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pet waste composting in the winter?  RSS feed

 
Rick English
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Location: Central Pennsylvania, USA
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I have 3 dogs and two cats, so they produce a lot of waste. I also live in the northeast, where it gets freezing cold in the winter. I am pretty sure that most of the proposed methods for taking care of pet waste slow down or stop working over the winter.

I guess you could argue that the waste freezes over the winter so it is less of a problem, but we live in zone 6, where there are many thaw cycles all winter long. We have a well, so I am not crazy about the idea of a winter rain or even snow melt causing pet waste coolaid running into our drinking water.

I guess I could maybe do a worm bin in the basement or something, but our pet waste stinks, and I am not crazy about the idea of bringing the dog waste back in the house.

Any ideas?
 
Rose Seemann
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Location: Aurora, Colorado
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Freezing temps with winter thaws is a real challenge. At the sled dog yards at Denali National Park in Alaska, they simply keep covering waste with sawdust and wait for spring to compost. But most of us don't have that long deep freeze.

You could switch from summer composting to either bokashi or vermicompost in containers in your basement, as long as temps don't drop much below 40 degrees. Both processes shouldn't produce odors if done properly, but there's the rub. It takes research, monitoring, experimenting to do either one right.

I'm thinking that for starters bokashi would be easier to handle. But you'll need to get the residuals into the ground during the thaws when you can bury it. Otherwise, you'll need lots of collection buckets.

But those vertical stacked worm bins with multiple trays are pretty slick and don't take up much space. The vermicompost and leacheate collect at the bottom for harvesting. Vermiculture residuals have less volume than bokashi and you can store them more easily. Your biggest job will be providing an environment that will keep the worms healthy. Check out how a bit of bokashi can help with that.
 
Rick English
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Location: Central Pennsylvania, USA
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Rose - you are awesome - thanks for the reply!

I found a post on bokashi that I need to read in more detail:
http://www.permies.com/t/11246/composting/bokashi

So one thing I didn't mention that may make a difference... I live in an old farmhouse, and my basement features a coal boiler system for heat, so during winter, my basement is REALLY warm - probably 80+ degrees F.

Is that a help or hindrance to bokashi or worms?
 
Rose Seemann
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Location: Aurora, Colorado
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Super easy, bokashi recipe for 10 lbs. - thoroughly mix together into a spongy, fragrant material
4 Tbsp. EM-1
4 Tbsp. molasses
10 cups water
10 lbs. bran

Ferment the mixture in a tightly closed black plastic bag (no air!), kept it in a lidded container in moderate temps for 4-6 weeks. It's OK if there's just a bit of white mold on it. Unless you're using your batch right away, you'll need to store it. If you want to keep finished bokashi for the long term, you need to air day it. Spread it out on a tarp on a warm, arid, non-windy day for a few hours (or longer if possible). Very important to make sure all of it is very dry. (I didn't dry my last batch long enough and it got lumpy, smelly and moldy in storage; used it anyway but, yuck.)

A warm basement will make both bokashi and worms go at degradation faster. Just so it's not so hot the worms get baked!


 
Rick English
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thanks for the simple recipe - much appreciated!
 
Rick English
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Location: Central Pennsylvania, USA
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Here is another related post:
http://www.permies.com/t/47573/composting/Frenchie-Potty-Bucket
 
John Master
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Location: Wisconsin
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For what it sounds like you have, Bokashi is totally the way to go. I live in WI and have the same problem with freezing in the winter. I have a small bokashi compost bucket that practically everything can go into. Then I have some over the winter 30 gallon plastic drums that I continuously dump the smaller bucket into as it fills. You could literally just get as large an airtight bin as you can handle full (30 gallons of food scraps gets pretty heavy) in the basement and fill/sprinkle the bokashi bran and even your kitchen scraps as you add pet waste. In the spring when you are ready to turn that bucket of sweet smelling fermented material into soil just bury it outside and come back in a month or two. Should be some rich black soil perfect for any garden uses.

Put a divider in the bottom of the bucket though as bokashi method doesn't like to be sitting in its own liquid. Any perforated divider and a couple inches of space in the bottom is good, I put spigots on the bottom of my bins so I can drain off the tea for adding to garden areas that need it.
 
Rose Seemann
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Location: Aurora, Colorado
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John - Nice over-winter system! You bring up an important point about Bokashi - draining leacheate. That stuff doesn't smell great, but diluted 1:100 with water it makes a good liquid fertilizer.
 
Rick English
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Location: Central Pennsylvania, USA
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Thanks John - it is great to hear someone else is making this system work! I am looking forward to making it work myself.
 
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