We made real compost

The market gardens needed some restructuring in order to really get the season going so everyone on the farm was in the gardens for one day doing lot’s of little things that desperately needed doing.
In the morning we removed a lot of greens from the big poly tunnel which has the tomatoes and cucumbers. The greens where taking over and bolting and it was hard for the tomatoes and cucumbers to set foot. Yohanna had called up all of the restaurants to sell what we could but there was a lot left over. We had a meeting right after breakfast in order to efficiently divide everyone up between the tasks that had to get done. Gustav and I where tasked with building a compost from the greens.

Since we had a lot of material we made a huge compost pile of about 2.5m² layering in winter bedding from the cows and chicken manure pellets in between with the greens.
We started by laying down a rather thick layer of straw bedding on the bottom so that the carbon could soak up any liquids that would drip down from the top of the pile. We don’t want any of the nutrients to leak out of the pile into the ground. Then we added a layer of greens and some chicken manure pellets on top before adding another layer of straw bedding and so on.
We used a water hose to water down the dry straw which is important for bacterial growth because they can only move when there is moisture. Some layers of bedding had a lot of old cow manure in it so we did not add any chicken manure. The goal was to get a C:N ratio (Carbon:Nitrogen) of about 30:1 with the manure and greens being higher in nitrogen and the straw being high in carbon.

Now we have to carefully monitor the temperature of the pile in the next couple of days because it will rapidly increase and we want to turn the compost before it gets anaerobic. This happens when the temperature goes above 65°C because the aerobic bacteria will have used up all of the oxygen and anaerobes will take over and make the temperature rise further. By turning the middle of the pile to the outside and the outside to the middle all the material gets oxygen contact again assuring that the aerobes keep working. Furthermore since the pile is most active in the middle the outside material will then also get heated up and the pile will compost evenly.

Unfortunately we found another sick chicken a couple of days ago and after it could not recover in quarantine Richard made the decision to kill it. It was put in the middle of the compost pile and will probably accelerate the process of heating up the pile since animal carcass is very high in nitrogen.
It will be interesting to see how the pile changes and how fast the chicken decomposes.

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