08 February 2008

Adventures in Composting

Today was the day for rotating the leaves in our chicken composter. With the aid of our feathered friends we were able to collect all of the scratched and shat upon leaves into an impressive mountain of rich compost. As we said in the last update, we're guessing that the first string of warm weather to roll through will roast this stuff into black gold.

We thought that we may have lost a lot of mass from the months the leaves spent in the pen, but the material we gathered today was able to heap over four yard cart loads. Once it was all out, the pen looked a bit barren. I can't wait until we plant rye in there; it should grow like crazy. In the mean time, we have about twenty bags of salvaged leaves to fill the pen at least two more times. We'll probably post on the refill tomorrow. With the weather warming, we shouldn't have to keep them in the pen as long as the first go around.

I must say that the cache of compost from this first haul was impressive. We have five compost bins and all of them were filled to where it was running out the front. I'm sure we'll use it all once the garden gets going this spring. The compost we get from rounds two and three will serve as a refresher for the garden in the summer and fall.


mom said...

That stuff looks awesome better than anything you could buy. And I love the 'shat' upon comment. Very cool Mom

Katie said...

That's awesome that you guys can create that amount of compost on your own plot. Won't the chickens eat all of the rye seeds before they sprout?

kate said...

You're lucky with the chicken compost! Your soil will be rich and productive ...

Have you ever heard of the Bokashi Bin ?

Farmgirl_dk: said...

I'm so impressed - that stuff is going to be potent! Now seems to be an excellent time for me to ask you two whether you can share any tips on getting a compost pile started? I'm looking for the most basic of basics (having not done this before)...from selecting an appropriate location to whether there's a need to add a compost 'cocktail' of some sort to get it going. Give the new girl a leg up, would you? :-)

That first picture is hilarious :-). In the overall pecking order of your flock, was the hen on the mountain by chance the self-appointed alpha female?

Meg said...

Mom, maybe we'll go into business selling compost to the neighbors.

Katie, we're going to evict the chickens for a while and make them hang out in the yard, in their not-yet-built mobile pen. That way when we stick them back in their pen for the fall, they'll have green stuff to eat in there. You're right, they would totally destroy the seeds the second we thew them down, otherwise.

Kate, I never heard of that before, but I just googled it. It sounds like a worm bin minus the worms! Pretty cool, especially for people who don't have room outside for compost.

Danni! How's the dial-up connection treating you?

Compost is easy--don't let those 500-page tomes in the bookstore freak you out. You can stick a compost pile anywhere, though someplace that gets sun and has decent drainage is preferable. If you build a bin (easy--ours are just metal stakes with wire fence around three sides) it should be about 3 feet by 3 feet. Anything you throw in it will eventually compost, but you'll get compost quicker if you've got brown (high in carbon--usually leaves, or straw) plus something "hot" (high in nitrogen--grass clippings, kitchen scraps, chicken shit). You want more carbon than nitrogen, and if you stir up the pile with a garden fork or something once in a while, you'll speed up the whole process.

Last year we piled up a whole yard's worth of leaves and let them sit, and we got compost. We mixed food and grass and dead garden plants, and we got compost. We fed our kitchen scraps to the chickens and let them crap all over our leaves, and we got great compost. You really can't go wrong. Just stick a little bucket for fruit/veggie scraps and eggshells under your kitchen sink and dump it in a pile, and throw yard junk on top of it.

Actually, you got your analysis of the chicken on the pile completely wrong :P That's the lowest hen on the pole and we stuck her up there because she's the most compliant and well-behaved for photo ops. She stood up there for a minute, but then she freaked and ran away.

mom said...

If you're selling, I'm buying!! I think the blueberries and raspberries and grapes would do well with a shot of those nutrients. I'm glad that Katie asked the chicken/rye seed question - I was wondering about that. Mom

steven said...

You're going to have a happy garden come Spring.

Cindy S said...

Wow, I am so impressed. I have been watching your compost experiment with interest. It makes me want to pen my chickens up and find some leaves. My free range chicken experiment has had mixed reviews but I am hoping that the spring will bring less ticks this year.

molly said...

Hey kelly we have been doing something very similar, check out the difference on our site if you get time :)
BTW, love your blog :)

Kelly said...

Steven, We hope so. There are some other elements that we still need to address, as with any garden, but this compost should make life a lot easier.

Cindy, We would much rather that our chickens didn't have to be penned up. A shitty neighbor's complaints led our ladies to where they are now. But then again, a lot of leaf collecting happens in the Fall when chickens around here usually have to penned because of hawks.

As far as the ticks are concerned, do your birds have an area where they can give themselves dust baths? If not I would have no idea what to do. Good luck with that.

Molly, I've been to your blog before. The first questioned I asked myself when I read it was "I wonder what her husband's favorite hockey team is?" I know that may be stereotypical, but I'm a huge hockey fan and any time I read the words Canada or Canadian, I think hockey.

I don't recall seeing your chicken composter, but I will definitely be on the look out. I'm glad you dig the blog. Cheers to you too.

Anonymous said...

LOL, hubby is one of the rare breed of canucks that doesn't actually enjoy the hockey games. When I asked him about your question, he responded with "when I was growing up it might have been the HABS, simply because they were closest to where I lived"...on the other hand, give him one of those PC games that have medieval conquests etc and he will be enthralled for hours!......men can be such freaks LOL!!!