Hot off the starter’s blocks – Making some compost

Two months down the track from the last post, many dreamings, schemings and lease signings past, we’ve moved on in and have begun our project.

More on the experience of landing and settling later, but for now I wanted to share this exciting milestone. One of the most fundamental building blocks of our whole garden caper.

Cow poo in wheelbarrow

Good shit

Mixing some shit with some weeds and straw.

Given our cache of cows, well 2 – the light and stripy Spence and the newly named brown wannabe escape Dustin (another first farm lesson to heed – remember to shut your gates!!) we have a metric truckload of pats. The land’s also recently been slashed so we have tonnes of dry grass and a smidge of lucerne.

Weeds are also fortunately plentiful.

Weeds

Dandelion in the foreground and mallow in the back

“Fortunately?”, you ask, with eyebrow cocked and a you-are-a-crazy-two-headed-lady like look in your eyes.

“Yes”, I reply, and hand you a cup of nettle tea.

The kinds of weeds we used in bulk – Mallow (Malva preissiana) and Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), whilst both being medicinally useful plants not worth a sniff at, are also excellent mineral and nutrient accumulators.

These are pioneer plants that thrive in the early succession stage of an ecosystem, tapping into the deeper levels of the soil to draw in minerals and nutrients, partnered with mycorrhizal (fungal) symbiotic organisms that help a brother out and help build up a depleted soil profile. When you add these greens to compost, you are adding most of the goods that they have sucked up from deep in the soil to your mix, fortifying it to help your crop plants thrive.

Anyway, poo, weeds, grassy straw – with their powers combined, in about 4 weeks we’ll have a big old pile of fresh, incredibly mineral and nutrient rich compost.

Here’s some of the process:

Psychedelic cow poo sprinkling Greg

Slightly psychedelic cow poo sprinkling Greg. The compost is built in a series of layers (6 in this pile). Each layer contains 3 sub layers – the first being 1 layer of cow manure.

Weeds on compost pile

The second compost layer – a pile of weeds

Straw on compost

The third compost layer – straw

Greg watering compost pile

After each of the 6 layers (poo,weeds,straw) was laid, we watered the pile a little to moisten them. We also watered the earth where the pile was built really well before we started. This is essential, otherwise the earth will draw the moisture out of your compost pile – preventing decomposition, and also the soil baceria and fungi won’t be able to migrate from the ground into your heap.

Leash covering compost pile with black weed cloth

Once we were finished we covered up the pile with black weed cloth to retain heat and moisture, and weighed this down with some pavers to keep it in place.

Also, while we were on a roll, we built our first worm farm – which we are going to keep next to our kitchen garden. This was a simple Macgyver-esque bang up job based on what we had available at hand, and my grandfather Mikolaj’s old method of worm farming.

Essentially, he would make short, fat cylinders out of whatever material was around – corrogated iron, rubber conveyor he got cheap from an industrial clearing sale, corrogated plastic, etc.

He’d then dig them a cursory distance into the earth, put a pile of worms in there, kitchen scraps, add a covering of wet newspaper, and keep adding his kitchen food scraps under the newspaper, adding successive layers of new newspaper and wetting it over time.

By this simple method he would cultivate the most vibrant, orgiastic worm festivals. Every last bit of these containers would be packed thickly to the nines with a warm, well fed and prolific pile of worms, which he’d then leave for a few weeks while he started his new pile, and then spread the contents of the bins, worms and all on his garden beds.

Armed with these tricks he’d grow tomatoes the size of your head, but that’s a story for another day (days? weeks? months? anyway…)

So, we had a tidy black piece of corrogated plastic, some black weed matting, twigs that had been gathered for our closed combustion stove and one of Macgyver’s secret weapons – 500 cable ties (ok we didn’t use them all yet but how’s that for value at 11.99?!).

We doubled over the coroplast so that the bend was at the bottom of the bin. We chucked a few sticks in to give the bin some more weight at the bottom and then sealed it all together with cable ties.

Makeshift Coroplast/Corflute worm farm bin

Doubled over corflute kitchen garden worm farm, cable tied together in about 10 minutes

Image

Then, we got a piece of weed matting and curled both edges over another twig each and cable tied that together, to give the worm farm a durable and dark lid with a bit of weight to help keep moisture in and light out, encouraging the worms to eat the food at the top of the pile (they are shy).

Worm farm lid construction

Worm farm lid construction

Ta da

Ta-da! (No it didn’t put my back out…)

Amy also did a bang up job at cleaning up our chicken district (which is again at least another blog’s worth) and down the track we’ll have some weed tea care of all the moth vine (Araujia hortorum) she scraped up.

Moth vine in 120L plastic drum

Moth vine in 120L plastic drum topped up to the brim with water – the sort a lot of useful things like stock feed get supplied in, or you can pick up from Reverse Garbage in Sydney for about $5. They’re great for composting weeds with seeds you’re a bit worried about spreading everywhere. By making weed tea out of them you are anaerobically composting (most regular composting or worm farming is aerobic). This means the drum will get stinky while the tea is breaking down, but in a few months we’ll have a sweeter smelling fertiliser to use on the garden, and no concerns about spreading the seeds of really noxious plants around (because the anaerobic process renders them inviable).

It's a new car

It’s a new car

Adios

Alicia

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2 Responses to Hot off the starter’s blocks – Making some compost

  1. Jo anne says:

    Loved it. Well done guys….looking forward to the next installment

  2. Nice story. I expect an invitation for the arrival of the baby chickenssss!!!

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