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Old Round bale Composting Strategies

 
Posts: 28
Location: Central NY, Eastern Edge of Oneida Co. ,Town of Trenton
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  I've got about 6 old round hay bales full of bind weed that I would like to get rid of and I'm not sure of how to actually pull these apart and build a pile (short of breaking my self with a pitchfork). They will have been sitting there for at least 3 years by spring, when I will be able to build the pile so I'm not sure I will be able to just unroll them like I want to.
  I have access to a tractor with a front end loader equipped with a set of fork lift forks, as well as a welder. I've got a few vague ideas of my own... but I've never tried to move a round bale let alone unroll one and chop it up in to little pieces, so anyone's advice and/or ideas would be well appreciated.

  Thanks, Will
 
pollinator
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Location: Victoria BC
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My property came with a couple dozen bales around a decade old. Plastic was coming apart.

Even so, they were fairly easy to move with forks on the TN55. Some had shrunk small enough I could spear one with each fork!

I used mine as mulch, amazing stuff and turned out full of clover seed.

Bindweed seeds? I would give em away on craigslist if possible. Hate that stuff.


If you do aim to take em apart, just cut em thoroughly open while on the forks at the destination, then dump what hasn't fallen to bits..
 
pollinator
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Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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Do a search for "Ruth Stout" gardening. She advocates using thick hay and straw mulch and planting straight into it. I did a trial this year with some potatoes. I spread a thick layer of spoiled hay directly over grass. I placed the potatoes deep in the hay, near the soil/mulch divide. We got a bumper crop of potatoes without doing any digging at all. When I came back to harvest I just pushed the mulch aside with my hands.

You haven't described your location or situation in any detail, but I would be considering dismantling in situ, spreading it in long windrows and direct planting into it.
 
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Others have given you some good ideas but they require a lot of handling.

Why not make some mushroom slurries and compost those round bales right where they are?
What you want them to do is rot and fungi will rot everything in those bales, the more mushroom slurry you add to them, the faster they will rot into really crumbly, fungi and bacteria rich compost.

Redhawk
 
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You can always put the bale at the top of a hill, cut away the twine and configure it so that it unrolls and you nudge it down the hill.  Then you can collect up the layer of hay however you wish.

Or you can cut through it with a chainsaw.  Layer by layer, it will unfold.

However, if you've got access to that kind of hay and a loader, I would imagine that you've got access to manure as well.  As someone mentioned above, you could inoculate the bale with mushroom slurry and then put a couple of big scoops of manure on top.  Wet the bale really well first (preferably with non-chlorinated water) and the pour a big 5 gal. pail of slurry water over the top of it.  Add manure.  Wait.  Keep it sufficiently moist by sticking a hose on top of the bale and soaking it for a good 20 minutes or so.  In 12 months, it should be well decomposed.  

BUT WAIT -- there's MORE!

If you wanted, you could lay the bale on its side, climb up on top, and cut a hole into the center of the bale.  THEN add your manure.  Add water generously.  Plant vining flowers in that center hole.  Petunias.  Lots of them.  While the bale breaks down, it also serves as the world's largest flower planter.  Heck -- I'd plant a couple sweet corn seeds as well as some pole beans and pumpkin --- a three-sister's hay bale.  If you're already adding water and manure, you might as well get a return on your efforts while you're waiting for the bale to break down.
 
pollinator
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As I typed my response, others have added basically what I was going to say, but I'll post it anyway since I took the time to write it. I really like Dr. RedHawks method.

You could try composting the bale. Tip it up on end on a pallet to allow some air flow and drainage, the hydrate the bale. I've seen it done where you pee in a 5 gallon bucket and each day you fill the bucket up with water and whatever urine you have collected and then pour that on top. If you don't tip them up on end the water doesn't permeate into the bale much if at all. (I did this small scale with a couple square bales this spring and they are breaking down nicely)
You can also wrap a tarp around the bale to help hold moisture. Once it starts cooking, treat it like a hot compost pile and turn/tear apart and re-pile it once a week. If you get the heat up it will sterilize those weeds and seeds.
 
Michael Cox
pollinator
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Are you aware of the old tool called a hay knife? Used for cutting chunks of hay from traditional handbuilt haystacks.  Cutting, rather than unrolling, or using a fork, might be easier for dismantling.
 
master pollinator
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I just unroll my round bales.

If hay is made right, it lasts a very long time, so to get it to compost, you just have to do the opposite. Just roll them out, then apply lots of water to start the composing process. Adding woodchips will get a hotter mix, and really get them to cook.
 
William Clark
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Thank you for all of the responses, they have given me some good ideas on how to deal with all of this hay. It turn out that i miss remembered how many bales there were, it's more like 20-25. looks like I will have plenty of chances to test different ideas.
I'm interested in the wood chips, I can get free chips from the town only 3 miles away. I'm guessing that they will be completely full of mold inside, maybe damp in the center. Hmm maybe I can inject some inoculant with a pipe if they are too rotten to move.
 
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With the Oktoberfest festivals just over i'd like to see something like this at festivals
https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/architecture-design-blog/2013/apr/26/uritonnoir-straw-bale-urinal-festivals
Probably a little to prudish in the US
 
See ya later boys, I think I'm in love. Oh wait, she's just a tiny ad:
A rocket mass heater heats your home with one tenth the wood of a conventional wood stove
http://woodheat.net
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