17 January 2011

Windrow Building Continues

Mr. Fuzzy is working on an editing job so sends his apologies for not posting any of his lovely photographs for your enjoyment.

We had a little warm up on the farm over the weekend. A balmy 41 and 42 degrees Fahrenheit. This allowed me to comfortably get a little more done on the garden front. (When it's 22 and howling I do not go outside.) One garden row now has a completed compost windrow and the second row is nearly done. I think I'll burn some brush for the ash and be done with it. The other option is waiting two weeks for enough ash to build up in our fireplace to "lime" the next pile and chipping the brush at some later point.

The piles are made up of kitchen waste, chicken litter, coffee grounds, garden trimmings, wood ash, and rye straw. Each windrow is fifty feet long, two and a half feet wide, and about the same height. The coffee grounds may not be the best choice for our acid soil but they're free. I'm hoping three buckets of wood ash per windrow will balance things.

These things are developing maddeningly slow but that's just how it is in winter. I'll need a total of 625 cubic yards of input for our little vegetable garden. This slow accumulation is good for the chickens, however, as it decreases the frequency of my theft of their coop litter. (More on why cleaning the floor isn't so great tomorrow.)

For our few friends who are not gardeners, I will explain how the piles are composed. The bottom layer is a mix of coffee grounds, banana peels, and kitchen compost. All the books tell you not to put meat in your pile but I do so long as it's cooked. The animals seem to loose interest when it is covered in coffee and it will, eventually, break down. Next comes a fluffy layer of straw to add carbon and promote good air circulation. The third layer is, ideally, a mix of garden trimmings followed by more straw. On top of this goes a layer of used chicken litter (about 18 cubic feet) followed by three buckets of wood ash. Finally, the whole windrow is covered in two and a half bales of straw. This insulates it to keep in the heat, helps reduce weeds, and makes it look a whole lot nicer.

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