The Ceaseless Cycle Of Compost Making

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Figure 8.5

Figure 8.5

The Ceaseless Cycle Compost Making

Allow to age. j Fill second side, let first side age and shrink.



Compost Cover System

Empty aged compost. Allow second side to age

Start filling first side again. Let second side age and shrink.

How Make Wooden Compost Bin

If you want your compost to age for two years instead of one, add a fourth bin to the system. Turning the compost is not necessary (read Chapter 3). A roof over the center bin will keep the cover material dry and unfrozen in the winter months in cold climates (see figure 8.4).

attract flies should be dug into the top center of the pile. Keep a shovel or pitchfork handy for this purpose and use the tool only for the compost. Keep a clean cover material over the compost at all times and don't let your compost pile become shaped like the Matterhorn — keep it somewhat flattened so nothing rolls off.

When you have a sudden large quantity of cover material available, such as an influx of grass clippings when the lawn is mowed, weeds from the garden, or leaves in the fall, place them in the center bin for storage and use them to cover humanure deposits as you need them. It is assumed that you do not use any poisonous chemicals on your lawn. If you do, bag the lawn clippings, take them to a toxic waste dump, and on the way, reflect upon the folly of such behavior. Do not put poisoned grass clippings in your compost pile.

Filling the first bin should take a year — that's how long it takes us, a family, usually of four, with a lot of visitors. We have used this system for 26 continuous years at the time of this writing and every year at the summer solstice (on or about June 20th) we start a new compost pile. During March, April and May, the pile always looks like it is already full and can't take any more material, but it always does. This is due to the constant shrinkage of the compost pile that takes place as summer approaches. When the pile is finally completed, it is covered over with a thick layer of straw, leaves, grass clippings or other clean material (without weed seeds) to insulate it and to act as a biofilter; then it is left to age (see photo, page 175).

At this time, the second bin is started following the same procedure as the first — starting with a biological sponge. When the second chamber is nearly full (a year later), the first one can begin to be emptied onto the garden, berries, orchard or flower beds. If you're not comfortable using your compost for gardening purposes for whatever reason, use it for flowers, trees or berries.

A compost pile can accept a huge amount of refuse, and even though the pile may seem to be full, as soon as you turn your back it will shrink down and leave room for more material. One common concern among neophyte humanure composters is the pile looking like it's filling up too fast. More than likely, the compost pile will keep taking the material as you add it because the pile is continually shrinking. If, for some reason, your compost pile does suddenly fill up and you have no where to deposit the compost material, then you will simply have to start a new compost bin. Four wooden pallets on edge will make a quick compost bin in an emergency.

The system outlined above will not yield any compost until

A TIP FROM TOMMY TURD Sawdust works best in compost when it comes from logs, not kiln-dried lumber. Although kiln-dried sawdust (from a wood-working shop) will compost, it is a dehydrated material and will not decompose as quickly as sawdust from fresh logs, which are found at sawmills. Kiln-dried sawdust 3 may originate from "pressure-treated" lumber, which usually is contaminated with chromated copper arsenate, a known cancer-causing agent, and a dangerous addition to any backyard compost pile. Sawdust from logs can be an inexpensive and plentiful local resource in forested areas. It should be stored outside where it will remain damp and continue to decompose. Although some think sawdust will make soil acidic, a comprehensive study between 1949 and 1954 by the Connecticut c , Experiment Station showed no instance of sawdust doing so.'

'See: Rodale, The Complete Book of Composting. 1960, p. 192.

'See: Rodale, The Complete Book of Composting. 1960, p. 192.

two years after the process has started (one year to build the first pile and an additional year for it to age). However, after the initial two year start-up period, an ample amount of compost will be available on an annual basis.

What about leachate, or noxious liquids draining from the pile into the environment? First, compost requires a lot of moisture; evaporated moisture is one of the main reasons why compost shrinks so much. Compost piles are not inclined to drain moisture unless subjected to an excessive amount of rain. Most rainwater is absorbed by the compost, but in heavy rainfall areas a roof or cover can be placed over the compost pile at appropriate times in order to prevent leaching. This roof can be as simple as a piece of plastic or a tarp. Second, a thick biological sponge should be layered under the compost before the pile is built. This acts as a leachate barrier.

If these two factors aren't effective enough, it would be a simple matter to place a layer of plastic underneath the compost pile, under the biological sponge, before the pile is built. Fold the plastic so that it collects any leachate and drains into a sunken five gallon bucket. If leachate collects in the bucket, pour it back over the compost pile. The interface between the compost pile and the soil acts as a corridor for soil organisms to enter the compost pile, however, and plastic will prevent that natural migration. Nevertheless, the plastic can provide simple and effective leachate prevention, if needed.

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