This weekend we could finally get cracking, because we have all the things we need! I had to work Friday night, so we arrived after 12 in Caspe. I haven’t driven in a long time so I wanted to drive this time, but I regretted this immensely. It was pitch dark out and lots of parts of the highway didn’t have any lights, I looked like a granny hanging over the steering wheel, driving slowly. We swapped before we got to the hilly part. Talking about darkness, we really want to get a telescope. I thought I saw the starriest night sky in Namibia but it’s just as gorgeous here.
The next day Thomas was up early and got to filling our jerry cans with fuel for the generator. I’m so lucky, that allowed Luna and me to wake up relaxed. It took a bit longer though, since he was picking up the roof and fasteners for the outhouse. So I started making cement. I prepared by watching some videos on youtube. So I mixed up some cement, sand and water and started fixing the holes. This was a lot tougher than I expected! I think the sand we have is for concrete so this doesn’t stick that great. I ended up pushing it in the holes really hard and it even looks professionally done now!
In the meantime Thomas came back with all the stuff for the outhouse. I helped fasten the outhouse with an electric drill, which is a lot of fun to do! I even used our jigsaw to cut out the hole for the toilet seat. But it started raining a lot in the afternoon. A little like we experienced in Asia, with a lot of thunder. Because of this we weren’t able to do everything we planned, but finished most of the outhouse. I think we started around 9 in the morning and finally stopped at 10 in the evening, it felt great. Really tired but fulfilled. It really looks different now, a clean terrace and a small building added!
Luna’s life here has been a story on it’s own. This weekend she ran away at least 3 times, but probably a few times more since she came walking from odd directions while we were working. Since we were working we didn’t notice it until she was not responding. So we walked around the property with treats and were calling out for her. The first time we couldn’t find her for more than 20 minutes, our neighbour said she saw her run past a few times. My first reaction is to think the worst, there are some mean cats out here. Usually not aggressive but provoked by Luna I don’t think she’d win. Or alternatively, better for Luna, she could get into the chicken coop of one of our neighbours. Or worse Luna falling somewhere and not being able to get back. You can see the big birds circling around here sometimes and she’s not that big. Luckily it was just in my head and she came back happy and exhausted every time. She was probably exploring and following her nose, but staying close enough to find her way back. That makes us hopeful she’ll be able to walk around without us fencing her in.
We were pretty confused how she escaped though, not that our fence is flawless but still. We thought she might’ve been jumping out, but we caught her running into the fence so it moves up enough for her to pass under. So we’re going to run some iron thread through the bottom and secure it more tightly. Especially since she had a small gash above her eye, we don’t want some small parts of the fence to hit her eye directly.
On Sunday we were so tired, but still cut and assembled the floor of the outhouse and the heap for the compost. I recently read the book “The Humanure Handbook” by Joseph Jenkins and this was very interesting. I am fascinated how humans throughout history have handled feces. In a lot of places in Asia, in particular China, people have been using this humanure method for a long time and use this compost for their land. Europe did not use this technique and the sewage floated through the streets, which caused a lot of diseases and epidemics. This might have contributed to the rapid growth in countries like India and China, since the spread of such diseases was limited and the land was fertilized with this compost. It is weird if you think about it, we’re flushing down something that is nutrition for our plants with potable water. Here in Barcelona after a big rainstorm the sewer is overflowing into the sea, including the toilet paper and wet wipes. It’s a weird idea to me to buy compost in the store, also using fecal matter to create the fertile components, but most people think it’s gross to make your own. Of course space is a limiting factor for a lot of people, but talking to people I notice there are quite some misconceptions. One of them being the smell, if the composting process is working there is not supposed to be a smell.
We started by making a heap that consists of a few layers:
- Brown material : dead leaves and branches
- Topped with more plant material from our garden
The bottom moss and straw are a filter between the compost and the direct earth below it, the brown material on top of that creates spaces that help oxygen reach the heap. All of this is the carbon part of the compost equation, we also need nitrogen which you can find in urine and other waste. You can also find this in blood and bones, but since we’re vegan we’re not going to use it. Besides this we can also add all our green waste from the kitchen, which will help us close that loop too.
But like I said, the main reason for this compost heap is to handle our “personal” waste. In the outhouse we have two buckets, one containing a lot of cut up leaves and other material from the garden and one to poop in. On the bottom of the poop bucket we apply some of the leafy material and after each use you “flush” with some more of that material from the other bucket (toilet paper is no problem since that’s also just carbon). Since we also have some lavender vines we can use for flushing the toilet actually smells nice. After the bucket is filled we can close it off for a bit before adding it to the heap.
The process of emptying a full bucket is pretty simple too, use a rake and make a hole into the heap and empty the bucket in the middle. Once this drops down it’s surrounded by carbon and this causes the temperature to rise, the temperature is highest in the bottom and the middle of the heap. This heat causes viruses and bacteria to decompose and turn into compost. This takes some time and is followed up by some other processes that happen once the temperature changes in the heap. I’ll explain those steps in the following posts, there is so much more to tell I can talk for pages. But once the heap is filled up, this all depends on height and space, we leave it for about a year. In this year all the harmful bacteria and possible viruses are compost, the science shows this happens after 6 months but a year is advised for safety. During this time you create and use another heap, that way you always have an active heap and one done around spring when it’s needed for sowing.
I am planning to send samples of our first heap to a lab for testing. More out of curiosity since usually there is quite some animal waste used. I would like to compare this to store bought compost, we even saw cigarette butts and plastic in the ones we bought. I am curious how this is all going to happen in practice, and I’m super interested to learn more about self-sufficient life and lowering our footprint on this planet.