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I need some guidelines for using enormous amounts of manure

 
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I have 21 head of cattle that spend the night right by my yard. So I have plenty of manure mixed with feed residues--all organic. Today I made a gigantic compost pile, but now I'll out of compost ingredients, except the manure, of course. So now what? Spread it? Seems like I would lose a lot to the wind. It's hot and dry here (central Chad). I was thinking of doing a bunch of zai pits in preparation for rainy season. But how much manure do I use? Have I mentioned I've got lots of the stuff? Can I put too much manure in one zai pit.

Basically, it's 2-fold concern: I want to use this abundance, but I also want to use it efficiently. Experienced advice welcome.
 
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Will the manure have time to compost before planting season?  If it does, I think you can fill quite large holes with it, let it compost, and then plant directly into it.  If the manure won't have time to compost, you can fill pits with the manure and top it off with a few inches of soil, and then plant into that,  By the time the plant roots get down to it, the manure will have composted sufficiently.  Because manure is high in nitrogen, using this much of it will be best for plants which want a lot of nitrogen to grow and produce.
 
Nathanael Szobody
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Tyler Ludens wrote:Will the manure have time to compost before planting season?  If it does, I think you can fill quite large holes with it, let it compost, and then plant directly into it.  If the manure won't have time to compost, you can fill pits with the manure and top it off with a few inches of soil, and then plant into that,  By the time the plant roots get down to it, the manure will have composted sufficiently.  Because manure is high in nitrogen, using this much of it will be best for plants which want a lot of nitrogen to grow and produce.



Thanks Tyler. Good thought about putting soil on top, because no, it won't decomposed during the dry season. Digging deep pits in dry earth seems a bit labor intensive, maybe it's a project for shortly after the rains arrive...
 
Nathanael Szobody
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Another factor, just to make it interesting. I also have a limitless supply of peanut shells. They don't compost well. I should say, they don't compost quickly. How about combining the two in some geniously simple method that I should have already thought of?
 
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In your case, the good thing is that cattle manure isn't as hot as, for example, chicken manure or rabbit manure.  Once it dries out, you can practically plant directly into it.

I'd mix it 3 to 1, poop to peanut shell, and lay it down in shallow trenches (rather than raised beds).  Keep it wet for a couple of weeks and then plant nitrogen loving plants directly into it—corn, squash, tomatoes, stuff like that.

For all the extra, a compost pit is a good idea.  Pile it up, let it set for a couple of months, and then use it as a side-dressing for growing plants.
 
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Nathanael,

Here is my thoughts on peanut hulls.  I would be tempted to really crush or grind them up before adding to the manure, just as a way of helping them break down.  I honestly don’t know how well peanut hulls compost, but I assume something breaks them down.  So I would give it a shot.

If the peanut hulls don’t quickly break down, they might make a great mulch for gardens.  I certainly can’t see how they would cause any harm.

I agree with Tyler that burial might be a great way to both dispose and use as an amendment.  Ultimately though, I personally would aim to find a use that did not require digging.

Could you possibly let the manure compost and then use it as a high quality garden bedding?  I am in the middle of a project of using woodchips decomposed by mushrooms to transform them into very high quality garden bedding for raised bed gardens.  I would think that you could do something similar with manure.

If I am not mistaken, central Chad is quite arid with fairly hard soils lacking in carbon and organic matter.  Does this sound about right?  If so, I am thinking that getting that manure and all it’s goodness will do wonders for your soil beneath.  When I pile up woodchips on my soil, after about a year, I can’t find where the woodchips end and the soil begins.  I would think that something similar might happen to your soils.

Nathanael, you certainly have some real challenges, but also some great resources at your disposal.  I am very curious to see how your project works out.

Please keep us updated!

Eric
 
Tyler Ludens
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Back when there was a peanut processing facility in a nearby county, my family used to go there and fill up a horse trailer with peanut shells for composting.  We mixed them with horse manure and it resulted in lovely compost.  
 
Nathanael Szobody
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These are just the sort of suggestions I was looking for! I use peanut shells for my humanure composting. Two years later the shells haven't gone yet. That is UNHEARD of for any other organic material in this termite capital of the world. I do use them for mulch in my garden. Is great for keeping the moisture in. But I don't use them broadly because they're such a nuisance in one's sandals. And barefoot they feel quite sharp.

I like the idea of manure and peanut shells trenches. The digging is the down side. That might be the perfect system for tubers. Hmmm, not sanitary though. Maybe sesame seeds first year, tubers second year.


If I could crush up the shells that would be a no-brainer, but I have no mechanical equipment.

I'll post some pics when I do something.

Let me know what else you dream up :-)
 
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My experience with cow manure is that direct(100%) cow manure will not compost in its own pile.... but will go anaerobic and get very smelly and off-gas methane???.

So my thoughts would be that it does need some dry grass or dry leaves or other 'browns'(Carbons) mixed in.....AT LEAST in any place that you have it thicker than 10-15 CM.

So if you have a garden area... AND if you have enough browns or dry grass(no seeds) to cover it.... you could spread it out 5-9 CM thick over your entire garden area.... and then cover it with 3 CM-6 CM of dry grass/browns.

What if you don't have any browns or only a little? How hard would it be to make rows of shovel digs/scoops(or use a shallow plow and pull rows)... in parallel... separated by about 25 CM or as much as 60CM between rows.   Like lines on "ruled" or "lined" paper.  As long as your Garden spot.

My thought is that one half-shovel deep is easier than digging a pit.  But doing shovel dig after shovel dig in a row will still add up to a lot of work. After you make these rows of shallow trenches... shovel on/in the cow manure and try to put the clumps of dirt on top(just quickly) and then lastly ... try to make it even(knock down any big clumps) but don't spend too much time at evening it.   the final result will be rows of slightly raised dirt with manure and dirt showing.   if you have any carbons/browns... sprinkle them on top of your rows.  if not... just give it time to rest(1 week or 3 months) and plant in during your garden growing season.

My concern is that a pit of manure... in addition to being hard to dig a pit.... could be smelly pits of anaerobic muck.  not very nice or helpful.

if at all.... mix with grass or sticks or browns.  But as other's said... with cow manure this isn't always necessary..... i just wouldn't do piles or pits of 100% cow manure.

Let us know what you decide to do!  And a picture or two... if you can.

Peace
 
Marco Banks
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It's interesting that people have experienced peanut shells not breaking down.  I've never had that problem but I don't use that many peanut shells.  I've used hazelnut shells from a processing plant, and I found that they tend to hang around for a year or so before they break down.  Perhaps as you get more and more microbial activity in your soil that will change.

If the concern is that the mature is too hot or stinky, could you spread it out and plant some sort of cover crop into it the first year?  Ideally, something the cattle could graze.  I'd plant a cocktail of 10 seeds or more -- a mix of grasses and broadleaves that will feed a wide spectrum of microbes in the soil.  After that first year, the soil should be fertile, nicely aggregated, and filled with microbial life.

Is there a way you might post some pictures so we can get a sense for your ecosystem?

Thanks.
 
Nathanael Szobody
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Here's the general landscape of a cultivated field.

   

And this is my front yard with a pile of compost being built.

   

The soil is very sandy. Bear in mind, this is dry season. In August this place looks like a young rain forest.

 
C. E. Rice
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Are you familiar with Geoff Lawton's banana circles?  Do banana trees grow/survive there?   if so...

You could do a banana circle with the manure added periodically in the middle.  adding browns also on top of the manure each time it is added.  

Difficult terrain there. but i can see you are making small improvements!  
And... Glad the ground is sandy... for digging shallow trench... it shouldn't be as hard as digging into clay or hardpan!
 
Nathanael Szobody
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C. E. Rice wrote:Are you familiar with Geoff Lawton's banana circles?  Do banana trees grow/survive there?   if so...

You could do a banana circle with the manure added periodically in the middle.  adding browns also on top of the manure each time it is added.  

Difficult terrain there. but i can see you are making small improvements!  
And... Glad the ground is sandy... for digging shallow trench... it shouldn't be as hard as digging into clay or hardpan!



Yes I am familiar with banana circles. But I only plant bananas where I have grey water. Otherwise they just take too much watering! During these hot months they really struggle with sunburn. But you're right, manure is a great additive to any fruit tree system.
 
Tyler Ludens
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C. E. Rice wrote:.

My concern is that a pit of manure... in addition to being hard to dig a pit.... could be smelly pits of anaerobic muck.  not very nice or helpful.



I have made pits of gross garbage and weeds and have never had them become smelly or anaerobic.  Maybe this is because I'm in a fairly dry climate?  I think dry-season pit composting might work with cow manure.  Hard to imagine it is more gucky than garbage and fresh weeds.  But I have not actually done this with cow manure so am not an expert.



 
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With an NPK of 3.6/0.15/0.5 and very slow release, I’d be mixing those peanut shells into my woodchips like a madman.
Talk about an awesome mulch.
 
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Here's two ideas that might work for you based on the assumption you get seasonal rain (or all your rain at once):

facts for an hot arid landscape:  
-there is a certain amount of time before the cow manure will dry out that is directly related to how thick a pile it is and how small the sun/air exposed surface area is;
-the rains will re-wet the manure to a certain depth if the vertical height of the pile has time enough to adsorb the rain on in;
-the peanut shells, in my opinion are what you should use as water retention like those who use dead fallen trees to hold seasonal rains.

Therefore, for both of my ideas, the peanut shells need to go under the manure.

I believe you know where the water runs when the seasonal rains come; if so then you know where to build both of my ideas.
-Find the place on your property when the seasonal rain flow absolutely floods the area or is the wettest;
-Find the size of pile which will retain dampness for two months after the seasonal rains at it's very bottom (this requires you dig into your pile every week to see at what depth in the pile the dampness has remained);
-if your manure pile always dries out before the end of two months no matter how vertically thick it is, you're going to have to dig holes/trenches to retain water and line the holes with rock.
-if your manure remains dry at a certain depth, even if it is just a slight dampness of the soil at the very bottom of the manure pile, then you won't have to dig.


Idea One:  
make a pile of manure and peanut shells perpendicular to where you know the most water flows across your property at the vertical thickness you found hold moisture for two months
layer the peanut shells down first
layer the manure down second at the vertical depth you discovered
when it starts to rain, have your shovel ready to dig  the wet soil onto the water side of your manure pile built on peanut shells in both directions of the on coming water shed.

after the seasonal rains come and your shovel work is finished, plant nitrogen fixing food plants that mature in 60 days on top of the cow manure


Idea Two
if you don't have enough manure for a thick enough manure pile to hold moisture even at the very bottom after two months then:
dig a shallow trough to move all the rain into a deep vertical hole lined with rocks
make your deep vertical hole three times deeper than its diameter
fill the deep vertical hole with peanut shells with as many of them as you have
move all the  manure on top of the peanut shells.
then throw three inches of dirt back on top of the manure.

after the seasonal rain comes and your shovel work is done; plant a nitrogen fixing tree on top of the vertical hole which can provide you food and more trim and drop material





 
Eric Hanson
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Nathanael,

Judging from your pictures it appears that you have a lot of browns laying about.  Any chance that you could mix some of that in with the manure?

Eric
 
Nathanael Szobody
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Wayne Mackenzie wrote:With an NPK of 3.6/0.15/0.5 and very slow release, I’d be mixing those peanut shells into my woodchips like a madman.
Talk about an awesome mulch.



Fantastic! That's the sort of confirmation I need. Time to go crazy with peanut shells.
 
Nathanael Szobody
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Orin,

I like your analysis and your suggestions. Peanut shells are more absorbent than you know: I use them for my humanure pile, and when I dug into an aged pile I found it nicely moist only one foot down. It hasn't rained since October!!

So why plant nitrogen fixing trees when I have so much manure available? Shouldn't I go directly into fruit tree polycultures?

You suggest topping the peanut shells with manure; is that better than just mixing them?
 
Nathanael Szobody
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Eric Hanson wrote:Nathanael,

Judging from your pictures it appears that you have a lot of browns laying about.  Any chance that you could mix some of that in with the manure?

Eric



Good call Eric. As you can see in the one picture, I have made a gigantic compost pile for next year's garden. I'm all out of browns now, since all the rest is strategically placed in my moringa orchard as mulch.

Here's a question I've been wondering: how much browns do I need to balance the manure for a good compost? Maybe I could use less browns and make them go further...
 
Eric Hanson
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Nathanael,

Typically I hear a composting ratio of at least 3 or 4 browns to one green.  And s lot of people like to go higher than that.  It seems like you have a deficit of browns, at least at the moment.

Given your lack of browns, I would look very seriously at those peanut hulls.  You stated that you have no way to crush them up.  Can you get your hands on a cement block and a sledgehammer?  The reason I ask is that you could place some hulls on the block, then use the top end of the sledgehammer (not the face.  Don’t swing this hard or the block will be no more) and tap down on a little pile of hulls on the block and crush them up.  This might well be tedious, but you would have some well crushed brown material when you are done.  Otherwise, just throw the hulls in and see what happens.

Good Luck and please let us know how things work out!

Eric
 
Orin Raichart
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Nathanael Szobody wrote:..... and when I dug into an aged pile I found it nicely moist only one foot down. It hasn't rained since October!!



Sweeeet!  this means, if you choose to, you can now make 1 foot rows all over your land of peanut shell and manure and it will remain moist for all the plants you put on top!!!



Nathanael Szobody wrote:So why plant nitrogen fixing trees when I have so much manure available? Shouldn't I go directly into fruit tree polycultures?


This is a Red Hawk question.....my answer is a weak novice answer while he could give you a technical break down -I will remain silent to this question for him or other to give you a bio chemical explanation.  Part of the answer is the nitrogen fixing roots will continue to provide nitrogen for a while longer than just the nitrogen in the manure.  You have the option of putting some nitrogen fixing trees/plants which provide food along with the fruit trees so both things happen at once....again I'm not the expert.

Nathanael Szobody wrote:You suggest topping the peanut shells with manure; is that better than just mixing them?


Yep, I'm lazy like that....here's why that's a good lazy. the roots from your plantings will partially do the work of breaking up the shells and that's on top of all the little bacteria and insects which will work the soil......in the mean time you have a hidden water tank in the form of the shells under your manure which will take years to slowly turn into soil.

Eric's right, you could use the brown material.....but again I'm much lazier than he is. I would lay down the shells directly on the ground, then a layer of manure, a layer of brown and a layer of manure....it'll mix itself and you will also mix it when you harvest and add more manure / shells when you get more again.
 
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hau, May I recomend adding fungi to any piles of manure, that will rot the manure which will make it better for direct use every where. Browns to manure can be 1:1 wvhen fungi are present. As Tyler brought up a capping of soil willl keep carbon from escaping readily.

Redhawk
 
Eric Hanson
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RedHawk,

Will the same fungi that we are using here work for a manure pile in an arid area?  If so, then I totally see a lot of potential.

Eric
 
Eric Hanson
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Nathanael,

I was hoping that RedHawk’s suggestion would pop up eventually.  I have been using fungi for almost two years and the results have been astounding.  If we can get this little technique to work for you then I foresee you having tremendously fertile garden bedding after perhaps a year (it may take more or less time depending on a number of factors).

I can fill you in on some of RedHawk’s projects.  Conventional reasoning stated that while wine cap mushrooms work extremely well on wood/woodchips, the woodchips should not be mixed with manure, instead the wood should sit on/next to the soil so as to mimic a soil interface.

RedHawk recently experimented with mixing manure and woodchips inoculated with wine cap mushrooms and he had very good results.  He will have to give you the details, but I can explain to you some of my project.

About 2 years ago I had an abundance of woodchips that I wanted to put to good use/dispose.  At first I thought about mixing it with left over 10-10-10 fertilizer, but I was persuaded to try wine cap mushrooms (called wine cap due to the color of the cap which looks somewhat like a burgundy wine color).  Wine caps are a great starter mushroom as they grow aggressively and are not terribly picky about where they live (they prefer a little dappled sunlight as opposed to constant shade/darkness.

It took a year but my wine caps really broke down my woodchips.  I am curious as to what they would do to a woodchip/peanut hull or straw combination.  There may be some other mushroom better suited to devouring manure, but my wine caps took my woodchips and made them into the most fertile garden bedding I have ever seen.  You may get similar results.

Something to consider is making a raised bed for you manure mixture.  I am making garden beds 8’x16’ and 6’x16’ (about 2x5 meters or so).  I like to pile on my woodchips and get them inoculated.  As the fungus grows and eats the wood, the height of the pile drops by 1/3 to 1/2, so consider piling the raw materials higher than you intend to use in the end.

When I first grew crops in my mushroom garden last summer I intentionally uprooted a plant to get a look at the roots.  It was amazing!  The fungal “roots” ( mycelium) were wrapped around the squash roots and the squash was the healthiest I have had grown or seen!  And I gave it no extra fertilizer.  It was plain to me that the fungus and plant were feeding each other in a symbiotic relationship.  I am in the process of converting all of my garden beds to woodchip/mushroom beds.

One other thought to consider.  If you let the manure compost exactly where you want to grow, the composting manure will do wonders for the soil beneath.  I imagine that your sandy soil will not only be more fertile, but your carbon content will go up as well and soil carbon is one of the greatest indicators of soil fertility.

Nathanael, I could go on and on, but I would strongly recommend getting an appropriate mushroom in your manure piles (the mushrooms can be a tasty addition to your harvest as well).  Wine Caps have worked great for me and I am willing to bet we can make something similar work for you.

Best of luck,

Eric
 
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Eric Hanson wrote:RedHawk,

Will the same fungi that we are using here work for a manure pile in an arid area?  If so, then I totally see a lot of potential.

Eric



For the OP the best fungi can be grown in spent coffee grounds or tea leaves. Either works best if the growing medium is steamed for 20 minutes then cooled in a closed container (heavy plastic substitutes) this sterlizes the medium. Fruits can be split or even fine chopped to gather spores from the air.
 
Nathanael Szobody
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B Redhawk wrote:hau, May I recomend adding fungi to any piles of manure, that will rot the manure which will make it better for direct use every where. Browns to manure can be 1:1 wvhen fungi are present. As Tyler brought up a capping of soil willl keep carbon from escaping readily.

Redhawk



Thanks Dr.Redhawk!

I've read your stuff on mushroom slurries and stuff, but I haven't done any because fungus seems to be everywhere here. If I get lots of manure and browns moist, it is inevitably colonized by white fungus. Take this compost pile I put together two weeks ago for example. I was soaked well, and then left without turning in hot dry weather:

   

And if I put the same sort of mix in a trench or pit garden that stays real moist then I will get a few little mushrooms as well. So do I need to be adding some other type of fungus as well?

Yes, my coffee grounds get nicely colonized with fungus just sitting in my kitchen. For that matter, my whole house gets colonized with white mold in rainy season if I don't air it out enough...

 
Eric Hanson
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Nathanael,

Wow!

Judging from your picture, I would say that you have all the fungi you could possibly need (for composting purposes)!  Granted, you won’t be able to select a specific type of fungus, but with that much inoculation, I would say let Mother Nature do her work.

I am very interested to see what comes of the colonized substrate in the picture.

Please, do keep us updated!

Eric
 
Nathanael Szobody
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Right now the school kids are putting the compost on our papaya trees and moringa seeds. We will then cover it with peanut shells.


   

 
Eric Hanson
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Nathanael,

It looks to me like you are blessed with compost!  By the way, am I seeing a huge compost pile in the background?  If not, are those browns you can utilize?

Eric
 
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Nathanael,

I am not trying to pry, but I am curious about your local geography.  You say that you are in central Chad.  Chad appears to have tropical wetlands in the south, virtually impassible desert to the north and then what I call scrub desert (meaning it gets a definite wet season followed by a long dry season).  I am looking a google earth and I am wondering if you can roughly locate yourself with Djedda?  By this I mean are you north, south, east or west of that spot.  I only picked that spot as it was fairly northern and chosen at random.  I am asking this mainly because being an American Midwesterner, I am curious as to how agriculture works in an environment that appears to be so much different.

Please understand, in no way do I intend to demean, I am simply curious as to how your system of planting works/compares/differs from my own.

Thanks in advance,

Eric
 
Nathanael Szobody
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Hehe, due to the fact that I am associated with a religious organization, and that other religious organizations in neighboring countries might think I'm an easy target for their violent politico-religious ends, I don't post exact location online :-) But I really would like to. Moosage me if it's important to you; I'm happy to share in private.

The data: four months of rain, during which we get 80 cm. Temperatures for this past year were high of 115F, low of 53F. Today: 108F. Very dry.
 
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Eric Hanson wrote:Nathanael,

It looks to me like you are blessed with compost!  By the way, am I seeing a huge compost pile in the background?  If not, are those browns you can utilize?

Eric



What you see in the background is an enclosure made of weed bush branches. You can check out this thread for more of what we do at the school: https://permies.com/t/108727/Elementary-school-eco-village-Africa
 
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Nathanael,

I was wondering about that.  I have to say that you appear to work extremely well with the resources you have.  I am pretty sure that if I were to take a look at your site that I would overlook resources obvious to you.  I congratulate you on your ingenuity.

Eric
 
Nathanael Szobody
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Eric Hanson wrote:Nathanael,

I was wondering about that.  I have to say that you appear to work extremely well with the resources you have.  I am pretty sure that if I were to take a look at your site that I would overlook resources obvious to you.  I congratulate you on your ingenuity.

Eric



Thanks Eric,

It's a fantastic challenge. So many overlooked resources. I hope to write the book for permaculture in Dryland Africa... In about ten years.
 
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Nathanael Szobody wrote:These are just the sort of suggestions I was looking for! I use peanut shells for my humanure composting. Two years later the shells haven't gone yet. That is UNHEARD of for any other organic material in this termite capital of the world. I do use them for mulch in my garden. Is great for keeping the moisture in. But I don't use them broadly because they're such a nuisance in one's sandals. And barefoot they feel quite sharp.

I like the idea of manure and peanut shells trenches. The digging is the down side. That might be the perfect system for tubers. Hmmm, not sanitary though. Maybe sesame seeds first year, tubers second year.


If I could crush up the shells that would be a no-brainer, but I have no mechanical equipment.

I'll post some pics when I do something.

Let me know what else you dream up :-)


Like others have said cow manure can be added without composting, unlike chicken or hog manures that can harbor pathogens dangerous to humans, cows don't have many problems with crossing over pathogens, mad cow is the exception and this was only because of humans adding meat to cow feed that gave them that!!! Cows were NEVER made to eat meat!!! But it would still be best to mix the manure into the soil so that the N (nitrogen) doesn't turn to a gas and evaporate. Another option is to put some manure in something like a pillow case and steep it for 2-3 days in 20-50 gallons of water and then using that to water your plants, its best to add a small fish pump and air rock to make sure it keeps the bad bacteria from multiplying. You can then use the old pillow manure in your compost pile with the nut shells. One way to crush them up is to put them also in a tough sack (not air tight but can hold the shells and not rip easily) then just drive over them a few times as this will crush most if not all of them and they can compost faster then. Hope this helped....
 
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B Redhawk wrote:hau, May I recomend adding fungi to any piles of manure, that will rot the manure which will make it better for direct use every where. Browns to manure can be 1:1 wvhen fungi are present. As Tyler brought up a capping of soil willl keep carbon from escaping readily.

Redhawk

Healing our earthmother. Formerly Bryant Redhawk



Here's all of Bryant Redhawk's links to soil information complied in this thread:
list of Bryant RedHawk's soil info

 
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Nathanael Szobody, you said the peanuts don't compost well in humanure. I wondered if there is no fungicide used on them? Because if so that would explain the slow decay, the fungi eating the peanut would get hurt or slowed down at least. I can imagine that to be the case if you grow many many peanuts under ground. Best of luck!
 
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Thanks for the suggestions C Roberts.

I would point out that you can get tapeworms from cattle, especially in this part of the world, and their eggs are incredibly resistant, so there is definitely a pathogen concern. However, it is good to know that I can use it directly. Here's what I did yesterday: dug a pit, layered it with peanut shells and manure, 1:1, planted a banana tree in the middle, a cover of sorghum and sesame  over the surface of the pit, some pigeon pea around the edge, and mulched it. Hopefully this will be a good model.

   

   


 
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Hugo Morvan wrote:Nathanael Szobody, you said the peanuts don't compost well in humanure. I wondered if there is no fungicide used on them? Because if so that would explain the slow decay, the fungi eating the peanut would get hurt or slowed down at least. I can imagine that to be the case if you grow many many peanuts under ground. Best of luck!



No fungicide here. The exterior and interior membranes decompose pretty quickly, but there's a tough structure that hangs around for awhile. We're talking loads of peanut shells tho, so I'm not sure about crushing them with the car! Here's a load we just brought in for my zai pits.

   

   
 
I put a shovel of manure in each zai, cover that with a shovel of peanut shells, and I'm wondering if I shouldn't put a shovel of dirt on top of that? Termites will start working on it even before the rains come, so there will be some balanced nutrient ready to go from the start. I love termites. I think I'll grow sesame seeds here.
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