Pot Luck Literary Appetizers
Reader Feedback from the First Edition
The first edition of this book was self-published on a meager budget and was expected, by the author, to require a total lifetime print run of about 250 copies. It was assumed that there was little, if any, interest in the topic of composting human manure, but the degree and nature of feedback that resulted from this unlikely book was surprising. The first edition of Humanure eventually amounted to over 10,000 copies in circulation. Excerpts from a sampling of the letters sent to the author are presented below. Some of the writers offer insight about their own composting experiences, which you, the reader, may find useful or interesting. At the very least, the following testimonials are inspiring, and they indicate that more than a few people care about our planet, and how we live on it.
“Thank you so much for your book. I believe that it is one of the most important books ever written. (I also enjoyed your web site very much.) I finished reading your book less than a month ago and have already participated in building two compost bins and am currently in the process of building the toilets to go with them.” S.U. in ME
“The potential of the ideas in Humanure is so great in problems such as hollow food, landfill capacities, population densities . . . that I feel rather evangelical about the book and hope that others will also.” R.S. in OH
“If this short sentence, ‘We are defecating in our drinking water,’ was put in front of our eyes frequently enough, more and more people would realize that this absurd behavior can’t go on much longer.” S.A. at BioLet International “You have done the world a great service, and I thank you from the bottom of my (heart)!!” B.F. in NV
“I’m so glad you wrote this book - one lady told us it should be required reading for everyone on the planet!” D.W. in PA
“My husband and I own a small sawmill with plenty of leftover sawdust needing to be put to use. Also, my 74-year old father thinks human waste should not be used in a garden, and I want to prove him wrong.” A.M. in WA
“Your book is pure gold, just what I needed to give to my County Health Department head who is willing to go along with my desire for alternative systems.” M.T.
“Your discovery of the proper small scale of the operation is world-shaking, together with the exemplary continuous-by-small-increments rate of production.” F.A. in DE
“I enjoyed your book immensely. It clarified several technical and practical points. My mother is appalled that we would put one of ‘those things’ in the new house we’re building, certain it can’t be legal. Now that you’ve put the point in print we’ve been reduced from lawbreakers to just crazy. Pleasing me and irritating my mother, you score big in my two favorite categories.” K.L.
“This wonderful book fits right into my COMPOST=REDEMPTION religious philosophy. You have answered questions I have held open since childhood.” R. in MA
“May I join the chorus, too? The most exciting book I’ve read in a long, long time is yours. What a gem! Fun! A bumper sticker ad for the book should read, ‘The Humanure Handbook Proves It: People Are Smarter than Shit!’ Some people, anyway. ‘Fecophobia’: A new word for me and one that speaks volumes. As E.O. Wilson discovered ‘biophilia,’ so there is such a thing in humans as ‘biophobia,’ and you’ve discovered and named very appropriately one of its roots: fecophobia. It’s a real problem, and its solution, I think, is biophilia, fecophilia. Your discovery of appropriate shit technology, including an appropriate ‘throne,’ makes the billions we spend so we can shit in drinking water appear finally and totally absurd.” V.L. in FL
“I should have written this letter sooner. I would like to say that it is relatively rare to read a book of the calibre of the Humanure Handbook. A book that is enjoyable to read, empowering, hilarious, and has eye-candy pictures throughout. It’s an unbeatable combination.” J.D. in CA
“My budget is limited, so I don’t buy many books. This one, however, I really had to have for my personal library. I borrowed your book via interlibrary loan and have already read it twice, but I wanted one to keep! Please send the Humanure Handbook!” L.M.
“I really celebrate your book and your willingness to step forward and break the crystallizations of fear around composting human manure. I know for a fact I would not be taking the steps toward taking responsibility for managing the feces and urine within our community without this book.” L.F.
“After having finished your book, the Humanure Handbook, I’m more convinced than ever that those in charge of our society have no idea what the hell they’re doing.” J.R. in ME
“I knew nothing about this topic and by chance I purchased your book. Before reading I felt a little reluctance. However, once I started reading, I couldn’t stop. As English is not my mother language, it took a lot of time (all the words I didn’t understand I looked up in my dictionary). You are doing a great service to humanity by having the courage to publish your book. It is said that example is the best teacher.” B.E. in Belgium
“Your book proved to be not only entertaining but also an invaluable source of information and reference. Thank you! At the hostel, your book has made it to the ‘shelf of recommended literature.’ On this shelf we display books we recommend our guests to read. Your book is placed between Thoreau’s Walden and The Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening.” J.N. in GA
“I just wanted to thank you for your valuable research you have done on the sawdust toilets. I enjoyed your book very much and have loaned it to many friends who seemed too embarrassed (or cheap) to buy it themselves. There must be quite a few readers of your book out there because I am seeing quite a few sawdust toilet and human manure discussions going on in the various straw bale and homesteaders news groups.” D.K. in IL
“I’m just reading the Humanure Handbook and kicking myself for a fool! I’ve been composting for a long time. I’ve been buying everything I can on composting — old and new — especially on composting toilets and have been banging on about it for years, but have never managed (apart from the mouldering Clivus) to use one. Now the solution is so simple I shall simply remove our existing W.C. under the stairs and replace it with a sawdust toilet and everything else is in place! At the moment, I’ve been saving all my urine, which I add to the woodchip piles and that steams along merrily enough. Thanks for your book and providing the missing link! Yours steamingly,” N.S. in UK
“My wife and I found a copy of your Humanure book last year, and have been living well with a sawdust toilet since then. (A blessing, after having spent gobs of time and money putting together a 150 gallon fly-breeding solar toilet — nothing like feeling little crawlies on your bum!)” P.U. in NM
“One thing you’ll get a perplexing kick out of regarding Humanure and Papua New Guinea is a problem. Shit is part of you, goes local tradition. There it is, wasn’t there before, dropped out of you. Therefore, it is you. Now with witchcraft being a major player here, all one has to do is pick up some of your shit and do nasty things with it (incantations or who knows what) and voila! you’re done for. When I asked one very devout Seventh Day Adventist lady how her father died, she said, ‘The traditional way. Someone didn’t like him and made magic against him.’ Joe, I don’t think Humanure stands a ghost of a chance here, although I’ve mentioned it several times to the living. Go figure on this one.” D.B. in New Guinea
“I am working as a development advisor to the Minister for Agriculture and Livestock here in Papua New Guinea, and [am] working on ways of encouraging people to shifting agriculture practices to site stable agriculture, which will require the input of more organic material as Papua New Guineans generally have insufficient finance to purchase chemical inputs. Some time ago I purchased . . . a copy of the Humanure Handbook, and I found it quite fascinating. Thanks for the information you put together in the Humanure Handbook.” P.H. in Papua New Guinea
“I’m wracking my brain, trying to find a compelling way to tell you how great I think your book is. Here are some stabs: By the time I got to page 61, I had a mud bucket and a bag of sawdust set up in my bathroom.” K.W. in WI
“Just finished reading your book, and I’m glad. Seeing Mr. Turdly dancing around the compost pile wasn’t my ideal dream. Overall, I think your simple, low-cost and safe thermophilic system is a fantastic solution I’ve been looking for. I’ve been composting and using my own waste the past 20 years. Most of my friends think it odd. I counter that not even barbarians piss and shit in their drinking water.” E.S. in WA
“Please send me two copies of your beautiful book. I live and work at an International Youth Hostel . . . and we’re using your sawdust toilets.” B.S. in GA
“For 22 years, I have used scarab beetle larvae . . . they eat my shit in 5 minutes flat.” C.M. in SC
“I really appreciate the fact that someone finally did their research and put it together in a pleasant, readable form. I have felt strongly about our absence in the food nutrient cycle for a long time, but lack the talent of articulation that you have shown. We have been recycling our humanure since 1979.” S.C. in WI
“Great book! Thanks so much for writing it! I had to call my dear heart long distance immediately to read her what may be the most hopeful environmental news I’ve heard in my 35 years, that something can transmute horrible toxins. Why aren’t all the environmentalists raving about this and demanding major research on the applications?” C. in VT
“Your recently published book, the Humanure Handbook, is one of the most serious and humourous, well-researched yet humble, and motivating works I have read in a while. My personal research for some time now has focused on how to maintain soil fertility with minimal or no reliance on synthetic fertilizers. While I have focused on soil attributes that provide native fertility, I have known all along that a chunk of the cycle was absent. If you could claim credit for engineering the thermophilic decomposers, you would probably win the Nobel Peace Prize.” T.C. in AZ
“From the squatting position, I request a copy of the Humanure Handbook.” E.P. in RI
“I already knew that composting human waste made sense, and I had been looking for more practical information. Your book was exactly the information I was looking for, and it inspired me to put the ideas into action.” B.C. in NYC, NY
“Thank you for putting the time, energy, [and] money into creating this unique, needed book. Your wit, wisdom, factual references and above all, your personal experience, make it a great and encouraging work.” C.L. in NY
“Thank you for providing the information on dealing with shit in a responsible manner. As you know, the simple logic and responsible actions outlined in your book are rare in our society.” J. in AK
“I recently read and thoroughly enjoyed your Humanure Handbook. I am an engineer who currently designs services, including sewers, for new developments. In recent years, however, I have become convinced that the way we deal with humanure, as you call it, is not far short of ridiculous. So, I have begun to educate myself about alternative ways of treatment and reuse.” D.C. in Canada
“Thank you for your wonderful book about an environmental threat most people are unwilling to discuss, yet contribute to daily.” P.K. in NH
“I have taken three dumps since finishing the Humanure Handbook, and all of them have been in plastic buckets and have been covered with sawdust.” M.W. in WA
“You’re right, it is the shittiest book I’ve ever read — but it’s great! Have been a composter for a long time, but you showed me some new tricks.” R.H. in WY
“I want to thank you all so much for the ‘pioneering’ work you have done with humanure and writing the Humanure Handbook . . . with the information you have provided I can complete the cycle.” R.B. in FL
“I . . . spied an ad for your book, the Humanure Handbook . . . up until that point, it had only been a dream to somehow use my waste for fueling something that is necessary for my way of life. Now I have hope for a better future for myself, my family, and for the generations that will live on in this world after me.” O.M. in CA
“A little over a year ago . . . I was in Guatemala . . . when I came upon a certain Humanure Handbook being carried around. I only had access to the book for less than one day, but . . . I devoured it, became a proselytizing devotee of the composting method and thermophilic bacteria and I am forever grateful to you for your amazingly thorough research and easily readable and digestible book.” R.T. in CT
“Thank you for putting out such an important book . . . it feels good to know that there are fellow humans out there that realize that there is a way, a healthy way, to our actions that is good for all.” D.D. in Canada
“Really enjoyed your book! As a public health person and 25 years as an organic gardener, the content was great.” J.P.
“I am stupefied after reading your turdly book! What a masterpiece of modern literature. A real wake-up call for human types. In the future, I intend to follow all of your sensible suggestions and have a sawdust toilet.” W.K. in AZ
“Your book was extremely well-written and answered all the questions I had been having for several years. I knew that somehow there was some missing info about what to do with all the ‘do-do’.” R.L. in FL
“I just picked up the Humanure Handbook. It is full of humor, pluck, good advice and spirit. Someone I know locally has been championing your system for the past year. I’ll have to try it myself.” M.Z. in CA
“I’m almost done reading your book. Terrific. It definitely goes on a shelf next to How to Keep Your Volkswagon Alive and a few other ‘anybody-can-do-this’ type treasures. You’ve got me convinced. I’m partway through building a new house, and I’ve penciled in where the bucket will go.” D.B. in MN
“For many years, I have wondered why we can use cow and horse and pig manure for our gardens, but not human manure. I showed this article to my father who was raised on a farm and he almost gagged. He couldn’t even finish reading the article. I guess you’d call him a fecophobiac. Could you mail the handbook in a wrapper that has no mention of ‘humanure’? I live with my parents.” M.C. in CO (future composter)
“I recently purchased your Humanure Handbook. It is fabulous. I want to give it to EVERYONE. Please send me four more.” L.F. in CA
“I have just finished your book . . . and I’m still wiping the tears off my face from laughing so hard. I never thought a book about human excretion could be so humorous, as well as very informative!” A.R. in OH
“I heard so many good things about the book while in the United States for summer holiday . . . that I combed all the bookstores for a copy of it. I am happy to report I have suffered no buyer’s remorse since the purchase. The book is extremely moving, in all sorts of ways. When I leave the urban desert, I plan to practice what you preach in the book. Even more exciting is the prospect that your book has darn near sold my wife on the idea, too. When she sees the system you describe in action, I know she’ll make the final step onto the bandwagon.” D.G. in Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates)
“We had been looking for some info about safely composting our do-do for some time. Your book was a blessing and please know that it was an easy, fun read. Got the toilet installed day before yesterday and built a bin yesterday. Thank you for all of your hard work in doing the research and letting us all know that we are not alone in our way of living a more civilized way than the present barbaric generation we find ourselves among. What you have given us is the info we have been seeking, which empowers us to make an almost perfect circle with our resources.” R.L. in FL
“Two things you might be interested in: a more natural way to eliminate is in the squatting position (supports the colon and all that shit). Maybe you might show (or offer the thought to future readers) of raising the knees higher — a step (simple block of wood, or big rock might be one solution). Also, more (food?) for thought. Urine is not a waste product. It is from the blood in our body. The excess nutrients and minerals that the body does not need at that moment has been filtered out (how marvelous). Taking urine internally has been going on for some time (1000s of years) and by many is considered a wonderful medicine. (Reading: ‘Your Own Perfect Medicine’) I take my first urine daily. Also, urine is used today in Murine’s Ear Wax Removal, hand creams and other [products]. Now is that full of crap . . . or is it?” W.E. in OH
“Your book saved my butt at a town council meeting yesterday. Thank you for writing it.” D.W. in CO
“With raised beds and numerous compost piles, it was only natural to be loaned a copy of the Humanure Handbook (carefully handed to me in a plain brown paper bag at church last spring). Great research, clear writing and terrific humor! I really should return that copy, so please send me one.” L.U. in WV
“For over 40 years we have lived a more ‘natural’ way of life. Now the ‘Authorities’ are making it known we must conform to more (according to their beliefs) appropriate ways. He is 88 and I’m 77 — we need this help now! Please send us a copy of the Humanure Handbook.” E.P. in NH
“As parasites attached to the Earth, it would seem that the only conscious thing we do that isn’t killing the host, is manuring in the woods, fields or [in] a composting toilet.” D.G. in MN
“In the past month I’ve made two humanure converts, both single women (living separately), both organic gardeners, both professional cooks. The biggest lure for them was the quality of my garden, and the opportunity to avoid purchasing fertilizer and soil amendments. Now they’re hooked, preaching to their friends. Could be the start of a Big Movement.” L.W. in WA
“I have just finished your book, which I found in somebody’s house near Plettenberg Bay in South Africa. It took me four hours, cover to cover, and it’s 3 a.m.” A. M-J. in South Africa
“I just got your Humanure book and want more! We are trying to educate the Commissioners and public regarding doing the right thing and your book is timely!” T.P. in NJ
“Could you send me a copy all the way to Guatemala? Communities are ready to start a composting toilet project . . . send it as soon as you can.” T.B. in Guatemala
“I liked your book. Putting back nutrients after taking them away makes sense as well as the image of dropping a turd in a five gallon toilet filled with pure drinking water seems crazy.” T.O. in NH
“I work in a number of ways with state agencies that ‘regulate’ compost and land applications of biosolids. I will read your book with an eye toward putting copies in numerous hands — from bureaucrats to legislators to environmentalists — and more.” D.R. in TX
“We are just beginning on the adventure of ‘recycling’ all of our human waste, including manure. And there is so little written that is available — I’m really glad that you took the time to write about your experience.” D.P. in CA
“We’re a couple of kids (late 60s-early 70s) pursuing composting. It’s the only sensible and logical way to go.” C. K-L. in OR
“I found your book entertaining, informative, and a great motivating force compelling us to start recycling our ‘humanure’ immediately. Having grown up with outhouses . . . I always thought there had to be a better way.” B.W. in TX
“I’m the graduate student you just sent a copy of your handbook to. The book and resource list have both been just what I needed. I’m trying to get my parents thinking about composting their ‘reusable’ body materials (they already compost kitchen scraps, as I do). They are in the country with a very shallow well. They are already short of water and their troughs used to catch rain are dry. Dad is a Parasitologist, so you know he’ll want to make sure the stuff heats up right. I would like to buy them one of your books. That’ll make a good birthday present for Pops.” S.M.
“We have a cabin in the mountains of North Central Washington that is off the grid, off the road and off just about everything. My wife and I spent Thanksgiving there and at this time of the year the outhouse is very uncomfortable. I believe your book will allow us to move it to more comfortable quarters.” L.V. in WA
“I’ve spent my whole life recycling, reducing and reusing everything but my own shit and I [am] ecstatically grateful to have your directions reach my lap.” W.
“Thank you for your work in the Humanure Handbook. Your ideas have been a real encouragement to me to give composting a try in my sustainable home project. I was impressed by your research, the depth and scope of your study.” J.D.
“The reason I’m writing is because I believe worm-egg phobia is overblown. I’ve been a pig farmer for decades, had probably literally tons of pig manure dumped on me over the years, have had pig manure get inside open bleeding wounds, have had it ‘splash’ into my mouth, and I can say that I’ve never gotten ill from it nor have I had any intestinal problems except when I got my divorce (ulcer). But I can say quite accurately that I’ve gotten ill a few times from eating in restaurants. I ask you, which is more dangerous, restaurant food or hog manure?” R.T. in WI
“Our son’s Pa . . . was the one who tracked down your book . . . got our head librarian to order one for the Islands library and then created his own techniques. He feeds his bucket to several worm bins. They keep up with it . . . and it smells just fine. He also lines his bucket with a brown paper bag. It keeps clean-up easier — and is a great use for a bag that’s had several uses but isn’t fire starter yet. He found an antique porcelain receptacle with a toilet seat half buried in a vacant lot next to us and gifted me with it. A four gallon square bucket fits nicely and gives me over two weeks of use. When its full, I strap the plastic bucket onto my custom-made bike cart and off I go to our neighboring 10 acres where we are moving to this spring. I’ve got a bin set up using pallets on four sides — three narrow pieces of plywood overlapping on top with rubber tires to hold them down (all recycled, naturally). We’ve got huge piles of straw, manure, sawdust matter from the fairgrounds, bales of hay, bags of leaves and then I’ll occasionally bring some kitchen scraps over. My serious winter sprouting gives me root mats after harvesting buckwheat lettuce, wheatgrass, and sunflowers. They are a great layering agent in our worm bins. I must say — this is very exciting to us — and I can’t wait to dip my probe down into my pile in say, two years. I had to chuckle last week when I came around the corner on my bike with cart and bucket in tow. There was my neighbor directing this huge septic tank down into an excavated hole right next to his house. Everything about his ‘new’ home says toxic to me!” B.L. in WA
“Ah hah!! There is an intelligent lifeform out there. My husband and I have seen your book advertised in Countryside magazine for a good while. I finally came across it at the local library, checked it out and will eventually add it to our library. Great reading, common sense information, very well researched. We started your sawdust toilet idea at once. We are old dogs, but not too old to know a logical thing when we read it. Thanks, and bless you and yours.” E. & J.C. in OH
“Thank you so much for your book, humorous and well written. We are enjoying it. We have just received it yesterday. We will be posting you the pictures of our composting toilet on the beach this week. And again many thanks.” G.F. in Indonesia
“Humanure and the potential for large-scale . . . even a city size composting collection (apartment building toilets into a central collection dumpster), along with the crimes of the so-called ‘septic system,’ has become one of my most favored topics of conversation and promotion. Often through direct exposition at our farm. Many thanks for your noble work of art and contribution to this stinky species of ape.” R.T. in CT
“I couldn’t resist writing you to say how much I enjoyed your book. Normally I can’t absorb the written word very easily, but I soaked yours up, which I guess is rather appropriate. I’ve been composting for several years now. Robotically and indifferently at first, but gradually developing to a level which I can only describe as obsessive. I bore everyone silly talking about it — except my fellow composters, that is, and there are several around here. As I got more into it, I found myself thinking about the possibility of composting bodily harvests, until it got so every time I sat on the loo and performed, I was begrudging every turd! Becoming more and more conscious of the waste and stupidity of the whole system with every plop, the idea slowly formed in my mind that perhaps I could do something about it. Reading your book clinched it. I have resolved to pull out of the mainstream sewage system, hence the ordering of the most capacious compost bin I could find. As the rest of my family find the idea abhorrent (ha, ha — in their lifetime it will most likely become law!), I’m forced to go it alone.” J.M. in England
“As a small publisher and writer, I don’t often take the time to write fan letters and testimonials, but this is both. We’ve lived on a small island in the Pacific coastal rainforest for 20 years and have been composting/mouldering our shit since we moved here. We’re glad to have some new arguments to use from your book as, over the years, a few guests weren’t too enthusiastic about our system.” C.H. in Canada
“We’ve read your book from cover to cover and are planning to implement it this summer when we move to our paid-for place in the country. Thanks for the great information. I publish a Christian Homesteading magazine. We will [also] be publishing a special newsletter devoted to Y2K problems . . . deal[ing] with the nitty-gritty, how-to preparedness topics and Humanure compost toilets will fit right in.” J.E.
“We live in Mexico in the high desert of San Miguel de Allende where the water is precious and the soil is lousy. You’ve solved two of our biggest problems . . . My husband is so FECOPHOBIC, that he swears he neither shits nor farts. Getting him sold on the idea will be a problem. Any suggestions? I, of course, will be the one to empty the bucket.” L. in Mexico
“Recently a friend of mine lent me a copy of your book The Humanure Handbook. To say that I enjoyed and found useful the contents and message of the book would be a considerable understatement. And in short i would very much like to purchase a copy of my own. Thank you for all your time and effort in making this information available.” Rev. H.G. in CA
“Great book! I really loved it. We are soon to move to a new house. I can’t wait to start composting humanure. Thank you for all the information in the book. It will sit on a special shelf in the bathroom — reading material for those occupied in communing with nature!” B.C.
“Twelve years ago, I designed and built a solar powered home, and have been repeatedly told (so I now believe) that I am a very creative person. So, as I was reading your incredibly inspiring, well-written, humorous, and innovative book, I kept asking myself . . . Why didn't I think of this? You are truly a gift from — and to — Mother Earth. Thank you, thank you.” O.B. in ID
“I continue to be moved to hilarity by your writing, and the cartoons are pretty good too. Best of all is that your method of killing pathogens and parasite eggs and returning nutrients to the soil is virtually free. We are an environmental education center as well as a land trust community. So far we focus mainly on sustainable building, biointensive gardening, and wildlife management. I have a particular interest in a very simple lifestyle — sort of a radical eco-luddite anarchist type myself. Thanks again for the book!” M.M. in TX
“Your book came up in a search on Amazon.com and here I am, having just finished it, feeling like a man whose universe, at least one little corner of it, has condensed and collapsed, fallen into effortlessness, into rightness like a neutron star, like a compost pile. eureka! refinement! My shit makes sense! at last! Thank you.” R.P. (fellow common-senser) in MASource: The Humanure Handbook. Jenkins Publishing, PO Box 607, Grove City, PA 16127. To order, phone: 1-800-639-4099.