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Is there a good way to get oxygen into a large static compost pile?

 
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I have a lot of hay from a cow paddock.  I understand it's not the best. but I have a lot of hay/manure that I need to either compost or haul off.  I probably have 20 yards!  No tractor, and I lack time to turn it all the time.  Is there a good way to static compost and provide oxygen to the pile?  

I can get several drain pipes and put inside a row.  Any better solution?

Thanks!

 
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Michael McKay wrote:I have a lot of hay from a cow paddock.  I understand it's not the best. but I have a lot of hay/manure that I need to either compost or haul off.  I probably have 20 yards!  No tractor, and I lack time to turn it all the time.  Is there a good way to static compost and provide oxygen to the pile?  

I can get several drain pipes and put inside a row.  Any better solution?

Thanks!



If you aren't in a hurry, you can just wait.  It will still compost.
 
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You could add a blower and create an Aearated Static Pile (ASP). For an explanation see https://conscious-compost.com/designing-and-building-small-scale-asp-systems/
 
pollinator
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I think there are actually two ASP options. You don't really need a blower, though I personally would, even if it was just one of those sized for personal cooling stuck into the opening of a bit of pipe just large enough to accomodate it.

The other way would be to have more perforated piping running under and through the middle of the pile, and perhaps something like animal litter in intermittent layers to provide air paths. We have a Flemish Giant rabbit at home, and we use wadded raw paper bedding, which does really well in mine, and I rely only on layering for a fast hot compost, and then vermiculture, with no tubes to speak of, and no turning but what the worms do.

A really dilute hydrogen peroxide solution weak enough to not kill the classes of microbial life you're looking to foster would provide ample oxygen; I give my houseplants a boost regularly this way.

As to the piping, does anyone know of a reason not to use the type of weeping tile used for drainage? You know the one, perforated plastic covered in a sock so that the holes don't get plugged? Wouldn't that be an awesome thing to coil in a spiral through a pile? And with a little bit of the end of the weeping tile inserted into a black chimney in the top of the pile, it's conceivable that the aeration could be solar-powered, creating draw through the black chimney as it's heated by the sun.

-CK
 
pollinator
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I would seriously beware the danger of spontaneous combustion and fire resulting from any attempt to compost a large amount of hay!  With the right amount of moisture and air, the normal heating of compost process can runaway and catch fire!  From what I've read one solution is to keep the piles shallow....as in less than 3 or 4 feet high.  It's the bulk of a large pile that combines heating with insulation that gets away from you.
 
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Michael McKay wrote:I have a lot of hay from a cow paddock.  I understand it's not the best. but I have a lot of hay/manure that I need to either compost or haul off.  I probably have 20 yards!  No tractor, and I lack time to turn it all the time.  Is there a good way to static compost and provide oxygen to the pile?  

I can get several drain pipes and put inside a row.  Any better solution?

Thanks!



Do these drain pipes have holes like the drain pipes used for French drains? If so you would want to try and get at least one of them in under your heap of hay and manure, you can force air through this pipe or you can simply let the atmosphere provide, forced is going to be better though.
A fan with some type of shrouding to funnel the air into the drain pipe would be necessary (cloth or plastic shaped with duct tape would work pretty well and most likely not cost a lot of money or take much time to fashion).

If you use more than one drain pipe, then the above shroud might get tricky to make.

Redhawk
 
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Of course you could get pigs.

But you will need bigger pigs to do the heavy lifting.

One interesting idea is to put up electric fencing around pile  and get a large boar.  Boars are nearly given away at livestock auction because boar meat can sometimes have 'boar taint'. Have vet castrate the boar, to make him calmer and get rid of cause of potential taint and set him free on the manure pile. In 4-5 months once he has finished turning manure into compost and you will have 700lbs of pork for your freezer.

Old cull sows are cheap too if you dont want a boar, but not as cheap as a boar but extra money may be well spent.
 
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Chris Kott wrote:...As to the piping, does anyone know of a reason not to use the type of weeping tile used for drainage? You know the one, perforated plastic covered in a sock so that the holes don't get plugged?-CK



If you are referring to the black plastic corrugated type, which I think you are, then there is the possibility of it collapsing under heavy weight, or kinking. I Like the idea of a harder pipe, like the solid green or white kind of 4" pipe...Some versions of that has pre-drilled holes or it's easy enough to drill yourself. You can still sock-over it, and they are easier to manipulate and move around in/under the pile if needed and generally seem to hold up longer.

You could have it to where it sticks out at both ends, and have a temporary cap you can put on one end and an adapter that fits a shop vac hose on the other then switch the vac hose to pump vs. suck and give it an air injection here and there. Then uncap and let natural airflow do it's thing. Fire likes oxygen so I'm not sure if the shop-vac idea would be risky or not but might be worth a try and see what happens.
 
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your problem can be solve by the simple law of nature "hot air rises" "air occupies empty space". Cover the compost pile with plastic sheeting or any with an opening at the bottom and at the top. Ones the pile heats up you will have a continuous draft of air entering from the bottom and exiting at the top.
 
Chris Kott
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Jeff Marchand wrote:Of course you could get pigs.

But you will need bigger pigs to do the heavy lifting.

One interesting idea is to put up electric fencing around pile  and get a large boar.  Boars are nearly given away at livestock auction because boar meat can sometimes have 'boar taint'. Have vet castrate the boar, to make him calmer and get rid of cause of potential taint and set him free on the manure pile. In 4-5 months once he has finished turning manure into compost and you will have 700lbs of pork for your freezer.

Old cull sows are cheap too if you dont want a boar, but not as cheap as a boar but extra money may be well spent.



To that idea, there was an excellent video, I think by Geoff Lawton, that showed and talked about chickens as compost turners/processors. That would be more accessible to people with less room than is required for 700 lbs. of walking bacon and ribs, and if they were layers, the returns happen more readily, albeit in stingier proportions.

julian Gerona wrote:your problem can be solve by the simple law of nature "hot air rises" "air occupies empty space". Cover the compost pile with plastic sheeting or any with an opening at the bottom and at the top. Ones the pile heats up you will have a continuous draft of air entering from the bottom and exiting at the top.



While I agree that this is, indeed, consistent with thermodynamics as we understand them, unless the air intakes are made to occur under the pile, and unless there are spaces within the compost already for air to occupy, the warm air rising off of the compost heap will likely take a path between the outer layer of the pile and the tarp. What we're looking for is to get oxygen into the pile, not just around it. If all we wanted was air moving around it, we'd just leave it open to the air.

Now if we had even a simple pipe setup, maybe four pieces of drilled pvc joined at 90 degree angles in a spiral that terminated in a piece of black pvc, vertically oriented, with the tarp "sealed" or otherwise gathered on the ground and around intake and chimney, that would encourage airflow within the tubing. I think that if the intake hole were plugged, any established draught would start pulling through the drilled holes, and through the mass of the pile itself, drawing fresh air from under the tarp and through the outer layers of the pile.

-CK
 
Chris Kott
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Additionally, I was considering the idea of composting on top of pallets.

I would take a large shipping pallet with boards spaced as closely as I could get them. I would then lay it down where the compost would be started. I would pile coarse, dry biomass with some length to the fibre perpendicular to the run of the top boards of the pallet, so as to span them and keep the air spaces in the pallet from filling with compost. Twigs and small branches broken for the purpose would make an excellent first layer, but if there were any questions about the integrity of the bottom layer, I would add some mechanical barrier, like a welded wire mesh or chicken wire, to keep the air spaces open.

I would then layer it normally, perhaps with more and thinner alternating green/brown layers than I normally would have, to encourage green/brown material share the most surface area possible. Depending on how coarse or fine the material is, I might drop perforated tubes at 45 degree angles through the top of the pile down into it, with the tubes never emerging from the bottom of the pile, such that any additional air they move has to pass through the pile first.

I would then tarp the pile, tucking the edges in under the pallet, and I would cut a hole in the top of said tarp and install a short piece of vertical black pipe, as discussed earlier, for which I would also have a cap, should the pile pull so well that it cools a hot compost.

-CK
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Using pallets as you described is a great method of using ambient air pressure and thermodynamic air currents Chris.
The way I've controlled air flow in the pallet base system is to use boards to block off the openings at the sides down on the ground, not unlike the way you can control air flow in a smoker.
This allows me to slide a board to adjust the "damper" or I can remove it completely.
Usually I check the interior temperature before I make any air flow adjustments and I like to use soil instead of a tarp. (I tarp only when it is going to rain more than 1/2 inch and usually remove the tarp as soon as the rain threat is gone)

Redhawk
 
Jeff Marchand
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You think chickens will make a dent in a 20 cubic yards of compacted cow manure? Geoff Lawton's videos show him and his interns turning the compost by hand and the OP does nt want to do all that work I dont blame him. Cow dung with bedding and old hay that has been compacted by the weight of the cows is heavy.   I have about that much from my cows and my 45 horse tractor has a hard time turning it with front end loader. I assume anyone with 20 cubic yards of cow dung is rural and would have room for a pig.

Would nt be a bad idea to remove what pig has dug up and toss to chickens and let pig dig deeper.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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hau Jeff, 20 cubic yards of compacted manure is time for a fel equipped tractor to turn such a heap and you would (as you mention) have to go slow with small bites even then.
I have no idea why anyone would place their cleaned out litter in a place where the animals could lay on it or walk over it to compact it, that is inviting disease to enter the animals that created the litter.

Pigs are thought to be constant rooters, but most breeds are not going to simply see a heap of dung and go rooting, they would have to smell something good to eat in that heap to entice them to root for the food.
That makes the Idea that Pigs are great for turning things over more of a fake news event. There are only a few breeds of hog that are likely to do massive rooting, most of that is done by wild, feral hogs.

I've raised hogs for 4 years now and my hogs only root when there isn't any surface growing food plants for them to eat, their main rooting activities happen in their wallow so they can sink into the water as deep as they want.

Redhawk
 
julian Gerona
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Chris Kott wrote:

Jeff Marchand wrote:Of course you could get pigs.

But you will need bigger pigs to do the heavy lifting.

One interesting idea is to put up electric fencing around pile  and get a large boar.  Boars are nearly given away at livestock auction because boar meat can sometimes have 'boar taint'. Have vet castrate the boar, to make him calmer and get rid of cause of potential taint and set him free on the manure pile. In 4-5 months once he has finished turning manure into compost and you will have 700lbs of pork for your freezer.

Old cull sows are cheap too if you dont want a boar, but not as cheap as a boar but extra money may be well spent.



To that idea, there was an excellent video, I think by Geoff Lawton, that showed and talked about chickens as compost turners/processors. That would be more accessible to people with less room than is required for 700 lbs. of walking bacon and ribs, and if they were layers, the returns happen more readily, albeit in stingier proportions.

julian Gerona wrote:your problem can be solve by the simple law of nature "hot air rises" "air occupies empty space". Cover the compost pile with plastic sheeting or any with an opening at the bottom and at the top. Ones the pile heats up you will have a continuous draft of air entering from the bottom and exiting at the top.



While I agree that this is, indeed, consistent with thermodynamics as we understand them, unless the air intakes are made to occur under the pile, and unless there are spaces within the compost already for air to occupy, the warm air rising off of the compost heap will likely take a path between the outer layer of the pile and the tarp. What we're looking for is to get oxygen into the pile, not just around it. If all we wanted was air moving around it, we'd just leave it open to the air.

Now if we had even a simple pipe setup, maybe four pieces of drilled pvc joined at 90 degree angles in a spiral that terminated in a piece of black pvc, vertically oriented, with the tarp "sealed" or otherwise gathered on the ground and around intake and chimney, that would encourage airflow within the tubing. I think that if the intake hole were plugged, any established draught would start pulling through the drilled holes, and through the mass of the pile itself, drawing fresh air from under the tarp and through the outer layers of the pile.

-CK



A drilled PVC at the bottom will be a good idea. But the hottest part of the pile is in the middle therefore air in that area should rise first. As it vacate new air will occupy that space. So you might reconsider your analogy of air rising on the outer part. In fact if you are in the cold climate air making contact with the tarf will cool and go down not up.
 
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I have used the 4 inch white perforated pipe on my small suburban home compost pile  3' x 3'. It worked great. Then I didn't want heat and plastics so I used wood.  You can cut up pallets in half for a small system and place them vertically in the middle of the pile.  I would think that as the scale gets bigger, you could stack vertical pallets, then stacks of joined vertical pallets.  I am not a real actual farmer, just a suburban food forest guy so there is probably something I can't foresee in applying this to a very large scale.
John S
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In the composting toilets at our school, which are actually just tall static composting chambers on a two year alternating system, i found that putting perforated pipe in the bottom didn't make a difference. Whenever the piles got too tall, more than about 5 feet high, then the bottom would get all the air squeezed out and they'd go anaerobic, whether or not we'd put a pipe underneath. And whenever they were not too tall, about 5 feet or less, then they composted nicely, whether we put the perforated pipe in the bottom or not. If they'd gone anaerobic, then when we emptied them they filled the whole area with a most atrocious methane stink that lingered for days.

I have no idea if this would translate to the kind of manure and hay pile you are thinking of.

Compost will happen eventually, even if you don't turn it or put air channels underneath. It might take longer, and you certainly should learn first about hay fires as mentioned above, but manure and hay will want to turn into gorgeous humus.
 
Jeff Marchand
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Redhawk,  I too raised pigs for a few years. I know pigs eat hay and it sounds like there is quite a bit of hay in this pile.  I really think  two sows or a boar (get 2 boars and you will have 1 boar and a carcass) would do the trick.  Sorry none of the other options seem feasible to me.
You could also get a steel bar and make holes in pile with it and fill with cracked corn.  Pigs will root looking for corn.  The pile will have lots of mycellieum and little critters which are food to pigs.  It sounds disgusting but its a fact of life that pigs eat shit especially the cow variety.

I would still feed them, but half rations. As pigs dig down into pile use pitch fork to remove what they have broken up into a pile away from pigs and hot compost it. Should nt take more than 10 minutes a day.

If pigs are no go then I'd offer a neighbor money to turn pile with front end loader.  My pile is too big to really turn so I pick it up one bucket load at a time and dump it in an other spot 10 feet away.  Make pile as tall as possible.  My pile is very hot, ive nicknamed it Chernobyl.  My last pile has been spread on the garden and was 100% weed free.  If you dont hot compost it you will have loads and loads of weeds
 
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Question.  has anyone tried simply putting a rigid pipe on the end of an air blow gun weld it to a sharp point and add air holes out the sides of the pipe near the tip.  Push it into the pile and blow with an air compressor.  just punch a bunch of holes to various depths in all areas of the pile and blow the air in under high pressure?  even if you had to add a sliding hammer type mechanism for pushing or pulling it you would still likely have the advantage of simplicity if you have a portable air compressor.

 
Chris Kott
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Yeah, I would like to see you do that. The result might prove entertaining, depending on the makeup of the pile.

To put it another way, maybe it would be good to surround the pile with something to contain the splatter.

But hey, it does sound like how Dr. Redhawk describes his subsoil inoculator for compost extract. I still think that air will tend to come up around the spike itself, taking the path of least resistance, but if you could regulate the airflow at the handle, you might be able to find an aeration sweet spot that lifts the layers of the pile without causing it to fly everywhere.

-CK
 
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Like others have suggested I would place passive air holes in the compost pile going vertically from top to bottom. Their should be about 12inch of compost material between each airhole. I would also put the entire compost pile on an elevated platform so that air can enter/exit from the bottom and so that it can drain easily keeping it healthy. Also with superb drainage the pile can be drenched often to keep the temp from spiking past 160F and catching on fire.

Other alternative could be to take a page out of the Jean Pain book and harvest hot water with buried pipe/hose for cooking/laundry/shower and also methane for cooking. This 1st harvest can be followed up with a more traditional compost after the volume has been reduced.

Don't forget about mushroom composting. You can get a fairly wonderful harvest of mushroom (oyster/etc) followed by good compost and chitin material for a good insecticide foliar spray.
 
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David Johnson uses pipes to create ventilation holes while building the compost pile on a pallet. When the pile setup is finished, these PVC pipes are removed.

The method is demonstrated in a 12 minute video

 
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