Monday, January 11, 2010

Imagine a mountain of compost. . .

I’ve been exploring the blogosphere recently. I’ve searched for blogs of interest, ones that are related to and address some of the topics in which I’m interested: homesteading and agrarian objectives primarily. Using Live Bookmarks in Firefox, I read several blogs regularly, several recent additions. There are people doing some amazing and interesting things out there. It’s inspiring to read what others are doing.

In “My Blog List” in the right hand column of this blog, you can find most of the blogs that I regularly read. I still have to add a few that I just found yesterday. There are only so many blogs that I think I can realistically keep up with. I don’t know how many that is for sure, but I’m confident that I’ll find out eventually.

One of the blogs I just found, Farm Livin’ is the life for me, had a link to the writer’s husband’s posts about composting at Homesteading Today. I’m still reading what he wrote; his posts are really good. They are worth taking the time read. I like his radical approach to life. His composting endeavors are incredible (check out the photos of his compost piles here). A lot of good information.

My composting has been limited and somewhat sporadic. We had a compost pile when we lived in Bloomington, Illinois, but it was almost always deficient in carbon materials. We got leaves from the city and horse manure from a neighbor when we lived there. I could have done much more. We had a compost pile the first couple of years we lived here, and then we started giving all the household scraps to the chickens, ours or my parents’. I’ve had a compost pile or two near the barn created from cleaning out soiled bedding. We’ve used all we’ve produced.

I’ve also hauled manure from the local stock yards at different times, and I had three dump truck loads of it delivered last fall. I really need to do more with that because it’s a free resource, except for paying the guy who hauls it in his dump truck. If there’s someone at the stockyard running the Bobcat, he’ll load my truck for free. I need to bring home a lot more of that stuff to compost. I’m also thinking I need to acquire a whole lot more carbon materials. You’ve got to have the right balance between carbon and nitrogen for good composting.

Shortly after we moved here, we used a composting toilet for a few months, employing the principles found in Joseph Jenkins’ Humanure Handbook. I got fresh sawdust from a local sawmill and constructed a cabinet with a toiled seat fitted over a five-gallon bucket. It worked quite well, but we switched back to a regular toilet because of the convenience (it was a long way to the compost pile which was down the hill, and I was the only one carrying the buckets to empty them).

My current composting system involves processing dried organic matter with a machine that compresses it into elongated cubes. I then run the dried organic matter through digestive processors a little each day during the winter. The processors make a concentrated and enriched product which is placed on and mixed into carbon material in the barn. I add more carbon material at about the same rate that the dried organic matter is processed. This is allowed to build over the winter until the spring when I move the processors out onto green fields at which time they will harvest and process organic matter, depositing the nutrient enriched product directly on the field. Once those processors are working on fresh, green matter, I’ll employ some aerators who’ll work for a few hundred pounds of grain to stir up the accumulated mass in the barn and ready it for distribution on the garden and fields.

Sounds impressive, right? I guess I could’ve just said I have cows eating hay and pooping out good stuff in the barn right now, and that I’ll have pigs work it up in order to eat the grain I’ve put in it. As I showed in my previous post, I’m also using a horse to process organic matter and contribute to the fertility of the soil. I’m glad to keep the material from the farm on the farm, but the land here could use a lot more brought in. Most of what I take off of the hay fields isn’t going back on to them; it’s being put somewhere else after processing. It would be nice to have a larger system so that more could be added on all the fields.

One of the things that limits my ability to haul in or have hauled in material from off the farm is winter. Not because it’s cold. Rather, the places I have to stockpile material and build mountains of compost are all in the bottom, and during the winter, except when it’s frozen (which is only sometimes), it’s muddy. It gets wet and stays that way. I can usually get in and out with my truck, but it makes ruts and slides around a bit. Forget about having a larger truck get in there – most drivers don’t want to get stuck there, and I don’t blame them.

Anyway, reading about Forerunner’s composting endeavors has got me thinking. I have a lot to learn. I’m glad there are others sharing what they’ve learned and what they’re doing.


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