Humanure compost toilet

You do WHAT with your poo?

We made the decision to have humanure compost toilets inside and out! We like them; it means we are dealing with our own waste, you get compost out of it at the end (returning veggie scraps and food waste back to the earth). We´re also not wasting gallons of drinking water every time we flush and also we haven´t got to worry about plumbing for black water. Sounds like a winning decision if you ask me!!!!

We already have an outside toilet (well, a bucket with a toilet seat on top). We just needed to create our compost bays, gather the materials, and set ourselves up to be able to begin composting our humanure.

We used wombled pallets (x3) to create the bay structure. We placed these on top of a ´bowl´we created in the earth and screwed them together in a u-shape.IMG_20160310_134126268

We filled the bay with a bale of straw (loose).IMG_20160310_141541472_HDR

As an aside, we were massively proud of ourselves for getting the straw. Someone told us there was a man named Paco on the road out of town that sells hay and straw. They were our only directions. Well, we only bloody went and found Paco on his tractor in a field and managed to buy some straw from him! I don´t think I´ve been that proud of myself in some time!

Ahem, anyway, after filling the bay with straw and supporting the front with planks, the bay is ready to receive some caca! Although, of course, this being us, we hadn´t really thought through the position of the compost bay (we thought we had. We were wrong) and decided to move it to a shadier spot before filling!

The compost toilet itself is really simple. There´s a wooden box with a toilet seat on it. Inside there is a bucket. You do your business; toilet paper, urine and solid waste into the bucket and you cover your ´doings´with a good amount of sawdust. When the bucket is full. Put the lid on it and take it to the compost. You also need a good amount of kitchen scraps (veggie peels, egg shells, dinner leftovers etc) as well as green material (weeds pulled from the garden) when adding to the bay.

Down at the bay you make a hole or bowl in your hay (carbon material),  empty your kitchen scraps (broad range of nutrients and micro organisms), then layer your weeds (nitrogen material, plus broader range of nutrients) and on top, empty your humanure from the bucket. Cover the ´bowl´with plenty of hay and water and leave it do its thing. We keep a compost thermometer in the mound to check that the compost is reaching the correct temperatures.

And there you have it, pretty simple.

You collect into this bay for one year or until it is full. And then you simply begin a new bay. I recommend reading the Humanure handbook by Joe Jenkins for the ins and outs of creating a humanure compost system (it´s well written, funny and has all the information you need. you can also read it chapter by chapter online). Recommendations are that you leave your humanure for two years before using it. You can get a sample checked in a lab (there is a place in town here with us) to check for any remaining pathogens. We have decided to work on a three year cycle just to be sure, and to cover ourselves in case anyone is ill during the year that those extra nasty bugs are properly gone.

We currently just have an outside toilet, but eventually we will have additional ones in our indoor bathroom as well as just off the bedroom.

We were a little worried about smell. But we have been surprised by the total lack of smell. Nothing from the toilet, and nothing from the bay. And it has been hot. We are in the south of Spain with very little rain and so we were expecting at least a little whiff. But nope! Nada. Zilch!

Doing my business with a view like this, while recycling waste and not wasting water has made me feel rather smug!IMG_20160310_162905840

Looks like we’ve made it! Dog in tow!

Orgiva
Orgiva

So we have finally arrived! We are in Spain, in Orgiva, and it feels soooo good to be back. We have driven through four countries to get here (Wales, England, France and Spain) and in my humble opinion, was well worth the drive rather than flying or getting the ferry.

Bryn all cosy in the van
Bryn all cosy in the van

We had quite a long drive UK side to even get to the Eurotunnel but tootling along in our van with the dog in the back was a great option. We had time to enjoy the countryside the whole way down, stop when we wanted to, and when Bryn needed to stretch his legs every hour or so, we could stop when it suited us!

I was a little apprehensive about the drive as I was doing all of the driving. This is why we decided to take five days over the journey. But as it turns out it has been absolutely fine (dare I say, enjoyable?!) We travelled about 4/5 hours a day (apart from the initial push on the first day which was 7 hours) and we stayed in some beautiful places along the way.

Here’s our route.

Day 1 – South Wales to Eurotunnel, Folkestone. Onwards to Rouen.

A two hour drive (through heavy rain) to Rouen where we booked the cheapest hotel we could stay with the dog. We stayed at Ibis budget hotel in Rouen and it was perfectly fine (clean and basic) for somewhere to rest our weary heads after a long day before getting up the following morning to go again.

Day 2 – Rouen to Dirac (about 8km from Angouleme).

The drive took about five hours, not including any stops. We arrived in our stunning hotel about 7pm. We stayed at Relais de Silence Domaine du Chatelard near Dirac, and what a bloody treat!

Relais du Silence - quite the treat!
Relais du Silence – quite the treat!

For the price of a basic B&B in the UK we had pure luxury! We couldnt quite believe they would allow the dog in but they were really excited to see us (well, mainly Bryn to be honest). As it turns out, the restaurant was absolutely fantastic and we had the most beautiful meal (and lovely bottle of red) with fantastic service. It wasnt what we are used to, but as a treat, was amazing!

Oh dear god!
Oh dear god!

The hotel is surrounded by a beautiful lake which we walked around the following morning (and where Bryn got to display his epic swamp monkey skills) before setting off again in our trusty van.

Day 3 – Dirac to Salinas de Ananas (Basque)

Another five hour drive to a wonderful Casa Rural near the salt plains in Basque country in the north of Spain. We stayed in Madera y Sal which is a recently renovated casa rural. I can highly recommend staying in this beautiful town and fantastic casa. Zuri and her husband have lovingly restored this old building over the last 14 years and it shows that its all been done with such care and love. We had the whole casa to ourselves and had a superb breakfast to set us up for our journey ahead (Spanish omelette, bread, fruit, fresh juice, salsa and of course some of the local salt). Again, we went for a walk in the morning around the salt plains which has much charm in its ugliness.

Only photo we have - shame!
Only photo we have – shame!

The beauty of the landscape is a huge contrast to the salt works, but the village is stunning and the mountains, breathtaking.

Day 4 – Salinas de Ananas to Toledo.

Up until now the drive had seemed a doddle, but today, although the drive was four instead of five hours, it seemed longer.

View from roof terrace in Toledo
View from roof terrace in Toledo

We arrived in Toledo while it was still light and the sun shone the whole way down. We checked into Apartamentos Alarife which was five minutes walk from the cathedral, smack bang centre of Toledo. We had fantastic views over the city which was great as we didnt actually have time to explore the city. Matt had a terrible nights sleep so we got up early and set off again on our final stretch.

Day 5 – Toledo to Orgiva.

Again, the drive seemed long today. It was four and a half hours long but seemed much much longer. Saying that, we were so excited to cross into Andalucia and drive through the snow peaked Sierra Nevada that we forgot how tired we were when we realised we were on the home stretch. After Granada, I knew the way, and took great pleasure on turning off the sat nav to enjoy the drive. Before arriving in Orgiva we stopped off at our new house to walk Bryn along the riverbed at the bottom of our land. He seems to approve (which is always good). We then drove into Orgiva and stopped for tea in our favourite cafe (Baraka) before getting our keys for the house we will be staying in for the next few weeks.

And that’s about it. I can highly recommend the route we took. If we had the time and the money we would have preferred to stay in each place for more than one night, just to be able to experience each area fully (or at least more fully than we had the chance to). The Eurotunnel was easy, although a bit weird driving onto a train.

Driving onto the Eurotunnel
Driving onto the Eurotunnel

Also, by by taking our time I didn’t feel completely exhausted after our trip.

Bryn dealt with everything so well. He was comfortable in the back of the van (we took the window from the bulkhead so he could poke his head through) but we did worry about him as he didn’t eat for the first three days. He usually goes on hunger strike when we are away and we made sure he was drinking plenty of water but after three days, we weren’t happy. He was refusing his food so we bought him some meat and of course, he gobbled that straight up. This must’ve got his appetite going because he ate from that point on. We didnt take his bed into any of the hotels (Relais du Silence and Madera y Sal supplied a dog bed for Bryn) so that when we arrived at our final destination he would know, because we brought his bed in. This sounds so silly, but it did seem to work. He settled straight away in the house in Orgiva, whereas it took him a little while all of the way down.

So now all there is to do is enjoy Dia del Andalucia on Sunday/Monday and get stuck into our new community by enjoying shared paella and flamenco dancing before getting stuck in end of next week to clearing the land and visiting the local seed bank, starting off our summer veg and welcoming our first volunteers.