Notes from the Urban Homestead – Day One

Log of my chores & activites at the Urban Homestead for Monday,  June 1, 2009.

I arrive late but in time for brief tour and orientation to the garden, the house, the animals and an overview of operating systems (dry toilet, greywater recycling system).  In addition to the all of the plants, the Urban Homestead contains 2 chickens, a bunny (Ramona), 2 chihuahuas (Cosmo and Wally) and 2 cats (Carlotta-luv and 19-year old Wilhelmina).  Inside, Nance had recently disconnected all of her sinks (with the exception of the toilet and the tub) from the sewer system – the greywater goes into a bucket underneath the sink and when the bucket gets full, that water is used to water the garden.  Draining the washing machine is a feat unto itself.  You don’t know paranoia until you experience the drip-drip-drip of water into the bucket while you are doing the dishes – I was looking about every other second to make sure the bucket didn’t overflow.  Nance also has a dry toilet in the bathroom – essentially a  five gallon bucket (one of the most important things I learned on this trip was that the humble five gallon bucket appears to hold the key to any sustainable civilization) covered by a wooden box/toilet lid.  You poop or pee in the bucket and then cover it up with a few scoops of sawdust.  Simple!  Nance told me at the beginning that she would not judge me if I used the “flushie” – but why?  The dry toilet didn’t stink at all (actually it had a pleasant sawdust smell) and you are spared any sort of bowl echo – it’s all soft landings.  Quite a nice experience.

Nance will take our poop to be composted as part of a project she’s organized called Humble Pile, where participants collect their own poop and call Nance when they need her to come pick it up.  She takes it to an “undisclosed location” where it changes into useable, nutrient rich soil.  She’s like a low-tech, DIY phecal phreaker.

During my time in Chicago, when I met up with friends it was a bit shocking to experience ordinary plumbing in their homes, bars and restaurants – all of a sudden it seemed so decadent!  Drinks at the Palmer House Hotel (a pretty fancy place) was an especially dramatic experience.

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