Monday, June 23, 2008

nitrogen fix

Just finished my nitrogen delivery.

When I lived in my cob house I had a composting toilet, basically a bucket and a big bag of sawdust. It worked beautifully. I haven’t tried it here, though think about it often; I know several people with pit toilets, but as yet haven’t quite finished the loop on that one. And it is a loop: I really think it all started going downhill when mankind stopped dealing with its solid waste. To remove what every other living thing contributes to the soil and plants which feed us, and instead to dump it, treated or not, into our water takes us so far out of the natural order, sets us apart in such unhealthy ways. Yes, I could go on. In cultures where the loop is complete and waste is returned consciously to the land – well let’s just say the vegetables grow bigger. We have a septic system here with a leach field so somehow something is returned, but not much.

I don’t eat meat or fish and I eat from the garden mostly with grains and legumes added. I don’t take medication of any sort and I’m not a drinker, so what I could ‘contribute’, is certainly compostable. Maybe that’s the project for my upcoming 3 weeks off school. I already have an outdoor bathroom, it’s not such a stretch.

Unless there’s a guest, no one pees in the toilet. The boys just wander off for a moment in the garden, I on the other hand have a series of rotating buckets. Just before dusk the bucket’s contents are diluted with an equal amount of rainwater and fed to the plants in rotation. The nitrogen, potassium, calcium and trace minerals, the trace garlic, ginger, chili and whatever else is present directly benefit the plant and I feel good about contributing, and saving the water that would be wasted in flushing. The only thing I’m careful of is not splashing leaves or stems, if it’s too strong it can cause burns under sunlight. The buckets get a vinegar rinse and are left to bleach out in the sun: sunlight is an excellent bleach.
The average household flushes the toilet 14 times a day and the average flush takes 11 litres of water. That’s a lot of water. I keep hearing how the next oil crisis will be a water crisis, let’s start saving now and helping out our plants at the same time!!

While I’m about it, we also compost all our toilet paper, just add it to the compost pile along with everything else. We use unbleached, biodegradable, recycled paper, goes right in, perfectly simple, completes another part of the loop. Why flush it, what a waste of carbon. Offset your carbon footprint – compost your toilet paper!!!!!!!!

In many cultures – Costa Rica included – people don’t flush paper, instead there is a little bin or bucket beside the toilet into which all the paper goes. When it’s full some people burn it (I guess that’s not so bad if you put the ash in the compost), most others bag it and it goes to the land fill (is that carbon sequestered?). If the bin is emptied regularly there’s no smell, and really there’s no mess (fluids evaporate quickly even in this humid climate). It makes perfect sense to compost it. Try it for a week. Be part of the cycle.