Tuesday, September 21, 2010

City Homestead Tour #2...Our big rotting heap.

We cook a lot in this household.  It is rather unusual for our suburban surroundings to cook everything from scratch (including our daily bread) but we do because:
1)It tastes better.
2) It is better for you.
3) It is cheaper. 

Since we cook a lot, we frequently have scraps, leftovers, and other little bits of food.

A day's worth of  compost scraps

We compost in multiple ways around here.  You have already met our #1 composters- the chickens.  They will eat anything (most don't know they are omnivores) but we choose not to give them meat (salmonella risk), egg shells (risk of them attacking the eggs for food), potato skins and apple cores (they contain items that are toxic to chickens.), or onion and garlic (off taste in the eggs...who wants garlic essence banana bread?)  We also don't give them a few other items that are common in our household such as coffee grinds/tea bags etc. 

So what do you do with the biodegradable items that the chickens do not compost for you?  You get a big ole rotting heap also known as THE COMPOST HEAP!!!!  We also add a healthy dose of chicken guano (poo) and clippings such as grass or weeds before they blossom (and let them sit a few days to dry out so they do not take root in the heap.) In the fall we do not bag leaves, but rather put them in the heap and the chicken run (they love playing in the leaves, which breaks them down quickly and enriches the soil around them, which encourages worms for them to eat...they love worms.)

a scraps layer
At this moment, since we are expanding our garden beds, we are putting the compost directly into the garden beds.  We then top the scraps with finished compost.  Over the winter, everything will break down and become beautiful nutritious soil.

The finished product (it's fall some leaves blew in)
 It is in the far corner of the yard, behind the shed.  It is protected from the neighbors by a wall of Rose of Sharon bushes.  It takes a lot to keep the bushes trimmed back so the sun can warm it and encourage all the microbes to chow down on our leftovers.  I have learned to love the sawzall's ability to cut down trees with ease. 

On a related note, I was reading an article about composting and compost tea.  Basically, compost tea is compost soaked in water and then strained.  The liquid is then diluted and used as liquid fertilizer.  I then came to the conclusion that since we frequently make sure the heap is wet, many healthy nutrients are most likely washed down into the soil below the heap.  I dug about a foot below the bottom of the heap.  The soil there was much richer and fluffier (thanks worms) than the surrounding soil.  It also seemed as though every root in the neighborhood had found its way to this level.  I ended up excavating about a foot below the ground level.  About a third of the heap has been used to make two large garden beds so I should be able to get about six good sized beds out of the beautiful compost.


  1. Thank you for posting a comment on my blog! It is so lovely to get feedback, and it's such a great way to get to know my fellow bloggers! have you tried nettle or comfrey tea/fertiliser, it's a fantastic fertiliser. Looking forward to continuing a blogging conversation XX

  2. We don't have chickens (yet!) so just a compost pile for us. I'm super lazy about it, so it takes forever to break down but somehow it never smells or gets gross (well, grosser than rotting food can be?!)

  3. MMmmmm compost. I love the smell of compost. Really I do. I hope your worms enjoy their yummy treat.

    We have to be careful here in AK because the bears have a habit of walking by our compost on their way to the meadow across the street where the blueberries grow. So far no bears have dug in.

  4. I have never tried these tea fertalizers, It sounds like a worthwile endevor. We are always looking for ways to keep the garden healthy.

    Our compost doesn't smell except on hot days...If you keep turning it and keep it nice and hot (sunlight and manure help a lot), it should break down in about a year.

    We do not have bear problems...we tend to have visiting mice, chipmunks, deer, and the occasional chicken on the loose (they love turning the compost.) But if I were a bear nothing would stop me from going to to the low bush blueberries...yummy


Thanks for visiting with us girls...put your feet up and stay for a while.