Today’s lesson is about poop. Jay and I are standing over our teacher, who is on his knees, as he reaches into the subterranean storage compartment for the tools needed to instruct us on the fine art of composting toilets.
“You’ll need this rake,” he says. I can feel myself blanch. This ain’t no potato patch he’s talking about. “…and this is the pump you’ll need in case the liquids need to be siphoned off…” he continues.
He hauls out a couple of boxes. One is like those that you use to store Christmas wrapping paper. It’s flat and long and covered in….oh dear gawd, WHAT IS THAT? I sighed with relief - it’s only spider webs. The box contains cleaning and paper supplies and I set what I’ll need on the floor of the shack.
A sign on the door reads: “For human waste only.” What? Are the local deer and javelina potty trained? I force my attention back to today’s lesson.
“Picture a grid,” our teacher says, illustrating with his hands the direction in which things, um, get shifted. “It starts here,” he says, “I call this the cone.” Oh suweet mother of God, I never, ever, EVUH, want to use that word again. I begin pondering new names for the cone filter for my Cuisenaire coffee maker. Pictures of orange safety cones flitted through my mind…metamorasizing into…
“You rake it over here,” he says, interrupting my stream of… geesh, I need another word… “And then here….and finally here, where it can be used for manure….” He gestured a big square showing how things moved along in sequence. Bowel movement, if you will.
“Oh, I get it!” I said, “It’s like crop rotation only for crap! Crap rotation!” We all enjoyed a hearty laugh.
Jay learned the intricacies of compost toilets – not a bad skill to have if one wishes to live off grid. And I cleaned, taking great care not to breathe. Thankfully, these two trail potties are MUCH nicer than a typical vault toilet found on National Forest Land. Sawdust keeps the odor under control and added enzymes keep it speeding along in decomposition.
It’s one of the weekly tasks we do as part of a site host gig so we can live in the National Forest. And a reminder to stay humble given our basic biological functions.
And people, it’s not a cone…it’s a poop pile, okay?