Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, August 7, 2014
Touring the past at Deer Isle Hostel
Co-owner of Deer Isle Hostel Dennis Carter talks about the composting toilet used by guests at the hostel. A bucket is used, along with scoops of sawdust to both help with odors and to lend itself well to the composting process. The hostel offers tours from 9 to 10:30 a.m. every Thursday through August.
by Jessica Brophy
Every Thursday through August, the public is invited to tour the Deer Isle Hostel—an off-the-grid eco-hostel. The tours, which are hosted by owners Dennis Carter and Anneli Carter-Sundqvist from 9 to 10:30 a.m., offer glimpses of 18th-century construction techniques coupled with new homesteading techniques.
The weekly tours for the public are something the couple decided to start doing this year. “We found that lots of people are curious and want to see the property,” said Carter-Sundqvist. “We want to encourage that, but it’s best to consolidate visitors so that we can give them our full attention while they’re here.”
During the tour, visitors can learn about the hostel building, which was constructed using five different woods, all local and mostly sourced from the property itself. The building is a three-story timber-framed house inspired by the Boardman House, constructed in 1687 in Saugus, Mass.
The hostel hosts as many as 250 guests per summer, said Carter. A lot of visitors are from Maine, he continued, but others come from major cities to get a taste of rural life. “We get a lot of people from Brooklyn, Boston, Montreal,” said Carter. The couple also gets guests from all over the world, including Europe, China, Mongolia and Korea. “When we had Korean visitors, they showed us all the weeds in the garden to make kimchi from,” said Carter.
One of the more interesting stops on the tour is the composting toilet, which is an outhouse just off the back of the hostel building. Carter said scooping sawdust in with the waste keeps odors away. “We use sawdust from our own sawmill,” said Carter, though when that runs out, other local sawdust is acquired. The waste is then composted out back in an area the couple is slowly transforming into an apple orchard.
Only two days of temperatures at or above 122 degrees Fahrenheit is required to make the waste safe. Carter says at the hostel the waste will be composted for two years before it is used as fertilizer for apple trees. “It’s safe to put directly on the vegetable garden, but we use it on the apple trees,” he explained.
Another compost mound, this one of vegetation including hay and seaweed, serves as the hot water heater for the outdoor shower. “There’s a water pipe coiled within the pile that is heated,” said Carter. The compost pile can hold that temperature for several weeks at a time.
Carter then talked about the hostel’s sawmill and the harvesting of wood on the property. It’s all done with human power, with a device that holds the logs above the forest floor so that it can be rolled out to the sawmill. “We don’t drag, we obey the laws of physics,” said Carter.
Tours are offered Thursday mornings from 9 to 10:30 a.m. at the hostel, located in Sunshine. On August 21 during the public tour, Carter will be demonstrating splitting granite by hand. In September, the hostel will be hosting two workshops, one on seed storing and another on orchards. For more information, visit deerislehostel.com.