A kind of flush – all over the world

It’s amazing what you find yourself looking at when you live in the Dyfi Valley. This week I found myself staring down the barrel of one of the UK’s very first urine separating multi flush ceramic toilets. All in the line of duty you understand. And whilst looking at the dribble holes which remove the urine from the pan and off to grey water recycling heaven (rather than down the tubes into our sewage system) I knew that Britain would never have a shortage of water again if we all had them. After all, a third of all of the water we use in an average day gets flushed straight down the toilet. The standard flush uses six litres of water. The urine separator uses less than quarter of a litre (for pees) and four litres (for poos).

The toilet lives in the bathroom of Peter Harper’s experimental eco house in Machynlleth and forms part of his advanced grey water recycling system. This takes all the water from the bath and the sink, mixed in with urine from the toilet, through a network of pipes, and deposits it direct to the garden, where it both waters and fertilizes his crops. Plants need nitrogen and urine has plenty of it. Making use of it in the garden makes sense and has long been the secret weapon of Eddie Grundy type allotment holders. Peter has just taken the idea of the odd surreptitious widdle on your compost heap and finessed it into a daily dose.

I was interviewing Peter for our first podcast and the interview was so long and detailed we’re probably going to do a special Peter Piddle Podcast all on its own for those who aspire to be urine nurds. For the rest, and I suspect majority of you, our water feature podcast will contain only the edited yet never the less glorious highlights, including the sound of a quarter litre flush trickling down the pan. The rest of the podcast will definitely be majority listening – water saving tricks and tips from CAT’s Marcus Zipperlan and Grace Crabb, garden conservation ideas from CAT author Judith Thornton (she wrote The Water Book, which has recently been updated for a second edition), a look at garden weather patterns with CAT gardener Roger Maclennan and an interview with Rod Gritten, Senior Ecologist of Snowdonia National Park. The podcast will be launched on June 5th – World Environment Day.

After our interview Peter dashed off on the train up to London to give a talk on sustainability at the Chelsea Flower Show. Lets hope what he says sinks in. Chelsea’s trying to be green this year but you have to question the ecological justification for dedicating millions of pounds worth of the earth’s resources to creating gardens that will only last a few days. Perhaps if the gardens revolutionised the way we thought about gardening it would be worth it but it’s hard to feel revolutionised when you’re in the gardeners equivalent of the Pamplona bull run and your most pressing destination is the Pims bar.

Meanwhile in the world of real gardening Machynlleth has its annual seedling swap event this Saturday (26th May). Following on from last week’s successful appearance on Gardeners World the Seedling Swap will be a lively focal point for the gardeners of the Dyfi valley and anybody else who happens to be passing. Gardeners often have a glut of seedlings at this time of year, as well as a few gaps. Swapping makes perfect sense. A few guidelines are useful though. No pests and diseases should be brought in with the plants and it’s definitely worth checking the roots of anything you take home for flat worms. Not strictly speaking a pest of plants they do however devour friendly earthworms and should always be kept out of gardens. The same advice goes for shop bought plants too. If you happen to be passing through Machynlleth and are not familiar with the geography of our town the community centre is by the co-op. You can’t miss it. See you there!

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