Monday, February 13, 2012

water and sewer

Most of the time most of my minions look at me like a lump of hair that suddenly animated and crawled out of the shower drain whenever I bring up the subject of body waste removal.  I’m not sure why I receive this kind of opposition, because being able to frugally substitute for an expensive septic system is vital to being able to move out to your junk land.  No septic means far less water which means you don’t have to sink a ten thousand dollar well, or worry about buying two grand in solar panels to power it, nor do you then have to worry about the pump failing after the apocalypse.  The reason I bring this up again is that when a minion asks about it, he is telling me that he is a new minion and never read the first versions.  And if one asks, there are sure to be others in the same boat.  We all know how to buy cheap land.  You go to E-Bay and buy land outright for a grand, or put a down of a hundred bucks and make fifty dollar a month payments.  And shelter is pretty easy as well.  You have a travel trailer, or live out of your van, or sink four corner posts in cement and cover the sides with tarps and the roof with cross braces and cardboard and a tarp and later on when finances permit you finish up with more durable materials ( I would live in the van while digging a pit, then drive down the vehicle and roof over, but that is just me- it wouldn’t work too great with a family ).  Lighting is simple.  If you are poor, you buy a few five dollar LED lanterns that burn AA batteries.  If you can afford it, you buy a $120 30-watt panel and hook it to a marine battery and burn a 12v bayonet base LED bulb.  And if you can’t afford a serious stove, you buy a $25 propane camp stove to cook on ( and don’t forget you can brew coffee in your vacuum thermos which also slow cooks a lot of meals ).

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If you can’t afford a backhoe to clear the land, most locations can easily be cleared by using bypass loppers, those long handled short blade Almost Looks Like Hedge Clippers tool.  These are much easier to use than a saw, and not too much more expensive.  If you want a refrigerator, just use a junked short freezer.  You throw a block of ice in at the top and the food at the bottom ( slightly elevated to avoid the dripping water ).  If you can bury it up to its door, in the shade, this should work pretty good for you in most climates.  Buy your meat one dinner at a time as you commute into town for work, most other things will keep just fine in the ice box.  But when it comes to procuring water and getting rid of sewage, most folks tend to make things more complicated than they need to be.  For water, haul it ( I write while living in the arid West.  Those in lush areas don’t have this issue ).  Later on you can make a ground level ferrocement pad that catches water.  For now, just haul it.  You can fill the car with two liter bottles in milk crates, all the way up to having a trailer tank.  Use five gallon camping jugs if you want to buy one cheap tank at a time.  Just don’t buy the cheap ones.  You will replace leakers enough that the quality ones are worth it.  Now, with water, no matter what you use to haul and store it, don’t put all your eggs in one basket.  Have multiple smaller units rather than one large.  If it leaks, you could be screwed.  I like the brown thirty gallon units with a big opening on top and the garden hose size spigot on the bottom.  They cost $30, you can buy one at a time.  My preference for using the water would be gravity flow.  If you insist on “flow at the tap” pressure ( as opposed to using hand poured jugs ), mount a tank above the faucet line outside ( of course, freezing is an issue at times ) and fill by a stairway up or a 12v pump hooked to a solar panel ( fill a ground container, as the sun shines the elevated container fills- so no need for another battery on that panel  ).
For sewer, forget adding water to your waste if you can help it.  A composting toiler is wonderful for the water challenged.  You don’t have to buy one of those huge two story types.  They sell self contained, three or so foot high, low footprint, non-electric units for about $1200.  If you have a Home Despot near you, they will give you free shipping to the store on their unit ( it might seem expensive, but here it is $800 JUST for a septic permit ).  If you have to wait to afford that, plan on hauling in sewer on your way to haul back water.  Go to the RV dealer parts department and buy a self-contained sewer tank on wheels ( you might be able to figure out how to do-this-yourself cheaper, but here is the turn-key option ).  Build a platform above that with the toilet seat.  The idea is to wheel the unit in and out under the seat.  Do your business and when full, dump it in your towns RV sewer dump.  You put a bit of water in the container prior to first use, then add the green chemical they sell in the Wal-Mart RV/camping section.  You might be able to buy a larger size of that from a Port-A-John outfit.  I would not recommend the camping pouches for poop.  They are mostly a one time use and very expensive ( it has that gel inside that neutralizes the odor ).  
None of the above might be considered a great way to live the rest of your life.  It isn’t.  It is meant to get you cheaply and quickly moved to your land.  With no debt and no government harassment.  It isn’t a one-size-fits-all, it is a way to “think out of the box”. 

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  1. "You don’t have to buy one of those huge two story types. They sell self contained, three or so foot high, low footprint, non-electric units for about $1200."

    An inexpensive alternative here, is to purchase the lugable loo, which is simply a toilet seat that snaps on to a 5 gallon bucket, Sportsmansguide sells them, and they're around $20.00 I believe? For around $60.00, you can get a much nicer porta potty at walmart.

    The difference between these porta potties and the far more expensive composting toilet, is that the composting toilet integrates the composting in to one unit; that's it.
    You can do the same by dumping your toilet in to composting bin when it fills up.

    Be very careful if you plan on using this compost for your garden. The temperature of the composting pile must reach a certain temperature (I believe a 130 degrees?) and sustain that temperature over a certain period of time in order to be safe. The "Humanure handbook" is an entire book devoted to this this topic, but I'm sure that there's lots of info online on this subject.

  2. That's the problem. People have *no* idea what to do with their piss and shit. In short, Mother Earth likes them very much. Take a 5-gallon bucket and build a "stand" that holds it inside, with a standard toilet seat on top, you shit in there, and "flush" with a trowelful or two of dirt, leaf detritus, etc. Some people even use wood shavings although that's expensive. I like tree detritus best myself, it's the stuff under trees that's half-decomposed leaves, flowers, etc kinda halfway to becoming soil. Our local soil is clay and HEAVY. When the bucket is full it's stashed away to "age" for a while then goes under a tree or under non-root crops. Piss is simply saved up in jugs and goes on crops, under trees, etc. I even went around with a jug of my finest and "marked" stumps etc where a coyote had been spotted on our place.

    This is how it's done on a settled place with living soil.

    If you are on the run, keeping a low profile, just settling in and still a bit disoriented, etc., then piss can be saved up in jugs or a bottle and poured down a drain behind a building, etc., or if you have to piss under "stealth" conditions, dig a little hole in the soil and I don't care if you're a guy squat down, and get it into that little hole then cover with soil, there will be no smell. Shit onto a newspaper like a good puppy, wrap that stuff up, and put the "bomb" into a dumpster, it will dry out and no one will be the wiser. You can save those up and deposit when you have the chance, meanwhile save in a plastic bag or something. If you have the runs, then it's time to use a public toilet or dig a bigger hole in the soil .... on the run is not a time to get the runs hehe.

  3. We had a really hard freeze here the last two nights and the plumbing froze up under the house. We saved water for drinking and washing in appropriate containers ahead of the freeze, but did NOT try to set aside enough water for flushing. We're a 'seasoned' couple whose own plumbing no longer works as well as it once did, so it would have taken a LOT of water for flushing.
    Our short-term solution was to use a 5 gallon bucket with mostly dried leaves from under our pin-oaks (hate those trees). We put a 'sponge' layer in the bucket to begin, the added out deposits and more dried leaves as time passed. Pop the lid back on until the next time of need. It sure would have been nice to have a seat like Wayne mentioned ...
    When the emergency is over, the bucket contents will go to the center of the compost bin, to be used under our blueberry bushes. If we used this method all the time, we'd probably have a dedicated bin for human compost. We'd most likely build a Lovable Loo as described on the Humanure website. Come planting time, I'll start saving my Liquid Gold fertilizer in an old milk jug anyhow - plants love the extra nitrogen, properly diluted, of course.

  4. Ever heard of Methane Digestion ? Just put a lid on those buckets which have a tube attached, shortly you will be producing methane. A series of these mini digestors connected together can produce enough gas to cook with or run a small generator. After a few months the stuff will be cooked and totally safe to use for fertilizer. The key to digestion is the lack of oxygen, keep this in mind.