"And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress and keep it". Genesis 2:15

Friday, June 26, 2009

How to Make Beautiful Compost

Yippee! I finally made some beautiful compost! 

I recently discovered that to make beautiful compost you need a 12 year old girl.

For years I have had the shame of being compostedly challenged. There my dad was making beautiful compost seemingly effortlessly, bringing it to me by the tub full, and there I was turning horrid mountains of moldy too dry stuff that never turned into compost. My composting experience was a lot of sweaty, hot, back breaking work, and in the end my pile just sat there and refused to decompose.

When my father past-away my mom gave me his old homebuilt rotating barrel system -Two 55 gallon drums supported on a wooden frame, with wheels underneath the drums to allow you to turn them. There is a hatch cut into one side with a door attached with hinges. 

For a few years, yes years!, I diligently tried to make compost in those barrels. Ok, add green stuff (fresh vegetable scraps, weeds, green grass), add brown stuff (old leaves, old grass), make sure it is moist (not too wet, not too dry), and turn drums every day. 

Actually I wasn't all that diligent. I always seemed to have more dry brown stuff than fresh green stuff. I could never remember to go out there and turn those barrels. Plus those drums were not easy to turn. They were very heavy and a few turns was about all I could manage. I could never get the moisture level just right. The barrels were either too dry or sopping wet.

Well those barrels ended up kinda neglected. One day I noticed they looked a little lop-sided. The stuff in the barrels had not decomposed, but the wooden structure had been eaten by termites! 

Ok. Reorganize. Throw those barrels on the ground. Remove wooden structure and cinder blocks supports. Hmmm, these barrels roll easily across the ground! Maybe I wont give up, maybe I'll try one more time. 

Enter 12 year old girl who would rather roll barrels along the ground then weed the family garden. Claire loved rolling the barrels for me. She rolled one barrel all the way up and down the yard everyday. (The other barrel has volunteer Black Soldier Fly  larvae in it, and did not get rolled. I have plans for those larvae.) I added brown and green stuff, and checked on the water periodically. After a while when it looked good and decomposed I stopped adding anything, and just had Claire roll. It looked pretty good but was this compost? It still had quite a bit of undecomposed stuff in there. My dad always sifted his compost, maybe I need to sift this. 

I rolled the barrel into the shade. Sat up a chair, a big plastic tote to hold the compost, and the sifter Garry made for me. I started sifting and the girls came over to help. The stuff in the barrel had reduced in size so that it was half full. Out of that I got about a third of a big tote of beautiful, delicious compost. Yes delicious! (No I didn't eat it but my plants will love it.) In addition to the beautiful compost, we picked out about a cup of Black Soldier Fly larvae that I didn't know were in there. We will give these to my chicken raising friend. The not-all-the-way-decomposed stuff got put back in the barrel, and we are ready to start all over again!

Now just look at that picture of beautiful compost held by the lovely Anna. Doesn't that look delicious?

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