Here's a guest rant from Farmer Jade.
I have a confession to make. I have a soft spot in my heart
for those crazy people who compost their own poop. They seem to be everywhere,
nowadays, at least in the "alternative gardener" circles I run in in
Portland, Oregon. It's like the new cult in town. They even have their own
Bible, called the Humanure
Handbook. I call them the "humanure-farians", with
apologies to Rastafarians. Terrible, aren't I?
The term reminds me of a stinky outhouse but I have a soft
spot for these people. Not enough that I wouldn't think a neighbor was weird if
they were doing it. But I understand where they are coming from, and I can
respect the decision. After all, we're all crazy about our plants—that's why
we're gardeners. They're just willing to cross a line than many of us are too
squeamish about crossing.
And who knows, they're probably right. It is wasteful to
throw all those nutrients down the drain. But it violates so many of our
taboos, I can't help but finding it a wee bit distasteful, even if it will save
We all do crazy things in our garden. I have a good
friend who even considered installing a urinal in his garden—in order to collect
urine to spread around the yard. After all, urea is often the top ingredient in
most commercial fertilizers, so it's pretty hypocritical to criticize the
practice. But I haven't gotten to the point where I want to a urinal to be the
sculptural centerpiece of my garden. Although a toilet could make a great
When this topic comes up, my friend often tells me about
ancient Japan. There is a long practice of using "night soil" in
farms in Japan. Apparently, the farmers kept well-maintained facilities all
along the ancient highways in Japan. Can you imagine that happening here in the
U.S.—in each McDonald's?
My wife thinks this whole topic is gross. I'm with her on
humanure, but maybe there is a gender difference in attitudes towards "liquid
gold"? Men seem to like the practice, and engage in it whenever nobody is
looking, whether they are gardeners or not.
So I have a suggestion for the Humanure-farians: work on
your marketing. Here are some ideas to get you started: Bring back some old terms, like nightsoil. Now that's a
decent term, something you can stick your hand into!
Get some fancy advertisements—maybe if you can get someone
famous to do it, the lemmings will follow in their wake?
Call it something else. How about Moreganic gardening?
Everyone likes organic.
Jade Rubick is the founder of Plantworking.com, a social networking site for gardeners. He
writes a blog called Farmer Jade,
where he writes about topics ranging from converting a
lawn to garden to pruning and
trellising tomatoes. He lives in Portland, Oregon.