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Real-life Humanure experience – Lucas’ off-grid Tiny House
Lucas and his partner Natalie have been living off-grid in their Tiny House fittingly named “Tiny” for over five years. They have been using a composting toilet the entire time, and use a Humanure setup whenever their current parking spot allows for it.
Tell us a bit about you!
My partner, Natalie, and I have spent many days and nights on backcountry adventures and over time it seemed like the simple systems of outdoor adventure living seeped more and more into our “front country” living. After living in a small cabin and then a sailboat, we built a Tiny House on Wheels with the intention of having super simple systems, a low dependance on resources, and to minimize our possessions and distractions.
We all know life isn’t always roses and unicorns. What where some obstacles with transitioning to off-grid life?
Learning how much our solar power system can handle (we bought an air popcorn popper and it blue our 250A fuse) took some attention. Also, living in a northern climate with lots a cloudy winter days is difficult to maintain charged batteries. Our wood stove is probably our favorite element of living off grid but we can’t use that when we’re not home. So we do have a small propane wall heater. Our first winter we left for a few days over the holidays and at some point the heater went out while it was 20 below 0 outside. Our cheap fridge/freezer stopped working as a result but before it got to freezing temperatures inside, the bag of ice in our freezer melted and poured out onto and into our hardwood floor – and then everything froze. We came home to this.
What do you love about living off the grid? What do you like, and what did you come to enjoy even though you maybe didn’t expect it to?
Happily, living off grid has allowed us a lot of flexibility to turn the house on and off quickly, to park and live in places where we needed no access to utilities (other than a path to walk to the house), and low maintenance and operating costs. We elected to have a “dry” house even though our original plan was to have running water, a shower and water heater. After our first winter living in the house before we’d finished these plans (and in northern Wisconsin!) we realized that we didn’t need our own shower or faucet. In return, we’ve found the joy of cold showers and are conscious of how much water we use (because we haul it!).
Having a Humanure setup is still pretty unique. How did you learn about it, and which resources did you use to learn more?
We were familiar with composting toilet systems from our time living on a sailboat. While we didn’t have one ourselves, many of our sailing friends did. When it came to designing our house, we purchased an all-in-one composting toilet and haven’t looked back.
Do you also recycle your pee, or do “just” have a Humanure pile?
We broadcast our pee (I very rarely pee indoors). Because we have never lived on our own property, our Humanure system has changed depending on where we are living and request of the landowner. Some times we get to compost it, other times we bag and throw it in the trash.
What’s something you wish you’d known before starting your Humanure journey?
We’ve settled on using wood shavings/sawdust but only after trying a few other organic materials. Peet moss, which was suggested, has been our least favorite.
Will you be continuing to use a Humanure?
Absolutely. Again, it’s a simple system and doesn’t waste water.
What would you tell people who are afraid of having a Humanure setup?
It’s all about moisture management. If done with relative care (it isn’t actually all that fickle to figure out) it doesn’t smell and is easy to deal with.
Is there something you’d like to add?
One element that we both appreciated was because we are the ones who have to deal with our own shit, taking care of our bodies so that what we eliminate from ourselves makes using, emptying and cleaning our toilet a breeze rather than a messy, gross, pain became really important. This isn’t the only reason that we prioritize what we put into our bodies but it’s a great added incentive.