Make Humanure: Recycling Human Waste

Tuesday, May 17th, 2016

This article has been contributed by Anne Marie Duhon. Anne Marie is a wife, mother of six and a full time off-gridder. She and her husband currently live in a totally off grid 200 sq foot “tiny home” and are in search of (again) that elusive perfect spot to call home. Besides being a wife and mother she, and her family, have raised many different animals on their various homesteads and have lived and loved being off the grid and many miles from the nearest paved road. She would like to share her first hand experiences and help others to learn to live and love living off grid and being as self reliant as possible.

What is humanure?

humanureHumanure is our urine and feces in a nutshell.

We see it as waste Nature sees it as a good by-product of human existence. Our manure contains many nutrients that enhance plant growth. Human excrement could be a major source of soil fertility if properly recycled. When discarded into the environment as a waste material (“human waste”), it creates pollution and threatens public health. When recycled by composting, the pollution and health threats can be eliminated.

It is well known that humanure contains the potential to harbor disease-causing microorganisms or pathogens. This potential is directly related to the health of the population which is producing the excrement. If a family is composting its own humanure, for example, and it is a healthy family, the danger in the production and use of the compost will be very low. If one is composting the humanure from orphanages in Haiti where intestinal parasites are wide spread, then extra precautions must be taken to ensure maximum pathogen death.

Compost temperatures must rise significantly above the temperature of the human body (98.6F) in order to begin eliminating disease-causing organisms, as human pathogens thrive at temperatures similar to that of their hosts. On the other hand, most pathogens only have a limited viability outside the human body, and given enough time, will die even in low-temperature compost.

How Can Humanure Be Recycled?

Humanure can be recycled in two basic ways. First, it can be applied raw to agricultural land. But this method can cause pollution and spread disease if the same plot of land is used over and over again. The second way is by composting. This is the process described in this article and the method my family has been using for years.

Compost microorganisms will digest and convert humanure into a safe and pleasant soil-like material when the humanure is combined with carbon-rich organic materials such as grass, leaves, sawdust, hay, sugar cane bagasse, rice hulls, straw, and other animal manures.

A compost pile allows us to combine various organic materials above ground, thereby providing oxygen to the aerobic microorganisms inside the pile. It also allows us to keep the organic materials quarantined inside an enclosed area away from people, dogs, goats, chickens and other creatures that should not be disturbing the pile.

How to Make a Composting Systems On The Cheap

There are three componets to a humanure composting system. They are 1/ The toilet 2) the compost bin and 3) the organic material containers.

The Toilet

composting-toiletThe toilet is basically a 5 gal bucket hidden in a box with a toilet seat on top. The toilet is used only to hold “deposits” covered in organic material (more on that in a minute) until someone takes the toilet to the compost bin and dumps it. Here is how to make a toilet box (feel free to just use this as a rough idea and tweak it to fit whatever materials you have laying around):

A hinged humanure toilet box will be 18″ wide and 21″ long. You’ll need:

  • two boards 3/4″X10″X18″
  • two 3/4″X10″X19.5″
  • two hinges
  • one piece of 3/4″X18″X18″ plywood
  • one piece of 3/4″X3″X18″ plywood
  • standard toilet seat

Assembly Instructions

Hinge the two pieces of plywood together. Cut a hole in the larger piece of plywood to fit the top of the 5 gallon toilet receptacle. Make sure the hole is only 1.5″ back from the front edge of the plywood. Always use identical receptacles in a humanure toilet so they will all fit correctly.

Screw boards together making a box 18” x 21” x10”. Screw 3” x 18” board to top of box. Leave the 18”x 18” plywood top loose on the hinges.

When screwing the legs to the inside of the box, make sure the top edge of the box will sit about 1/2″ below the top edge of the toilet bucket (the top of the toilet bucket rim will stick up through the box by about 1/2″). Screw down the toilet seat to the top of the box over the hole. Voilà a toilet!

How to Build a Compost Bin

compost-bin

A simple compost bin is four pallets set on edge and tied together in a square. More permanent bins involve posts and boards.

If the top of the compost is accessible to chickens, dogs, etc., it can be covered with wire mesh to prevent the compost from being disturbed. A square piece of loose wire fence works well and is easily removed when adding compost to the pile.

The compost bin itself can be built from pallets, scrap wood, wire mesh, stacked bales of hay or straw, other recycled materials, or even masonry materials such as block, brick or stone. Do not use lumber that is treated with chemicals.

Organic materials or Cover

Without proper cover materials in large enough quantities, the humanure compost toilet will not work.

A family can usually find cover materials by locating local sawmills or sawdust sources, purchasing peat moss in compressed bags, buying hay or straw from a farm or farm supply store, scavenging materials from the local environment such as leaves, grasses and weeds, or getting leaves from the city after they’ve been raked up in the fall.

Some cities sweep up leaves then dump them into piles where they’re left to rot. Rotted leaves are ideal for humanure toilets. Contact your city to see if such a source of organic material is available to you. Or you could drive around during the fall and ask people if you could have (or offer to rake up) their leaves.

Avoid wood chips or wood shavings as the larger particles do not compost well. Cover materials should not be wet. They should have basic carbon content from stems and leaves and other plant cellulose byproducts. Again, the simple rule when using cover material is if the compost that is covered smells unpleasant, it needs more cover material. Cover until there is no bad odor.

How to Use Your Humanure Composting System

Once you have all the parts put together and where they belong, using your system is no harder than using a flush toilet and is a lot less wasteful of water! Here’s the process…

Make a deposit. Thoroughly cover all deposits with clean cover material. You should have on hand near the toilet a container full of cover materials at all times. Add all urine, fecal material and toilet paper into toilet. If the toilet is full, lift plywood lid, remove toilet, put on plastic lid, and set the toilet aside to be taken to the compost bin. Insert empty bucket into toilet box. Make sure empty toilet bucket has 2-3 inches of clean cover material in bottom before use.

COMPOST THE HUMANURE

Empty the toilet contents into a compost bin constructed for this purpose. Never discard the toilet contents into the environment.

Erect the compost bin on a soil base dished out like a shallow bowl, starting the bottom of the bin with an 18”-24” thick, dense layer of organic material such as hay, straw and/or weeds.

Dig a depression into the top center of the bin contents and deposit the toilet materials into the depression when emptying a container, then always cover new deposits with clean cover material. Collect the toilet material in an active bin for at least a year, and then allow the material to age in that bin, now passive, for another year while the next active bin is filling. In any case, allow the compost bin contents to age for approximately one year after collection before applying to soil.

If the temperature of the compost is monitored and consistent thermophilic (hot) conditions are observed, the finished compost may be used for food production. If in doubt, use the finished compost for horticultural purposes. Wash the toilet containers before returning them to the toilet room and deposit the wash water into the active compost bin. Add all food scraps and other organic materials to the active bin. A good mix of organic materials makes for better finished compost.

Conclusion

And there you have it!

An easy way to take care of human excrement that is safe, effective and environmentally friendly!

A low-cost composting toilet system can be very useful as a back-up toilet in an emergency situation when electrical or water services are disrupted, or when the water supply is diminished as during a drought, when flushing drinking water down toilets becomes especially ridiculous.

It can also be very useful in any area where water or electricity is scarce or non-existent.

Finally, a simple, low-cost composting toilet system is attractive to anyone seeking a low-impact lifestyle, and who is willing to make the minimal effort to compost their organic residues

Additional Resources

The Non-Preppers ‘Go Bag’

Wednesday, May 11th, 2016

prepper-bum-bag

The following article has been contributed by Matt, a preparedness expert currently residing down under in the beautiful country of Australia.

I want to start off this article by explaining my thought process behind it.
I want to explain why I think this is a good idea.
I want to explain why i think this is important.

I see bad people doing bad things in cities, cinemas, schools.
I see news reports of natural disasters.

I thought about all those people affected by terrible things that shouldn’t happen but are becoming increasingly common or possible.
I began thinking about someone sitting in an office building reviewing documents, typing on a computer at some desk in some cubicle or office.
I began thinking about the taxi driver driving the streets.

I thought about what would I do or need that might give me another chance to survive if I was in those situations.

The Scenario

I’m sitting at my desk on the fifth floor of some inner city office building.
BANG! Boom! The lights go out, the emergency lights come on, some alarm is going off, there’s dust and smoke everywhere. You realize your arm is bleeding quite profusely from some injury; the office floor looks intact from what you can see from the dust and smoke.
What do you do?

Most likely you will follow your company’s emergency procedures and evacuate?

But doing so from the fifth floor will be difficult as every other floor below you are smoke and dust filled with people everywhere coughing and rubbing their eyes.

In the end you make it outside to the awaiting emergency personnel. It took a while but you’re outside.

Is there anything I could’ve done to increase my chances of survival in this type of situation? What could possibly get me through the next minute or hour at its most relatively basic of levels if some sort of small, large or SHTF scenario takes place?

If this was me, my go to item would be a plain old little ‘bum bag’.

They’re referred to as fanny packs in the U.S. if I’m not mistaken. In Australia we call em’ bum bags!

In it would be the most basic of items that would be beneficial if the SHTF and I found myself clambering over rubble from an earthquake damaged building or bomb or some other SHTF scenario.

Take into consideration this is designed to be as simple as possible. Its deigned for those who might not know where to start in this thing we call prepping or who might find all the gear gizmos gadgets and articles confusing or too much.

Putting Together the Go Bag

Choosing your Bag

  • The point of this bum bag that I’m suggesting is that even if you wear a suit and have absolutely never thought about prepping before, something as unobtrusive and small as a bum bag won’t detract from your office décor or work clothes. It’s not a camouflaged 40lt hiking backpack sitting at the bottom of your mahogany bookshelf.
  • It sits in your desk drawer.
  • It sits in your locker.
  • It sits in the well of your car door or middle console or glove compartment.
  • If your employer is reasonably casual with your uniform and you can find use to wear it for your job you might as well get away with wearing it as part of your uniform.
  • A small waist pack, fanny pack or bum bag. It’s small. Its readily accessible being at the front and you do not have to swing it around like a backpack. Can’t get it around your waist? Try to find one that has the longest strap you can and sling it over your shoulder across the chest. We’re all different.
  • Space will be of an absolute premium so pack light, pack minimal, pack necessity. If you can fit more of one item then by all means go for it. I would try to include multiple first aid items.
  • If the SHTF and your typing away at your computer or driving a taxi, bang, SHTF!, you open your drawer or glove compartment and away you go with an increased chance of survival strapped to your waist hands free
  • One pocket two pocket, it doesn’t matter. So long as it has a big main compartment

First Aid

  • Either a secondary pouch in the main compartment or simply loose whatever works for you and the size of your bag
  • If the SHTF in an emergency I’m not going to worry about tweezering little splinters, in fact, with all the ruckus going on around me I’d probably realize I have something in my finger, hand or foot long after the incident so items like this will be left out. If you have room then include it.
  • My reasoning in having these specific items is based on quick, fast, go go go, I’m injured lets pad it stop the bleeding, dress it and keep moving, or doing the same for someone as I pass them, pad it stop the bleeding, dress it, pick them up and keep moving. Not let me remove the wood splinter from your finger while your arm has a hole in it.
  • 1 x bandages/pads for padding and pressure. Make the focus with this kit on stopping bleeding and perhaps burns, as more than likely splinters, mosquito bites, and grazed knuckles will be a distant second to open wounds, gunshot wounds, crush injuries and burns
  • 1 x bandages for dressing
  • 1 x triangle (sling) bandages, for putting arms in a sling amongst the numerous other uses they have or keep folded and use as a wound dressing as well
  • 1 x type of burn-aid or burn treatment gel or dressing
  • Several x Band-Aids
  • Several x steriswabs/Alco-swabs/antiseptic wipes
  • 1 x chap stick – these have a variety of uses
  • 1 x pair of rubbers gloves
  • backup personal medication
  • 2 x aspirin, anti-histamine or over the counter pain medications
  • 1 x shock blanket/emergency blanket/foil blanket

Safety

  • 1 x small roll of duct tape – you never know what this will save you from until you have it
  • 1 x dust mask: rubble, dust, allergens, burning materials giving off toxic smoke, a simple dust mask is better than no dust mask. Plain white masks usually sold in packs of 10 or more will do. Once again if space permits and you can fit something more quality perhaps with some sort of respirator then include it. If not fit as many dust masks in your pack as you can. Handing these out in emergency situations that may require this piece of equipment will be a benefit to peoples lungs
  • 1 x pair of clear safety goggles, preferably wrap around that will also prevent dust from getting into your eyes
  • 1 x torch – something small yet comfortable to hold, preferably a wrist strap
  • 1 x signal whistle, preferably with a lanyard
  • 1 x small roll of duct tape – you never know what this will save you from until you have it

Food

  • Food? You want to put food in your bum bag with everything else? Say I get trapped in an elevator or the stairwell. Or I’ve jumped out of my taxi to assist the people trapped by rubble and I’m slugging away for hours and have to sit down to recoup some energy. Or I find myself trapped by rubble.The point here is to keep it small and have at least one item.
  • 1 x muesli bar/energy bar/oat bar: something to give you just that little bit of sustenance to keep you going.
  • 1 x electrolyte pouches or tabs
  • some small candies, mints, jelly beans, something sugary
  • 1 x the smallest container of water you can find can be included. They make pouches of water, canned water, whatever is small enough to fit. If you cannot fit in your pouch then clip it to the pack. It might not be a bottle. It might be only a little tiny food grade container that is too small to actually quench your thirst.
    But you can wet your lips, moisten your throat, splash a little on your face, or face cloth. It’s there for you to survive that little bit longer

Assorted Contents: Room Permitting

(although bum bags are small you may be able to squeeze one or two extra items but in the end the size of the bag will dictate)

  • hi-vis vest or reflectors
  • tourniquets, if your first aid associations allow these
  • a bandana: you can wet it to put over your mouth for a fire, wipe your face down, clean an area, wipe away sweat, use as a wound dressing if you have nothing else
  • deck of cards
  • portable Powerbank: to recharge a phone if necessary
  • a couple of small glow sticks
  • small Multitool
  • seatbelt cutter
  • glass breaker/window punch
  • CPR face shield
  • 1-2 x Ziploc bags: great for carrying water, water/splash proofing items, storing severed fingers etc. (well that escalated quickly!)

Conclusion

Remember every quarter (three months) check the contents. So many people prep so hard yet fail to consistently check the contents until it’s too late. Oops the flashlight is flat and doesn’t work. The water tastes off. The energy bar has expired.
Check check check!

This article is for those who don’t know what paracord is, or what ‘prepping’ means.
This is for those who don’t own a single piece of camouflaged clothing or gear.
This is geared towards those people who want WIFI on holiday or those who simply say “whatever happens happens”.
I apologize if any of what I have written sounds a little insulting or degrading but in no way is that my intention.
For those that say “whatever will happen – will happen” that’s fine. You’re entitled to say that.

But are you the sort of person that when the SHTF and you’re driving past a collapsed building or working in an office and someone else needs help, are you the sort of person that stops what you’re doing, digs deep and rushes to help those in need? Do you pull over; get out of your taxi and rush to pull people out?
Do you manage to evacuate your building and are relatively unharmed but around you there are colleagues or others in need of help?
You may not need the contents of your ‘go bag’ in these sorts of situations but someone else might.

You may only have one wound dressing to pad and stop the bleeding of you or someone else.
You may only have one triangle bandage to sling the broken arm of you or someone else.
You may only have one shock thermal blanket for you or someone else.
You may only have one burn-aid or burn dressing for you or someone else.
You may only have a couple of antiseptic wipes or swabs for you or someone else, you’ve used the bandage on someone else, but a cleaned wound may be something so small a thing to do but you’ve decreased the risk of infection.

But you’ve made a difference. You’ve increased your chance of survival. You’ve given at least one other person a fighting chance.

I know there are people out there who don’t think about these things and yes, absolutely, we cannot go through our lives constantly thinking about all the possible bad things that could happen. We need to enjoy the life we are given either by ourselves or with loved ones.

But something so small, so unobtrusive, so easy to put in a desk drawer or car glove compartment, that you know is there, could actually save your life or someone else’s.

If you don’t need to help yourself, use it to help someone else.

Goodluck.