Welcome to the journey,the tale and the saga of our Suburban Homestead.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

What about the compost? Asked a follower.

  





    In my posting about headlines a comment was left asking "What about the compost", I /we are not the worlds greatest composters but here I go sharing my lazy way of composting.

    We compost here,we put everything that we can into the compost bins,which is part of why it takes us 6 weeks to fill our garbage can.But we have a few flaws in our system,neglect,weather and 7 chickens who think the bigger back yard compost bins are their place to snack and dust bathe.

   We have in the back 3 bins Chance built out of pallets,why use pretty new wood for something that is just grubby. They look very much like these  but with a half sheet of plywood over the top that is supposed to help keep the rain out.

   The first bin is for fresh compost.We put in most of our kitchen veg and fruit scraps but during the warm months when the garden is growing some scraps are fed to the chickens who are left in their coop/run more.We also compost coffee filters and grounds,bits of paper,dryer lint (there is some debate over dryer lint not being a good idea but so far we have not had any problems doing so.) tea bags,the gunk out of the kitchen sink (you know food bits ect from washing up.) and egg shells.When the chicken coop is cleaned out the poop filled bedding goes in here as well.We don't compost meat or dairy because it will stink and attract rodents. Sometimes the chickens will get the dairy and the meat goes to our two dogs.We also put in yard debris that is not too woody. We have a whole other system for wood and woody things I'll get to another time.This bin is the one the chickens think is their snack bin.

   The second bin is for the half finished compost.This bin looks still a bit chunky and you can still tell what some of it was.
 
   The last bin is for finished compost that has been sifted,it looks like nice dark soil and smells good and earthy. This is the bins the hens like to have their dust bath in.

   So like I said we have short comings when it comes to composting.The first bin should be a mix of soil/manure layered with a green/fresh layer and a layer of dry/brown stuff.You then toss it like a salad and try to remember to turn it often and water it when it is looking dry. We have most of that,at least the tossed salad part.The watering never happens,we live in wet Oregon,the rain does that.We should turn it more often than we do.

   Every now and again we remember to move the compost around.You kind of go about this is a backwards way. First you need to sift what was the half finished stuff into the finished bin.With the finished bin you can keep adding to it and use it as you need it.Now you need to move the new half finished out of the first bin and into the second one.Leaving the first bin more empty for new green stuff.

   There are two schools of thought when it comes to composting,hot and quick or cold and slow. We are more of the cold and slow composters.Having the quick hot compost takes more effort,turning more often and watering.We have read that hot composting in our cool wet environment takes work.The coolness keeps things from heating up and the wet leaches out nutrients in the soil and washes away what you are trying to make.It can be done,we just choose not to.

   We are also fighting a loosing battle with the hens over the compost bins.Chickens are smart and they have found their way into the bins no matter what we try to do to block them.I can't blame the hens from loving the compost bins,there is some good food in there and a nice dry spot to bathe.They poop in the bins which adds to the whole composting system.They dig around which means we don't turn things as often.It makes them fat,happy,healthy,egg producing lovelies.They have become part of our composting and in their own way a key part to the eco-system here.The chickens are why I don't have a photo of our own compost bins,they scratch and fling all kinds of things out of the bins,leaving the area looking messy. We tend to just put it all back into the compost bins when we need to.Most of the time the area looks like a teenagers room,not a pretty photo at all.

  At one point in time we used one of the black plastic beehive shaped recycling bins you can buy or sometimes get for free.Here's a link with an image. We found that for the scale of what we do here it was not big enough and did not break things down as fast as we thought it would. We moved the bin to our front yard on the far side of the yard.We use this bin for garden waste from that side of the yard.Since this area is  at the opposite end of the yard from the big bins we figured why haul things all the way around when we could just do the composting right there. As we say here,why make work out of a job. These bins are neat and tidy to look at and if you are composting on a smaller scale than we are that work just fine.

    We do use the finished compost around the garden.Before we plant we add a thick layer of the compost to be worked into the garden soil. Over the  growing season we will add a top dressing of the compost every now and again.

   I should add here there is another way I compost,growing up my Mom called it green composting.This is where you dig a  hole or trench in an unused garden spot and add in some chopped up green stuff.Then you fill in with soil.The green stuff will compost right there where it is most needed without the loss of nutrients.Be sure to chop what you are composting into small bits,it speeds things up.

   Composting happens here in a slow paced,neglected and mildly battled for way. Although not a ton of effort is put into it we feel it is important for environmental and economic reasons. I don't think we are truly lazy about it,we just go about it in a slow way that eventually gives us nice soil and big fat eggs.I guess you could say it is one of the areas of Hrafinstaad that just happens without much thought.

  Things are moving along here garden wise,planting has been happening and planning as well.I am worried that we are going to have another growing season like last years but only time will tell. It is still wet and cold here,hopefully the seeds in the ground don't just rot.
  We have discovered that we have an Owl who hangs out in our apple tree.The first evening I heard the Owl I was locking the hens into the coop for the night.They were in the coop early and extra quiet so they must have heard the Owl before I came out.I heard the Owl last night too,making me extra diligent in locking the coop earlier than normal.It is awesome to think there is an Owl here in our neighborhood but chicken safety is important too.The hens have been roosting way up high on the top roost bar and as far away from the door as they can get.The coop is secure even with the door open,the Owl wouldn't be able to get to them when they are up in the rafters of the coop.

  The photo at the top of the page is my favorite view right now,it is looking out the window by our front door towards the front walkway.


Rois

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