Wednesday, October 11, 2006

I Have Compost Issues

When I saw the photo of Beo's compost, I had this huge stab of er, um, compost envy. And the reason why is that due to some unknown piece of Goddess' plan, Tara and I just suck at making compost. We are very, very good at making worms happy, but our attempts at taking food scraps from the stainless bowl that sits by the sink in the house to a small can outside the back door, to a pile in the garden has, for almost 3 years just been a totally gross, smell, slimy mush pile of rotting food refuse.

Maybe it's because the ground we started with is clay and rock and very unkind and there was nothing like topsoil to make the kitchen detrius become, nice friable compost. We'd thrown grass clippings onto the pile and turned them in to no good effect. We have put weeds and trimmings in as well, again to no good effect. We even took bagged compost that we bought and mixed it in, hoping for that to do the trick. That didn't work either. But as I said, it made the worms very happy. And the worms eat lots of rotten food and multiply so all our beds are writhing with lovely earthworms.

But that does nothing to solve the issue of sustainability when you are making mulch beds that are layers of straw, horse manure and compost and you are buying your compost in 3 cubic foot bags for almost $6.00 apiece.

So recently a neighbor had a garage sale and we bought this big beauty made by Enviro Cycle Systems. She said she paid over $200 for it and just wasn't using it. We got it for $40. Tara took the black trash can up into the woods and filled it with oak and madrone leaves and forest duff for brown material, as it is the dry season here and no one mows grass in the dry months. You mow your grass here in June when it is still somewhat green and that's it until next spring. No more mowing. The deer graze what's left and no one waters their wild grasses because we all pay for our water and why would you water or run a gasoline engine over a fire hazard? Hence, there are no grass clippings from the summer through fall.

Back to the Enviro Cycle composter. My neighbor said you need to spin it around a couple of times a day. I did that. We would dump the kitchen container and follow that with a bowl full of leaves and duff. Spin the composter and spin it again later for good measure. There are holes on the opposite side of the hatch that allows the liquifying food scraps to drain into the base of the composter, making a lovely smelling compost tea.

We attempted our first load. I don't know what I expected, but I didn't expect this extremely heavy mass of muck which was what we got with the first go through. Yesterday, it was so heavy and hard to turn, that I just knocked it off its base and rolled it down the slight grade to the huge pile of horse manure that we have just rotting quietly behind the back fence of the garden. I dug down in the older pile and lo! Beautiful soil! A summer in the sun had broken down the pile that had been dumped in the late spring. Under the clods on top is beautiful planting mix. And I know it is perfect for planting because it's this year's version of what I grew my entire lower garden in this year: Decomposed horse manure, Arabian horse manure at that, and straw and the aforementioned 3 cu' bags of soil building compost. But I digress.....I dumped the composter's aromatic contents into the hole I had dug and covered it with this lovely manure. And thought I would try again.

But I am hoping that Beo has some sage compost advice for me, because the raccoons have already gotten into the pile I buried in the manure and I'm already plagued by raccoons and don't need to be encouraging them with tasty rotting food scraps. And the reason I bolded and italicized the words huge pile of horse manure is quite simply that I am green with envy and know that he will envy my manure pile.

And here is some of the beauty that grows out of almost pure Arabian horse manure. Mother Nature is my bomb!


Blogger Mia said...

He will be totally jealous. Unfortunately, I have no idea how to help you. The only thing I can think of is that "firestarter" that they sell for getting compost piles going. Fortunately, I'm sure Beo will have 101 ideas for you. :)

5:33 PM  
Blogger Beo said...

Huh! That is a stumper Maddy!

I will post on The Future is Insight tonight, and will also include some references.

5:45 PM  
Blogger Mia said...

Beo compos(T)ed for about an hour last night and then Blogger ate his post. :( Watch for it though!

9:06 AM  
Blogger Beo said...

Right so I had one of my signature rambling posts answering your questions. Then I angered the Blog God and she ate it.

2 words in your description stick out: 'mucky' and 'smelly'. Smelly means you needs either more carbon or more air-probably both. Mucky leads me to beleive that it is too wet. You materials should feel like a wrung out sponge-drier and it goes dormant-wetter and it goes anaerobic and stinks.

To answer the issues Get a copy of Rodale's Book of Composting from a library-if Composting was a religion (maybe it should be.. .hmmm) this would be its Bible.

4:07 PM  

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