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Archive for November 25th, 2006

Compost

It has been a very busy day at The Havens.  We went out and fired up the compost grinder and processed the entire pile of Stuff that was needing to be ground up. 

It was  a pretty impressive pile.  I’d say it was about ten feet wide and over twenty feet long, and about three feet high in the middle.  Of course, the size was slightly exaggerated by the fact that last year when we ground the yard waste, there was a pile of twigs, leaves, small branches and nuts from a wood gathering project last year left behind, and that was underneath this year’s collection. 

See, Jim meets people at the liquor store.  Last year, there was a guy who was  a tree trimmer in.  He was doing a project in town, and his truck had broken down.  He had a pile of big branches he had trimmed from some elms, oaks, black walnuts and hickorys that were around a house.  He noticed that Jim had a truck, and asked Jim if we would like the wood that had resulted from his trimming job.  

Part of his bid on the job was the removal of the waste, and without a truck he had a problem.  The only caveat was, if we wanted the firewood, we also had to haul off the trimmings because he couldn’t leave it at the place.  To sweeten the deal, he cut the firewood to stove length for us, and then had his crew there to help us load all the branches in our truck when it was time to get rid of that.  We ended up with almost two cords of firewood, and a large pile of burnable/compostable junk.

The problem is, black walnut has a toxin in it that inhibits the growth of plants, so we didn’t really want to grind up all those leaves and twigs for mulch in case it would act that way on the garden.  So we just left all the junk in a pile for the winter, and in the spring when I started cleaning the cat tail reeds out of the pond and the prairie coneflower stems out of the bird garden, I just threw them on top of that pile of bark and twigs and whatnot.  Then I added raspberry canes, all the stuff that came out of the vegetable garden all year, the prunings from the peony, iris, day lily, daffodil, yarrow, chrysanthemum, sedum, rose, flowering almond, forsythia, lilac, etc. etc. etc.

So that huge pile got all ground up today.  Jim ran the grinder, while I built the compost piles.  In addition to the stuff we were grinding, we also have a pile of about 16 yards of partially composted steer manure we bought from a local dairy. We have been collecting grass clippings all summer, and there is a large supply of leaves from this fall.  I built the piles with layers of all four ingredients, laced with liberal dousings of water.

Our compost cooks in the area behind the privacy fence just to the right of the gate.  Back there is what I call the compost condominium:  a complex of six compost bins, each about a meter square, all in a nice line, with slats to divide the bins and a roof over the whole thing. 

I have found that the roof is actually a detriment.  It would be better if it could rain onto the compost piles.  Oh well, we thought it would be better to have them covered after our experience in Bremerton, Washington.  There, it rained so much the compost bin drowned, soured, and refused to compost.  It doesn’t rain that much here, it turns out.  We are frequently too busy to water the compost, and then it stops composting because it is too dry. 

 Compost is like Goldilocks.  The moisture level has to be Just Right for it to perform to optimum.

I got four piles built today.  I could have made the other two, except that those two bins have completed compost resting in them that needs to be moved to the garden.   While I was finishing off that job, Jim moved the old, partially composted leftovers from last year over to the back of the root cellar mound.  If they inhibit the weed growth because of the black walnut, well, Hooah!

So, manana I will probably empty those two bins and mulch my flower beds in front of the house.  Or not.  I may be too sore to move tomorrow!

Anyway, right now we have the left over branches that did not compost in that pile of junk, plus some prunings from the yard waiting to burn.  So, I’m getting the matches now,  and we are going to have a little bonfire tonight.

Ta ta for now.

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