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dog poop composting — yes or no? a topic revisited

We share great recipes, muse about building the best playsets for our children, and delight in objects that add a little beauty to our days. But what post from more than five years ago is still getting regular comments from readers? Dog poop composting! With that kind of interest, we decided it was high time to revisit the topic.

My dog poop composter: no longer in business

First, my update: we stopped using our DIY dog poop composter after a few months. (If you’re not the DIY type, you can purchase dog waste composters, too.) Reader comments had tipped me off to some potential hazards of the compost, and as I said in my original post, two big dogs = a lot of output. Our bin filled up fast, and it seemed the waste wasn’t really going anywhere. So we went back to bagging. I’ve done more research for this post, and here’s what I’ve found out.

Dog poop composting: the negatives

Maybe it’s because the Pacific Northwest is full of environmental types and ample waterways, but it seems a lot of the negative press on dog waste composting originated here:

  • The Public Works department in nearby Snohomish County, where a four-year study was conducted on pet waste composting, flat-out calls dog poop composters a bad idea: “They may seem practical, but they do not kill hazardous pathogens that may be in the waste and can pollute water. Landfills are designed to safely handle substances such as dog waste, cat litter, and dirty diapers. Yards are not.”
  • King County (where Seattle is located) is officially okay with it, but Tom Watson from King County’s Recycling and Environmental Services was less than enthusiastic in this 2009 article for the Seattle Times.
  • The City of Eugene, Oregon is cautiously okay with burying the waste, but discourages against using the actual resulting compost. Their study found that harmful bacteria and disease is present even when dog waste has turned to compost. Compost Gardening sums it up well:

Compost specialists obtained samples and tested them for salmonella, coliform bacteria, and other nasties. “We then allowed the material to sit for another six months and tested it again, hoping time and microbial competition would bring the material into the ‘safe’ level,” wrote compost specialist Anne Donahue. “It didn’t.”

Eighteen months after the crumbly-looking compost was set aside to cure, it still contained enough microbial pathogens to contaminate a planting of leafy greens.

Dog poop composting: the positives

That’s not to say opinions out there are 100% negative:

  • The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Fairbanks Soil and Water Conservation District offered dog waste composting as a solution for sled dogs. This publication from 2005 gives a detailed how-to, along with troubleshooting tips. (Note: PDF at the link takes some time to load.)
  • How-to articles from National Geographic and the Sierra Club are also pretty good endorsements for the practice.
  • This CNN/Mother Nature News article is for composting, but not for using the resulting compost: “bury it deep” is the advice (there are also some good links to more information in the article).
  • Sharon Slack at City Farmer, where I first got my compost bin how-to, has had practical success. Because Slack lives in a part of Canada where putting dog waste in the garbage is forbidden, she has been composting it for more than 15 years and says she’s only had to empty the bin once in that time.

Pet waste composting caveats

It’s a simple fact that pet waste composting poses more potential hazards than regular food and yard composting. These are the big cautions:

Don’t compost pet waste anywhere near water sources or edibles gardening

Keep the bin away from your growing vegetables, fruits and any water sources (one source said at least 100 feet from water sources). Once the waste has broken down, you can use the compost on ornamental plants, but never on something you intend to eat. (Or as the City of Eugene recommended, bury the waste, but don’t use the resulting compost at all.)

Cat or other animal waste?

Do your research on other types of waste, but make sure any cat litter is biodegradable. This Root Simple post may help.

Make sure your pet waste compost will heat up consistently to 145ºF

As Tom Watson said in the Seattle Times, pet waste composters must reach high enough temperatures to kill hazardous pathogens — the USDA report says this means the bin must reach 145ºF at least once a day for several days. The Sierra Club article recommends adding other materials to keep things hot. If you’re willing to take your compost’s temperature several times daily, the USDA report has this advice:
Temperatures in fresh compost mixtures rise quickly—up to 160º F and greater—then decline slowly until the compost temperature approaches air temperature. If you do not see this rapid rise and gradual decline of internal temperatures, the compost recipe may need to be adjusted.
That same report includes suggestions for getting your compost mix correct.

The bottom line: whether you compost doo or bag it, ALWAYS PICK IT UP

The worst thing you can to do the environment is just leave your dog waste lying where it is. Check out this dog waste infographic at Mother Nature News: dog waste left on the ground can contaminate water up to 20 miles away. Dog waste contains parasites that can sicken humans. Decomposing dog waste in the water robs fish of oxygen. And on and on.

So, dog waste composting wasn’t right for me, but what about you — what will you do with the doo?

Photo by Flickr user Nick Herber; used by Creative Commons License.

 

 

road trip! quirky apps for quirky stops


There was an upside to our move to (and back from) Chicago last summer: road trips! Having done one cross-country move previously that was all business (as in, drive from Cincinnati to Seattle in just four days), we decided to take our time in our trip back to the Midwest and see a few sites along the way. I knew there were a few places we wanted to stop, like Yellowstone and Deadwood (we’re fans of the short-lived TV series), but otherwise, we used apps to tell us what was nearby as we drove, and stopped when it sounded fun. We like odd destinations, so we relied on two iPhone apps the most: Best Road Trip Ever! and Roadside America. Which one would I recommend? Well, both.

I have been a huge fan of Roadside America since the wee days of the internet, and for the most part, their app does not disappoint. You’ll pay to see more, however — the Roadside America app breaks the U.S. into seven regions. You can choose one region for $2.99. If you want to see all of them, you’ll pay an additional $5.99 (or $1.99 ala carte). The upside of the Roadside America app is that you can find a lot of interesting backstory on many of the destinations — for instance, I would never have thought to go a few miles off track to visit FAST Corp in Sparta, Wisconsin, but thanks to a story on Roadside America, that became one of the highlights of our trip (more on that in a later post).

Where Best Road Trip Ever! takes the lead for us was not only cost — 99 cents gets you the whole shebang — but also its connectivity and easy navigation. We did a lot of driving through mountainous Montana and middle-of-nowhere South Dakota, and we found that even when our mobile coverage was spotty, Best Road Trip Ever! connected more regularly. It also seemed to have more immediate “Here’s what’s close to you right now” options than the Roadside America app. I also like that it lets you mark the places you’ve visited or save future stops in a “Wanna Go!” section. Let’s put it this way: I’m not convinced we would have found Evel Kneivel’s grave, a hilltop park filled with giant dinosaurs built in the 1930s, or an enormous statue of the Green Giant without Best Road Trip Ever! helping us out. And for that, we are grateful.

Next up: reports on some of those weird and wonderful places we visited.

Best Road Trip Ever! art via Propaganda3.

 

chico & dog’s beds: a love story


With Valentine’s day right around the corner, we’re thinking of all the ways to show how much we love you to those in our lives that deserve it most. That’s right, we’re talking about our pets. Who else looks at us with such pure devotion? Warms our feet on cold nights or sits by our side all day when we are sick? Muddy foot prints forgiven, there are few things more sweet than our pooches.

Karina and Carlos Mendez, a couple of doggy parents behind the new store Chico & Dog, feel the same way. A nurse and an industrial designer, they put the kind of attention into products that makes our hearts swell: attention to detail plus smart nurturing. Their dog beds are so stylish and comfy — complete with washable bed covers, pillows and even mini pillows — not only will you not mind looking at them every day, but your dog will instinctively appreciate them as well. Starting at $107, they are only slight more expensive than the traditional Dr Fosters variety, but way, way cooler. Also available for those pet parents blessed with more than one pooch: the MultiLeash which helps you walk up to four dogs at once.

quick ikea hack: a cut-to-fit hallway rug

We had a potentially dangerous situation brewing on our upstairs landing. The no-slip rug pad under our colorful cotton rag rug was no longer no-slip. In fact, it was quite the opposite. It seemed to be pro-slip, especially when playing fetch with a clumsy laboradoodle. One day, I feared, some one was skid right off and down the stairs. We spotted the Ikea PS 2012 wool felt rug and decided to take it home and make it ours. Larger than the space, we rolled out and carefully customized it so it would fill the floor, and bleed a bit into the rooms that it led to. This part of our old wooden floor is especially creaky, so having a run is essential. With a firm rubber backing, this baby is not budging a lift, so puppy and kid can freely skip across. At $99, it was certainly cheaper than achieving a similar effect with Flor tiles, which I found never stay in place. Plus, it is super cheery! In honor of its design, Isadora decided to wear all polka dots today. How wonderful is that?

lovin’ modernica’s pets-on-furniture contest

There are two thing we have extreme soft spots for here at Shelterrific. 1. Modern chairs (especially if they are orange). 2. Our pets. Put them together in a photo contest with the opportunity to win a Case Study Easy Chair and we’re tingling with excitement. Modernica is having a pets-on-furniture contest and it’s currently open to voting. Take a gander at their Facebook page to see the submissions. Even if it’s too late to enter your photogenic pooch in his perch (we’re still trying to figure out how to photograph a brown dog on a brown couch), it sure is fun to look at the entries thus far.