Friday, January 06, 2012

Continuous composting toilet

After moving in, we began using a Joseph Jenkins-style batch composting toilet system, but soon found that it wasn't the right fit for us, especially as it would not be safe to build a large, open compost pile (with human waste) in an area located in a vast floodplain. We were not inundated in the late-2011 floods that washed across Thailand, but we do have torrential rains during the monsoon, so having a compost + toilet waste pile in such an environment doesn't work. 

We looked through many, many plans online and in a book called the Barefoot Architect, and drew up plans to build a continuous composting system instead. This is the view of the outdoor space below our bathroom. When we built the house, we asked the builders to put a hole in the bathroom floor, which can be seen in the ceiling in the image above. 

An engineer neighbor/friend helped us start the walls so they would stand strong.

Landry drilling holes to put in a ramp for the initial droppings.

And a few half-pipes below to maintain air in a pile if it is compacted.

Above, the ramp is in, and part of the front wall is in. We recruited our construction-savvy neighbor, Uncle Preecha -- who was one of the main guys on the team that built our house by hand -- to finish the masonry and stucco for a clean look.

The door is attached, walls stuccoed and painted, and a vent pipe above, to keep air flow throughout the system. The vent pipe is painted black to heat the air, lifting the air up the pipe and creating a vacuum to pull air in through a lower vent on the side. It gives the needed oxygen to the composting waste and also keeps the system odor-free.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Taking root

It's time for a recap because our house has changed so much since we moved in. As a reminder -- we purchased our small plot in November 2009, started construction in April 2010, and then officially moved in in July 2011. We've been here about six months now.

Above is a glimpse of our house from the "main road" in our neighborhood, a small sidewalk where neighbors on motorbike, tourists on bicycle and kiddies on foot pass each day.


Our massive front window, and the kitchen downstairs.


Landry has learned how to work with cement, so he put some traditional Thai tiles -- leftover from our bathroom -- at the bottom of our stairs outside. I lay a brick-lined gravel path to the kitchen.

Landry and I also finally put our back balcony railing up so that we can put laundered clothes out to dry without fearing a tumble into the canal below. One of the trees growing in front of our shower is a mangrove, called a "kak," which has great roots for preventing erosion. Its "fruit" are shaped like small torpedoes and drop from the tree, floating along in canals until they poke into a bank and take root.  

We decided to take advantage of this southern exposure to plant directly under the back balcony a few enormous tomato plants that have nearly blocked Landry's office window. They live in a bed with a small brick wall that was Landry's first masonry project. To the left are birds of paradise that are watered when we shower.

The solar water heater is working well, but needs a clear cover to hold heat around these black pipes, as well as insulation around the water tank to keep the water warmer after sundown.

Our back balcony from inside.

Our living room furnished and well lived in.

On a shelf in our living room, a Buddhist monk statue from a relative in Thailand, binoculars from Bangalore, India, and a wooden yogurt container and a tapestry from Afghanistan. 

Ultraman by our friend, ceramic sculptor Juan Santiago. Pink papier mache from Vietnam, just outside Ho Chi Minh City near the Kuchi tunnels, and his Afghan police hat from a market in Kabul.

A fan from a market in Bangkok, and cabinet from Beijing.

Another fan from a Thai market.

Downstairs, our kitchen shelves, where most everything is well used.

We keep most of our dry ingredients -- rice, sugar, flour, beans -- in glass jars, and lately, we've been making our own homemade banana jam, chocolate pudding, applesauce and tomato sauce. The brownish-gray bowls on the left (bottom shelf) are from Seoul. The teapot-cups set in the center is from Ho Chi Minh City. The rest of the ceramics are from my dear friend Takako, who was clearing out decades-old dishes from her home.

Thanks to Alisa's brother, Van, for some of the above photos.

Sunday, January 01, 2012