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Chopping/Chunking/Grinding Compost  RSS feed

 
Willy Kerlang
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Recently I began hitting up my local supermarket for their spoiled produce so I could add it to my compost pile.  I get a lot of large vegetables, like potatoes, turnips, rutabagas, etc. that would compost a lot faster if I had some efficient way to grind them up.  I would really prefer to find some non-motorized method of doing this, like some kind of hand-cranked something.  I looked into sausage grinders but they are all too small.  I feel like the solution to this is probably staring me in the face, but I can't seem to come up with anything.  Does anyone have any ideas?

On a side note... I live in a town of 1,000 people, and our supermarket throws away at least 200 pounds of produce PER WEEK.  This is not an exaggeration, it's a conservative estimate.  I can count on one large box of bad produce every other day, and these boxes are easily fifty pounds in weight, sometimes much more.  It's horrifying.  Some of this stuff has traveled thousands of miles only to end up in my compost pile! 
 
John Polk
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Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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If it is going into your compost pile, its nutrients are going to your crops.  Better that than the landfill!  All of that sunlight that went into producing that waste is now finding its way into your garden.
 
George Lee
Posts: 539
Location: Athens, GA/Sunset, SC
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For my worms I use a large blender and blend down vegetables and fruit slices that will go in their crates as a 'mush'.. They can put away some serious refuse if micronized in this fashion.

As for my compost piles, I sometime chop winter squash rinds with my machete (Colombian made ) and then into the pile they go as normal.

It sounds like you've got a good thing goin'. Treasure it!

Peace -
 
Willy Kerlang
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I agree that it's better for it to end up in my compost than in a landfill.  But it's really depressing when you think of all the energy that went into growing a strawberry in California, packing it, transporting it all the way here to Nova Scotia, then putting it on a shelf for about two days until it gets a little mold on it and has to be tossed.  Meanwhile we grow perfectly beautiful strawberries right here in this province.  But you can only harvest them a few months a year.  So it's our greed for strawberries out of season that fuels the whole cycle.  And of course this is just a microcosmic view.  The big picture is that we are doing this with thousands of food items every day, sourced from all over the world. 

I do get a lot of satisfaction out of dumping all this food into my pile.  But it also makes me crazy to think of how utterly whacked and backwards our entire society is when it comes to food. I live in such a tiny town, and yet our one store produces all this waste.  Meanwhile there are hungry children right here in this province who don't get enough nutrients on a daily basis.  Think of how much waste must be produced every day in a city of 50,000.  And I can't even think about a place like New York or L.A.  Our entire system of food production and consumption is completely screwed! 
 
George Lee
Posts: 539
Location: Athens, GA/Sunset, SC
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Do your part and encourage others to follow your lead locally.. Localized change is noticed and as this happens bigger changes transpire. Peace -
 
Jack Shawburn
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Willy
You will need a lot of dry materials.
Check with Garden service people for leaves etc. (I get 100's bags from them)
You should really allow the compost made from the
supermarket stuff to decompose and age well.- at least a year before using.
When you see earthworms in it, thats a good signal and time to use.
Try to have segregated piles for these and do a germination test before use.
 
                                    
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Have you ever considered keeping some chickens?  They would go through that produce and process it all for you in short order.  Of course, if you live in a town, that may not be allowed.  Chickens can eat an amazing amount of produce in short order, and there is very little edible matter they won't eat.  If its starting to go "off" a bit, that's ok too, as long as its not moldy.

And, of course, chicken poo is an amazing fertilizer.
 
Willy Kerlang
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LivingWind, thank you.  I find that encouraging.

Jen, yes, I know I need lots of carbon.  I'm using leaves and also pine/fir shavings, the kind you might use for stable bedding or chicken bedding.  I can get bales of this very cheaply and it seems to be providing enough brown for the pile.  I suppose I might need to add some lime to bring the pH up a little, but I will test it first.

Denninmi, unfortunately we do live in a town and are not allowed to have chickens.  This is a source of some sadness/frustration for me, but there's no changing it right now.

Thanks for all your replies.  I may just end up having to chop this up by hand.
 
Jack Shawburn
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Willy - do you have a shredder?
You could run wet/dry/wet  through it so as not to clog it.
I bashed mine's outlet a bit bigger and now have less clogging.
concern is about too much moisture rather than C-N ratio.
I've been making compost with mostly leaves and it works fine.
I run Brush through the shredder to get the "chips" these days
and use for mulch directly.
Not much option with the veg - needs to be composted.
 
Karl Teceno
Posts: 91
Location: Portland Maine
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I save a corner of my freezer for dead veggies. I freeze them solid usually a couple of hours. The cell membranes rupture an they then turn to mush for my worms or my compost piles.

Karl
 
William Roan
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karl, Nice tip on the processing vegetables in the freezer.

Willy, I would like to talk you into doing a variation on the hugelkulture design. Dig a hole the size of your box, drop it in, throw on some carbon and grass clippings, chop with shovel, add a 5 gallon bucket of water  and just enough dirt to keep the rats away. Then repeat until you have a hugelkulture mound as long as you want it to be. Three weeks later seed plant melons and squash, store bought potatoes and tomatoes plants. These plants seem to love this unprocessed fertilizer.
When ever you can, continue to add brown mulch on top of your beds with just enough grass clipping to obscure the brown color. This will stop most of the weeds and add to the mulch.
The wet cardboard along with the green nitrogen and brown mulch seems to be speeding up the breakdown of the everything. The roots aren't spending a lot of energy trying to push through our clay soil. If slugs come in they seem to go for the potatoes leaves first.
Please post your results in the future.
 
Willy Kerlang
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Hey BioBill,
Great idea.  It just so happens that I am in the process of preparing a new hugulkultur bed that will put to shame all my previous efforts at hugulkultur.  It's going to be about 4-6 feet across and about 50 feet long.  I've only gotten as far as laying down the wood because I am waiting for a delivery of dirt.  I decided not to dig it down because it's actually at the base of a hill, and I figured it would already be collecting all the water that ran off anyway.  So, could I theoretically lay all this raw compost on top of the wood and then just pile dirt on top of it all? 

Re: potatoes, a lot of the veggies that get thrown away are potatoes, and since they have all begun to sprout I couldn't bear to just compost them.  So I saved them for seed, having no clue where I will plant them, but trusting to the universe to provide.  Now it appears the solution has revealed itself.  Could I throw down the raw compost, put the dirt on top, and plant the potatoes in the dirt?  I think this would make me a very happy dude indeed.  And I would have a metric buttload of potatoes to give away.
 
William Roan
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Hi Willy
There is no wrong way to plant, nature will find a way. But might I suggest, please keep a garden notebook and write down everything you do. Experiment how deeply you plant your potatoes, how much water you add, if you are seeing anything odd. Many times your mistakes are just as important as when things work perfectly. Years from now you might see something that reminds you of an observation you made years ago. A notebook will show you detailed information, your memory will fizzle out within a few days.
                                                  SUGAR BEETS

A guy I worked for years ago, Art Jones grew up in Idaho. As a teenager he got a job from an old Japanese sugar beet farmer. Because it was the early 1960’s and the memory of WW2 was still on the minds of many in the area, the local farmers didn’t like the guy.
To add insult to injury the old farmer was always getting the highest prices for his sugar beets, because his beets were bigger and had higher sugar content than anyone else in the area. Art would hear a lot of speculation around town as to what the old farmer could be doing differently. So the local farmers started hiding in the brush along the farmers fields trying to figure out his secrets. Art warned his old boss that the locals were spying on him trying to get his secrets.
The old farmer told Art, “Let them look, they will never figure it out. My father taught me when to water deeply to get the root to chase the water deeply and when to cut back on the water to get it to sweeten the beet.”
Someone in his family must have experimented or stumped upon the watering secret, but if the secret died with the old man I don’t know. It is possible that Art was just feeding me a line manure.
So please keep a notebook and help us learn nature’s secrets.
 
Paula Edwards
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If you cannot keep chicken maybe there is a hole in the legislation and you could keep ducks. I can't believe that in a small town it is forbidden to keep chicken! You should start a backyard poultry club!
 
Jonathan Byron
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I used to think that disposals were completely useless and destructive, but now I am thinking that if they are installed to help people compost (instead of being put in a sink to avoid composting while polluting the waters) they might do some good. Yes, they eat some electricity, but they seem optimized to grind up food scraps; if heaping things up and doing ordinary compost isn't a good option, a salvaged disposal might be an option.
 
John Polk
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Indeed.  I have been thinking about an outdoor sink (at or in greenhouse?) with a disposal.  As the disposal munches your veggies (or comphrey) it would aeriate the water as well.  Could be a great shortcut to compost teas.
 
Willy Kerlang
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An outdoor sink supplied with rainwater and rocking a solar-powered disposal!    Now THAT would be permaculture!
 
                      
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Location: Burbank , Washington (south central)
 
Paula Edwards
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I have never seen neither used a disposal, but I reckon what you get is more or less like liquid porridge. I would simply throw the things whole in the heap. If you want to speed up the process, then you turn the compost frequently. For this reason you need two or three heaps. Oxygen is very important for a compost to work.
 
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