Su Ba wrote:I find that making a hot pile isn't all that difficult. I make mine lasagna style. 3"-6" layers of each brown & green. Manure layer is just a covering. Brown stuff, your hay would qualify. Then green stuff, I use chopped weeds or grass clippings which I have abundantly. Then a light layer of manure. By the way, i like to chop everything if i have the time. The lawnmower gets a real workout! Next I use a hose to wet the layer down. Then I repeat. I don't use wood chips in my hot piles. I reserve them for my hugelkultur pits and add mushroom spore to them.
I use four wood pallets wired together and lined with cardboard for my hot compost piles. The bottom allows excess moisture to drain away. I cover the top of the pile with a couple of sheets of cardboard to keep an even moisture content in the pile, plus to funnel excess rain away.
The main problem I have with a hot pile is that when it gets hot, it tends to dry out. Thus composting stops. So I will check the pile once a week. If the core is dry, then the pile gets turned and watered as it goes into another pallet box.
I only make hot piles in order to process my manures. I prefer not to put raw manure into the gardens.
Oh yes, as I make the layers I also incorporate some amendments. Wood ash. Unwashed coral sand. Lava sand. Volcanic cinder. Burnt crushed bone. Biochar. Urine.
I don't measure anything. It's just an estimate.
Ken Peavey wrote:
The best way to learn how to compost is to go ahead and pile stuff up. Compost happens even when conditions are not ideal. There is a certain excitement and satisfaction found in building a hot pile, tearing into it and watching the steam rise! Over time, the excitement may cool off right along with the heap, however that satisfaction can develop into pride and accomplishment.
Talking with veteran composters I find a common pattern:
Early composting attempts see great attention to detail, turning the pile religiously, strictly following the directions
Experienced composters turn it less often, keep an eye on the moisture, but generally loosen up the standards and let things slide
Veteran composters pile stuff up and walk away. Nature takes care of the rest.
Actually they are both right. Salatin does use anaerobic for a while, but he really uses a whole lot of high carbon material to absorb the nitrates and nitrites and prevent them from either gassing the cows or leaching into the ground water. Then in spring, he sends in the pigs to aerate the whole thing and hot compost BEFORE he uses it in the fields. This makes the end result compost much like the compost Ingham makes. Two different ways to reach the same basic end result. Just keep in mind, the way Salatin does it requires HUGE amounts of material with a VERY high carbon ratio. If you use too little, then exactly those bad things you mentioned will happen.
Kevin MacBearach wrote:I do understand by not getting "too hung up on the details." It's just that I'm trying to figure this out for my own curiosity. You have to admit there's a lot of contradicting information out there. For example, everyone knows the Joel Salatin "deep bedding" system where he lets his cows overwinter in a barn by constantly throwing layers of hay on top of the cow's manure until by the bed of winter he's created a 5' high "lasagna" of fermented hay and manure. Then in early spring he moves the cows t pasture and brings the pigs into the barn to root through the fermented bedding for the next two months. Now it's obvious that with a lack of turning, not to mention the weight of the cows on the bedding, that this stuff is way anaerobic. From what I've heard from Elaine Ingham, she would say that this bedding is releasing ammonia and other harmful gasses breathed in by the cows. And the fermenting, oxygen deprived nitrogen is turning into nitrates and nitrites which could seep into the ground and ruin Salatin's ground water. So between Salatin and Ingham, one of them is wrong. All I know for sure is animal manure is a volatile substance that depending on how it's handled can either make things thrive on the farm, or make them sick.
I do both hot composting and cool composting. Both work fine for me. The only difference for me is how fast do I need it. If I don't need it in a month or less, I just go the slow route...less work. If I need it quick, I pay closer attention to detail and make sure my ratios and moisture are correct and turn the pile every 3 days.
Kevin MacBearach wrote:Well I guess Salatin would have massive amounts of carbon at his disposal for all those animals.
What's your opinions on having the pile come up to a certain temperature for a certain amount of days in order for the good bacteria that the plants can benefit from to develop, as oppose to what I mostly see people doing which is just making a pile with the right ratio but not being particular to temp, or length of temp? Doesn't that just leave a whole different bacteria profile in the pile? It would be one thing to let such a pile sit for a year till worms created the good bacteria, but people just seem to treat these piles as if they're matured compost before even the worms take over. Seems the lines get blurred between thermal and vermi-compost.