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John Fajer
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Hey guys and gals!

Just wanted to do a quick permies survey about our compost piles! Three quick questions!

1. How large is your compost pile?
2. How often, if ever, do you water your compost pile?
3. How frequently do you turn your compost pile?

Thanks in advance for contributing!
 
Charli Wilson
Posts: 309
Location: Derbyshire, UK
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1) 2 compost bins, each 2.4m by 1.2m, and about 1.2m high.
2) Never, I'm in the UK- it rains a lot here.
3) Only when I empty it... I'm really lazy.. I full up one bin then leave it for the 2 years or so that it takes me fill up the other bin, by the time the second bin is full the first one has rotted down a lot and goes on the beds as thick mulch. I'd probably get much finer compost with less weed seeds in if I turned it, but the weeds all get shaded out and don't get too far, and the lumps in the compost don't seem to bother anything. I sift compost to use as potting mix (or use the stuff out of the wormery).

One day I plan to set up an insulated hot-composter to see how much difference it makes.. but for now I've no trouble waiting a few years for the compost, I don't have a shortage of decent dirt right now.
 
Ken Peavey
steward
Posts: 2524
Location: FL
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1 There are several, most are leaves that get no green material. These will become leaf mold. Green material goes into the garden beds being prepared (sheet composting) or into the hot compost heap which is 12' wide, 10' long, anywhere from 2-4' high.

2 Every time it rains. The garden beds get a good hosing when new material is added and forked around.

3 The leaf piles never get turned. The hot heap gets some part of it tossed on new material when it is added. The garden beds get forked around when new material is added.

I've been composting for over a decade. It doesn't take much effort. Most of the browns are leaves. Most of the greens are grass clippings and weeds. There is a tiny bit of food scraps, coffee grounds, and some manure added from time to time. With several piles of material being put together here and there, there is always something ready to go. I learned not to bother with it, nature will rot the stuff down in her own time. Chickens will tear up the heaps, every now and then I'll fork it back into a pile if its spread out and flattened-maybe once in a year when its leaf season. Rather than spend time turning, tending and watering a compost heap, I'll get more compost if I spend that time putting together another heap.
 
Michael Cox
Posts: 1667
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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1) we have two 'compost heaps' but multiple other piles of grass clippings and leaves around the place. Nothing gets dug or turned, other than when food scraps are added to the compost heaps as we usually bury them 8" or so beneath the surface. The main compost heaps are 5ft cubes, with wooden slatted sides.

2) nothing ever gets watered, except by rainfall. Recent experience has suggested that my piles of ramial woodchips would benefit from a really deep soak at least once, as they were very dry in the centre.

3) nothing gets turned. Nature does the job and generally one heap is ready to empty when the other gets full. The other random piles get chucked on beds as mulch when the whim takes me - not necessarily when they are perfectly rotted.
 
Su Ba
pollinator
Posts: 980
Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
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1- I have 3 of those tumbler type composters that are about 2 1/2 feet by 2 1/2 feet. They are for processing chicken pen litter. I add no water when the bin is filled in that the litter contains enough moisture. In fact, I have to crack the door open a tad for the first week in order to let some of the excess moisture out. Each bin is turned once daily. The pen is cleaned out once a week and the litter added to an empty bin. That means the litter composts 3 weeks before being removed. The material heats up in 24 hours, getting hotter over the next days. It stays very hot for the 3 weeks. This semi-finished compost is used for mulching taro, sugar cane, pipinola, gourds, corn, and certain other crops. It isn't used for low growing veggies or root crops other than taro.

2- My "workhorse" compost bins are made out of four old wood pallets wired together. Wired so that they can be easily disassembled. They are lined with a single sheet of cardboard stapled to the pallet prior to being filled. The bin is filled with alternating layers 3 to 6 inches thick of grass clippings, manure (horse, sheep, rabbit, cow), and chopped material incluing leaves, weeds, brush, macnut waste, crop waste, waste fruits, whatever. Each layer gets a light sprinkling of garden soil, urine soaked biochar, processed bone, coral dust, wood ash, and lava sand. Water is added to each layer to moisten it but not soak it. The bin is filled then topped with several layers of cardboard. 3 to 4 weeks later the bin is checked. If it s still moist and very hot, I will let it alone for another 3-4 weeks. If too dry or cool, I will flip the material into another bin while adding water and horse manure (or fresh green grass clippings). Again, it will be topped with several layers of cardboard. I check the status of the bins every 3-4 weeks.

Each bin gets flipped at least once during the composting process so that all the material has a chance to get well heated. A bin composts for about three months before being used, or longer if the garden doesn't need it yet.

These bins can be used to process dead animals with no odor or flies resulting. For a large animal like a pig or sheep, I need to make the bin larger.

Since I feed edible waste to the chickens, food doesn't go into my compost. Excluded is most brush, twigs, and coarse weeds which go into filling the pits that eventually become flower beds along the driveway. I want everything going into my compost piles to be chopped or in small enough pieces to be easily handled so that I do not need to shred the compost prior to using, nor have difficulty when flipping the pile. I have 15 to 25 bins going at a time depending upon the amount of material I can get for composting.

...Su Ba
www.kaufarmer.blogspot.com
 
John Elliott
pollinator
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1) 3' by 3' by 2, maybe 3' high.
2) Never, that's what rain is for.
3) Never, that's what bugs and worms are for.

Composting is for the overly nervous, who feel they have to have something to do instead of leaving the mycelium to do its work.
 
Su Ba
pollinator
Posts: 980
Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
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John, I'd agree with you when it comes to small gardening. When I was a gardener, I never flipped my piles. They sat over the winter and were used each spring. I never watered, flipped, or did anything to them. I didn't worry then about maintaining soil microbes, surface mulch decomposition, retaining nutrients, etc. if a crop failed, I just bought a tad more food at the supermarket. In fact, food from the garden was a bonus, not an expected meal.

Now I run a small homestead farm that needs to support itself and the two of us. Food production is a must. Poor food production means we have to spend precious money that we can't afford to spend.

In order for my farm to be productive enough, it needs fertilizer. Tropical soils are not very fertile and leach readily. That means plenty of compost, nutrient teas, and manures. My food production area amounts to acres, not square feet.

25 bins is about the most that I have time to handle. I'd love more but then I would need to upgrade by buying equipment, something that I do not want to do. A front end loader could process hugh piles, but then there is the purchase and transportation cost, fuel, maintenance and repairs, and a shed needed for storing it. Then if i had a front end loader, I'd need a big shredder to process enough material to justify having the front end loader. That would mean i would need a bigger truck to gather more material to feed the piles by bringing in macnut waste, coffee processing waste, landscaping waste, utility line chippings, etc. Far too much expense for a farm like mine.

Everyone's situation is different.

...Su Ba
www.kaufarmer.blogspot.com
 
Burra Maluca
Mother Tree
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Location: Portugal
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1 - Five foot square. I have a row of them...

2= Most of them never. The humanure one gets watered when I wash the buckets out and I like to make sure that one stays moist enough to be active at all times as I want the temperature nice and high and the material to be well rotted. In our super hot, dry summers I usually manage this by emptying the buckets more frequently, say every three weeks instead of every four, and covering the pile to reduce evaporation. The compounds have brick sides and wooden slats with no gaps at the front, which also helps to reduce evaporation.

3 - I never turn them. At the start I did to speed things up, but I can only access the same quantity of 'stuff' to compost so making it rot faster doesn't give me any more compost. So I just let it sit there til it's ready.
 
David Hartley
Posts: 258
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1. Not one, but multiple, side by side, using old cranberry crates. They are about 3.5ft wide by 4ft long by 3.5ft deep. Maybe slightly bigger, but not by much.

2. It is covered from heavy rains of the PNW and periodically watered during the dry summer months (but not as often as it should, I would gather).

3. None are turned, ever. The closest they come is if a chicken dies of unknown reasons, or guts, or dead mice that we trapped, etc; are buried down in the middle.


By in large, the "piles" are added to until full via batches of: 1~2 five gallon buckets of kitchen scraps, chicken roost manure, then covered with used coop bedding straw... Once a bin is full; it is covered with compressed straw straight from the bale. Sections are peeled off about 2~3 inches thick and laid on top to form a tight and thick blanket. Then it is left alone and a new bin started... New bins are started with loose straw, about 12~18 inches high; which ends up compressing down to near nothing by the time it is full.
 
Sean Banks
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1.4 feet long by 3 feet high
2. Never water
3. A couple times per month
 
Leila Rich
steward
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Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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1. I'm in metricland. 3 1 cubic metre pallet and 'NZ bins'
2. I sometimes water in summer. If I don't I can end up with baby mice in my bins.
3.Parenoid neighbours, pointy things and squirmy helpless babies are not my favourite combo.
I do a fair amount of burying, but not much turning.
My current pile has many kg of apple pulp that the vinegar isn't interested in any more, as well as a few donated bokashi buckets, prunings, shells, loads of weeds...
 
Bob Anders
Posts: 45
Location: Shenandoah Valley, VA
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1. 18' long, 5' high, and 6' wide
2. water 2 or 3 times a week
3. I flip a third of the pile to the other side 2 or 3 times a week.
 
Tim Malacarne
Posts: 226
Location: South central Illinois, USA
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1) Usually 20-25'L, 6-7'H, and 10' W at the base

2) As needed when turning

3) Every 2-3 days

I make one pile a year, in Autumn. It's a "Hot" pile. When it begins to cool, after the seventh or eighth turn, I cover it with a waterproof tarp, then use as needed. Turn with a tractor loader...

We have a fence enclosure we call the compost staging pile. It goes into the pile when I build it, otherwise sits in garden, receives all garden waste and household garbage, sans meat scraps or bones.

I won't argue Ford/Chevy with you, but compost really seems to work, and work well, for our garden. The common reaction of visitors is, "...well we've got tomatoes, but not THAT big," and "...we've got peppers, but not THAT big." And on and on....

Best, TM
 
greg patrick
Posts: 168
Location: SoCal, USDA Zone 10b
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1) Food scraps and yard waste go to the chickens and they water and flip their own deep litter. Goat pen muckings and leaves and coarsely chopped wood chunks go into three 1cu meter plastic pallet bins. Muckings consist of well mixed (chickens have run of the pens) urine soaked leaves, alfalfa waste and straw and goat pellets. Perfect mix of carbon and nitrogen and microbes starts breaking down on the ground and breaks down very quickly once in the bins.
2) During the dry season we'll pour black pond sludge over the piles to keep them moist. Chlorinated water kills off the microbes and slows things down.
3) We use a three stage system. Whenever we empty the last bin, we'll turn the other two into the next bin. In a perfect world each bin would be downhill from the previous so turning is easy.

We cover our piles with plastic and/or cardboard to retain/control moisture.

We place a piece of leachfield pipe vertically in each pile to help aerate them.

I pile a foot of sticks under each pile to allow air in.

We incorporate lots of wood into our compost. It's all white and moldy and wet by the time we even get t into the first pile (animal urine breaks down cellulose very effectively), and if I need fine dirt I just screen it. I really believe using lots of wood helps keep the compost moisture correct, and since I'm doing huglekulture anyway, I may as well get the wood breaking down and working ASAP.

We sprinkle dolomite and wood ash over the piles liberally as we build them.

We innoculate all piles with a good helping of finished compost or compost tea as we build them.

The first pile has mice and grubs, the second has lots of beetles and worms and the last pile is full of centipedes and worms.

When I build my growing beds I pile in wood, top it with finished compost, plant the seeds, then cover with a nice layer of wood chips.
 
Mark Chadwick
Posts: 81
Location: Cranbourne, Victoria, AUSTRALIA
chicken forest garden urban
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1. 3 piles, 1 2 cubic metres wood slat construction in the vege patch. 2 1 cu m plastic jobs in the chicken run.

2. Only in summer if needed.

3. I regularly aerate using a steel corkscrew device that is screwed into the heap and withdrawn to mix the contents.

All get lawn clippings, weed and food scrap the chickens don't get with extra horse manure and stable litter from a nearby stud. The coop litter gets spread under fruit trees.
 
Walter Jeffries
Posts: 1091
Location: Mountains of Vermont, USDA Zone 3
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John Fajer wrote:1. How large is your compost pile?


Typically about 80'x10'x8' or so. Some are smaller, occasionally larger. We have several going at any time.

John Fajer wrote:2. How often, if ever, do you water your compost pile?


Never. Rain and the material in the compost pile is plenty of fluids.

John Fajer wrote:3. How frequently do you turn your compost pile?


Rarely. Probably once or twice a pile over a year's time.

Cheers,

-Walter Jeffries
Sugar Mountain Farm
Pastured Pigs, Sheep & Kids
in the mountains of Vermont
http://SugarMtnFarm.com/
 
Landon Sunrich
pollinator
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Location: Western Washington
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1) I have two pallet sized cubes that I try to keep filled with composting material

2) I use a bunch of straw bedding as my main material. Usually I'll pile this up and saturate it 2 or 3 times before it goes into my compost bay otherwise the stuff never gets wet and doesn't decompose aerobically well. Then I water as needed when turning - which is rarely since I have my compost situated in the shade

3) Probably less than I should. I'd say I average one turn every two weeks. Though my enthusiasm waxes/wanes depending on the weather (I don't like working in the full sun of summer) and how exhausted I am from doing other things. One thinng I've noticed about compost (and work in general) is the more I move organic material the less I have to feed my chickens.

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Ryan Harp
Posts: 97
hugelkultur urban woodworking
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1) 3 cylinder 1" grid rabbit cages hold my compost. 3 feet tall and 18 inches in diameter.

2) Water once a week... or so.

3) I only turn 3 times a year. Not a lot of waste to compost so its slow going.
 
Paul Lund
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1. How large is your compost pile?
2. How often, if ever, do you water your compost pile?
3. How frequently do you turn your compost pile?

1) About 6-7 wheel barrows full laying on dry ground in the garden
2) Water it every day just to keep the surface moist.
3) I turn it about every 2-4 weeks.

Mostly oak leaves in November and fruits & veggies with chemical-free grass added during grass growing season. Oh, and spent coffee grounds from my GF's coffee shop. That really gets the works going.
A pitch fork really makes it easy to turn. Horse manure helps speed the process.



Paul Lund
Walla Walla, WA.
USDA Zone 6a - http://www.plantmaps.com/99362
 
Susan Jensen
Posts: 3
Location: Surrey, BC, Canada
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John Fajer wrote:
1. How large is your compost pile?
2. How often, if ever, do you water your compost pile?
3. How frequently do you turn your compost pile?


Hello, interesting to see what everyone is doing. I raise chickens, worms, and garden on my suburban lot, so composting is a big part of the process:

1. I have:
- a 3 ft x 3 ft pile and an Earth Machine composter for chicken manure
- a 3 foot by 5 foot wooden box for garden and yard clippings
- a Worm Factory, a Rubbermaid worm bin, and a box made from a treestump for kitchen scraps.
There are photos on my worm composting website here: Worm Composting Bins

2. I water the open pile about once a month but only in the summer. The challenge in my climate is usually to keep it dry.

3. I turn the open pile about every 3 months. There are few worms in the chicken manure since it is strong. But in the other bins, I have red wiggler worms doing the turning.
 
Tim Malacarne
Posts: 226
Location: South central Illinois, USA
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1). About 25'L X 8'W X 6'H.

2. As needed, mebbe evry other turn.

3). Every 2 or 3 days, weather permitting.

I use the 21 Day "Hot" method. Like it a lot 'cause it seems to kill off lots of weed seeds. We pile all of out garbage in a wire cage, along with garden wastes, add that into the compost pile once a year or so...
 
                    
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I guess this thing is about 30' long, currently about 1' thick of older composted base, then about 1' thick of freshly ground leaves, leaf mold, wild mushrooms, & busted acorns(adds weight), rain water, slightly mixed/shredded with older compost to add weight & keep the stuff from blowing off, more leaves shall be forthcoming for me to build this thing taller during the next few weeks, then let it work for the winter.

No barnyard manure in this batch this year, I often add charcoal & a little ash, not sure if I will turn it much, as the mushrooms are already growing in the older composted base. I try not to disturb the base material too much as there be toads & worms living in there. Usually everything that goes in, gets ground with the lawnmower before adding to the pile. As soon as this is cured well, most of this will go in a hugelbed, of which a few buckets of various wild mushrooms have already been thrown in that.

james beam
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Jennifer Wadsworth
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1. How large is your compost pile?
--I have several - I try to keep them at around a cubic yard for thermophilic action
2. How often, if ever, do you water your compost pile?
--I live in a desert! Yes, I water my compost (because compost piles in the deserts are like raised beds - they dry out quickly). In the summer, once a week. In spring and fall, twice a month, in winter, once a month.
3. How frequently do you turn your compost pile? Rarely - unless I'm building a Berkeley pile. But my two main compost heaps are in with the chickens - they do my turning for me and also add nitrogen.
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Hens over compost
 
Brad Cloutier
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I started the year off with one of those store bought, square compost bins. I started a nice batch in there this year early with grass clippings, old compost (from a pile i left years ago) and some leaves, straw, coffee grounds and veggie scraps. I turned that pile every two or three days then left it. The bin I have is not really conducive to regular turning. After a few months I sifted the compost and ended up with two 5 gallon buckets of finished stuff. I took the rest and put it back in the compost bin with a bunch of weed stalks and woody material...and of course, more coffee grounds. Then, in my backyard I became enlightened to a particular weed that was growing in my bare patches....... Lamb's quarters. After doing some research I discovered this is a top notch plant! so I composted all of them as well. In the meantime I've since built a two section pallet composting spread in the back. I have gathered my whole neighborhoods leaves and I now have 3 tall piles of leaves. Some I placed at the base as mulch for my apple trees and garden beds. And I still have a ton in my back yard that need processed.

I probably will not turn these, or all of them, over the winter. I'm thinking one I might work a bit so I've got some compost in the spring. I noticed this past weekend that it was getting hot even though I did not purposely add greens (I think I picked up grass in the cleanup).

From here on I think I'm going to use the pallet setup for fresh piles and the black box to finish off or cure compost or a holding bin.

I also have worm factory as well.
 
Brad Cloutier
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Susan Jensen wrote:
John Fajer wrote:
1. How large is your compost pile?
2. How often, if ever, do you water your compost pile?
3. How frequently do you turn your compost pile?


Hello, interesting to see what everyone is doing. I raise chickens, worms, and garden on my suburban lot, so composting is a big part of the process:

1. I have:
- a 3 ft x 3 ft pile and an Earth Machine composter for chicken manure
- a 3 foot by 5 foot wooden box for garden and yard clippings
- a Worm Factory, a Rubbermaid worm bin, and a box made from a treestump for kitchen scraps.
There are photos on my worm composting website here: Worm Composting Bins

2. I water the open pile about once a month but only in the summer. The challenge in my climate is usually to keep it dry.

3. I turn the open pile about every 3 months. There are few worms in the chicken manure since it is strong. But in the other bins, I have red wiggler worms doing the turning.


That's your worm site? Very cool!
 
Matu Collins
Posts: 1976
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
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I don't have a compost pile any more. Most kitchen scraps go to the chickens. Egg shells and coffee grounds go into a large compost tumbler that I also put a bunch of chicken bedding into. I water that initially and then only if things are very dry for a long time. I roll it every couple of days and every week or so mix it up with a compost aerator. This ends up being really nice stuff.
I also just dump chicken bedding or other materials onto deep mulched beds that aren't in use at the moment.
I do a lot of chop and drop, and my new method, beyond chop and drop I like to call "stomp and tuck". I just bend the weed stalks and stomp then down out of the way. I'm often carrying an infant in a sling, and the ol stomp and tuck is easier to do with one hand. So there isn't a lot of garden debris to deal with.
I also save organic matter for the building of hugelbeets. I'm sort of silly about it, I'll save most anything. An old cotton hammock went into one this year.
 
Luke Burkholder
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1) About a 3 foot cylinder, 3 feet tall. Except when I have been accumulating lots of stuff.

2) Never water.

3) I turn it when I need compost: pitchfork the rough stuff into a new pile right next to it and use the black gold that falls to the bottom.

The more permaculture stuff I read/see, the less I worry about my compost pile.
 
Jocelyn Campbell
steward
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Location: Missoula, MT
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John Fajer wrote:1. How large is your compost pile?
2. How often, if ever, do you water your compost pile?
3. How frequently do you turn your compost pile?


1. no pile - food waste goes to pigs or chickens. Coffee grounds, tea bags and any other non-edibles are sheet composted, by covering with sawdust if stinky, directly in garden beds
2. never (unless I have water to dump out on plants where the sheet composting is)
3. never (unless I'm going to dig and plant or transplant in that location)

Easy-peasy.

 
Denice Moffat
Posts: 33
Location: U.S.A.
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We're passionate composters and use several ways to compost.
We have pallet bins (4x4x4) which we plant into so water often because it's dual purpose. We take the sides off, set the mantis tiller on top of the pile and till the pile after a year and put it onto the beds or wherever.
We have 6 x 8 foot bins loaded into stacked wood sticks (kind of like Lincoln logs). They usually get disassembled after two years and spread around. We then take the logs and build another one in a place where we have lots of debris.
We build Straw bale beds 4 x 16" by 30-65 feet long. It takes 2 years for the straw to break down and we top those off 2-3 times before we disassemble them. These are awesome. Check the pictures out here:
http://elkmeadownursery.com/farm-education/straw-bale-beds/
and we build hugelkultures (not tall enough yet but we're working on it)
We have big piles of fall leaves (which we do turn once a year) and bigger piles of horse manure and sawdust which we usually don't have time to turn but use after a year or so.
Oh, and we also use deep compost and the techniques in the film Back to Eden with ramial wood chips. www.backtoedenfilm.com
All these things have transformed our soil in a hurry.
You can see some of these techniques in our Christmas letter: http://naturalhealthtechniques.com/2013-christmas-letter.htm
 
James Barr
Posts: 32
Location: Alberta Canada 3b I think....
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Hi,
I compost outdoors, and indoors with a traditional heap and worms. My outdoor heap I keep going all winter with hot composting methods and I turn it quite often. Id say every other day or so. In the winter, I dont have to worry about watering since the snow melts into it from the heat. In the summer I will water as needed. i just check it when I turn it.
Kind Regards,
James
 
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