Cast and Crew

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Black Gold

The weather was cooperative enough yesterday that I was able to get out and toss some compost. This is the three bin composter we built last summer, and it's finally being put to some good use. The bin on the far left is a storage area for the last of the compost we ordered from Cedar Grove last year, for which Aimee has still not forgiven me. I bought about ten yards. Do you have any idea how many wheelbarrow loads that is? Anyway, the front yard got completely re-landscaped with the bulk of that, and a little was left over for future projects. I'll be building a few more raised beds this spring, so it'll get put to good use soon. The remaining scraps, trimmings, weeds, and branches in the fall were thrown carelessly into the bin on the right, where they proceeded to fester during my period of apathy. Last week we added chicken poo and bedding, tossed everything into the center bin, and threw a blue camping tarp over the top. It worked. Yesterday afternoon, I took my trusty garden fork out of the shed (which is the building directly behind the compost bins) and turned that pile of gold over once more. The trick to hot composting is getting the heat up and turning it weekly. I'm usually lazy about this process, but joining others in the One Small Change campaign changed my attitude. Plus, we have so much chicken poo to deal with, there's no other way to get rid of it all.

There it is, steamy and beautiful. My shoulders are sore this morning, but it feels good to know that I can, indeed, have some success at composting.

What's the difference between cold and hot composting? In cold composting, the pile of material is left to decay on its own, and you don't turn it. Let nature do her thing. The downside is that cold composting can take all year. Don't expect to use that pile in your garden until the following spring. If you're lazy (like I am), then this method might work well for you. Hot composting, on the other hand, likes attention. It can be turned over weekly or every few days. Weekly turning gives you the final result in one to three months, while turning every few days can give you a finished product in as little as four weeks flat. It's called hot composting because the internal temperature of your pile can reach 110 to 160 degrees. This high heat kills many weeds and weed seeds, making your pile safer to distribute onto young plants and seedlings in your garden. Would you like to learn more about composting methods? If you live in the Puget Sound region, the Seattle Tilth society provides classes throughout the year on this topic, as well as a whole host of other cool things. You can view their list of upcoming classes here.

The girls helped me get a little work done yesterday. You can see the lovely weeding job they did here behind the house. Their technique is extremely effective. They scratch the soil until it loosens up, then peck and nibble at green things and bugs they find. Sorry, worms. I want you in my garden, but the chickens have other plans for you. After watching this hard work for a few minutes, I decided to carry on with my idea to employ the hens where their work will be most effective in our long term landscaping goals. The side of the backyard next to the garage was planted by previous owners. They installed paving stones and raised beds, and it appears that they planted spinach and potatoes. As a matter of fact, we ate some of those taters our very first summer here. While I understand the desire to harness the potential of any yard, the spot we're talking about receives minimal sunlight, and it's trapped between a building and a fence. Ultimately, we'd like to pave the whole thing in with paving stones, throw in a gate on each side, and use the space to store the garbage and recycling bins.

I began a simple shelter for the girls last night as the sun was setting. It's made entirely from leftover scraps of wood and metal, so it cost nothing. Yay, recycling! Here it is without the roof. Today I'll be making a secondary nest box, again using scraps, that the girls can deposit eggs in if they feel the need. I'll also fence in this patch of weeds to keep the chickens in and focused on their new job.

The branch on the front of their home-away-from-coop should be a nice roosting pole, and they'll be sheltered from sun and rain, should the weather change abruptly.

Chicken tractor be damned! With uneven ground and restricted clearances all over our front and back yards, this shelter was the best solution I could come up with to keep the girls safe and happy when outside of their main coop. We'll find out today if it works.

1 comment:

  1. Great entry! Full of information about composting, which is something we all should do. We take our pooh from the various critters and make large piles that we allow to break down then use either on our garden or on the pastures.

    Although quite a lot of our household scraps get tossed to the chickens and not in a compost bin. =)


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