A long held dream of mine has finally come to fruition.
Of course, Jim and I have always had compost piles. The first one was a very informal affair out at the back corner of the garden I created in San Francisco. When Jim got transferred and we moved to Bremerton, Washington, we loaded that compost pile into a 33 gallon garbage can and transported it with us. I could not bear to leave it behind, because it contained the remains of all the bouquets that Jim had sent me during his year long deployment to the Middle East.
This may be the only compost pile on record that was moved across state lines due to sentimental reasons.
When we moved to the Havens location, almost the first thing Jim built was a series of bins in which to make compost. The compost area was always a busy spot, and quite often it was unlovely.
There are six bins for compost, and then the bench area at the end which was where we store tools, and all sorts of things too numerous to mention. As you can see in this picture, there is a large pile of stuff that needs to dry enough to be run through the compost grinder, which is the tool underneath the black rubber cover. To the left you see two compost tumblers which are useful if you don’t have a lot of compost to make. With two acres, we generate a lot of material; much more than those sweet little tumblers can manage.
Here is a shot of the bins in action.
The six bins were just lovely for about a year and a half. Then the row of elm trees behind them in the picture discovered them. It became a trial to turn the compost as it was making due to the invasion of elm roots. Jim poured shallow concrete floors in a fruitless attempt to discourage the elms. This worked for about five minutes, after which the elms discovered they could just come up over the edge of the concrete and still invade the compost.
We moved operations off to the back of the property for a while, building the compost piles out on sheets of left over pond liner and/or black plastic. The tree roots more or less stayed out, but the bermuda grass would creep over the edge of what ever barrier we put down. And I can tell you that neither of those substances stood up to pitch fork tines worth a damn, and so it wasn’t long before the tree roots would find a way into the compost piles through the convenient rents in the base.
I longed for a compost area like they have at the Missouri Botanical Garden, with concrete floors, walls to push against and a front end loader to turn the piles.
Finally, after a certain amount of negotiation as to size and location, we decided to have a concrete pad poured upon which we could pile compost. We desired it to be done by professionals so that it would have a little slant and water would drain off, but not too fast. Also, hopefully, if a contractor and his men did it, the surface would be smooth enough to easily turn the piles.
This would have been so much more easily accomplished if it had not started raining a couple of weeks ago, making the idea of bringing a redimix truck into the backyard a potential nightmare of ruts and stuck trucks. So we had to wait for the weather, and the contractor got the flu, so we had to wait for him to get well.
A couple of days ago, all the stars came into alignment and the waiting forms and wire reinforcement received concrete. It was polished and smoothed, and now, voila!
I should have taken a picture of the old bins, too. They have been cleaned and organized and are now being used as storage for the various bird annoying devices we have created to keep the lovely avian tenants of the place out of the apples and strawberries. Also, the tools have been organized and it all looks just very nice. Another day.
The forms are gone now, and in a couple of days the concrete will have cured enough that I can move the waiting piles that are now out by the root cellar onto the pad. I am very excited!
So, of course, there was some amusement to be had while the concrete was being poured and finished.
This is a view of the corner of the pad during the time while it was still wet and being finished. If you look very closely, you will see a little black speck on the edge of the concrete right about the middle of the picture.
This is what it is.
This is a mud dauber wasp. They are always looking for wet mud with which to build their nests. If they can’t find mud, they pick up dirt and take it somewhere there is moisture and create mud. Apparently, this wet concrete was the Best Mud Ever, because the whole time the pad was curing, as long as it was wet enough to pick up concrete, those little wasps were busy making beautiful little balls of concrete and flying off with it to their building site.
I really like this shot, because just above the wasp you can see the area where she collected her last ball of “mud”. That is the mark of her jaws in the concrete. I tried to follow her to her nest so I could see her impregnable concrete reinforced nest, but I lost sight of her. I think she was building inside the place where the soffit of the sauna is loose.
The contractor and his workers were fairly amused by the fact that I was taking pictures of the wasps and chasing them around. But these guys have been here before. They were the ones who fixed the beams under the house, and when they found the big black snake wrapped around the hot water line, were amazed that the housewife/owner was very concerned that they NOT hurt the snake. So they already know I am odd.
I compounded my oddness by turning my attention from the busy mud daubers to the goldenrod by the sauna, which was being used by very happy bees. This one has an impressive collection of pollen on her back legs.
In other news, the Monarch butterflies are migrating through right now. I find them on my asters, and they seem to like the sedums too.
I wish them happy trails and plenty of food plants on their journey to Mexico.