Maple Syrup, Honey, and poop

Wed, 04/09/2014 - 14:09 -- webmaster

Today I'll be writing about poop. But to keep the gross stuff out of the teaser and let people not see the gory details, I'll first talk a little about trees and bees.

The super secret base I moved to, in the Raymond NH area, has a lot of different plans being put into motion. One of the ones that has been going for at least a year now is a maple syrup operation. When I moved here just 9 days ago, I was tasked with gathering the remaining sap. That's a pretty simple task, and while it isn't hard labor it is just a little harder than you'd think.

The maple trees are thankfully all in one area, probably less than an acre in size. The ground is rough and varied, with fallen trees and other debris getting in the way. There's also a water course, which is great for the plants but means you really should have water proof boots. I don't.

The old and typical way of collecting the sap from the tree is to have a hose from the tap going into a bucket. There's either a simple hole in the lid through which the hose passes or there's an attachment that screws into the lid's hole making a reasonable seal. You have to go to each bucket, take the lid off, and pour its contents into another bucket you carry. You take as many trips as needed, and you never know how much sap is in a bucket until you get to it. Sometimes there's maybe a half bucket (rare) and sometimes there's a half a cup (hardly worth it).

Old style sap collection Old and new style sap collection New style sap collection Bag method pour spout Tap and the hole in the bag collector to hold it

But the plan for next year is to switch everything over to the newer bag system. The blue bags attach easily and you can clearly see from a distance if it needs emptying (see the third pic - you can see there's a small amount in the bag). Its also much easier to empty. You can either take it off the tap and pour it, or you can swing it on the tap pouring the contents out while holding the bucket under it.

By the way, real maple syrup from the local farm really makes the morning coffee better. It also works well for sweetening cereal.

Another thing I hope to be enjoying here is truly local honey. Yesterday 30,000 bees arrived and got put into their hives. That's three queens and 10,000 other bees for each one. I got to help (mostly from a distance) get them placed in their new homes. I have no idea how long it takes for them to earn their rent, but I guess I'll know soon enough.

The three bee hives

Bee hives on top of cargo container storage and chicken greenhouse

OK, now that we got the boring stuff out of the way, lets talk about poop!

I've been using a 5 gallon bucket composting toilet that is in a shed. Once you're done pooping (never peeing in the bucket!) and you've wiped, you simply scatter a handful or two of fresh sawdust on top. That covers the unsightliness as well as the smell. So far it seems to be working well. But what do you do when the bucket is full?

When I was a kid - maybe 10 years old or so - we had a dog we'd let out into our side yard. My dad got this idea to try composting the dog poop in the ground. So we spent a few days digging a hole in the ground big enough to put a garbage can into. He drilled a bunch of holes in a plastic garbage can and we put it in the ground. For the next month or so when I cleaned up the side yard (one of my least favorite jobs as a kid) I just tossed all the dog poop into the bucket. The top of it was just a tiny bit above ground level so the lid would fit snugly.

Once the compost garbage can was full, we realized it was too much work for our urban sensibilities. Then we forgot about it for a year. But one day we checked it out and what we found was the most amazing black dirt. I've never forgotten that.

So this morning I recreated that. I took an old plastic garbage can and drilled a bunch of holes in it. I dug a hole in the designated area as deep as I could. It went a lot faster than I remember, but then I have a lot more experience (and strength) than when I was a kid. I did run into a couple rocks that looked like too much of a pain to work around, but by that time the hole was just about deep enough. I put the can in and filled in around the outside with the leftover dirt.

This can didn't have a lid, but lying about 4 feet from the hole was an old car window that is just the right size. That might work even better than a regular lid since it will let some sunlight in which will help warm the compost, helping break it down into safe dirt that much quicker. I dumped a full toilet bucket in, and put the window/lid on. Done.

Putting holes in the grabage can

Holes in the bottom too

Digging the hole

Can just fits

Fill in around the can

Can is in the hole, almost done

Dumping in the first load

Put the top on and we're done!

Yay! Now I can poop without worrying about what to do with it.