Tuesday, January 25, 2011


While reading a post from Edible Geography, I was reminded about how at home here at Urban Harvester,GrittyPretty has come up with some pretty fantastic ways of dealing with, you know, baby poop.
The post illuminates not only the courageous life of a "flusher" of London's pipes but also what I think is pretty clear: the concept of "the sewer", not unlike the concept of "away" (you know... the place one throws things?), needs desperately to be rethought, and definitely to be re-designed. Here's an excerpt:
"With the air of a connoisseur, Rob uses his shovel to point out the difference between congealed "old fat" and more yellow-toned "new fat," picking out rats, condoms, and the offending wet wipes, which remain intact throughout their journey, and which, "believe it or not, we have to wash and compact and put into landfill." The rest of the fatberg will be broken up using a jetting unit, which simply "stirs it up and blasts it through."

...If the ways in which a city is supplied with food are often hard to visualise, the infrastructure through which that food, transformed into metabolic excretions, is once again removed are usually even better hidden..."

This reminded me of another post I read recently which illustrates a related point: waste = food. All that fat(oil) could be powering... something... other than the cost of city "utilities". It is completely possible to design our "waste" streams to function like any output does in nature, supplying vital life giving nourishment to a living organism or ecosystem:
"... say your electricity came not from a dirty coal-steam plant but from algae that grew in a wetland cell that treated the effluent from your kitchen and bathroom? Suppose that once you had wrung out the algae mat for its rich gardening nutrients, you separated the oils from the biomass and refined those into fuel for your car. Then you took the leftover biomass and fed it to a pyrolyzing stove, which cooked your meals, heated your house, made your electricity, and left you not with ash but biochar — recalcitrant carbon ready to enrich your garden for the next 1000 years, staying out of the atmosphere all the while. Cool food, cool fuel, cool waste treatment, cool climate."
So while we don't yet have the financing (or the code approval) to install a wetland cell or composting toilet at the homestead, we at least have a good solution for how to avoid the troublesome wet-wipes. So I thought I'd share that with you.
To complement our one-size-fits-all re-usable diapers, GrittyPretty made a whole bag full of cloth wipes made from scrap soft cotton fabric. We get them wet, use them and easily just wrap them up in the poopy diaper and throw the lot in the wash (with some vinegar to help keep things healthy). We use a water efficient Asko front-load washer and a great strong yet gentle biodegradable HE detergent called "Country Save" and have had no problems with either. I can attest to the fact that they work every bit as well, and are even a bit easier than the wet-wipes. And I don't know if Provo City has flushers, but if they do, I know they're not picking wet wipes out from pipes clogged with congealed fat, rats and condoms on our account...

The changing table with bag of clean, reusable wet wipes.


GrittyPretty said...

oh my gosh, your post is hilarious! the grossest post i've ever read! and i am so happy to be a part of it! hahahahaha!

Matt said...

Oliver, I'm about 150 pages into the Humanure Handbook and find it absolutely facinating. Still flushing away my poop too, but mine's going to our septic tank now instead of a city sewer. Up until a couple months ago, our laundried drained out the side of the house, so we we're using our clothes diapers. We'd go back to them but my wife's ready to start pottie training in a couple weeks.

It's good to see you posting. You really have a lot to share. I hope you can find time to put something out every once in a while. I've got a blog that I'm hoping to be decent with: http://farmonspringcreek.blogspot.com/

See what you think!

-Matt Whiting

Urban Harvester said...

That's awesome Matt. When did you guys move onto a farm? Did you sell your house here in Provo? You mentioned pasture in one of your posts - what are you farming?

Thanks for your comment, I am going to try to keep up on posting.
Good to hear from you.

Matt said...

I've been meaning to email you for a while now. I'll respond more to you there also, but as a quick response... Yes, we still have the house in Provo, but we moved just outside of Payson last Winter. I've mostly been growing compost over the last year, but I have managed to grow quite a bit of garlic from the three bunches that I bought from you at the Provo Farmers Market a couple years back. I planted just over a hundred cloves for 2011.

We've got 1 and 2/3 acres and I could use some help planning and designing the land. Not sure I could pay you a whole lot for helping with it, but I would love to have you come down and take a look some Saturday. What do you think?

Matt said...

Oliver, I should also say congratulations on your successful adoption. I'm sure you and Raquel are wonderful parents. :)