S1E48 – Paige on Composting

Episode Notes

Episode summary
Margaret talks with Paige, who works in composting and humanure systems, about how to set up systems for disposing of food and human waste, different kinds of systems that can be used including worm composting, and the importance of thinking about the scale and purpose of your system.

Guest Info
Paige can be found on Twitter @badcompost

Host Info
Margaret Killjoy can be found on twitter @magpiekilljoy or instagram at @margaretkilljoy.

Publisher Info
This show is published by Strangers in A Tangled Wilderness. We can be found at www.tangledwilderness.org, or on Twitter @TangledWild and Instagram @Tangled_Wilderness. You can support the show on Patreon at www.patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness.

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Paige on Composting

Margaret 00:15
Hello, and welcome to Live Like The World Is Dying, your podcast for what feels like the end times. I’m your host, Margaret Killjoy. Well, I’m one of the hosts, but I’m your host today. But, now there’s new hosts for the show, which is very exciting to me. As much as I love listening to the sound of my own voice all the time, sometimes I like listening to other people talk. And, today we are going to be talking to Paige about composting, we’re going to be talking about what to do with stuff that rots and why it’s so important. And I don’t know, lots of stuff around shit and things like that. I’m really excited about this kind of selfishly, because I have a lot of questions that are for my own personal use as someone who composts, and you know, has lived off grid a lot and stuff like that. So I think, I hope that you will get a lot out of it, and this podcast is a proud member of the Channel Zero network of anarchists podcasts. And here’s a jingle from another show on the network.


Margaret 01:49
Okay, if you could introduce yourself with your name, your pronouns, and then I guess kind of why people should listen to you about compost.

Paige 01:58
Thank you so much for having me. My name is Paige. I use she/her pronouns. I guess I started composting at a pretty young age. We had a pile at my parents house growing up and then more recently, actually worked for Tucson’s city composting program when it was run through their university, so was on like an industrial scale operation for a couple of months. I currently work at the food bank in their farm and garden program. And I have helped them redesign their worm composting system as well as their just general composting system as well as installed composting toilets on site. I’ve also worked with friends of a land project and help them set up a composting system for humanure as well as just like food waste.

Margaret 02:51
Cool. For anyone who’s listening, if you can hear a squeaking in the background is because I gave my dog a toy that I thought didn’t have a squeaker in it. And I was proven mistaken. So, I apologize for that. But okay, so composting, what is composting, that’s where things where you just like throw an apple into the woods, and hope for the best.

Paige 03:12
So composting isn’t just kind of throwing stuff and hoping for the best. It’s usually just taking, like organic material. And there’s different types of composting, there’s different systems, but it’s kind of creating in a controlled environment to process what would be waste products into something that you can use more as a soil amendment, maybe for your garden, and maybe for fruit trees. But it’s just yeah, processing waste into something really valuable and useful.

Margaret 03:40
I get really excited about it. I have this kind of like scavenger mindset leftover from when I was more of like a squatter and traveler. But, I feel like food waste is like the main way I can still really feel that, like scratch that itch, you know? I mean, I guess I do it sometimes with other stuff where I try and scavenge. But like, I get really excited by the idea that you can like not have food waste be waste. And so I don’t know, I’m very excited about this. Okay, so what are some of the basics of you know, okay, so, I mean, I guess the ‘why’ someone would compost is probably sort of implied, like not letting things go to waste. And then also like, not needing to, you know, go and purchase fertilizer and things like that for your garden. But, what are some of the basic ‘Hows’ like, I guess starting at a smaller scale, you know, if someone wants to set up compost at their apartment or at their house or wherever they are.

Paige 04:35
Yeah, so I think it’s really going to depend on like what you have available to you. So, like a backyard system. You could do an outdoor, like hot or thermophilic pile, which I’ve seen systems built out of pallets where you just kind of set up like a three or four sided bin, and then you just throw your food scraps in there along with some sort of cover material which will generally be like a dry carbon based thing, maybe leaves, maybe sawdust. In my house, I use manure I like go pick it up every couple of months if you’re an apartment and don’t….

Margaret 05:09
Manure is the cover?

Paige 05:10
Yeah, I use like, well, so the manure that I find it’s like it’s manure mixed with straw. So it’s like pretty dry.

Margaret 05:18
Oh, okay.

Paige 05:18
And bulky. And I think the thing that I see people doing wrong is just not having enough material to do like a hot compost pile. So, they’re just kind of throwing stuff in a pile, and I live in the desert, so it just kind of dries out. I think it’s probably different and more humid wet places. But yeah, to get like, kind of your traditional hot compost pile, I feel like would be kind of more on the scale of like, a pallet bin at the smallest, like three feet by three feet. Ish.

Margaret 05:48

Paige 05:49
But, there’s also you know, there’s other options for like apartments and indoor use, such as like a worm bin, or there’s, there’s also a style of composting called Bokashi. That’s actually more of like a fermentation that people do in buckets that you can also use to process your waste. I’m not as familiar with that. But, you know, not everybody has outdoor space to have a big pile that might be kind of gnarly sometimes.

Margaret 06:14
Yeah. So, you keep talking about hot composting. Is that like, in contrast to cold composting. Is there cold composting that we could be doing? Or? No?

Paige 06:22
There is. Yeah, I mean, if you if you’re just adding material really slowly over time, or you don’t have a lot of material, you’ll probably have like kind of a colder compost and stuff won’t break down as quickly. Generally, like a big hot compost pile is also going to result in like an end product like your compost will be more like bacterially dominant versus like, a long to cold compost where you’re like not trying to get the temperature up, is going to be more conducive to like a fungally based compost. So, there are like there are kind of different end, end goals based on maybe what they use is going to be. A veggie garden that’s going to prefer like a bacterial heavy…a bacteria heavy compost, and like trees are going to prefer like a fungally based, but if you kind of mix and match, like, it kind of doesn’t matter. There’s like, yeah, I feel like you can go really deep into all the science behind it, or you can just kind of like not and still make good compost and like, deal with your food waste accordingly. But, there are like different methods you can do, depending on on what your end goal is if you wanna goo deep into it.

Margaret 07:35
Yeah, I guess that’s something that’s always sort of intimidated me about it is that, you know, before I started composting, I had always been sort of, I’d read all this stuff about it. And it was very, like, “This is the perfect ratio of nitrogen versus carbon material to add,” or I guess, greens versus browns, I think is the way it’s like often phrased or something. “And if you get it wrong, like all hell will break loose and demons will come forth from the seventh seal,” and all of that and, and so it like kind of like, I think it scares a lot of people off, but you’re sort of implying and my understanding is that you can kind of just do it and then like fuck with it to fix it as you go? Is that is that fairly accurate?

Paige 08:13
Yeah, I would definitely say that’s accurate. Yeah, I think like…yeah, definitely people kind of stick to like the greens and browns, but I don’t know, I think it’s kind of tricky. Sometimes if you have material that’s like, drying out or really not drying out, depending on your climate. So, like here out in Tucson, where I live, it’s like you have to water your compost. Otherwise, it just, it’s just a pile of like dried old vegetables or whatever you’re throwing into it so. And yeah. So I mean, it’s like the greens and browns, which are your carbon to nitrogen, but then it’s also you’re looking at like moisture and porosity. So, if you think of like a pile of sticks, like that’s like too porous, there’s too much airflow that’s not going to break down. But if you have like a mucky swamp that’s also not going to have airflow. it’s gonna it’s gonna be really anaerobic and smelly. So yeah, I mean, I think like you kind of just have to see what works for your climate, and I think trial and errors the best way to go and err on the side of maybe a little more of like the browns, the carbon, stuff and add water if need be. And if it’s not breaking down, then you’d want to add more of like the green nitrogen rich stuff, but I don’t know. Yeah, I feel like in the current moments, I’ve tried to like come up with the perfect recipe and it’s just not…it’s just not necessary for like a backyard system.

Margaret 09:41
Yeah. So it’s more cooking than baking?

Paige 09:44
Yeah, definitely. Yeah. Yeah. It’s kind of like throwing in the spices….

Margaret 09:48
It gets presented as baking.

Paige 09:49
Yeah, Nah. It’s I mean, yeah, If you’re doing it on like an industrial scale where there’s like regulations and all of these different things that could really go wrong and you’re dealing with like, tons and tons of material I think it’s a bit more of an issue, but for like your average backyard person, I think like, just try to start and see what happens and adjust from there.

Margaret 10:10
Yeah. What about those like roller…I feel like when you look for like compost, backyard composting like products, you have these…And I actually have one in my side yard, but it has yet to produce useful compost, but I think that’s not not the fault of the product. But like, yeah, what do you what do you make of these, you know, it’s like, I have this thing that looks a little bit like a five gallon of sorry, a 50 gallon drum but on a spindle where it can spin and there’s like a…mine has like two compartments. And, I don’t know, I’ve got it a Tractor Supply.

Paige 10:46
Yeah, I’ve never had luck with those. But, I think it’s just being in the desert. I think here inthe desert they just dry out. So, I’ve I’ve never tried those. I kind of tend to think that a lot of I mean, there’s there’s so many like compost products out there that are like try to make it easier. And I…to me, they all feel a little gimmicky. It’s like, okay, you need like, you need to put stuff somewhere. It needs water, air, carbon, nitrogen. And that’s it. And so having all of these like, additional, like tools, I yeah, I haven’t had luck with them. I think the idea is that it gives you more airflow and allows you to like turn and mix the material, which probably helps it break down faster. But, it’s also they’re so small, like 50 gallons…I just, I usually try to start a pile that’s bigger than that if I’m trying to get it hot.

Margaret 11:35

Paige 11:35
And then. Yeah, I mean, I try to like I just put stuff in a pile, have enough material, and then I kind of like turn it sometimes. But, I try to kind of more just like let it sit and let like all the microbes and like fungus like do their job because it’s just less work for me to deal with. But, I think they probably worked for some people. I don’t know.

Margaret 11:57
So we shouldn’t do the Live Like The World Is Dying branded backyard compost tumblers? We should find a different gimmick product to sell?

Paige 12:04
Probably. But you know, also if you’re trying to do a brand deal, I think I’m open to discussing it.

Margaret 12:10
I know I was gonna say like what did you get a cut? Does it suddenly…is it a better product at that point?

Paige 12:14
Yeah, well at that point.

Margaret 12:15
Okay. Yeah. Okay, I mean, I, the times I’ve seen them I think that the the primary appeal is almost like the…well it’s like the like, my dogs not gonna get into it because it’s in this thing, you know? It’s like it’s like pre contained, right. But, but yeah, I also have had it for nine months and it is still just sort of full of old leaves rather than full of like good useful dirt, so I can’t really like speak to its efficacy.

Paige 12:47

Margaret 12:49
And I’m, I’m trying to build a system now that is like three bins that are four foot by four foot each each bin with the idea that one bin per year, and then by the time I fill up the third bin the first bend has been sitting for two years is my like, maybe overkill. I have all these like plans to make it rat proof and stuff too. I guess Okay, so I want to talk about some of the like downsides of composting or these sorts of compost like the things that I’ve heard about and worry about, 1) is you know, my dog has gotten into compost before and gotten really sick, right? So, keeping specifically Rintrah, my dog, out of compost is the first most important thing, and then also rats, and then smell, and then okay, what’s the other one? Murdering yourself by putting it on plants, and having the plants that you grow murder you instead of feed you. Those are the four things that I’ve heard as potential downsides.

Paige 13:47
Yeah. Yeah, I mean, I think all of those can be concerns. I definitely have like my friends dogs come over, and they hop in the compost. We kind of joke that like our house is the fun house for all the dogs, because they get to come and like play in like rotting stuff. But, you know sometimes that’s maybe not ideal for them just because of, yeah, I put chicken bones and stuff in there, which you definitely don’t want dogs getting into. But yeah, I think for to kind of control for for small animals and pets. I think doing pallet bins and then lining that with hardware cloth, kind of like what you were saying or honestly even lining it with cardboard would probably be effective at keeping them out. And not the rats, but at least like dogs. If there’s like wood and then a couple other layers of stuff. As far as the smell, that’s often an indicator of too much nitrogen and too much humidity and liquid. So, to kind of mitigate that you’d want to add more like dry carbon based stuff. And yeah, it’s interesting because it sounds like your pile on the ground might be kind of smelly, but then you’re like tumbler pile might just be dry leaves, so maybe if you just like threw the dry leaves in with the pile thatmight kind of address that. Working with what we got.

Margaret 15:03
Oh, the tumbler pile. The tumbler pile is gross as Hell. That’s why it’s full of dry leaves now.

Paige 15:07
Oh, Okay.

Margaret 15:09
It used to be. There is no ground pile yet. The ground pile is a dream. It’s a 2×4 frame that is currently sitting in the space that used to be a garden from the last person who lived here.

Paige 15:21
Oh okay.

Margaret 15:22
Tut I haven’t…I haven’t done the lining it with hardware cloth and all that stuff yet.

Paige 15:26
Cool. Yeah, yeah. But, I…you know, composting in the desert we’re trying to keep out pets and javalinas, and also squirrels. And yeah, I feel like doing it out of pallets, and then hardware cloth has…I’ve seen be pretty effective in keeping that stuff out. And then yeah, smell is usually it’s too wet. As far as like creating like a dangerous end product, I think for that you can really just think about the time that…how long it takes as well as like the heat of the pile. So if you’re able to get enough material and get it to heat up, it’s gonna kill almost anything that is harmful to humans. The kind of industry standard is getting piles up to 130 degrees for about 15 days. And that’s considered like sufficient to, like, kill pretty much anything like even like human waste. So, you know, and I think letting it sit for longer periods of time is the way to kind of guarantee that, that it’s going to be alright for for food production.

Margaret 16:24
That was kind of my thinking behind the the setup that I’m going to do with the two years instead of like one year is just out of like, well, what if I’m really lazy and do it badly then I’ll just have it have set for two years instead of one year.

Paige 16:33

Margaret 16:33
I don’t know. What shouldn’t people compost? I have a feeling that the answer to this is, ‘It depends.’ It depends on like the scale of the compost and things like that. But, to maybe like, I feel like kind of at this beginning, we’re sort of talking about like backyard level compost, like vegetable garden level compost, and then I’d love to from there move into humanure and also like doing it at scale. But, in terms of like a backyard compost. What are things that are like good or bad for compost?

Paige 17:10
Yeah, generally, most like vegetable and like fruit scraps are super great. Some people have trouble with like citrus peels, like they’ll just kind of dry out. People tend to recommend against dairy, meat, and bones as well as really fatty things. If you have something it’s really oily, as well as like often cooked food. But, a lot of that is mostly because of the salt content in the cooked food. Like adding a bunch of salt to your compost isn’t ideal, because you don’t want to be putting like salty, just salty compost on your vegetable garden. That’s going to kind of suck the water away from from the roots of the plants. But, honestly, if you’re doing like even like a four by four backyard, like I put meat, I put cooked food, I put pretty much anything in there, and just kind of…as long as it’s getting hot enough and it’s big enough, it’s probably going to be okay. But, if you’re doing smaller scale, you might want to be a little more choosy. And then if you’re doing like an indoor worm bin, if you don’t have an outdoor space, then you have to be a lot more choosy because you’re not, you’re not just putting stuff together and hoping it works out. You’re kind of like feeding worms and they’re they’re a little pickier than some of the microbes that will be in your big outdoor pile.

Margaret 18:25
Yeah, that makes sense to me. How long does it take to like, if you’re throwing like chicken bones and stuff in that, like, how long is that taking to break down?

Paige 18:33
Um, I feel like it takes like three to six months generally, but that’s if it’s..if you keep the pile hot and big, and there’s like a lot of like, if it’s moist enough, then like stuff will break down pretty quickly.

Margaret 18:45

Paige 18:46
The bokashi method I was mentioning earlier, too, that can be used to kind of like ferment and like break stuff down. And, that’s like a couple of weeks, but I haven’t I haven’t actually tried that method. But, I’ve heard that it can be really good for like animal bones.

Margaret 19:00
Yeah, I watched one video. I probably a lot of people listen to this also do the thing where they’re suddenly interested in something to watch all the YouTube videos and listen to all the podcasts about it. That might be why you’re listening to this very podcast right now. Maybe you don’t listen to the show. Maybe you just googled or searched ‘compost.’ One of the things that I watched was just like, “And then you kill the rats, and then you throw the rats in the compost pile.” It was just sort of the the compost pile is like the ‘all devour,’ and it was like clearly he was doing it in this very like, “See. Look. The compost pile is not so fragile as people claim.” I don’t know that kind of impressed me, the idea that you can just throw the rats into…the dead ones into the compost pile. I don’t know.

Paige 19:43
Yeah, totally. No, it’s it’s kind of wild like what a pile will just like totally consume. Yeah, I think also like speaking about rats, like rats aren’t gonna go into a pile if it’s 140 degrees. Like that’s too warm for them. They’re like not gonna fuck with it.

Margaret 19:58
Oh Huh, okay.

Paige 19:59
Yeah. I just like it’s just not…Yeah, if you if you’re keeping it hot, it’s like not a very like, comfortable environment for a lot of like the rodents and things like that. They’ll kind of keep away from from at least the hot parts of it. Yeah, it’s also cool. Like the the heating aspect of it, I’ve seen systems where, you know, it’s like, you’re using the heat to kind of generate all these microbes and break down all the material, but I’ve also seen systems where people are using it to heat water. If you like coil like pipes through it, you can even kind of get a couple of different uses out of that heat, which is pretty cool.

Margaret 20:35
And compost piles generate this heat on their own from like, it’s like a byproduct of the process of breaking down?

Paige 20:42
Yeah, basically, it creates like, it’ll just kind of breed all these microbes. And as these micro populations multiply, they yeah, and they consume food, they just create an like an immense amount of heat. I’ve seen piles that got up to like 160 degrees Fahrenheit. When I was working at the city’s composting site, there was one winter where it snowed in Tucson, which was kind of scary, but there were two inches of snow on the ground everywhere, except for on top of…a lot of industrial scale areas, we’ll use what’s called wind row, which is like a pile, it’s maybe five to six feet tall, and then it’s just elongated it across whatever area they have. And so everywhere there was snow, except for on top of these wind rows that were just steaming and just melting everything that fell on them, which was really cool.

Margaret 21:29
Yeah. Okay, so can you heat a house? By setting up a compost bin in your basement?

Paige 21:36
Oh, I wonder. I mean, I think you could, if you put a compost pile in your basement, and then ran pipes through the pile, and then through your floor, I feel like you could gett some good like, floor warming action. Yeah, or like, some people will pile.. they’ll put their pile against a greenhouse to kind of like, passively have a little like heat source near their greenhouse. But, if you’re trying to…

Margaret 22:01
Oh, that’s interesting.

Paige 22:02
Yeah, if you’re trying to maintain like a pretty consistent amount of heat, though, you kind of need to constantly be adding a good amount of material and turning it because it’ll, it’ll kind of like it’ll get really hot initially, when there’s all this like new new material, microbes, air, water, and then it’ll cool off. And then if you add more, or turn it and add more air, it’ll heat up again, and it kind of will go through these cycles. But, eventually, what you want is an end product that’s not going to reheat. And that’s kind of a sign that the compost is like aged well and is a stable thing that you can put into your garden.

Margaret 22:36
Oh, okay.

Paige 22:36
Yeah, I’ve put in compost to my garden, like mixed it in when it wasn’t fully done. And then like my garden bed, like, reheated and like was up at like 120 degrees, which is like not, yeah, not ideal and not good for growing plants. But if you have like unfinished compost, you can like, put a couple inches on top of your plants. And that’s often going to be all right. But if you’re like really doing like a first amendment of your…of a new garden plot, you want to make sure that you’re working with something that’s not going to reheat.

Margaret 23:10
Okay. So, you know, you kind of know compost is done when it looks like dirt and isn’t hot anymore? Do you like? Do you build up a pile and then just move on to the next pile? Are you kind of always adding to the original pile? Like, what what is to be done? How do you? How do?

Paige 23:27
So there’s a lot of different systems you can do. So there’s, if you start a pile and then move on to the next one, that’s kind of what’s considered a batch system. So, you’re building something up and adding to it and then you’re letting it sit for an amount of time to make sure that stuffs broken down. There’s other systems that are more designed as like a flow through system. So you’re maybe adding to the top of the pile but you’re able to pull stuff off the bottom, a lot of worm composting systems are flow through because you kind of have to, when you’re putting new material and then harvesting old material, you’re also trying to not like remove all the worms from the system. So you’re trying to kind of add often, add material to the top and harvest from the bottom. So there’s, there’s different like commercial or DIY systems that that can be made to accommodate that. So, you can do either. And I think it really depends on like, what your timeline is and what your end goal is. Like, are you just trying to get rid of the waste that you have? And not have it be in your trash? Are you trying to make a soil amendment that’s as good as possible as fast as possible? And so there’s kind of different systems that that make the most sense based on just like what you have on site, what kind of energy you want to put in, and what your goal is. Yeah, but either are options.

Margaret 24:44
Okay. So this kind of brings me…Well, I don’t know if it logically brings me to but the thing that it makes me think of is that okay, so if you’re in an apartment, right, and like I guess you could kind of tiny scale compost and on your porch or something, but it seems like it It makes more sense to have sometimes composting be a sort of shared thing between houses or within a community. Right? Like, you know, I know a lot of cities, and it sounds like this is something that you have been involved with at a municipal level, have like composting where people were able to set aside their food and the city goes and composts it because it’s not trash, right? It should never have been trash, so the idea that we live in a society that’s all organic matters is trash is very bizarre. But, it seems like you could also set that up kind of like smaller scale, right? Like, you know, within any given community, if you don’t live somewhere with municipal composting, or, or is it better to just let it be at municipal level? Like what are the advantages of doing compost at scale, whether it’s a community wide scale or municipal wide scale?

Paige 25:45
Yeah, so I think doing it at a community or at a municipal scale and having it be really official, I think it makes it easier to divert stuff from the landfill. So, when food waste goes into the landfill, it creates methane, which is, you know, more potent than than co2. And, so it’s actually interesting here, and here in southern Arizona, a lot of food comes through the port, that’s like two…an hour south of Tucson through Nogales, and they have…the landfill there is like one of the most methane rich ones in the country, because they don’t have a composting program down there, or like a way to divert food waste besides through like their food bank. And so when trucks come across the border, and food doesn’t pass inspection, it just goes and the semi trucks are just dumping food waste into the landfill. And then it’s creating like methane.

Margaret 25:45
Oh, god.

Paige 25:47
And so, you know, that’s like a huge problem. It probably like deserves like a pretty big solution as far as like, what a system to address that would be. But, I think when I was working at the at Tucson’s program, we had a lot of problems of people putting just garbage and trash into like the food waste bins at different restaurants. And, so it creates this really big problem of contamination, like when you’re doing it on a large scale, like we…I remember seeing like freon tanks and just like constant plastic bags. Yeah. And so we were, it’d be like a huge part of what we did is we would just like kind of like tromp around in these massive piles of rotting food like pulling out plastic and even like the quote unquote, like compostable bags don’t actually break down in some systems, and they would, they would clog up some of our machinery. And so yeah, I think I think large scale, you just have issues of contamination. And you also need a bunch of heavy machinery. Like we were operating, like a water truck and front loaders, we had like this machine that was specifically like a compost turner. It was, it was just like a lot of…it was pretty energy intensive process. It was fun. It was cool. I like you know, got to drive a tractor around. That was fun. But yeah, I think I think having it more be like the community scale where it’s like, either backyard based or neighborhood based, or like community garden based, I think is is a better way to do it and just kind of cutting out like the transportation time and just having it at that scale. But, but again, that’s not going to it’s not going to address, you know, the semi trucks full of rotting food. But right, yeah, so. So there’s, yeah, there’s benefits and drawbacks, but I think I think, you know, with almost anything usually, like a lot of small, decentralized solutions are usually better than the large centralized ones.

Margaret 28:27
I’ve I’ve based most of my political beliefs on this concept. But yeah, but I also believe that sometimes certain things need to be structured at larger levels in order to be effective, you know, or like, I don’t know, accomplish what they need, like what you’re talking about with like the, you know, the trucks or whatever. Well, okay, so then if you do it at the community level, it seems like another advantage right is you probably get less contamination literally because people could be like, “Joe, you can’t keep throwing your Freon tanks in with your compost.” You know, like Joe keeps doing that and, and probably gets shamed enough about it, right.

Paige 29:07
Yeah, definitely.

Margaret 29:09
I literally can’t even imagine what a Freon tank is. I mean, I’m aware that there’s a liquid called Freon…

Paige 29:13
It kind of looked like a propane tank, but it was like blue and like, I was just like, In what world do we think this is gonna break down? Yeah, it was. Yeah, it was just, it was a bit of a mess. But yeah, so I mean, you know, when you’re doing large scale, yeah, it’s like you need to also figure out like how to like educate people versus Yeah, like, the just like community shaming of Joe for his Freon tank is is maybe a little more effective than like a massive scale like, program. Yeah. But yeah, and also, I mean, I think when you’re doing smaller scale it also…people end up talking to each other and, you know, building community Yeah, that they do if they just aren’t interacting. Yeah,

Margaret 29:55
That makes sense. Okay, so But then, in terms of the stuff that…one of the things I got kind of excited about when I started doing…looking more into compost, because I’ve lived in situations that have required relied upon compost at various points in my life, a fair amount, but I’ve never been personally like, directing it the way that I am currently. And one of the things that kind of surprised me to learn about is that, like cardboard and paper and stuff can be composted, but maybe not easily, or it needs to be shredded or like, like it, there were a couple things that in my mind were marked trash, or fake recycling, because one of the biggest problems I think we have in this world is that recycling is a scam, or at least the version of–not the concept of recycling, right–but yeah, you know, the current industrial infrastructure of recycling seems to be largely smoke and mirrors. So, I’m excited by the idea of like, the more DIY recycling type stuff we can do, the more repurposing we can do. So, paper, cardboard: Yes? No? Maybe?

Paige 31:03
Paper, cardboard, yes, under certain circumstances. So yeah, you’re totally right about the shredding. So a lot of what that has to do with is like the surface area to like mass of the item. And so if you think about, like your compost pile is all these little particles, and then the microbes that are breaking stuff down, kind of live on like, the slime level surrounding each little particle. And so all these little microbes are going to have a lot easier time breaking down a bunch of shredded tiny bits of paper than like a full sheet or like a full chunk of cardboard that you’re just creating more areas for them…

Margaret 31:37
Or like an entire Ayn Rand book.

Paige 31:39
Yeah, I mean, that’s a good yeah. Yeah, you might need to rip that up first, which I think people would not be opposed to.

Margaret 31:46

Paige 31:47
Might have fun with.

Margaret 31:48
Okay, cool. Yeah.

Paige 31:50
Yeah, I think that would be the ideal. I think also, cardboard and paper, worms really love it. So, you know, you could also set up multiple systems where you put something somewhere in some in another. The system that I have at the food bank demo garden here in Tucson, we have like a hot compost area, but then we also have a big worm area. And what we feed them is we feed them shredded paper, and then unfinished compost. And so we we put like a layer of paper and then we on top of it, we put a bunch of hot compost essentially but because we’re only putting like an inch or two, it’s not gonna stay hot. But we that’s what we feed our worms. And they they love it. And so yeah, cardboard and paper, I would think more of as worm food than then putting it in my in my pile, although you can. But as the more you’re able to break it down, the better.

Margaret 32:44
Are there like–speaking of products and gimmicks–I can imagine a paper shredder, and I can imagine a wood chipper. But, can you just put cardboard into a wood chipper? Or like, like, is there a way to, you know, because I think that a lot of people during the pandemic probably receive more and more things in cardboard boxes at their front porch. And, like, you know, having ways to dispose of that as like bonus besides of course just using it as like sheet mulch or I don’t know if that’s what you call it, but like the gardening purpose of laying out cardboard, you know, any any tips on on breaking down cardboard?

Paige 33:24
Umm, getting it wet and ripping it? But it’s Yeah, I don’t I don’t think you could put it into a shredder. I think it would maybe gum it up. You also have to kind of take off like the plastic tape of that stuff. Because that won’t break down. Some people get really specific and focused on like, “Oh, this is with a like plastic based ink. Like we’re gonna be putting microplastics in like the soil.” And like, there might be some truth to that. And I’m just like, we just live in like an industrial world where there’s microplastics everywhere. And like, you can not put the like plastic based ink into your compost, because of the micro plastics or you can just be like, shrug and throw it in.

Margaret 34:07
We’re all gonna die one day. And yeah, we did this to ourselves. Yeah.

Paige 34:10
I live in a city and I breathed the air here. Like, I think some microplastics in my garden is…we’re already full of microplastics. I think it’s fine. We’re just like, you know, we’re all connected.

Margaret 34:21
I mean, it’s either fine or it’s not right. But it’s like, I don’t think I’m going to dramatically improve my quality of life by avoiding that additional little bit in my cherry tomatoes or whatever.

Paige 34:30
Yeah, totally. Yeah, I guess it’s actually deeply deeply not fine. And we don’t have control over it may be my actual belief but…

Margaret 34:38
Yeah, totally. Okay, well, speaking of the ruins of industrial society, can you can you put ash in compost? Is it depend on what the ash is of

Paige 34:46
No ash and compost. No, don’t do that.

Margaret 34:50

Paige 34:50
Yeah. Well, I mean, like…

Margaret 34:51
What am I supposed to do with ash then?

Paige 34:53
I don’t know. People ask me that sometimes. And people were putting it into like a composting system and like using it in the humanure system, and I was Like, I mean, it’s kind of just like, it’s almost like really fine sand like it’s just not alive. It’s, it’s maybe gonna bulk it and not harm it. It’s not you’re not adding anything that the pile needs. It’s just kind of like fluff and like very dense fluff.

Margaret 35:14
You’re just putting it there to get rid of it.

Paige 35:15
Yeah. And just like based on how dense ash is, especially when it’s wet, you’re probably limiting some of the airflow which is not good. So I yeah, I don’t have a good use for ash besides, I’ve mixed it into like concrete before like when I needed to buy like sand and mix up like Portland cement. I’ve just like thrown ash in and that was fine. But I don’t know how many how many concrete projects you have in your life right now, that might not be a reasonable solution.

Margaret 35:43
I actually have more experience building than growing food so…I’m growing food as the unexplored terrain. Although I kind of hate working with concrete and I’m not very good at it. And I’m terrified of breathing it in. But well, yeah. Okay. Cement, I guess is what I’m terrified of breathing in concrete itself. I’m not particularly worried about chunks of gravel or whatever. Yeah. Okay. Okay. So no ash. Okay. But you mentioned these compostable plastics, aren’t they gonna save us all? And isn’t everything fine and plastic is great now because it’s all compostable? Basically. Okay. So like, I’ve heard this before, right? That you need that, like your plastic spoon that you get at the hippie diner doesn’t actually break down in a home compost. It would only break down on like, municipal level compost. Is that true? Is it like does it just take a lot longer? Or is it about a heat difference? Or is it all scam?

Paige 36:37
Um, it’s yeah, it’s a heat and time thing, but it’s really just a scam. I mean, I just don’t…In what world is a single use item good for the environment at all. Like it’s just greenwashing bullshit scam. Yeah, it’s also there’s interesting things about like what’s biodegradable versus compostable? Like biodegradable just means it’s gonna break down into way smaller pieces and compostable means it’s like made out of a carbon or like quote unquote, natural thing that will eventually become dirt. But,we yeah, even at like an industrial scale, like we would constantly just be pulling plastic out. And so you know, it’s kind of a thing that, you know, people do where it’s like, ‘wish cycling,’ where you like, you’re like, Oh, I’m gonna put this in the recycling bin because I like hope it’s recyclable, but it’s really not.

Margaret 37:27
I did as a kid. Yeah.

Paige 37:29
Yeah. And it’s like, ultimately, proud. Totally. It’s like a weird Yeah, you’re like, you’re like hoping something will break down. But, you’re ultimately like, making it so like, some like worker or machine is gonna have to, like deal with it later down the line. And, you know, it’s like, maybe you feel a little better about yourself, but it’s, it’s ultimately not not making a difference.

Margaret 37:48
It’s like calling the cops instead of handling the problem directly. You’re just putting it on someone else.

Paige 37:53
Yeah, it’s like, yeah, It’s kind of some weird like, Nimmy Nimmy thing. Maybe it would be a way to think about it. But yeah, yeah.

Margaret 38:01
Yeah. Okay, fine.

Paige 38:06

Margaret 38:07
Okay, so I can’t put ash in. All the plastic stuff is a scam. Yeah. I mean, neither of these thing surprise me. The ash thing I’m sad about. It makes a lot of sense. The way you described it makes perfect sense. Basically, because burning cardboard when when recycling is fake is something that people sometimes do.

Paige 38:26
Yeah, totally.

Margaret 38:27
Okay, so let’s talk about…you’ve been bringing up worms a couple of times. My conception of worm composting is fairly simple. It’s like, instead of the food is digested by random bacteria from the air/becomes sort of soil in the classic rot way. Instead, like worms, eat it and then poop it out. And then the worm poop, which we call castings to not sound gross is the like, some of like, the best, most nutrient dense compost in the world or something?

Paige 39:02
Yeah, that’s right. Yeah, worms are a little pickier eaters than the microbes. But yeah, they’ll break stuff down really well. It’s not all types of worms. There’s like some specific worms that are better for composting. They have different names. Often people call them Red Wigglers but they’re like scientific name is Eisenia Fetida and that those are yeah they’re good worms for composting.

Margaret 39:23
It’s a prettier word.

Paige 39:23
Yeah, it’s a little prettier. Or fetid, you know, working with rotten stuff, but they, yeah, they’re not good for fishing. They like kind of create like a weird smell that fish don’t like so they’re, they’re very specific for for compost and they kind of only live in like the top three inches of soil, usually like rotting leaves and stuff. Yeah, and so you can you have to, you have to have a little more control over a worm pile because you’re not you’re not it’s not just kind of like set it and leave it. You need to make sure that they have water, that they have fresh food, that they don’t get too hot or too cold. Like there’s a little more care that goes into that.

Margaret 39:58
That they don’t get bored.

Paige 39:59
Yeah. You got it? Yeah. Totally gotta…

Margaret 40:01
Like little worm toys or yeah?

Paige 40:03
Yeah, exactly. Definitely add adding a few toys I haven’t I feel it’s a good idea to see how that affects our our system at the food bank, do some trials see if they’re more productive if we give them some, you know, we give them bread, but not circuses. So we’ll see if they’re a little more productive if we meet their needs.

Margaret 40:24
Flea circuses are the worms.

Paige 40:26
Yeah, we’ll figure it out.

Margaret 40:28

Paige 40:30
But yeah, what else can I say about worms? Oh, it’s interesting, because a lot of worms like for compost, as well as worms that like live in our soil are mostly invasive in North America. So kind of similar to honey bees or a lot of honeybees in North America. And they’ve Yeah, they’ve really, you have to actually be kind of careful with what types of worms you’re working with, and where you’re putting the material in certain parts of the country, because there’s been really big problems of invasive earthworms. And they’re, they’re really impacting forest ecology, actually, you know, a lot of forests, maybe had a certain type of worm there, or maybe it didn’t have worms. And so part of the forest ecology is that all of these, like leaves fall on the ground and take a long time to rot. But if you add a bunch of worms to that system, they end up eating all the all the leaves, which it just changes the soil makeup. And and it’s, it’s kind of a big problem. Yeah,

Margaret 41:23
It gets rid of the mulch or whatever, right?

Paige 41:26

Margaret 41:26
Hmm. Okay. And so when you when you do worm composting, and you have a worm bin, you’re basically breeding worms at the same time, right? Like, do you end up with more worms than you started? And you therefore can like, go and start your new worm bin? Because you have like, twice as many worms, or…

Paige 41:46

Margaret 41:46
Like, do…You don’t have to like keep going by and buying worms at the worm store? The wormery?

Paige 41:54
Yeah, ideally, you would not have to make too many trips to the wormery kind of like a one and done scenario would be ideal. But yeah, they’ll double in population every three to six months under ideal conditions. They…eah, it was interesting. Like, you can get worms as like bait worms, where you buy them like 12, in a little cup, but those often aren’t actually composting rooms. And the way that you generally buy composting worms is by the pound. And so when we started our system at the food bank, I bought 25 pounds of worms, which was about 25,000 worms. And the way you kind of calculate how many worms you need is actually based on the surface area of how big your system is. So every square foot, you can do a pound of worms, but….

Margaret 42:38
Cause they only hang out the top three inches?

Paige 42:40
Yeah, yeah, totally. So if you have like, a super deep system, like they’re just not going to go that deep. But yeah, there’s a lot of…Yeah, worms are fun. And again, they they’re creating like, super high quality material. Part of that is because when they, you know, part of what’s good about compost and worm castings is like they will they add a lot of like microbes and bacteria to your soil and kind of help build up your like soil food web. And there’s a lot of like microbes and bacteria that actually breed and reproduce like within the digestive tract of a worm. And so they’ll like they’re basically eating microbes and bacteria, and then shitting out like, way more microbes and bacteria. And that’s like, kind of the thing that you want in your garden. So yeah, worms are fun. They’re cool. And they Yeah, they’ll any worm can like mate with any other worm. And then they they lay like an egg that has like, two to four baby worms in it, and then they hatch.

Margaret 43:34
Okay, because they’re not individually sexed or something like…

Paige 43:37
Yeah, they don’t. Everybody’s got all the junk. Yeah.

Margaret 43:41
Okay, cool. So The Left Hand of Darkness is the worms existence. Can you use other creepy crawlies? Like if you want to have your like goth garden where you only grow black eggplant, and black tomatoes, and black roses, and stuff, can you get like nightcrawlers or like, centipede or something?

Paige 44:01
You can do you can do like nightcrawlers. Yeah, I mean, same as worms, but you can also do people will do black soldier fly larva to break down food and it’s like, they just look like little weird grubs. And you can use those not to I guess that’s not really composting at all. I mean, it’s it’s getting rid of like a waste material and like feeding it to like, little little bugs. But then you would just use those to like feed your chickens or something. So…not really compost, but a way to….

Margaret 44:28
So there’s more steps involved?

Paige 44:29
Yeah, probably. Yeah, yeah.

Margaret 44:32
Okay, so speaking of worm casings, and poop, the–not the final question, but the final like category–we’ll be talking about human casings as part of composting, like, I know that this, you know, one of the reason want to save it for last is almost like the escalating level of like perceived grossness, right? Like I, I think people are like, “Oh, food rots. I understand that. Vegetables and rot. That’s cool.” And then you’re like, “Yeah, but what if there’s a bunch of worms,” and then people get a little bit weird. And then you’re like, “Okay, but what if you do with human shit?”

Paige 45:04

Margaret 45:05
And then that’s where people say that they don’t want to come over anymore. And that they don’t want to eat your vegetables.

Paige 45:11

Margaret 45:12
But it’s actually completely fine. Well, it just takes additional safety precautions? I’m asking this is like, it’s funny because I’m like, I try to self insert as the person who doesn’t know anything about this, but I’ve like also lived on in places with humanure systems for a number of years. But,I’m curious your experience or like, how you sell people on humanure, or? I don’t know, can you give an introduction to human casings? Yeah,

Paige 45:38
Totally. Um, yeah, so you a lot of like, what to compost on what not to compost will be like, definitely not human, like poop or pee. And yeah, that’s just totally not true. You can, you know, we’re an animal like any other creating manure, and you can definitely use it. The yeah, there’s a lot of different systems. I mean, there’s commercial composting toilets that you can buy for your home that are like in the 1000s of dollars, but you can also make like DIY systems for like, under $50. Yeah, I’ve, I’ve seen a couple of different systems, I’ve helped set some up. At the garden that I work at, we have like a fully permitted humanure system that I built. And yeah, I’ve helped set up some different ones on like a land project. But yeah, you can definitely do it, the, the differences are, you just want to be really certain that you’re hitting high temperatures, because that’s what’s really going to address like kind of the pathogen problem. But if you’re if you’re getting like a big hot pile of compost, and you’re putting like human waste in it, like it’s, it’s gonna break it down, and it’s going to be safe to use. Yeah, I’m trying to think of the I think the big questions are like, at what scale are you trying to do it? And do you care if it’s like permitted or not? In some states, you can legally compost human waste at your home and some places you can’t. It’s also interesting, the like, a lot of sewage treatment plants end up composting, like their final product, and they refer to it as bio solids. And so actually, a lot of cities are composting human waste, they’re just doing it after it’s gone through like…

Margaret 47:13
That’s good.

Paige 47:14
Yeah, it’s like it’s after it’s gone through like a really like chemical heavy process to like, really ensure that there’s nothing like bad in it. But yeah, ‘bio solids,’ is kind of like the, like industry term that, that they’ve adopted to not say like ‘human shit,’ which, you know is a little more off putting. But ultimately, yeah, yeah.

Margaret 47:34
I mean, it’s interesting to me, right? Because like, I think that this, to me is an example of where sometimes people…I read a book by a purported environmentalist once that was like, “We’re animals, we should just poop on the ground.” It was this big name, author that…whatever it was Derek Jensen, I fucking hate him. I don’t care about name droping him. Fucking transphobe piece of shit. But anyway, you know, he wrote this book called “What We Leave Behind,” that I just like, even back, this is like, back when I like before I learned…I’m not a particular fan of this particular author, but I was when I was younger. And one of the first things that talks about is basically being like, “I just go poop on the ground, because that’s we’re animals and it’s fine.” And I’m like, I also believe that the idea of like, taking our nutrients or whatever, and flushing them into the ocean is a bad idea, right? But, I also believe that we develop that system for a reason, which was that before we used to just poop in the streets, and everyone would get sick and die.

Paige 48:31

Margaret 48:32
And so, so something like this is actually really interesting to me, because it seems to be this…you know, both sides are just full of shit…I didn’t even mean to make that pun. Yeah. We’ll be here all day. Okay, and I don’t know. So it’s just like, it’s particular interesting. It’s particularly interesting to me that it’s like, “Okay, well, we actually can just do it right.” We can actually…and it’s not incredibly hard. You just actually have to do it. You just actually have to make sure that your compost pile sits for a really long time and or gets up to the right temperature if you’re not going to be you know, I don’t know. I don’t know where I’m going with that rant. But…

Paige 49:18
Derek Jensen sucks. Conclusion.

Margaret 49:20
Yeah, yeah, totally. Don’t just go poop on the ground next to your dog’s shit.

Paige 49:26
Yeah. I yeah, I think it feels really absurd to poop in drinking water, especially in the desert. A lot of like municipal sewage systems were not built to the scale that they’re now operating at. A lot of them were like built to just totally overflow into like, whatever local water source there is. So yeah, I think like not shitting in drinking water and like having smaller scale ways to address like human waste I think is like a way better option and, you know, kind of similar to your other compost pile where you add like your greens and browns. In this case, the poop is actually a green, it’s more of a nitrogen rich thing. It’s not a brown, ironically. But yeah, you can I mean, I think the simplest system is like, it’s called like a ‘bucket to barrel’ system or a ‘bucket to bin.’ And you would just have like a five gallon bucket with a toilet seat and like kind of a bin built around it so it’s comfortable to sit on, and then you just like, go to the bathroom in it, and then cover whatever you leave behind with your dump, I guess, with wood shavings or some kind of carbon source. And then basically like, when that’s filled, you just transfer it out to your bin system or wherever you’re, you’re kind of doing the the secondary processing. And yeah, just like make sure that pile gets hot. The systems that I’ve helped install, and we’re actually trying to get one installed in my house in Tucson right now are either like barrel systems or like larger, I guess, bin or like a tote system. But you. Yeah, so there’s the barrel, the bucket system, or you can also build toilets out of like 55 gallon barrels where you just like put build a toilet seat for the top of it. And then just like use, use that for your waste, and you’re adding sawdust and things. And you just want to make sure that that system has like some ventilation as well as like an insect trap. And…

Margaret 51:28
I was just going to ask, yeah, if you’re doing it. Is that where you like? I’ve seen people do it where they like, take a…I completely cut you off. I’m sorry.

Paige 51:36
Oh, you’re good, go ahead.

Margaret 51:38
People take a tube and like drill holes in it, and then stick it in the middle of the whole thing. So that way, like, even as the compost builds up, there’s always like, a way for air to get in and throughout it all.

Paige 51:48
Yeah, totally. Yeah, that’s, that’s….

Margaret 51:50
I think sometimes people over design these things, too.

Paige 51:53
Yeah, totally. I think that’s, that’s definitely true, I think. I mean, I think it’s helpful to have like more airflow, especially in like a composting toilet scenario. You also like, if you have like that 55 gallon barrel, like you do need to like turn it, which you do with a compost crank, which is kind of like a long, stick with like a coil at the end. And you just kind of like you put that stick in and kind of like crank it down and pull up and just try to get like some some like mixing in there. And that’ll help the material breakdown better.

Margaret 52:22
Oh, I see.

Paige 52:24
Yeah, and then usually those are, those are kind of more of a batch system. So you would have a certain number of barrels, depending on how many people you had using it. And you would essentially use one and once it’s filled, you would cap it, and then like wait four to six months and then empty it eventually. In that four to six month time period, you do want to make sure that you are turning it, and making sure that it’s getting up to temperature to kind of guarantee that any any pathogens are dying in there. Yeah, and the other system that I’ve built is like more of like a larger tote system. So it was built out of cinder blocks. And it was like a two two section toilet. And so it’s a bigger space is going to take longer to fill. But it’s by having kind of like multiple of the same thing, then you have one that’s like aging and resting and one that’s actively being used. The other factor to consider is urine diversion. Different people have different take on it. I think if you’re doing a bigger system, like with barrels or like the bigger bins, it’s helpful to try to divert urine. So having like…

Margaret 53:27
Oh, interesting.

Paige 53:28
Yeah, it kind of depends on where you are and how heavy of use it is. But a system that I helped work on was one that like often would have like a lot of people using it really quickly. And so kind of keeping urine diverted was helpful because otherwise it would just get too moist and bulky. And like in that sense, and in those moments like it actually does get smelly and gross often. If you’re maintaining it well it’s actually not smelly or gross at all. But yeah, if it’s heavier use it’s helpful to like have a urinal or like there’s like urine diverters or funnels that like you can have like in the toilet seat that kind of helps like if people are like sitting and peeing it all kind of separate from the solids. Yeah, so there’s there’s there’s different ways to do it. But I mean, urine also can be composted. So.

Margaret 54:16
Right, yeah. Well, and a lot of people will put it–please don’t listen to me as the expert gardener anyone who’s listening to this–I’m under the impression is about 10 to 1 water to urine and then like apply as fertilizer directly once it’s like watered down that heavily. That’s something that you’ve heard ever?

Paige 54:37
I’ve heard people do that. I feel like I I’ve kind of tended to more just do like, compost everything first and then use it. Yeah, just because yeah, I mean, I think for me, too. It’s just like not It’s not easy for me to like, harvest my own urine. It’s not a thing. I feel super….Like. Yeah, I but I have heard of people doing that.

Margaret 55:00
Yeah, yeah, it just seems like the process of combining the two. 10 to 1 or whatever it just involves, like lots of…I don’t know, stagnant urine is one of the worst punk house smells that’s ever been smelled.

Paige 55:16

Margaret 55:17
And that’s not something that I would try to sell someone on. But, then that is the reason…As I’ve been researching hypothetical humanure systems….I have been interested to see the different ways that people take the different takes that people have on it. It seems like if you’re not diverting it, you’re just you’re ending up with a lot watery buckets, right. And so you just have a lot more. You’re saying it’s bulkier, because you’re just adding so much more sawdust or hay or whatever your carbon is, in order to start absorbing all that?

Paige 55:49
Yeah, you can, you can run through your carbon source a lot faster if you’re trying to add that. I think also like, especially with bucket systems, like if you’re peeing in the buckets, and just like, I’ve carried some buckets that were just like, I was like, This is disgusting. Like, this is just like, piss and shit and like a little bit of sawdust. And I’m not happy about this. I’ve also like, yeah, you know, trained people to use a bucket system and like, don’t ever pee in the bucket. And then the next morning, I’m like, sitting there, and I’m like, Oh, God, I’m peeing. I’m letting everyone down. I’m such a hypocrite. Oh, no. It happens. It’s a shameful thing to do I guess but. But yeah, if you’re, if you’re, especially with a bucket system, if you have to, like move it, I feel like if there’s a lot of people using it, it’s nice to maybe divert the urine just for like it weighs less, it just is less smelly. But you can also just add a lot more carbon. So like, when I’ve done systems that weren’t going to have urine diversion, I’ve actually started whatever like receptacle or container with like, a third full of whatever carbon material I’m going to be using, just to really make sure that there’s like, kind of like just a bunch of dry material that can soak up that excess liquid. And yeah, and I think it’s, you know, a, I’ve worked with systems that are I’ve gotten systems permitted. And I’ve also been around systems that were not permitted. And a lot of like, the permit stuff, like will require urine diversion, just for, like, pathogens and smells and things like that. Yeah. So I think it’s just a thing to consider of how you’re, how you’re gonna manage that, that added, like, moisture and, like, just like dense material.

Margaret 57:33
So what do you…so in terms of carbon to add, I think that this is also another thing that holds people up, right is because, you know, there’s like, oh, just add a lot of sawdust. And most people, I think, think to themselves, I don’t have a lot of sawdust. I don’t produce much sawdust in my life. Even I as someone who like makes her own furniture, sometimes and shit. I don’t produce that much sawdust compared to like what is necessary, right. And, you know, some of the places I’ve lived before will make deals with sawmills where they just basically show up with a truck and are like, “Hey, can I have your sawdust?” And the place is like, “Yeah, whatever, just get rid of the sawdust for me, I don’t care.” But it seems like everyone has different tactics on getting carbon material. And it’s like, it seems like it’s the it’s the one that a lot of people aren’t producing themselves enough and therefore go and get. And that was actually why I was so excited about like cardboard and paper as possible carbon sources. I know that for myself, I fortunately, live somewhere where there’s a lot of land and I can just like, run a push mower with a bag on the back and fill out the bag. And then this is literally my hypothesis. It’s green when it first gets cut, but later it’s brown, and it seems like it when it’s dried out. It’s more of a carbon for compost.

Paige 58:49

Margaret 58:51
Okay, so how would you recommend 1) Am I doing it right? And 2) that other people go and find a carbon source?

Paige 58:56
Yeah, I mean, I think the sawmill thing is a great thing to do. That’s what we’re doing. Like with the garden and other projects, like we just have agreements with sawmills, and like, cabinetry places and the only thing we have to keep an eye out for is if they’re working with walnut. That’s a word that has a lot of like antibiotic, antibacterial properties and will like kind of halt the process. And so you don’t want to be adding walnut and I think there’s maybe a few other types of wood that that you wouldn’t want to use.

Margaret 59:24
Like Cedar, maybe?

Paige 59:25
Potentially I’m not, yeah, I’m not totally sure. But yeah, I think dried grass clippings would work great as a cover material. The other thing that we will sometimes do out here in the desert is like sweep under like mesquite trees because there’s just these really fine little leaves that when they’re dried out work really well. But yeah, the other thing is just getting…if it’s like just a system for yourself, and you’re not having to source that much you can also just buy like wood shavings at like a pet store, which is annoying. It’s like annoying to have to buy, buy something that you have to put into your system, but I think it’s better than shiting in water, personally. But…

Margaret 1:00:01
Yeah, well especially in Tucson or something.

Paige 1:00:04
Yeah, totally. Yeah. But it’s, you know, I think it’s up to what you have on site. I don’t know that shredded paper would be…because part of what you want to do is you want to kind of cover your poop so that it’s like not smelly and not like easily accessible to flies and different insects–and so like I’m thinking if you just did like shredded paper, I think it would just be kind of like some fluff on top but still like a lot of access for like smells to pop up and for like insects to get in. That might not work super well, unless it’s like that really finely shredded paper, but I’m not sure.

Margaret 1:00:43
But it’d be really fun for whoever’s job it is to, to steal your shredded paper in order to like, re put together your files and try and prove that you did this or that, you know, yeah, if they had to, like literally go into the compost bin.

Paige 1:00:58
Yeah, that’s a good way. Yeah. Some good security culture, maybe to compost your, your paper and I support that.

Margaret 1:01:10
Okay, well, that’s, that’s the majority of my questions. I was wondering if you had any final words about why this is like, great? And matters? And it’s so interesting? You know, you’ve, you’ve talked about, like, for example, like, like shitting in drinking water is like, not the coolest thing that’s ever happened. But, but yeah, do you have like, or any other final thoughts are things that I should have asked you that I didn’t, or?

Paige 1:01:35
I can’t think of anything right now. But yeah, I mean, I think composting is just like, it’s a way to just like address waste problems on site. It’s like small scale, it’s a way to build up soil and not use fertilizers and inputs. So, I think it’s just a really good thing to do if you’re able, and it’s fun. I think it’s fun.

Margaret 1:01:55
Yeah, I think it’d be a cool way to like, you know, one of the questions I get asked a lot is, like how people can can meet their neighbors? And I mean, obviously, sometimes it’s a very complicated question, you know, if you’re, like, I’m not in a, I’m not in a blue state, let’s say. And, you know, like, like, there’s a lot of like, complications and safety questions about, like, you know, just telling everyone to, like, run out, become friends with everyone who’s physically around them. But, it still seems like kind of an interesting thing that if, because it, it’s like me setting up a compost bin, I could easily also be composting, the five neighbors, the five closest houses, and it wouldn’t, all it would do is give me more fertilizer, it wouldn’t actually add that much more work for me, right, because it’s like one of those systems that…it’s like cooking dinner, like cooking dinner for five people is about as much work as cooking dinner for one person, and it’s just so much more rewarding. And so I’m just like, kind of interested in these these sorts of things. The other thing I want to is not what I want to pick your brain about specifically, but I also want to see more people set up like actual recycling. Like cuz I feel like that’s kind of what composting is on the neighborhood level. It’s like being like, okay, the the infrastructure that we were promised is not working. How can we actually do this? And so it’s like, what would be involved in actually, you know, taking plastics and turning them into 3D printable filament or diesel fuel, or there’s all kinds of ways that you can turn plastic into or plastic. You can make fucking Legos out of them, you know? No, no, this is just, I’m just dreaming of the day that eventually I have enough infrastructure to go run and get all the punk houses bottles and then put them on a conveyor belt and have them pulverized into sand and use that in concrete. Because that’s the only thing I only recycling I’ve come up with. Okay, this is completely tangential. Alright, well…

Paige 1:03:39
Sounds like you have to use up all of your ash first.

Margaret 1:03:43
Yeah, that’s a good point. Yeah. Well, I won’t make as much of it once I shred the cardboard.

Paige 1:03:48
Oh, that’s true. Yeah. Yeah, no, I think composting is a great thing. I think it is like, Yeah, I think what you’re saying about you know, market based recycling is like very clearly failed. And yeah, breaking down, like, organic matter at local levels is like a really good solution to dealing with less waste, and yeah I just building backup soils, because our, our like, you know, agriculture and food production has become like such an extractive industry, like we’re just like pulling stuff out of the earth and like putting fertilizer and all these chemical inputs and then even like, the final product of that, like our waste, like then also just doesn’t get treated as like a resource. And so trying to like, kind of fix that nutrient cycle and just have it be a lot more integrated for like food production. waste diversion. I think there’s a lot of opportunities for it. Yeah, yeah. I think the community scale is like where it needs to happen at because I think the operating…burning a bunch of diesel and operating a massive scale thing that’s just full of trash is i i feel skeptical about about how those systems are gonna are gonna function well. Oh, but you know, there’s maybe a place for them.

Margaret 1:05:03
Yeah. Yeah. And if you’re listening and your name is Joe, we aren’t trying to call you out specifically unless you are the one who keeps adding the nitrogen, nitrous, fluoride, what was the?

Paige 1:05:18

Margaret 1:05:18
Freon to the compost. All right. Well, thank you so much for coming and talking to me about all this stuff.

Paige 1:05:24
Yeah. Thanks for having me.

Margaret 1:05:30
Thank you so much for listening. If you enjoyed this episode, you should go compost, or just throw rotten things into the woods. Don’t do that one as much. That one’s not good. I mean, but go compost or find someone else to do the composting and then give them your organic matter. Maybe don’t show up at your friend’s house with a five gallon bucket of shit. Unless you’re like that kind of friend. In which case, congratulations. Okay, so you can also tell people about the show is a really good thing that you can do. That is the main that way that people hear about, Live Like The World is Dying. You can tell people about it on the internet, and you can tell people by rating and reviewing and liking and subscribing and doing all those things that feed the algorithms, and tell people in person. And you can also support us by supporting our publisher. The publisher is Strangers In A Tangled Wilderness and Strangers In A Tangled Wilderness is a collectively run publisher of anarchist culture. Basically, at the moment, we have one other podcast which is called Strangers In A Tangled Wilderness. And we have every month a new feature that gets mailed out as a zine to our Patreon backers, and made available on our website for free to anybody. You can support us at patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness and you can listen to that other podcast the same way that you listen to this podcast. And in particular, I would love to thank Shawn and SJ, Paige, Oxalis, Mickki, Nicole, David, Dana, Chelsea, Kat J, Staro, Jennipher, Eleanor, Natalie, Kirk, MIchaiah, Sam, Chris and Hoss the dog. Thank you all so much for your support. It means a lot. It means a lot to you know, there’s a whole team of people who have produced this podcast. There’s no…I actually didn’t ask ahead of time about who wants to be named. But there’s a whole bunch of people work on it, including Bursts, who is our audio editor, who has a different podcast that you should check out that’s also on the Channel Zero network of anarchists podcasts. That’s called the Final Straw Radio and it’s basically the best news, Anarchist news podcast that exists. No offense to the other ones. If you’re listening you run another one, I love yours too. But, the Final Straw Radio is my go to and has been my go to for a very long time. And I don’t have any closing words. So I guess I’m done. Take care.

Margaret 00:00
Hi, Margaret here, popping back in to say, we are looking–by we I mean Strangers In A Tangled Wilderness. We are looking for gaming groups, tabletop gaming groups, who would like to help us beta test a tabletop role playing game that we’re developing called Penumbra City, which is a secondary world fantasy tabletop role playing game set and kind of a turn of the century jazz and radio and an evil god king who is sending people off to war against giant beasts and all of that kind of stuff. You know, the classic tropes, like people who eat fungus and talk to rats and anarchist paladins and nihilist ex Marines who are trying to blow everything up. And slumming Lordling’s, who come down from the floating city and like basically flash their dad’s name around to hang out with cool adventures and everyone secretly begrudges. It is a class based game, not in the Marxist sense, but in the Dungeons and Dragons sense. And that there are different classes that are more important than any other decision that you make about your character. And it’s fun, I really liked playing this game, I helped design it. And I’ve been playing it in some incarnation or whatever, for fucking 10 years now or something. But it’s finally getting ready to go out into the world. And we just need some help. We need you, not just you alone, unfortunately, we need you and your gaming group who wants to run this game. It is a simplified rules system, but a lore rich world. So, we would send you a rule set and a pre written adventure, you would run that adventure with your gaming group. You could also come up with your own adventure. And then you would participate in a feedback session, which might include a survey or a conversation one on one with game developers. So yeah, please, please reach out to us. How can they do that, Inmn. You’re secretly on the line, you should chime in?

Inmn 02:04
Well, Margaret, they can reach out to us by email at Penumbra.City.playtest@gmail.com. Just shoot us an email and tell us about your gaming group a little bit and we will send you some information and see if it works out for you to help us play test. Thank you so much.

Find out more at https://live-like-the-world-is-dying.pinecast.co