Well, once again we’re back, a little late this week because it was my birthday on Sunday!! I’ve recovered now so the rest of the livingroom floor has gone down and the other two LED lights are now illuminated, so not a bad week really. Also what a lovely HOT shower I’ve just had (we will go into the hot water system soon) so we can stay in the same room if you know what I mean! Obviously,as well as getting water to the cabin, it’s first main use was the toilet, we all have to go somewhere! Because of where and how we live we couldn’t just go on the mains supply, we didn’t want to anyway, that would just defeat the object of being off the grid and self sustainable.Anyway, somewhere along the way we heard about the reed/willow bed system where the water flushed from your toilet goes into tanks where it starts to break down immediately. This broken down sewerage then flows into a series of filtration ponds that have reeds and willows planted in and around them, and these in turn draw up the water for themselves and are also fertilised.

These are 250 litre barrels, each one connected to the other, and as each one fills it drains into the next. By the third barrel, sewerage is well broken down so just liquid then flows into the series of ponds. Because of the willow and reeds, as it flows from one pond to the next, it’s clean water by the last pond with good healthy trees as well! We have had frog spawn in our last pond! Now, isn’t that better than it all being pumped out to sea?

There is one major rule with this system…NO BLEACH !! Bleach kills everything,good or bad. If you put bleach down your toilet, the bacterial enzymes that break down the sewerage will be killed and so the sewerage will sit there in the tank and rot, causing the smell that everyone associates with septic tanks. Ours does not smell at all even in hot weather because it all breaks down naturally. One thing we do use for cleaning the toilet would be Steradent tablets as these have Sodium Bicarbonate in them, a natural cleaner! If they’re good enough for your dentures then they’re good enough for the toilet!!(Yes we do still have our own teeth!)

Another rule to remember with this system is no other household water (eg, Bath, Washing Machine, Kitchen sink, etc) should go into the tanks for two simple reasons. Firstly, it will contain chemicals of some sort that will affect the breakdown, and secondly, if too much water goes into the tanks then the whole system can get flushed through not allowing time for the natural breakdown.

These are some of the willows planted at the last pond. There are about 60 in total and more next to the other ponds.

Just because we live alternatively doesn’t mean we cant have a ‘normal’ bathroom.


We would like to give a big ‘Willows’ thankyou to CeliaG at   Thekitchensgarden.wordpress.com  for the surprise award! We will treasure the acknowledgement !!

15 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. ceciliag
    Nov 30, 2011 @ 16:47:16

    Hmm, the process of the poo is actually quite interesting, SO much for you to sort out when you are totally off the grid like you guys .. once again i am incredibly impressed. I will tell John. Willow leaves are also very good for keeping parasites at a reasonable level in the guts of your animals. I feed my cows and sheep willow prunings at every opportunity.. Thank you for the mention, c


  2. Bridget Foy
    Nov 30, 2011 @ 17:25:49

    Brilliant post for anyone interested in setting up a reed bed system. Once again well done you two!!


  3. barrovivo
    Dec 10, 2011 @ 13:38:55

    This is a great idea but I am sure you can do pretty much the same with the gray waters from you washing machine, sink and shower as long as you use biodegradable soap. Also, soap that you make yourself has a higher biodegradability than the store-bought kind. Since you seem so committed to do as little harm to your land as possible, you should look into it and see if you can make work. Congratualtions!


  4. Willowarchway
    Dec 13, 2011 @ 13:59:37

    Yes,we do use all of the eco friendly detergents etc, but the point we were trying to make with the seperation of the two waters was that the sewerage system would get flushed out with too much water, which wouldn’t allow enough time for bacteria to break down.


  5. Bridget Foy
    Dec 25, 2011 @ 12:10:21

    When are you two coming back to blogland? Happy Christmas!


  6. Bridget
    Dec 29, 2011 @ 18:08:01

    Reblogged this on arignagardener.


  7. linniew
    Dec 29, 2011 @ 21:33:34

    Well I am completely impressed with your sewage treatment system. But I liked the magical trees stories even better. Happy new year!


  8. Laura
    Dec 31, 2011 @ 12:00:10

    This is super useful for me! Thank you for the post!


  9. islandthreads
    Dec 31, 2011 @ 17:37:46

    a few years ago I heard about reed beds on a radio prog, the man using it was in Spain I think so I thought it was for warmer climates, nice to know it can be done further north, I found walking in remote areas of north america they came up with several systems for decomposing waste and not contaminating the natural enviroment, you are a shinning example to us all,
    wishing you a happy new year, Frances


    • Willowarchway
      Jan 01, 2012 @ 14:50:48

      Thankyou so much Frances, we are just normal people living our little existence here in chilly Ireland! I don’t know but maybe the reed beds work in colder climates cos it doesn’t get the sun bleach as the sun does always cause algae to grow on ponds. Happy New Year to you also.


  10. Indie
    Jan 01, 2012 @ 18:30:55

    Totally brilliant and awesome! What a fabulous idea.


  11. chriscaff
    Jan 04, 2012 @ 14:09:59

    Firstly, happy belated birthday. Mine too is around Christmas- 16th December. The natural system is a great one. Similar results are acheived by planting willow around tree bogs, which rely on composting rather that water breakdown. Of course this is more suitable for camping areas than private residence as it requires climbing steps in an outside ‘loo’ that allows space beneath for the goodies to break down. The willow removes toxins as well as screening off the heap. You’re doing great stuff. Keep on keeping on. And Happy 2012 to you.


  12. chriscaff
    Jan 09, 2012 @ 19:43:21

    Happy birthday and a happy new year to you


  13. facelikeafryingpan
    Jun 12, 2012 @ 13:27:10

    I love the fact that you love willows! They are my fav, by far. And thanks for checking out my blog!! Come back and visit anytime!!


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