Composting

Posted: 19th February 2013 by Joe Prepper in On The Homestead, Permaculture, Projects

IMG_0749 (Medium)

Wood chip and rabbit manure compost.

Like all great and wondrous things, composting has its devout advocates. These range from the novice house scrap and leaf pile collector all the way up to the composting elites, tending like shepherds their massive piles of steamy black gold. Within those ranks of followers there are many different ideologies, some complicated enough to fill volumes of ancient tomb sized books, and some so simple and basic it’s hard to believe they could still produce the black crumbly goodness  that gives seeds a head start on life..

The abundant nuances of creating fertile dirt from previously tossed aside or ignored organic materials are at the heart of many age old debates. Ask a group of composting gardeners what the perfect carbon/nitrogen ratio is or what can be safely added to a pile and your likely to get some very strongly opinionated answers. It could be argued that all of these debated details work to over complicate the simple act of nature. The argument could also be made that the plethora of ideas and available information work to help us understand the various interactions at work enabling us to  create the most optimal environment for success.  One thing is for sure, you have plenty of company and a green thumbs up from your plants with whatever path you chose to follow, as long as your end result is improving tilth.

In retrospect, it’s hard to imagine traveling very far down the homesteading path without recognizing the almost magical properties of healthy soil. The ability to grow your own food is such an invaluable skill it is inevitable that those seeking to carve out a life of self sufficiency would eventually catch the composting bug. There were many times while reading an article or post, that I found myself questioning the author’s mental stability as they rambled on about fungi and core temperatures. I may not have recognized the seed being planted in my head, but  I’ll never forget reading an article by a self proclaimed composting engineer “extremist” where he gave a thumbs up to people needing a place to dispose of their animal carcasses. I was inspired! Now I only wonder how long it will be before I myself can get people to drop off their dead animals and yard waste debris at my house so I can start myself a real compost pile!

I would not begin to try an expand on the tons of good information that can be found on the subject, but rather will add a simple thought that can be true about many things: A small action is often times more inspiring than a huge idea. Just start piling up yard waste, table scraps and maybe the occasional appropriately sized decomposing body……eventually you’ll get dirt, guaranteed.

Here is my attempt at action:

IMG_0714 (Medium)

The bin backs up to the chicken yard. I added some used tin to the back.

 

 

IMG_0205 (Medium)

Three bin system. I still need to add the front removable slats.

We wanted the compost bin to be as close to the chicken coop and rabbit hutches as possible so I used the front side of the chicken/rabbit yard as the rear of my compost bins.

 

 

These pics were taken after we removed the first batch of compost. We started with a layer of dried leaves, then added the rabbit manure and straw waste . Top that with another layer of dried leaves. Occasionally we add some kitchen waste covered with more leaves and hay. I left some of the first finished  batch on bottom to “seed” the next batch though I cannot say for sure how helpful this is. The plan is to move it from the large bin (starting material)  to the next smaller bin as I turn. The pile shrinks as it breaks down so each bay is a little smaller than the previous bay.

 

Steve overseeing the compost turning.

Steve overseeing the compost turning.

The very first thing the chickens did when we let them out of the yard was run straight for the compost area. I have not added the removable front slats so they had a great time scratching and digging through the pile of goodies. My wife is completely in love with “her girls”. Anyone considering getting chickens I would say go for it…but that is a whole other post.