It might seem strange to get excited over seeing a pile of poo steam, but that’s exactly what I felt this morning: excitement.
You have to understand, over the past year I have been frustrated by my inability to get a compost pile to cook. Worm composting? No problem. I got that one down. But no matter what I tried I couldn’t seem to get my hot compost pile hot.
Oh, it rotted and broke down okay. Whenever I’d turn it it would be crawling with worms. But the temps necessary to kill weeds and nasties from the animal poo were non- existent.
finally, in desperation I sat down with Sara Cassatt, our local conservation agent and reviewed all the things I’d tried. Layered brown and green material, check. Moisture? Check. Oxygen? Check.
About the only thing I hadn’t been scrupulous about was the dimensions of the pile. That is, I sort of threw everything in a big pile and expected nature to take over.
After talking with Sara I decided to come home and make one more try. Clearing off a level spot I screwed four pallets together and began building my pile from scratch. Placing a perforated drain pipe vertically in the center I layered chopped straw bedding from my chickens, moldy gooey grass hay, green horse manure , wet leaves from last fall, and some rotting pumpkins that didn’t make it through the winter.
Then I cut a piece of wet cardboard to fit and for good measure I tacked up a scrap of black roofing felt on the south face of the box.
the second morning I woke up. The outside thermometer read 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Freezing. Yet when I stuck a thermometer in the pile, to my delight it read 142!
This morning, the outside temp was 42 degrees, but the pile continues to cook at a steady 142. Finally, I seem to have figured hot composting. The lesson here, as always, is if your first attempts at anything don’t pan out, persevere. Keep at it. You’ll get it.
In fact, on a broader level, my take away from my farm experience is, if your first attempt at anything is a total success, be very grateful. It doesn’t happen very often. Usually, my first three attempts at anything are a dismal failure. Or at best, mediocre. But eventually I get it….. Usually.