Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Compost Tour

I've never had enough compost to give a tour of it before.  But in these days of a composting toilet, there's plenty!   Lucky you, right?  

Don't worry, I won't show you anything gross.  I think the key with composting like we are doing, is to make it as invisible as possible.  We've had the composting toilet for four months now, and are still happy with the system.  If you remember, our composting toilet is simple - it's a bucket in a box, and the box has a toilet seat on the lid.  The lid of the box is hinged, so the bucket can be easily lifted out.   Since our bathroom has an exterior door, it's easy to carry the bucket outside.  Wood chips are added to the bucket each time it's used, and the bucket gets emptied every day into one of our big compost bins and then rinsed out.  The big bins are stashed at the back of the back yard, near the tree line.  

The brown bin on the far left is just an upside down plastic trash can with the bottom cut to make a lid/flap.  The black bin is an official composting bin that a friend gave us.  It's a nice one, with air vents, a door on the side, and vented locking lid.  The green one on the right was recently given to us by another friend (apparently we have lots of friends who think they want to compost their kitchen scraps, but don't stick with it) and it's made from a big trash bin provided by the city trash service.  All of these are open on the bottom so the compost has contact with the soil.  I like that they are animal proof, so we don't have to worry about critters or chickens spreading the compost around.    I do think our wood chips would break down faster if they were more exposed to the elements though. 

We've experimented with the type of wood chips to use, and the placement of the bins, and found that even though it's a longer walk to the bins when they are far from the house, we like keeping the compost tucked away where we don't have to walk near it when we are in the backyard.  The only time we ever had a stinky bin was when we dumped a fifty pound bag of moldy chicken feed in the bin.  Pshew!  That was the last time we put the bin close to the house.  

We filled the first bin with wood chips and moldy chicken food (the black bin), but then decided we wanted to move the bin farther from the house.  What to do with the contents of the bin?  We decided to just pick up the bin, let the contents remain on the ground, put a fence around it that was chicken proof, and cover the whole pile with some straw.  Now that these chips are exposed to the rain and sun, I think they will break down faster.  I don't want to try to spread it around my fruit trees or yard until I'm sure there are no bits of toilet paper.  This could take a year or more, I think.  We'll see.  

We've been buying our wood chips from Tractor Supply, which is where we go to get chicken food anyway, and they come in big square bags that hold about five and half cubic feet for around five bucks.  I think we're working on our fourth bag, so it's working out to be one bag per month, and we aren't stingy with the chips.  We tried cedar chips because we thought they might smell nice, but found that we prefer the cheaper pine chips - the fine ones.  The big flaky ones work too, but I think it may take them longer to decompose.  

We don't put kitchen scraps or yard waste in the same compost bins as the wood chips from the toilet.  Right now I'm using the piece of metal barrel that we cut from the top of the rocket mass stove barrel as the kitchen scrap compost.  It's like a buffet for the chickens.  They can get in there a scratch around for tasty bits, but don't spread it around as much as when I just dumped it in a pile.  

The kitchen scrap compost is looking very nice, if I do say so myself!  I think I could lift up the metal barrel, and easily scoop up the compost.  

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