Mission accomplished: our first Critter-Proof builder is now making compost

Dan Egan with the Critter-Proof Composter he built for YMCA Camp Mason in New Jersey

We’ve reached a milestone. The first composter to be built from the instruction manual is done, and it’s looking good.

Dan Egan is the first of our testers to complete a Critter-Proof Composter. Dan is the naturalist at Camp Mason, a YMCA camp in western New Jersey.

When we sent out a call for testers, he responded, writing,

We have school children spend overnight school trips weekly and on weekends on our 600 acres bordering the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. Black bears are the largest problem with compost in NJ. We are trying to establish a composting program to reduce waste and are very interested in testing your manual to build a Critter-Proof Composter.

That was back in late March. A slow, wet spring intervened, along with the programs and other work at the Camp.

Dan sent photos along the way (you can see his rock pile and forms here), caught some inconsistencies in the text, and showed us a few places where the instructions needed more detail.

And now  it’s done. Here’s Dan’s report:

So we are making compost!

On Tuesday we mortared the stone faces, built the aeration screen and attached the doors. Right away we began our compost program of collecting proper food waste from the camp’s guests to put in the composter.

Thank you for including YMCA Camp Mason in the testing of the Critter Proof Compost. It has been wonderful building something that works with the Earth, looks great and will be around for a long time. I thought the manual was great and you have my feedback from the bits and pieces that were confusing or contradicting to the photo instructions.

Speaking for myself, someone taking on this project with little carpentry OR concrete experience, I had a great time learning more, especially from minor mistakes here and there.

I plan on borrowing the forms we made for the camp composter and building one this summer in the Adirondack mountains of upstate New York on my family’s lake which will be even better.

One thing I noticed when I was building and cutting the doors was that I had bought aluminum too thin (the only sheeting at Home Depot) so sometime next week I will look to buy some new 1/8″ aluminum to replace the doors.

Other than that I think the compost will work great and I’m already looking forward to building a second one better than the first.

We couldn’t ask for a better result.

Dan’s thoughtful suggestions will be incorporated into the last draft of the manual, which we hope to have available by the end of the month, if not sooner.

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Testing Is Underway

the rocks collected for the Critter-Proof Composter at YMCA Camp Mason, New Jersey
The rock pile collected for the Critter-Proof Composter at YMCA Camp Mason, in Hardwick, N.J.

Thank you to everyone who responded to our call for people to test-drive the manual for the Critter-Proof Composter.

We have picked five testers, all wanting to build for different reasons, all in different stages of completion.

So far, rocks have been collected, forms have been built, concrete has been poured. April has not been a cooperative month for concrete work so far, but we’re optimistic that within two weeks we’ll have finished bins to report on.

Steve Tuey is a contractor, based near Rossland, B.C., who wants to add the composter to his product line this summer. Laurie and I were thrilled to get his initial response to the manual: “Very nice work.  This must have taken a bit of time to create. Really professional.”

So far he’s been able to build the forms inside, and reports:  “all the plans to this point work fine. It took two guys working steady with tools prescribed for nine hours.”

Erin McPhee lives in White Rock, B.C., 40 miles south of Vancouver. She would like to compost but doesn’t want to bring back the rodent problem that existed when her family first moved into their house. She knew about the composter in part because her sister Heather lives in Wildwood and has one of Laurie’s original composters, As Erin says, Heather “raves about it.”

Erin’s at the stage of preparing ground and gathering rocks. Her husband Doug will be building the forms.

The bonus? Because she’s an hour’s drive away, I’ll be able to visit and see how it goes.

James Zeman, in Central Texas, only has raccoons to contend with, but he wants a good-looking composter, and loves the look of this one.

Diana Taylor lives near the Vermont New Hampshire border. She wants to build a stone house, and is looking for a smaller project to learn on. Diana is waiting for better weather to begin.

Dan Egan, a Naturalist at Camp Mason, a YMCA camp in western New Jersey, was looking for ways to reduce waste at the camp, without encouraging visits from the local black bears, “the largest problem with compost in New Jersey.”

Right now, Dan is closest to completion.

“Some April wet weather has been hindering progress on the composter but progress regardless is being made,” he wrote two weeks ago.

Critter-Proof Composter forms under construction at Camp Mason
Forms under construction at Camp Mason

“Last week, we assembled the forms, and placed rocks and poured concrete for the compost adjacent to our camp’s vegetable garden. We had to tarp it for the past four days during the rains but I just began this morning taking the forms apart. It looks nice but we still have work to do mixing and mortaring the four faces, building and pouring the concrete for the top and finishing up with the doors.”

So far, so good.

What happens next?

Once we’ve had a few successful builds, I’ll collate whatever improvements our testers suggest and pass them on to Marla Britton, the design part of our team.

She’ll incorporate them into the Critterproof Composter Manual 2.0.

Then, at last, we’ll be able to offer a download of the manual for sale.

Would you like to know as soon as it’s available?

Then add your name and email to our mailing list. (Look for the box in the upper right-hand corner of the page.) It’s easy and free, and you will receive no spam.

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The Critter-Proof Composting manual is finally ready. How to Build a Critter-Proof Composter™ is a complete guide, covering 45 pages, with more than 70 step-by-step color photos. It was professionally written, and includes 16 architectural construction drawings. We’re almost ready to release it. But before we make our sales page go live, there’s just one […]

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The bins just keep coming. There are now 12 Critter-Proof Composters doing the good work of turning kitchen waste into living earth. Almost all of them are in and around Powell River, B.C. Early in October, we built the first Critter-Proof Bin in Greater Vancouver in the City Farmer’s Compost Demonstration Garden. The garden keeps […]
learn more about critter-proof composting

If you care about the environment and want to compost, the real problems come on four legs, in small, medium and large sizes: rats, raccoons and black bears.
The Critter-Proof Composter is made using concrete formwork, faced with stone, with recessed bolts holding aluminum lid, front door and back vent in place. As unique as it looks, this design uses proven methods for producing compost

dan egan, new jersey

I thought the manual was great.
It has been wonderful building something that works with the Earth, looks great and will be around for a long time.
As someone taking on this project with little carpentry OR concrete experience, I had a great time learning more, especially from minor mistakes here and there.
I plan on borrowing the forms we made for the camp composter and building one this summer in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York on my family’s lake, which will be even better.

marylou and david, powell river


We have a vegetable garden, and the compost for that is by the garden. But we wanted something to take care of our kitchen wastes. We put everything in there.
We’ve been using it for more than a year, and it’s amazing. It never seems to get filled up. It’s always working.
I took a couple of wheelbarrow loads out in February, when I was top dressing, and I was really pleased with what I got. It was rich and black and not stinky.

jason, wildwood, b.c.


We get a lot of bears, six or seven last year, because there are hazelnut trees in the yard.
We use the composter all the time, and we put everything in it. Then we cover whatever we put in with dirt, to help it out.
I love that you can put such a wide range of foodstuffs in it, and the critters don’t get at it.

diana woods, powell river


I have a large garden and a lot of composters. This one is not only safe for kitchen wastes, it produces the best compost of all. I think it’s because the stone keeps it at a steady temperature, and in hot weather, it doesn’t dry out around the edges like a plastic bin.

jan lovewell, lund, b.c.


We had a terrible problem with bears and raccoons, with multiple incidents of bears tearing the garbage apart even though we washed out anything that could possibly smell of food.
We didn’t dare compost, even fruit and vegetable wastes.
Now we compost almost everything.
I’ve turned it once with an aerator. The compost is great, and there’s plenty of capacity.