Saturday, February 28, 2009

Appetite-spoiler alert (you have been warned)

I seem to have misread the opening line of the introduction to this post on Arthur magazine's blog and assumed that "mellow yellow" was the streetname of some cutting-edge alternaculture new energy drink mixing--you were warned, people--dandelion wine and urine. But no! Editor Jay Babcock was merely suggesting that in this earlier article by "radical ecologist, system designer, urban forager, teacher, artist and mad scientist of the living" Nance Klehm, those two liquids were discussed ... entirely separately. Klehm provides a relatively simple-sounding recipe for wine made from all those dandelions my husband always wants removed from our yard (and he's a homebrewer waiting for the hops I planted last year to take off, so he ought to be open to this latest experiment, too). She argues that the potassium-rich concoction is "one alcohol that actually helps your liver and kidneys!" (Are you listening, o intoxicated garden coach?)

A few paragraphs later, Klehm makes a compelling case for, uh, personalizing your compost with a handy source of nitrogen:

We humans pee on average a bit more than a quart a day, at a dilution rate of 1:5 (the recipe). Each one of us are producing more than two gallons of free plant fertilizer a day. Or around 750 gallons a year--which is enough fertilizer to grow 75% of an individual’s food needs for that year. ...

I can't seem to find anything about the practice in the index to Barbara Pleasant and Deborah Martin's Complete Compost Gardening Guide, but Klehm tells you everything you need to know, I suppose:

... Peeing directly into your compost pile is great. So is collecting it in a jar or a bucket and dumping it into the pile later. Not composting? Then just dilute it fresh (remember the recipe again, 1:5) with some water and use it directly on plants or let it oxidize and turn into a nitrate (i.e. leaving it out until it gets nice and dark) and then apply it undiluted. Not only is this something that has been done for ages around the world, it is still being done. Most people are just hush hush about it.

Given that several of the neighbors in my suburban neighborhood surely think I'm nuts for moving from lawn to flowerbeds, I don't see myself dropping trou in the back yard any time soon, but the jar? Hey, I'm open. (Hush, hush.)

Actually, the Klehm article is evoked in passing merely as a preface to a recent and related Op-Ed piece by Rose George in the New York Times. George is the author of The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters, which was itself discussed in the Times here. She extends Klehm's argument with an international perspective:

Consider that since at least 135,000 urine-diversion toilets are in use in Sweden and that a Swiss aquatic institute did a six-year study of urine separation that found in its favor. In Sweden, some of the collected urine — which contains 80 percent of the nutrients in excrement — is given to farmers, with little objection. “If they can use urine and it’s cheap, they’ll use it,” said Petter Jenssen, a professor at the Agricultural University of Norway.

There's plenty more to mull over in both articles, but I'll leave the remainder of discoveries to you while I sneak off to the Little Garden Blogger's Room, bucket in hand.

1 comment:

Jim/ArtofGardening said...

"...dilute it fresh (remember the recipe again, 1:5) with some water and use it directly on plants ..."

Hmm. Makes me look at rainwater barrels a whole new way...