Win a copy of 5 Acres & a Dream this week in the Homestead forum!
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education skip experiences global resources the cider press projects digital market permies.com private forums all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Nicole Alderman
  • Anne Miller
  • Pearl Sutton
  • r ranson
  • Mike Haasl
  • James Freyr
stewards:
  • paul wheaton
  • Joylynn Hardesty
  • Burra Maluca
garden masters:
  • Steve Thorn
  • Greg Martin
gardeners:
  • Kate Downham
  • Jay Angler
  • thomas rubino

Composting wood chips in a pool with water in the deep end.

 
Posts: 265
Location: St. George, UT. Zone 8a Dry/arid. 8" of rain in a good year.
52
trees bike greening the desert
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
So my chicken coop/compost heap is in my in ground swimming pool here in the desert.  8" of rain per year on average.  High's in the mid 100's most of the summer, humidity teens or lower most of the time.

Anyhow, for the last few years it's been working great.  I tried to copy Paul Gauchi's (Back to Eden) style of composting.  Just throw everything in it that's organic, and let the chickens eat it, kick it, and mix it.  All my food scraps, all my chicken eggs, all my coffee grounds, lots of fall leaves, a sprinkle of azomite rock dust once in a while, also go in it.  I actually grow a bunch of greens just for the ten chickens that get thrown in regularly as well, although their main feed is still layer feed.

I used to keep the deep end free of wood chips, and had it rocked off with a sort of dam so that when it would rain, the water would of course all end up at the deep end, and could easily be pumped out and used as a sort of compost tea around the garden.  It was a hassle, and mosquitoes would become an issue if I wasn't on top of it within a week.  I also had a soil test done and was finding a salt build up which I thought might be from the "tea" seeing as how there's a lot of chicken manure being washed down to the deep end.  I don't know that that was the source of the salt, though.  It was sort of a hassle to hook the bilge up, and then slowly drag the hose around the yard flooding my growing areas.  

THIS YEAR, and this is where I'm asking for input, I filled the deep end with wood chips, and let the water sit under them when it rained.........and it barely rained this year.  Summer had zero rain for the first time in the last 100 years here.  So summer was fine.  A couple of months ago we finally got an amount of rain where the deep end got some water built up in it.  
It's still just stewing there as of today.  The chickens dig down to find the water, and I see them sipping the nasty almost black stew.  It doesn't stink or anything, but I'm worried that if the chickens are using it to get drinks from they might be getting some kind of disease??? or whatever?  I don't know.  My chickens show no signs of being ill at this point.

Would it be best to pump the water out completely because it's just a bad idea to let the chips sit in standing water?
Would it be just fine to leave the chips in the water and block the chickens from entering the deep end to prevent them from drinking the water?  No big deal for me to throw up a small chicken wire fence to keep them out of the area.
Is there any benefit to leaving them in the water?
It's probably only a foot deep (at the moment) at its deepest and of course a pool is sloped, so it goes out several feet in a circular pattern and gets shallower as it follows the curvature of the pool.

My thought was/is that the chips will decompose much faster in the water vs. being very dry in general.  Maybe they're wicking water beyond just the water table allowing for a more moist overall compost pile???  I don't know.

I'm not looking to create more work for myself, so best case is do nothing, second best case is block the chickens from drinking/digging wells, third best is pump it out.  It would be interesting to hear more elaborate ideas, but I don't see myself wanting to have to "maintain" some sort of system unless it's ridiculously simple.

Thanks for any input.

I'll snap some pictures when it's a bit more light out.
 
Joshua Bertram
Posts: 265
Location: St. George, UT. Zone 8a Dry/arid. 8" of rain in a good year.
52
trees bike greening the desert
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
So I just went out and took some pictures.

It's a little over a foot deep at its deepest point maybe 14" or 16" based on how far I can get the fork down.

It's remarkably stable when walked on.  I'd never guess there was that much water under them.  I originally thought they might float, but not with the water at its current level.

IMG_20200201_090225223.jpg
The chickens scratch along the edges where the plaster meets the chips. This is where they drink from.
The chickens scratch along the edges where the plaster meets the chips. This is where they drink from.
IMG_20200201_090233995.jpg
Closer up of the side where the chicks scratch. (I also scraped a little away just to show the water line.)
Closer up of the side where the chicks scratch. (I also scraped a little away just to show the water line.)
IMG_20200201_090642453.jpg
About the deepest spot dug out.
About the deepest spot dug out.
IMG_20200201_090758945.jpg
Just to reference how deep the fork went in.
Just to reference how deep the fork went in.
 
pollinator
Posts: 2595
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even Soil:SandyLoam pH6 Flat
189
forest garden solar
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
The sodium salt buildup is not from the compost tea. So go ahead and pump the anaerobic water out. You can automate the entire process. Just leave the hose one place dont even move it around. Just let it empty out in a hole filled with woodchip. Have the pump wired so that you can just flip a switch inside and it drains or better yet with a float switch, so that it turns on if there is water and turns off if there is no water.
 
gardener
Posts: 2646
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
213
forest garden trees urban
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
This seems like nice setup!
I would want to go even deeper with wood chips
I would put a sump pump in a barrel , sunk into the woodchips.
Slots cut into the sides of the container would allow water to filter in,  and the float switch would kick on when the water got deep enough.
Pump that nutrient dense water into an elevated tank( I suggest a IBC tote on a stack of skids)and hold it there for future use.
Since water is scarce, maybe cover the deep end with shade cloth or a reflective tarp?

If you are worried about the anaerobic conditions,  a fountain could aerate the  water nicely, but it might cause too much evaporation.
Just bringing the water up to the surface an allowing it to trickle back down  might be enough aeration.

To feed the chooks more greens,  a container sunk into the woodchips could be used to grow duckweed .
 
Joshua Bertram
Posts: 265
Location: St. George, UT. Zone 8a Dry/arid. 8" of rain in a good year.
52
trees bike greening the desert
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
S.B., good to know about the salt, except I was hoping the tea was the root of the problem.  The water is really hard here, with high ph soil, so it's probably those two things.  I only used chem. fert. in very small applications more than five years ago, and have been totally organic ever since.
I like the idea of digging a hole in the ground,and putting wood chips in that.  I hadn't thought of that.  That's pretty simple.  

W.B., great minds think alike, but I'm cheap, and want to be lazy.  Totally thought about IBC tote with the float operated bilge in a bucket with holes, but I'm ALMOST certain the silt will clog the holes sealing the bucket, but ? since I've not tried it.  All I can say is that even when the area was "dammed" off and it was mainly water at the deep end, there'd still be enough broken down stuff that it would clog the bilge, and I'd have to go down and spray the impeller area out really good.  The bilge has a thick plastic netting on the bottom already with maybe 1/8" holes.
I tried the duck weed a long time ago too!, again when the water was an actual pool.  I can't remember why that failed, but maybe it was because the algae would come in due to the water being too hot?  I honestly can't remember.  Good idea to shade the water off.  

There's actually a rock looking (made from concrete) waterfall built in to the pool that would make a really neat water feature/aeration generator.  Maybe some day I'll give that a go too.

I'll try the bucket with the bilge I currently have, and see if that'll work, and then maybe work my way up to the float operated bilge with the IBC tote.  

Thank you, and I guess letting them just sit in the water isn't a great idea since neither of you recommended that.  (Couldn't you tell that's what I wanted to hear? lol)  
Always more to do......  :)  I pretty much live in the backyard doing projects, so it's all good.

I'd still love to hear why leaving the water in would be an awesome idea?
 
William Bronson
gardener
Posts: 2646
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
213
forest garden trees urban
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I use slotted containers because slots are easier and faster to make, plus they rarely clog.
With a float switch,  if the slots clog,  the pump will shut off until the container refills.
Leaving the water where it is seems fine to me.
If the chickens like drinking it and they are healthy,  that tells me it's  probably great.
You could plant some willows right into the chips, willows like water and chickens like willows.

 
Joshua Bertram
Posts: 265
Location: St. George, UT. Zone 8a Dry/arid. 8" of rain in a good year.
52
trees bike greening the desert
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
How do you cut the slots in?  Something like a jig saw used to cut from say 1/4 of the way from the bottom to a 1/4 of the way to the top?

I'll have to look into the willows.  I grow tons of desert willow trees here on the property, but I don't think they're true willows.  

Yay, about the water not being poisonous!  :)

Great advice, and thank you again.

 
gardener
Posts: 1615
Location: Los Angeles, CA
422
hugelkultur forest garden books urban chicken food preservation
  • Likes 5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
A lot of city water is high in salt.  In fact, throughout California, salt in the water is a problem.  In the Central Valley where much of America's produce is grown, accumulated salt build up is a huge problem -- it's from the water they use to irrigate.  So the source of all that salt is most likely in the water already.  As it evaporates in the hot Arizona sun, the salt concentrates.  When you pump it out, it's probably a concentrated saline.  

Fungi help mitigate the effects of salt, and I would imagine that your wood chip filled pool is a fungal wonderland.
 
Joshua Bertram
Posts: 265
Location: St. George, UT. Zone 8a Dry/arid. 8" of rain in a good year.
52
trees bike greening the desert
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I did not know that, Marco, thanks for the info.  There's lots of fungus everywhere in my yards now, and yes, in the pool too.  I don't find it to have as strong as "networks" in the pool as in the yard, though.  When I go dig out in the yard in chips that haven't been disturbed for a while I can often pull up cow patty sized chunks of chips held together by white strands of fungus.  That doesn't happen in the pool maybe because there isn't soil contact?
I don't put much city water in the pool anymore, it's just rain water that naturally collects in the hole.

I use treated city water for all my watering (save for the little amount of rain water I do collect in barrels).  Fortunately, or unfortunately, my water bill is minimum of $80 per month (which includes garbage service).  If I use one gallon of water for the month, it's $80, and if I use 10,000 gallons, it's $80.  It does start to go up after 10,000 gallons used, and I'm embarrassed to say that in summer I do sometimes go over the limit.  (I have a tenant who rents most of my house out, so she seems to use a lot of water for whatever.)

There is irrigation water 100' up from my yard that's available, but one acre share is going for over $7k right now here in Washington county, and that's if a person can find one for sale.  I'm not sure how long I'll be staying here, so it's probably not worth the investment, and I just plain can't afford to spend the money right now.  

From what you wrote it probably doesn't make much difference as far as the salt in either source.  

Bummer about that.

Someone needs to invent affordable R.O. capable of irrigation demands....
 
William Bronson
gardener
Posts: 2646
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
213
forest garden trees urban
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
S Tenorman, I use a jigsaw,  recipical saw,  or Japanese pull saw.
I turn upside down, and cut from 3-4" into the bottom to 6-7" down the side.
Three to four slots are enough.
I'm usually using them inverted,  in the bottom of another container, to form a sub irrigated planter.
 
pollinator
Posts: 132
23
goat fish sheep
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
How deep can a chicken dig? It seems to me that a deeper bed of wood chips could keep the chickens too high up to reach the water. You could also plant something deep rooted enough to reach and use the water, that benefits the chickens with food or shade or bedding material. Might have to try some plants known to tolerate salt. Maybe think mini food forest. (The diversity gives more of a chance to find plants that are happy there. Plus the deeper rooted bringing water up for the shallow rooted and shade provided for understory plants.)
 
Joshua Bertram
Posts: 265
Location: St. George, UT. Zone 8a Dry/arid. 8" of rain in a good year.
52
trees bike greening the desert
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thank you for letting me know WB.  It makes sense.

T.M., a chicken can dig as much as a woodchuck can chuck?  lol

Seriously, though, yeah, there'd be a point where they couldn't get to it if the chips were high enough.  Keeping it at a manageable level was my idea until I figured out if it was a good idea to let them sit.  At the level it's at now, it wouldn't be too much hassle to put it back the way it was with the deep end as an actual pool area for water to collect.

Splitting the difference might be the best.  Maybe I'll keep the bucket contraption with the sump pump/bilge a foot off the bottom.  That way the finer silt will settle to the bottom making clogging less of an issue, and then still have water in the chips so that I can plant something in the pool.  I've been shying away from that idea because last year I actually shoveled all of the chips/compost out of the pool and put it all over my garden (not to mention filling about 300 sq.ft. of garden beds with it at least a foot deep.  I was totally impressed with it, and am now in the process of making more raised beds (abandoning the other beds I made last year for annuals, and probably planting perennials in them since they are sunken into the ground, and have actual soil contact).  Blah, blah, blah.....  My back hopes that I'll eventually get to a point where I don't have to fill the pool with wood chips, and completely empty it every year!  After this season, for sure I'll have enough compost where only half the pool will be needed to maintain the already existing beds?

Thanks again you guys!  Awesome ideas, and much appreciated.  I'd love to grow a Pakistani Mulberry in the pool if anyone thinks that's a good candidate?  I already have a built 4' X 4' raised bed in the pool (growing grapes for shade), but I'd love to put a mulberry in there.  I know they do great here with little water, but not sure about a lot of water.  They also seem to attract tons of cockroaches (when the fruit falls) and there are plenty of cockroaches around here, which of course the chicks love.  Also, the top of the pool is completely enclosed in 1/4" hardware cloth, so no birds could get to the fruit either.  but that limits the height to probably about 10' if placed directly over the deep end.


S.
 
Joshua Bertram
Posts: 265
Location: St. George, UT. Zone 8a Dry/arid. 8" of rain in a good year.
52
trees bike greening the desert
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
One more thing!  

Credit where credit is due.  Gardenpool.org is 100% responsible for leading me to this site.  I was googling uses for an in ground pool, and stumbled upon their site.  I was just barely getting into gardening (I had never done any gardening before about 2012 in my life, so I was really late to the game.), and the idea of the "garden pool" inspired me to turn my pool into a greenhouse.....well that didn't work out too well for me (it was difficult controlling the temps even in the dead of winter on 40F days, the inside was getting close to 100F, and I wasn't going to spend the money on electricity or solar to have a fan running).  

Anyway, they seem like they are doing very good things for sustainability, and I'd highly recommend anyone (regardless if they have a pool) to watch their short video.  
Surprised I don't see them mentioned more on here...or I'm just not reading the right threads.

Here's their intro. video.  https://vimeo.com/343880906

I really should try and go back to the greenhouse idea, and do the food forest inside the pool including the chickens.  I know they used to keep their chicks on a platform above the pool water in the deep end, then they raised tilapia in the water in the deep end, the chick's manure would feed the algae and bacteria that the fish ate, they also had duck weed growing on the surface (which is where I originally got the idea), and then they'd water the plants in the pool hydroponically with the water?   That's pretty close to their old setup anyhow.  

Cool stuff, but a bit too "involved" for my liking.  Maybe some day.....
 
Joshua Bertram
Posts: 265
Location: St. George, UT. Zone 8a Dry/arid. 8" of rain in a good year.
52
trees bike greening the desert
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Pictures will always be better than my words.

:)

Screenshot-2020-02-03-at-6.15.56-AM.png
Just took a screen shot of what I was trying to describe from their video.
Just took a screen shot of what I was trying to describe from their video.
 
Joshua Bertram
Posts: 265
Location: St. George, UT. Zone 8a Dry/arid. 8" of rain in a good year.
52
trees bike greening the desert
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'm on a roll this month!  Getting a lot done.  Thanks for the motivation!

Okay, so today I did the bucket with the slots (I cracked the bucket on accident, totally my fault, but it should be fine).  It looks like it's working well.  I was almost certain the slots would clog up before it pumped out five gallons, but it pumped out about 9 gallons with no sign of slowing down.  I'll put a hose on it and fill up a fifty gallon drum later.

I figured I'd do a side by side comparison of compost tea vs. rain water on my new garden bed.  Red lettuce starts planted just about a week or so in the bed.  It's still freezing at night here, so they're not growing much.  The bed was frozen solid this morning at about 29F outside, but they're holding on.  

Thanks again for the suggestions.  I'll update with pics every week or so.  Maybe every day.  That'd be interesting if I can keep up the motivation.

It will be the left front quarter of the bed.  The right front quarter will get rain water.  The back half will probably get mostly tap water.  Obviously there will be bleed over from everything, but it should be interesting to see.

IMG_20200212_122823937.jpg
[Thumbnail for IMG_20200212_122823937.jpg]
Circular saw literally took less than one minute.
IMG_20200212_122854619.jpg
[Thumbnail for IMG_20200212_122854619.jpg]
Don't start the saw resting against the plastic....doh! Just a little crack, no big deal.
IMG_20200212_131525741_HDR.jpg
[Thumbnail for IMG_20200212_131525741_HDR.jpg]
This bilge is indestructible! Had it for at least six years, it was submerged in the water/chips for the last six months.
IMG_20200212_132439450_HDR.jpg
[Thumbnail for IMG_20200212_132439450_HDR.jpg]
Already plumbed the pvc in a long time ago. It goes right outside the coop.
IMG_20200212_134030417_HDR.jpg
[Thumbnail for IMG_20200212_134030417_HDR.jpg]
Black Mercury! (reminiscing about an old post I made....inside joke only I will get.) There's a threaded nipple for a hose too.
IMG_20200212_134311357_HDR.jpg
[Thumbnail for IMG_20200212_134311357_HDR.jpg]
Installed the outlet about six years ago, just for the bilge. Easy enough to turn it on and off without a switch.
IMG_20200212_134905040.jpg
[Thumbnail for IMG_20200212_134905040.jpg]
Compost tea poured on the left quarter of the lettuce. The darker wet area.
 
Joshua Bertram
Posts: 265
Location: St. George, UT. Zone 8a Dry/arid. 8" of rain in a good year.
52
trees bike greening the desert
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
About 12 hours since I put the tea on the  bed.  No apparent change.  I wasn't sure if it'd be too strong and kill things, so I also bottom soaked a bunch of starts I have going to see if it would hurt them at all.  They still look happy.

Oh, I forgot to mention, the tea smells wonderful.  I can't describe it other than it has a rich smokey/sweet smell which probably isn't the best description, but I almost want to drink some!  It does not have a foul smell, not sure if that will change once it has sat in the barrel for a while.  

IMG_20200213_082223519.jpg
[Thumbnail for IMG_20200213_082223519.jpg]
Tea on left, rain water on right. No difference after one day.
IMG_20200213_082256859.jpg
[Thumbnail for IMG_20200213_082256859.jpg]
50 or so gallons. I'm not going to stir it or anything. I'm just going to apply it when needed. Smells yummy!
IMG_20200213_082647431.jpg
[Thumbnail for IMG_20200213_082647431.jpg]
Seedlings show no signs of anything bad or good. Bottom soaked in pure undiluted "tea". Only 12 hours, so...?
 
I am not young enough to know everything. - Oscar Wilde This tiny ad thinks it knows more than Oscar:
permaculture bootcamp - learn permaculture through a little hard work
https://permies.com/wiki/bootcamp
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!