I have volunteered to take over the handling of the manure waste at a 10 or so horse stable near my home outside of Buffalo, NY. I have a coupple of thoughts for this year that I would appreciate receiving criticism and suggestions upon. Incidentally, I have been turning all of this manure by hand since last month and it is a neat way to have dropped some 40 pounds.
Idea # 1
Picture the composting area as a rectangle, like a football field, that is 60 feet wide (north south) and 120 feet long (east - west). My first idea is to use some of the space to build temporary greenhouses or hot houses, the walls of which would be made out of the material that is going through the composting process right now.
My thought is to build up two east - west windrows of the present manure being composted, each four feet wide, separated by a distance of perhaps four feet. The southern most windrow would be four feet tall and the northern windrow would be six of so feet wide. one of the north - south walls would be made of another compost dividing wall and the other by a temporarty door, the top of both would be at the angle. The roof would be made out of 6 mil clear plastic on 1" x 2" boards. The area between the two windrows, under the clear plastic roof, would be for starting and early growth of various plants. The entire thing comes down once outside temperatures permit plainting in the garden locations.
1. Anyone know if this sort of thing has been done?
2. I am looking for a solar fan to ventilate the hot house during the day. Anyone have any thoughts?
3. I would like to figure out a way to store some of the heat from the sun as well as from the compositing process going on in both walls under the plants so that it retains more warmth at night and during inclement weather. Any low cost ideas? I thought of plastic bins filled with water with the flats for plants on top of the bins, possibly with hoses running from each bin, into the walls, and then back into the bins. It would be an open system - the two hose ends would be submerged in the bin water and would not be connected to one another. If that sort of thing might work, any thoughts on how much volume needs to be in the composting walls verses water within the bins? I am looking for a ratio there
Sounds like treasure to me! My father-in-law talks about using green manure to build hoop house raised beds in MN in the 30s. They mixed it with sawdust and put dirt on top.
Consider ways you can use it for vermiculture one the inside of the greenhouse for helping heat year around. Newspaper or wood chips could keep down the smell. You will benefit from heat and year-around compost cooking.
I'm definitely interested in hearing how this works out. I've had ideas along similar lines but at a smaller scale -- building hotbeds inside a greenhouse/coldframe using horse manure.
I vaguely recall hearing about something like this being done, maybe in the 80s, maybe in Massachusetts (Martha's Vineyard?) -- with so-so results. Try searching for "compost heated greenhouses" or related terms. If I manage to find the links again I'll post them here.
One challenge I see is that when outdoor temps drop below 20°F or so, your windrows will probably freeze, stop composting, stop generating heat for you. Maybe they'll be big enough to avoid this happening, but I'd guess that if you pull heat of the pile out by piping water in you may speed up this process. I'm not sure you've got enough day length in midwinter in Buffalo to get enough solar gain to actually transfer heat back into the pile?
I think that if your expectations are low, and you are growing cold-weather survivors (spinach, kale, etc) then you might make it work.
Looking forward to hearing updates... and pictures