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Re: Pet Waste and Composting / Manure Tea

  • Subject: Re: [cg] Pet Waste and Composting / Manure Tea
  • From: Dboek@aol.com
  • Date: Fri, 8 Mar 2002 12:45:02 EST

Hi, Christine and everybody,

If you don't mind, I'd like to forward this question to the home composting 

In the meantime, my take on it has a couple of levels. For starters, I agree 
with the other posts. For me at home, and in the composting classes we offer 
locally through the county, we keep cat and dog feces out of home composting 
piles and, especially, strictly out of low temp processes like worm 
composting and 'tea'. btw, you don't make tea from straight poop, you make it 
from carefully made compost, either mature or at a midpoint at the height of 
microbial activity. Once again, please remember (and repeat after me...), 
compost _isn't_ poop.

Why not dog and cat poop in home compost? Cat poop can harbor the disease 
organism that causes toxoplasmosis, a disease causes blindness in newborns 
and other problems. Dog poop also harbors lots of unpleasant pathogens, but 
for me, dog doodoo's problem is aesthetic as well - the scats are dense and 
don't break down even in a well made and managed pile. When you discover them 
later, on your knees amidst the daphnes, it spoils the effect. Look at it 
this way - cats and dogs are carnivores (except maybe that basset hound!) and 
they have short intestinal tracts to move material through quickly. Contrast 
this to a horse or ruminant, with a gut full of bacteria - herbivores are, in 
a way, walking compost piles.

On the other hand, you can compost most _anything_ organic if you do it 
right. It is just that it can be difficult and costly to 'do it right' in a 
backyard or CG. You can replace $$$ with know-how, but be very careful and 
get advice. Before trying any of the following suggestions, ask local waste 
reduction or cooperative extension for help.

Since between the lines I get the impression you _really_ want to do this, 
here are two ideas for your lot. If you do them, wear plastic gloves, think 
about a mask, and wash the poop out of your hands, so to speak, afterward. I 
wouldn't do them myself, and I don't think you should, either. 

You can dig deep holes (18-24 inches) and dump a small bucket of dog poop in 
the bottom of each. Cover with 6" at least of soil and plant trees or shrub 
plants into the hole. Overtime, the material will break down and the tree 
will get some of the nutrients.

A second option would be to actually compost the poop (and the other organic 
debris on the lot, cats and all). You will need lots of bulky organic 
material, leaves and twigs from yard waste would be great (these are often 
easy to scrounge or get from the city). If you can get it, you'd be better 
off with a load of any old free horse or barnyard manure as well. First, lay 
down a 'bed' of branches and twigs along a back edge of the lot, about a foot 
deep. Make a pile of leaves on the 'bed' 1-2 ft deep, then pile a 6" average 
layer of poop, dead cats, pampers, needles, the soil you scrape up. Add an 
inch or manure, if you have it, and cover it completely with at least 4 -6 in 
of soil. Water it well, until it is as moist as a squeezed sponge. Then cover 
with at least another couple feet of leaves, soil and twigs. Then leave it 
alone, for at least a year. _!Do not 'turn' it or disturb it - this isn't a 
traditional backyard compost pile!_ After a year, dig into it, and sniff. 
Smell dog poop or any yucky smells? Cover it up and wait 6 months. Try again. 
When there is no bad odor, you can remix the materials, moisten them, repile 
them and let them heat up. When they cool down, the compost should be safe to 
use. A much better and more complete description of this idea (for dealing 
with livestock carcasses) is given at Dr. Elaine Ingham's site, <A 
HREF="soilfoodweb.com">soil food web</A>. Ask her for advice!

I've gone on too long (as usual), but one last thing -  I'm a bit skeptical 
of 'enzyme' products sold for dealing with pet wastes. Ask a kennel or the 
animal shelter what they do.

Good luck. I admire your zeal for composting and your good work on reclaiming 
and healing a corner of Mother Earth. Just be careful. Really careful. And, 
remember - compost isn't poop.

Don Boekelheide
Charlotte NC

In a message dated 3/8/02 8:07:53 AM Eastern Standard Time, 
Christianstreet@aol.com writes:

> I want to thank everyone who took the time to respond to my question about 
>  pet waste and composting. I realize that I hadn't fully explained my 
>  gardening situation -- it's a one-parcel vacant lot in a distressed 
>  neighborhood. Although fenced in, it's regularly visited by a pack of 
>  cats. I shoveled out several dead cats while clearing the lot of weeds and 
>  trash. Area residents regularly lob loaded Pampers over the fence, so 
> s 
>  probably human fecal contamination as well. Under the circumstances, I 
>  wouldn't plant so much as an herb for human consumption in the space, 
>  is why I'm more interested in how to use pet waste than what bad things 
> might 
>  happen to people who eat it.
>  You can see the space in question at
>  http://archives.rblanchard.com/michelle_cutner/

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