The people I like most share two things in common: First, they have open minds. Second, while they appear normal, they are in at least one aspect of their lives, utterly bat shit crazy.
To be fair, I’ve got my own quiver of crazy, here’s one of my favorite arrows to draw from it:
I shit in a bucket and I have for 10 years.
Let me go through the thoughts in your head (yeah, I’ve had this convo before.)
Wait a second…what do you do with the shit? Oh my God!
Let me set the stage for you. I own a house with a flush toilet that works, my wife (and most guests) use that toilet. I live within city limits on a 3,000 sq ft lot and have neighbors on 3 sides. I’m not way out back of beyond, and we’re connected to the city sewer not a septic tank. There is no reason (based on your flawed understanding of poop management) that I should shit in a bucket.
There’s no easy way to slide into this conversation. Shit is just too powerful a concept for someone to immediately nod their head and understand that what they’ve been doing their whole life is complete madness.
Let’s just start with a few truths that you may not have considered:
First, the fact that shit seems toxic and disgusting. That’s incorrect. Your poop was just IN you. YOU created it. If anything is toxic or disgusting, it’s because there’s a problem in YOU. Shit is not a food, you don’t have to immediately eat it or build with it or make shit castles in the sand. In fact, you don’t have to touch it. Shit is a resource, not a problem. You just have to learn how to use it.
Second, why does it make sense for you to shit in drinking water? Yes, drinking water. That’s what’s in your toilet. A lot of time and energy went into getting that water drinkable, and you just shit in it.
Third, after buying the drinking water and shitting in it (adding value), you send it back! What kind of American does that? That’s like buying coffee in a paper cup then pouring it into a nice ceramic mug and handing it back to the barista to sell to someone else. WTF?
You have to understand that your poop is just a step in an endless cycle. If you think for one second that the food you are eating was made in a cute little vacuum without fertilizer, water, earth, or animals, well, you’re just flat out wrong.
When you try and distort or break a natural cycle you end up with much bigger problems than the simple act of distortion.
You waste thousands of gallons of drinking water. You increase the taxes you have to pay because every time you flush you affirm your part of the agreement that we should shit in our drinking water and then manage it. Not cheap. And dumb. Is that really you? A tax loving and profligate idiot? Wait, we just had a very close election. Never mind.
Like I said at the beginning, I’ve been shitting in a bucket at my house for 10 years. I’ve been using that shit (along with all our kitchen scraps) to make compost. I’ve used the compost to grow fruits and vegetables. I’ve freely fed anyone who came by with peaches, berries, figs, pomegranates, and veggies grown with that compost. All the produce grown on our little plot is super healthy and delicious. I’ve had zero complaints about taste, health, or any kind of follow-on sickness.
In fact, our house is well known in our neighborhood for having the healthiest and tastiest garden around, and we are constantly asked how we do it.
It’s not magic, it’s a simple system, and if you followed it you’d be happier, healthier, and wealthier. But you’d be considered weird, and most folks place fitting in over happiness, health, and wealth. The odds of you doing the right thing are heavily against you.
Luckily for me, when it comes to fitting in, I also have a field of fucks I grow. Cast ye thine eyes upon it and thou shalt see that (unlike my garden) it is barren.
Ok, saving water and money isn’t enough for you? How does living in a war zone sound?
Humans fight wars for resources. Right now we’re finishing up fighting for oil, and if you thought the oil wars were bad, wait until we’re fighting over water.
Those cute little bumper stickers (on the backs of oil guzzling cars) that say “No war for oil”?
There won’t be any of that when your family is dying of thirst. You won’t have time for hypocrisy, you’ll be too busy curb stomping your neighbor for watering their grass. Trust me, you’ll fight.
You can ride your bike if gas gets expensive enough, but there’s no alternative when you don’t have water, not at any price less than blood. I’d prefer to contribute as little as possible to starting World War III, especially if the alternative is as easy as buying a three dollar bucket and spending a day building a toilet stand and two compost piles.
Q: “Did you tell your neighbors that you just fed them a poop-berry?”
A: No, I didn’t. In the same spirit that the current source you’re getting your fruits and veggies doesn’t tell you that they sprayed the food you’re eating with insecticides, grew it with fertilizer made from oil, harvested it from massive tractors that destroyed habitat and in the process mixed up insects, animal turds, and small animals with your “organic” tomatoes, then washed them off with a chemical/water spray you wouldn’t drink and wrapped them in plastic that you throw away where it will last a few thousand years in a giant diaper, aka a landfill.
I don’t feel like rubbing it in my neighbor’s face that they just made the best possible ecological choice completely by accident, and if they knew about the right choice they probably wouldn’t have made it. I tend to try and protect people from their own ignorance and stupidity, even if it means temporarily withholding the truth.
Q: “Doesn’t it stink? I mean, you’re shitting in a bucket!”
A: Shit stinks, that’s the hard fact. You flush it down a toilet (we’ve talked about the insanity of this already.) I cover it with coffee chaff, which is a waste product that comes from roasting coffee. My toilet actually smells more like fresh coffee than poop. I have neighbors who are just 10’ away from my toilet. It was 8 years (YEARS!) before they built a deck and were able to look over my fence and realize (surprise!) they now had an excellent view into my outdoor bathroom. Not only that, they quickly realized that I squat on the toilet, native style, so we had a talk about that too. I’ll save squatting for another article.
Back to smell management: When I dump the bucket into the compost pile, I cover it with about a foot of dry straw. No, the smell doesn’t get out.
Q: “Doesn’t it stink when you spread it out on your garden? I’ve smelled horse manure compost before, and that stinks!”
A: By the time I actually use the compost (formerly shit and kitchen scraps and straw), it’s been resting in the compost pile undisturbed for at least 6 months, and sometimes a year. It is compost, not shit, and smells like fresh healthy growing material for plants.
Q: “Do you have to turn your compost pile?”
A: No. We compost aerobically, not anaerobically. We do this by placing lots of layers of straw in our compost, which creates interstitial spaces that promote aerobic digestion. Ask any 14 year old what interstitial means, it’ll give you a good indication of whether or not they’re getting reasonable schooling.
Because of all these little air pockets throughout the pile, we don’t have to turn it. We just add a layer of shit ’n scraps, then a layer of straw. The worms and bacteria cruise slowly upwards through the pile and convert our waste stream into high grade top quality fertilizer.
Q: “Isn’t it dangerous? I mean, shit is really scary stuff full of bacteria and toxins!”
A: Stop it. Seriously. It just came out of you! If there’s anything harmful to you in it, it would have killed you already.
Q: Ok, ok, what about when you’re sick, or have food poisoning? Aren’t you creating a compost pile full of listeria ready to turn humanity into constantly flowing shit spigots?
A: No. Within the active part of the pile there are “thermophilic” bacteria. They come from your healthy gut, and as their name suggests they LOVE heat. In fact, they make things so hot that everything else around them can’t take the heat (including all those bad bacteria you just fire-hosed out your ass), and the bad bacteria are burned to death. It’s pretty awesome.
Q: Ok Nik, my mind is opening up just a little bit to this. Where can I read more (so I can prove you wrong and convince you to shit in drinking water again)?
A: The bible on this is The Humanure Handbook, by Joe Jenkins. Buy it, read it, live by it. The dude is awesome.