Grit Blogs > Green Eggs and Goats

I Make Great Dirt, What's Your Superpower?

Heather JacksonToday I have something kind of embarrassing to tell you.  I'm sort of obsessed with making dirt.  Now don't blame me, my grandaddy was at least as interested in dirt as I am, so I come by it honestly!  We do a lot of composting around here.  I thought I would give you a tour of my composting operation; I use several different types, so you just might find something here that will work for you!
 

Molly and Daisy
Two goats (Molly and Daisy) hanging out near my garden.  

My first form of composting is kind of like cheating.  All the choice veggie trimmings, as well as things that need to be thrown out of the garden, like tomatoes with splits or holes, and plants that are past their prime, simply get chucked over the fence and into the pasture where they are eagerly snapped up by the goats or the chickens.  (Did you know that goats LOVE banana peels?  We call them "goat candy!")  They "compost" the food in the form of droppings that will either directly fertilize the pasture, or they leave them in the barn, which eventually gets cleaned out and dumped into a compost bin.  But I'm getting ahead of myself. 

Compost Tumblers
My compost tumblers sit right on the back deck! 

My next form of composting is the compost tumbler.  I love mine!  The sorts of things that usually find their way into my tumbler are coffee grounds, tea bags, bits of onion, garlic, and citrus (the animals don't care for these) shredded junk mail, veggies that are too rotten to feed to the animals, dead flowers, sawdust and tons of egg shells!  (I even throw in hair from my hairbrush and sometimes the dust from the vacuum if it doesn't have too many Legos in it, but don't tell anyone.  They think I'm weird enough as it is!)

Tumbler in Garden
The missing green tumbler is currently sitting in my garden where I was adding compost before the fall plantings. 

I have had my green Compost Tumbler for several years now, but I do need to say that if you are serious about composting with these, you really need to have two.  The reason for this is that at some point, you will need to stop adding material to one drum and allow it work for several weeks at least.  (I find that it takes longer than this, especially if you have it pretty full.)  During that time, it is great to be able to swap and use the second one.  I have a green one and a black one.  That makes it easy to ask the kids to add something to the bin currently in use and helps to avoid confusion.  Once the dirt is made, dear sweet Eric is usually kind enough to roll it wherever I need it.

Another great thing about this particular tumbler is that it collects "compost tea" in the base.  You can dilute this tea and use it as a wonderful fertilizer for your plants!

Tumbler Base
"Tea" collects through holes in the center, and you can pour it out the spout in the back! 

That brings us to my largest composting operation.  This one we located at the back of the barn to give us easy access when we clean out the stalls.  Also, this one isn't as pretty as the others, so it stays out of sight. 

Pallet Composter
A major bonus to this one is that it was free!  Eric brought these pallets (they are 4'x4') home from work and we nailed them together with nails we already had.  

The "big bins" are a little bit empty right now, because our compost here is ready to be used.  In a few weeks though, at least 2 of these bays will be filled once again.  These bins get the big stuff.  By that I mean, fall leaves that we rake up, the animal bedding from the barn, spoiled hay, any horse dung that I can score from the neighbors (Yes, I'm the girl who will clean out your horse stall in exchange for the poop!)  Basically, ANY type of organic matter that I can get my hands on goes in here.  I will fill them up and let nature do its thing.  Occasionally we will turn the pile by moving it from one bay to another.  Often the chickens scratch in the pile, which we love, because they shred leaves, (who needs a shredder?!?) turn the pile, poop on it, eat the bugs and provide tons of entertainment while they are at it!

Pond and Barn
A view of the pond from the house.  The composter is located on the back side of the barn.  

Before I finish, I must share one more reason that Eric likes where this compost bin is located...it is also right by the pond.  He keeps a shovel nearby to dig through the compost for worms, but he has also found an unexpected form of fish bait in the dirt.  Grubs!  On a whim, when he couldn't find a worm, he stuck a grub on a hook and threw it out.  He got an immediate hit and now he really likes fishing with grubs, and I love it too, because every grub he fishes with is one less Japanese Beetle that I will have to pick off my plants this spring.  It's win-win! 

If you have more composting secrets, share them in the comments.  I love to hear the good dirt!  ;-) 

heather jackson
11/15/2012 3:40:04 PM

I love that idea!!


mary carton
11/14/2012 5:10:20 AM

I keep a pitchfork in the back of my truck. Never know when you'll see a nice leaf pile to carry home.


heather jackson
11/13/2012 4:38:47 PM

Thanks for the warm welcome! I'm totally going to wear a cape next time I go out to turn my piles! I just love that the only wrong way to compost is NOT TO! :-) Bagged leaves heading to the dump has always been a huge pet peeve of mine!


heather jackson
11/13/2012 3:55:44 PM

I would burn my pile too if it were full of yellow jackets! Yikes! Hooray for compost!


mary carton
11/11/2012 4:38:35 AM

Heather welcome to the GRIT bloggers. I blog as Rosedale Garden. I have 4 compost piles. One I'm about to loose when I burn a swarm of yellow jackets that attacked me when I turned it with my loader. The power company brings wood chips when in the area, so I have a huge pile of that, plus I've bought some sawdust from a lumber company, so I'll have a lot of compost next spring.


nebraska dave
11/11/2012 2:28:05 AM

Heather, welcome to the GRIT blogging community. Don't forget to frequent http://www.facebook.com/GritMagazine . It's a great place to hang out. Superpower, huh. This fall I donned my cape and stealthed into the dark of the night foraging all through the neighborhood for grass/leaf mixture in yard waste bags by the curb. I have a sizable garden so at last count for the collection it was well over 600 bags. The garden (140 feet by 30 feet) has about eight to twelve inches of mulch covering the ground. This would be my sheet method of composting. I have a different method of composting which are nothing more than total of three piles. Each year I start a new pile in the spring. Any kind of yard or garden waste goes into the pile. The third year pile has the top layer skimmed off and the bottom layers of compost is shoveled into the 100 gallon composter to moisten and fluff it up a bit. It's not in the composter more than a week with some moisture and daily turning. Then the top layer that's been skimmed off goes back to be the bottom layer and it becomes the current year's pile. I don't turn or disturb the pile at all untill the layer is skimmed off the top. I lazy as you can see. I model these methods after my heroine "Ruth Stout". Have a great composting day.