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The Wishing Well Compost Tower

I finally finished one of my pet projects that has been in the making for a couple of years. People have asked me again and again, what do you do with the poop once you empty it out the toilet. For most travelers who use my toilet (boaters and recreational vehicles owners), the waste winds up in the trash. That has created a lot of discussion on whether it is legal or proper to do that. Actually it is both if the user uses minimal common sense. I foresee an issue in the future for boaters if emptying the contents into a marina dumpster becomes a common practice. If the waste is sealed in a 5-gallon plastic bucket as I advocate, then it shouldn’t be a problem, but some people can be more careless and create issues for everybody. So I have always thought; why not have a nice compost tower at home or on the facility where you can dump your waste and let nature do what nature does best. Put it to its intended use as fertilizer.

Imagine if every home were allowed to have a urine diverting composting toilet as their second toilet, on a voluntary basis admittedly. In an area like the Florida Keys, it would save a ton of water both incoming and outgoing. Most people who have visited the Keys have heard the saying, “If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down.” This is a slogan that encourages saving water since it is a valuable commodity for this area. If the water use could be cut by just 10 percent, it would save a lot of money in reducing added infrastructure and the cost of waste management and maintenance. What’s not to like.

A simple, attractive composting tower could be located on almost anybody’s residence and the stored waste could be dumped there. Located in a small, bordered butterfly garden with ample vegetation to absorb the nutrients for those people who prefer to manage their waste that way. Considering it takes almost a month for two people to fill a single 5-gallon bucket using a C-Head, you should normally be able to bring the waste home if you are gone for less than a month. Get a bucket with a Gamma seal screw on lid and use it to hold the solid waste and used medium.

I placed my compost tower in my butterfly garden under a large water oak tree. The tree survived the great tree removal massacre because it is leaning away from my house (see my blog on squirrels). The wishing well compost tower will feed the oak and surrounding plant life and I expect the tree to fill out even more with all the nutrition. The oaks I removed have been replaced with fruit trees. A camphor tree is to the left and will also benefit from the waste/fertilizer and will supply cut aromatic roots that can be used inside the toilet itself to make any musty smell more pleasant. It will also provide year round shade when it gets larger.

By lifting the lid you can pour the contents of the solid waste collection bucket into the tower. Urine is poured into the PVC elbow port that protrudes out the front. This goes into a small french drain under the solid waste. On either side are the compost pits from which you take the composted waste to use. Initially it is filled with garden soil to bring the level up to the bottom of the tower. As it is removed to be used in various capacities, the contents of the inner core will drop down and refill the sides. It can be used as potting soil or fill dirt, or in the garden. I currently have loofah planted in each side pit and they will grow attractive vines and produce loofah pods giving the tower a nice attractive look. Sweet potatoes will work just as well and are easier to direct.

If the tower is going to be used by people who only travel a month or so out of the year and who use the C-Head toilet, then the tower can be made much smaller; half the size. This model is for ongoing OTG or permaculture living. Or you can use it as I do for all of the above; home, RV, table scraps, ect. It should take at least half a year or more to fill to a level where you would need to start extracting compost from the side pits. If you cultivate black soldier flies in the compost, it could well take years to reach that point. See my blog on black soldier flies (pending).

To build the wishing well composting tower, I used 5/4″ decking boards from Lowe’s along with pressure treated 4 x 4s. A single 3 foot 2 x 6 board was needed for the ridge beam and four deck rails. It also required a set of gate hinges and a gate latch. If you want to get fancy you could use lifetime maintenance-free recycled plastic decking material. I chose to stain it with a sealer stain.

At this point, I set it in place with the help of my nephew. We could still lift it and level it fairly easily. I stained it and built the lid which I attached with the outdoor gate hinges and a gate latch to hold it open.

Next I dug a pit in the bottom and used weed cloth to line it. I filled it with granite chips and installed a dog-leg section of 1.5 inch PVC pipe that I perforated along the bottom and I left the end open.

I then wrapped the weed cloth over the top of the pipe and covered it all with earth. I lined the insides of the tower with polycarbonite corrugated panels to keep moisture off the wood and allow for air circulation between the side and the waste to protect the wood finish.

I then filled the bottom of the pit with compost from my other compost towers up to the openings on each side and I also filled the two side pits. Initially, you could use garden soil from bags to fill the pits. I planted loofah plants on each side and will direct the vines as they grow to give the wishing well a nice look. I then dumped some waste inside that had been drying out in the dehydrator and hot box, just to get things started.

Finally I poured some vintage urine into the french drain port that I had been storing for a couple of years . . . yes, a couple of years, to test the flow. You find out real quick that you produce way more urine than you can use in the garden, so this will be a great solution for that problem and I am sure that the oak and surrounding plants will love it very much. My next step is to introduce black soldier flies using a BSF digester inside the tower. I will be offering a PDF scaled drawing of this project on my website and blog site soon. Stay tuned.

Please feel free to comment or ask questions below. If you enjoyed this article, please pass it along to a friend. Help spread ground breaking ideas.

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