Today 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!
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.
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!)
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!
"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.
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!
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! ;-)