It is May in Florida and we are starting to get rain about once a week. Winter tends to be our dry season. In the spring, it rains hard when it rains but it doesn’t last long so we are getting about 2-3 inches a week. That is important because, you want to keep your compost moist but not wet. Too wet could cause it to smell and can wash out the nutrients and too dry will impede the composting process. There is a happy medium. Because you need to control the moisture content of the compost, the wishing well tower is designed not to be waterproof, but allows you to control how much rainwater gets inside the tower. The roof is made of slats that allow water to drop between the boards, and the same goes for the hinged lid over the tower. If you find yourself in a period of high precipitation, that is heavy, frequent rainfall like we get here in Florida occasionally, then you want to cover the slats with water proof material like canvas or corrugated tin or plastic material to shed the water away from the tower.
At this point, that is, one month after completing the construction, I have planted sweet potatoes vines in the side pits for decorative purposes and loofah vines for growing loofah sponges that we will use. I will not be harvesting the compost out of the pits for at least six months or longer until the tower is full to within 6 inches of the top. That material will be used as potting soil or for spreading in the yard. Since I have added a black soldier fly (BSF) digester to the inside of the tower, it may take much longer for it to fill up. The BSFs are digesting and effectively reducing the waste by a large percentage. They can consume up to 90 percent of the material that is fed to them, leaving behind only cellulose and bone material. We are currently adding table scraps to the BSF digester as well as non-dehydrated, processed poop from the toilet. BSFs have more difficulty breaking down dehydrated solid waste but can reduce the solid waste that comes directly from the toilet in very short order. Read more about these amazing creatures and what a benefit they are to mankind (here).
The wishing well tower solves some problems that I had using the BSF digester in an open compost tower. First, it keeps the raccoons out, who seem to have an incredible appetite for BSF larva. Secondly, it keeps the temperature regulated better which was a problem with the sun shining directly on the top of the compost in the open tower. BSF larva are voracious and very active. In addition to the heat that thermophilic composting creates, BSF larva generate heat on their own that you can easily feel with the back of your hand held close the surface. The problem is that while they can tolerate temperatures up to 140 degrees F, they will have a sudden and total die off it the temperature rises above 150 degrees F. This is remarkable since water at 120 degrees F will blister your skin. At a 140 degrees, no human pathogens or parasites can survive longer than an hour or two and most only a few minutes, yet BSF larva can tolerate this for days on end. I have videos that confirm that BSF larva can process human waste at 140 degrees which simultaneously sterilizes the waste and reduces the volume significantly.
Close up look at BSF larva at work.
But in this instance, we are not concerned with the thermophilic aspect of processing the waste. The BSF digester is a bottomless bucket that directs the processed waste down below surrounding materials where the nutrients are used to feed the vegetation and the oak tree specifically. The dehydrated solid waste is poured into the area outside of the digester where it is allowed to compost for use. It has already been exposed to heat, UV light and complete desiccation which will have eliminated much if not all of the pathogens prior to being introduced to the wishing well tower. That small portion of the waste that does manage to somehow filter into the composted material has been thoroughly composted by the passing of time and poses no threat to human beings.
So today it poured briefly, about 3/4 inches and we will get much more this evening or tomorrow per the radar. I allowed the rain to enter the tower unimpeded since it has been so dry. I have been giving the tower the sniff test everyday and so far, no smell at all. Amazing but true. The BSFs do give off their own kind of smell that isn’t what I would call pleasant, but the odor is minor and contained with the bucket lid in place and you only smell it at all when you stick you nose in the opening at the top of the tower. I am going to be adding earthworms to the area surrounding the BSF digester very shortly. There is no shortage of them in my garden. So far the wishing well compost tower is a resounding success and has become an integral part of the C-Head toilet and BoonJon garden composting system. I will be writing on how to build one in my next wishing well compost tower article.
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