On the kiln sitter  perhaps I was just too used to using cones and was reticent to rely on the kiln sitter.  If I can have use of a kiln in my facility,  I sure as heck would work with the kiln sitter. or else use cones to make sure all is OK>    On the other hand,  if a computerized controller is feasible and practical,  then I'd go with that.   I like to  check on a kiln when it's near end of firing..just in case the controller doesn't shut off kiln at proper time, even if that is rare these days.   But does anyone -know if the computerized controllers are compatible with  older kilns?  I'd like some feedback before  kiln technie comes here so that staff here knows about a possible option to old kiln sitter.     
     On using sawdust for a primitive kiln:  the last little kiln I built I never actually fired beforehand but  charcoal fired  it the first time in the green state, and it worked fine,so maybe it would be worth a try with that  using sawdust.    Thanks for idea. I usually use heavily grogged clay and added vermiculite  or perlite..)   Chopping up straw with any tool available took a long time.  I had not thought of tree leaves. or pine needles, though.     My middle name has been experimentation for 50 years as a potter, but at this point I appreciate help from others  since I never know how much time I have left for playing in clay.  Tempus fugit.