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new compost bin in the works  RSS feed

 
Willy Walker
Posts: 101
Location: Foot of the Mountain, Front Royal VA
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chicken fungi hugelkultur
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I am about to build my 3rd composting bin. My first two were very similar, about 3'x7'x3'h and made of pallets. I used them each about 2 years. It seems the second one has about 2 years left in the base boards. I left the first one when I moved and I don't know how it is holding up. I now have 13 chickens and they enjoy my compost everyday. I also enjoy there efforts, I can tell a noticeable difference in the speed of composting. I have been wondering if the chicken poo was safe for them to scratch around in but by watching them, they don't seem to eat it and it doesn't seem any worse then when they are scratching around in there roost area.

I currently have 100 2x3x8' rough cut lumber boards ready to be my future compost. I am thinking 1 bin for leaves, 1 for fresh compost and two others for second and final stage compost. I don't plan on doing much other than storing leaves in the first section. The second section will be where all my "stuff" goes in. I will let the chickens have access to this bin. I will shovel from the first bin to the second bin every so often to give a good flip of things. I also think I will keep the chickens out of this bin as I don't want fresh poo in there and this is where the bugs can thrive. Same with the third stage. I plan to isolate the bins by chicken wire or hardware cloth to allow micro organisms, bugs and air move about. I also plan to build a lid on the second and third. I am thinking the leaf bin will be 3x3x4h, the first stage, 3x4x4h and the second and third; 3x3x3. I am thinking as much as compost shrinks, I will have plenty of storage.

Thanks for reading.

ANY IDEAS?

 
Leila Rich
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Posts: 3999
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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It looks to me that your plan includes my only 'definites', although converting linear feet into cubic hurts my brain and I won't even try!:
I must have at least three bins. One for collecting stuff/starting off the process, one for actively working compost, and one for finished.
I've had only two before, and it's a total PITA
We get very few autumn leaves round here, as nearly all our native trees are evergreen. If I had access, I'd be stockpiling them all over the place!
They must be at least 1 cubic metre (35-odd cubic feet) in volume, or it won't cook.
My compost happens very slowly, it gets turned when I chuck it from bin to bin, so basically once. No 18-day speed-composting for me...
Willy Walker wrote: The second section will be where all my "stuff" goes in. I will let the chickens have access to this bin.

Yip, chickens really love compost bins, and since you're already familiar and cool with them in there, I say go for it.
Willy Walker wrote:I will shovel from the first bin to the second bin every so often to give a good flip of things. I also think I will keep the chickens out of this bin as I don't want fresh poo in there and this is where the bugs can thrive

I'd keep them out, or I swear there's nothing left!
Willy Walker wrote: same with the third stage. I plan to isolate the bins by chicken wire or hardware cloth to allow micro organisms, bugs and air move about. I also plan to build a lid on the second and third.

I don't do lids. I find old carpet an excellent compost-cover as it allows air circulation and some rain in, but keeps out critters, flies etc.
I know some people in extremely wet climates build impermeable covers to protect their compost from too much rain, but it'd have to be pretty wet for me to do that.

 
Ken Peavey
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Location: FL
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Sounds like you have things under control.
The only significant change I would make would be to increase the size to 4x4x4. As you have noticed, compost volume reduces greatly. In order to insulate the internal heat, a minimum size of about 3x3x3 is needed. The increased size would be able to fit the minimum size, and allow for some reduction.

Board rot is a problem. Down here I've seen 3" thick lumber disintegrate in just a few short years when left in contact with moist compost. I have one compost heap contained on 3 sides with 9 pallets. I've tried a few methods of treating the boards, and found a solution that seems to help for me. I slather it with kitchen grease. I keep my bacon grease for cooking, but there is plenty of stuff I scrape out of my pans from hamburgers or spare ribs, or deep frying oil that I don't use in another dish. I keep an old brush on a handy nail, use it to slather this grease on the boards. It only takes a minute, but the wood is holding up well after 3 years. Mind you, I get a cat sniffing around over there now and then, and its not the best looking thing. Theory says this grease will decay through putrifaction and create a stink. I live out in the woods so a smell would not be an issue, but I don't notice a smell other than the first couple of days, and I think that is from the water content of the mess I slather on. I've only done about half of the pallets, stuff has been heaped up on the other side. The greased boards, while messy, have been protected somewhat from the moisture in the heap. There is a caveat: the greased side is also not usually piled up as high as the other side. It seems to be helping.

Consider increasing the size of the leaf bin and make Leaf Mold in addition to compost. It takes a couple of years, but the result is a soil amendment that conditions the soil and works right alongside compost.

 
Willy Walker
Posts: 101
Location: Foot of the Mountain, Front Royal VA
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chicken fungi hugelkultur
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Using grease sounds like a great way to prolong the life of the boards. Plus, it is just another way to stop adding to the trash.

I do agree I should increase the size of the first bin to 4x4x4. I'm actually wondering how the chickens will be able to get in there and do there thing. NOw my bin is about 6 or 7 feet long and 3 feet tall they have plenty of scratching room and move the top most material from side to side. But at minimum, 4x4x4 it will be. I do agree with the additional leaf bin idea as the link you left mentions 2 years for breakdown... Hmm.. My compost bin is already very long, I would not like it to be 20 feet in length. Maybe I should drop the idea of keeping the leaves in this bin and store them in wire cages? This year I used a dog crate and it is working great but in no way would hold all of my leaves.. But now it is 1/2 way full. I will never be able to gather to my full leaf storing potential unless I have 6 children to help... Using the wire/fence bins would allow me to adjust the bin size to my efforts every year. This would also allow me to make better use of my lumber and possibly make a larger 1st bin, 6x4x3 or 6x4x4..

Last minute thought? I use a wood burning stove and tend to store up a bunch of ashes. I could keep these in what would have been the leaf bin? I have been reading how to use them but it seems I have more than enough..
 
Willy Walker
Posts: 101
Location: Foot of the Mountain, Front Royal VA
2
chicken fungi hugelkultur
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Do you keep your fallen pines? I am always looking for these as they would make great additions to blueberries and a few other bushes I have that perfer slightly more acid..

Leila Rich wrote:
We get very few autumn leaves round here, as nearly all our native trees are evergreen. If I had access, I'd be stockpiling them all over the place!

 
Leila Rich
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Posts: 3999
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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Leila Rich wrote:We get very few autumn leaves round here, as nearly all our native trees are evergreen. If I had access, I'd be stockpiling them all over the place!

Willy Walker wrote:Do you keep your fallen pines? I am always looking for these as they would make great additions to blueberries and a few other bushes I have that perfer slightly more acid..

Shoulda said evergreen and not conifers
We do have introduced pines and I've used the needles as mulch before, but I don't have easy access to private transport, so getting them is a real hassle.
Off topic and a bit pedantic, but from what I know pine needles, while acidic themselves, decompose back to neutral ph like just about everything. pine needle link
Doesn't stop needles from being really good-looking mulch though!
Oh yeah, re ashes: very alkaline, so I'd be very careful, especially if the ph isn't low.
My ph is good and my phosphorus levels are pretty high . Wood ashes would push them both up, so I've never used them here.
They're great in acid, low p environments, but I've always been taught that the nutrients are highly water-soluble and once the ashes are wet, they're not much use.
That isn't about composting ashes, of which I know nothing at all, but storing them: gotta be dry.

 
Kirk Marschel
Posts: 58
Location: Minnesota, USA (Zone 4b)
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Ken Peavey wrote:
Board rot is a problem. Down here I've seen 3" thick lumber disintegrate in just a few short years when left in contact with moist compost. I have one compost heap contained on 3 sides with 9 pallets. I've tried a few methods of treating the boards, and found a solution that seems to help for me. I slather it with kitchen grease. I keep my bacon grease for cooking, but there is plenty of stuff I scrape out of my pans from hamburgers or spare ribs, or deep frying oil that I don't use in another dish. I keep an old brush on a handy nail, use it to slather this grease on the boards. It only takes a minute, but the wood is holding up well after 3 years. Mind you, I get a cat sniffing around over there now and then, and its not the best looking thing. Theory says this grease will decay through putrifaction and create a stink. I live out in the woods so a smell would not be an issue, but I don't notice a smell other than the first couple of days, and I think that is from the water content of the mess I slather on. I've only done about half of the pallets, stuff has been heaped up on the other side. The greased boards, while messy, have been protected somewhat from the moisture in the heap. There is a caveat: the greased side is also not usually piled up as high as the other side. It seems to be helping.


This seems like a pretty cool idea. I'm curious, has anyone ever tried beeswax? Perhaps there'd be less issue of attracting unwanted vermin/pests and bad pathogens?

-Kirk
 
Ken Peavey
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Posts: 2524
Location: FL
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I don't have beeswax around, and it would be handy for candles and cutting boards. Those old boards around the compost get slathered with the scrapings after I make a hamburger, the drippings from a meatloaf. Its soft enough to apply with a ratty old brush. It just gives em a little bit of an edge.
 
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