Thursday, November 29, 2012

Where I Talk About Composting Poop

Running into neighbors becomes less frequent as the days grow cold and short. 9 o'clock, which was once a time when most people wrapped up outdoor projects and headed in for dinner, is presently a non-negotiable bed time across the valley. Everyone in our little community seemed to be on the same page Sunday afternoon.  Between gathering manure and leaves for garden beds in preparation for their long winter sleep and soaking up the 60 degree weather that hardly points to any winter at all, we savored the now rare moment to catch up with one another.  

In most neighborhoods catching up includes hearing about the kids, the latest adventure, a new gardening technique, or a tidbit of gossip, but when I set down the wheel barrow to join in on a neighborly discussion, we talked about the ever exciting topic of poop. Everyone who lives on our mesa, Sin Agua, is off the grid and without a water tap. We all have composting toilets because they do not require any water. So, don't be surprised when you come to visit, because standing around talking about decomposing human doodie is totally normal.

Composting toilets are as variant as the people who build them. Most owners post user-friendly directions next to their john that explain the details of that particular toilet's temperament or they deliver a soliloquy on the subject when asked where the bathroom is located.  On the walls of an outhouse I used to frequent was a user manual stating that pee was not allowed in the pot as it formed a "messy slurry." Now, you've either gotta be a professional athlete or a master juggler to take a shit without letting a drop of liquid escape. 

Every few years we open the trap door that leads to heaps of composted poop. We transfer it to another barrel to allow it to further compost and decompose and surround these piles with straw bales to insulate them. Heat facilitates the break down of the poop. After its all composted we spread it on the fruit trees. We don't want to take any chances creating the next e.coli outbreak or the spreading of salmonella by mixing the compost into the soil where we grow our food.   

The only complaint I will offer on the matter....since our toilet lives in a little outhouse, sitting on a frozen toilet seat in the winter is a perverse, self-inflicted torture. Pooping is supposed to be relaxing!!  Soon enough you will see advertisements in Mother Earth for solar powered toilet seat warmers or squat toilets like the ones I used in India....Alas, I've spilled the beans on how I plan to make my  millions. Homesteaders beware!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Girl Seeks Hot Shower

When the earth tilts further from the sun’s warming rays, and just before the biting cold descends without hope of lifting till spring, I become somewhat of a nomad in search of a hot shower.

In the summer, the sun heats our water with the help of a large black barrel that sits atop the roof of Dev’s house. In the winter, copper tubing coiled around the wood burning stove stovepipe circulates water in and out of a holding tank, heating the water as it passes through the hot copper.  But in the fall, the sun’s powerful rays diminish so that the solar heated water grows tepid, yet the house remains too warm to justify building a fire. (Strawbale +Passive Solar= Totally Hot)

After cursing my way through a few cold showers I started to stash my soap, shampoo, and towel in the car. Following a run, a soak in the hot tub, or a visit to the brewery, I’d awkwardly invite myself to friend’s house for some old fashioned scrubbin'.

Generally speaking, I am as equally opposed to imposition as I am in favor of self-sufficiency, but my hot water dilemma puts me at odds with both. I can’t tell which is weirder--my aversion to asking for help or my habit of shower hopping.

Lucky for me, it finally got cold here last weekend. I emptied the solar hot water tank to prevent t from freezing and cracking. I pulled my onions from the ground. I put the garden to sleep and hauled two truckloads of firewood. I lit a fire in the stove and then, hopped into a steamy shower to wash the day’s filth and biting cold from my body.

First of the winter favorite.

Most common fire wood mishap...

Girls weekend to the San Juans included a white-out hike on the Bear Creek Trail.

And a hot beverage warm up! Can't express how grateful I am for amazing girlfriends who make you laugh, and laugh, and laugh.