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Thread: Composting on the Homestead

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    Woodsman Adventure Wolf's Avatar
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    Default Composting on the Homestead

    I'm not doing this for a homestead, but rather a small rural farm in North Carolina. It's the same general principle however. I am looking at building several compost bins for my farm. It should take me a day or so to build them, but I've never had experience composting anything. I know that my food scraps, leaves, table waste, animal manure will make great compost. Should I also use twigs and other small items thrown into a chip-shredder as compost, and if so how long would it take for shredded yard waste to decompose?

    If it takes to much longer then the table scraps, I will keep them separated.


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    Administrator Rick's Avatar
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    You should be able to pick up materials from you county extension office that will list what you can and cannot use. No fats such as meat, mayonnaise, peanut butter, fish or similar items however. Here's a good article on building one.

    http://web.extension.illinois.edu/ho...t/building.cfm

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    Senior Member hunter63's Avatar
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    Here is a thread I had started a while back...dealing with building bins....mine are made from pallets....and in theis thread a "homemade pallet".
    http://www.wilderness-survival.net/f...t=compost+bins

    Many ways to build them.....and can be as easy and cheap or as expensive as you want to make them.

    MB uses cinder block......on 3 sides....wood door.....when done....takes one down and rebuilds on the opposite end.....so it kinda walks across the garden.

    Straw bales are another option....
    Few examples....
    https://www.google.com/search?q=comp...ed=0CAcQ_AUoAg

    Don't be sucked in by the pretty commercial units.....unless you just want something that looks nice......useful in urban neighborhoods that are picky about stuff like that.
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    Have you looked into anaerobic digesting. you can build as big or small as you need and can keep it simple or as complex as you want. It would save on propane. I feed my scraps to the pigs and put the pig crap in the digester.
    I Dream of a Time when Chickens could Cross Roads and not be Questioned about thier Motives

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    Senior Member hunter63's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ace_maveric View Post
    Have you looked into anaerobic digesting. you can build as big or small as you need and can keep it simple or as complex as you want. It would save on propane. I feed my scraps to the pigs and put the pig crap in the digester.
    You have and use a digester?

    Cool, Pic's?
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    I should have taken pics on the build but at the time, but I never did this kind of posting thing and didn't think about it. I know that sounds bad but all that can be seen now is the pipe stinking out of the ground and the slurry in the back and my PLC control set up. I started with two trash can method to see how it worked then was curious how it would work underground so have a 55gal plastic barrel buried then my slurry pipe ect. My main curiosity was would it still produce at the cooler temp and could I combine it with the propane because I know the digester alone wouldn't be enough. However, now that I have found out that it does work and I have my testing out of the way I plan on building a much larger one (20' Dia. maybe 25') this spring. I will differently take pics then.
    I Dream of a Time when Chickens could Cross Roads and not be Questioned about thier Motives

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    Senior Member hunter63's Avatar
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    That would be interesting....Thanks.

    If buried, how do you clean out the compost?

    Maybe not what the OP is looking for....?
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    adventure wolf might only be interested in the composting I was just looking at another potential he may not have been looking at. I can add that the waste coming out of the digester is like a thickened watery slurry that makes a great fertilizer. Full of amonium nitrate. See the digester is mostly self cleaning. Poop, food or anything Methanogens can eat goes in one at the top their waste settles to the bottom where the hole for the exit pipe is located. When the methane is produced the pressure goes up and pushes the used extruments out of the exhaust pipe at the bottom that returns to the surface ground level.

    Then with little equipment you can subsidize natural gas or more equipment your propane needs. And have a great fertilizer.

    PS. Saw OP on another post I was thinking meant OTHER PEOPLE but not sure now.
    Last edited by ace_maveric; 11-27-2014 at 03:35 PM.
    I Dream of a Time when Chickens could Cross Roads and not be Questioned about thier Motives

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    Woodsman Adventure Wolf's Avatar
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    Should I also use twigs and other small items thrown into a chip-shredder as compost, and if so how long would it take for shredded yard waste to decompose?

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    That's not easy to answer. There are a lot of variables. Size of material, temperature of compost, time of year, moisture content and composition of compost will all play in to how long it takes to break material down. Suffice it to say that chips and twigs are slow composters. If you add them into the compost then add some high nitrogen like manure or grass clipping with them it will help speed up the process.

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    Senior Member hunter63's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ace_maveric View Post
    PS. Saw OP on another post I was thinking meant OTHER PEOPLE but not sure now.
    OP=Original Post or Original Poster........

    Composting is one of the things the seems to mystify people as far as "doing it right".......and as Rick said, many variables.

    The direct jump from "How do I start composting" to a recycle system for pig manure, assumes there are pigs or other manure producing animals around....as well as the equipment, to compress, store, and to use the gas and resulting slurry as a fertilizer.....is kinda a big one.

    The question as to shredding twigs and paper tells me that a basic instruction of the process in this case, is better served.....baby steps, before the leap.
    Just saying.

    I use shredded twigs and paper as a "brown"....not much nitrogen to mix in with the "greens"...high nitrogen....weeds grass clipping, kitchen scraps, (no meat, fat, grease, bread/pastry....stuff animals like to eat) ........

    When bacteria is added to the mix, need a balance mix....moisture and enough mass....good start is about one cubic yard 3X3X3'.....then it all works to "Cook".....Create heat to kill off weed seeds.....Called a Hot Pile......Can make compost in 3-4 months.

    Non shredded paper and twigs don't break down very well....but I have used them on the bottom of a new pile to help with getting air into a moist pile. ....to much water, no air will turn sour and stop digesting.

    A pile with no large amount of generated heat is called a Cold Pile.....works Ok as well, take longer, maybe a year.
    Most of my piles have been Cold piles....and have two bins side by side....so one is working and the other is finished or getting there.

    To use....top that isn't done yet is turned over on the top of the second pile.....and completed compost....rich, good smelling, crumbly, ..gold is spread out.

    The top you just took off, can be added to the bottom of the emptied to kick start the pile for a new batch...or just start over.

    General rules....
    No food, meat, grease, bread.......

    Balanced mixture..... not too much of one thing

    Everything will rot eventually.....even the bin.....takes time.

    As far as manure or slurry....do not spread on your garden on Mothers Day, when the neighbors are having their picnic across the back fence.....Gotta trust me on this.
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    Woodsman Adventure Wolf's Avatar
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    Would banana, orange and grapefruit peels count as food?

    What about rotting fruits and vegetables in general, are they food?
    Last edited by Adventure Wolf; 11-29-2014 at 02:47 AM.

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    Yes. Fruits and Veggies will work fine. Just about any food will work as long as it doesn't contain fats or oils. They don't break down easily and I think Hunter cautioned on things animals will eat.

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    Senior Member hunter63's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rick View Post
    Yes. Fruits and Veggies will work fine. Just about any food will work as long as it doesn't contain fats or oils. They don't break down easily and I think Hunter cautioned on things animals will eat.
    That is correct....and I won't use bread/bakery/pastry either........
    Any veggies, fruits, weeds, grass clipping is mostly considered "greens".

    I have used egg shells and coffee grounds.....but crush up the egg shells....or they will look like dirty eggs shells next year.
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    Even worse than dirty eggshells is if they have sat upright and held water for any amount of time. I've run across a few stinkers when turning the pile so I always try to make sure they are crushed when I dump the kitchen compost pail (not everyone in the family can follow simple instructions.) I'll throw bread out there if it's moldy. There are other uses for non-moldy stale bread (stuffing and bread pudding come to mind immediately.)

    I don't know how cold it gets in the winter where you are, but if you are piling your kitchen scraps, you may want to keep some brown matter or dirt just to cover the scraps every once in a while. A compost heap of just scraps thawing out in the springtime and basically turning into rot soup will draw comments from the neighbors. I have one of those swanky black plastic bins that I use inside the garden for quick toss-ems like ripping the tops off carrots and stuff, and I use it in winter just because it contains the smell in spring, but it is a darn slow system. The 3-bin turning pile method is much better.

    When I chop my leaves in fall, if some chopped twigs get mixed in, it isn't an issue, mostly cuz twigs are dry windfall. Fresh wood chips and sawdust can be a problem. I keep those separated and well away from the house as they draw termites like nobody's business. I'm still working in the last of the chainsaw sawdust and wood chips from the 5 trees I had taken down 3 years ago - just taking the stuff from the bottom of the pile and adding it to the compost bins. Some people use it as mulch in their garden paths, which I suppose is okay as long as it doesn't draw the termites in where you don't want them.

    If you own a bucket loader, make your bins big enough with fully removable front doors and save yourself some manual labor. Unless you like that kind of thing.
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    Senior Member hunter63's Avatar
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    Ah, yes, farming by hydraulics......Gotta love it.
    (Love that tractor)
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    Junior Member 1800wing's Avatar
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    Ace_Maveric.
    Hi. I would like to talk to you about helping you out. So I can have a fall back area. I know this has nothing to do with recent post's.

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    Default composting guidelines for the brave

    Many of the guidelines or rules that state and county extension services provide for composting apply to people who are doing it on a very small scale and have limited experience. I have spent many hours answering questions on the phone and email "hotline" for my county's extension service and always answered conservatively.

    However, if you use common sense: Small sticks or twigs can be effectively used to add air to a large compost pile, layers of leaves may actually be more of a problem, because they shed the water. Concrete "Cinder" blocks as walls work well but also galvanized or vinly coated mesh wire to allow air flow. Generally the larger the pile the better as long as you can add air by using a layered method (lasagna) or turn it often with large shovel, pitch fork or skid-steer etc. Ideally you will put a concrete pad under your compost pile. The earth worms will still find the rotting material just fine and bring with them all the fungus and bacteria and start heating it up in just a few days. Also it has been my experience that if there is enough carbon (brown organic material like dead brown leaves) I can throw in dead animals, like squirrels, rats, diseased chickens into the middle and there is no smell, 3 - 6 months later only a few larger bones remain. If you throw in a 200 lb pig your pile should probably be over 30 cubic yards of mostly very dry carbon such as wood chips, I have never tried that. My neighbors would probably call the local CSI. LOL.

    Edit: buy a thermometer with a long probe to check the inner temperature, it should quickly reach close to 160F or more, you can also lift some material with a pitch fork and reach in with your hand to check. If your pile is "cold" regardless of the environmental temperature you are not adding enough nitrogen. Add some green stuff, rotting kitchen waste or protein etc, fat causes problems but a little is tolerable if you have a lot of carbon. Water is essential! If it gets dry you can have problems with termites, carpenter ants, rats, and many other critters, it also can get cold if dry or very wet. But overtly dry is the most common problem.

    One of my personal experiences is with a load (4 cubic yards+) of freshly trimmed tree branches and green leaves dumped on my driveway after 4 days it had lots of worms in it, fungus, bacteria and was well over 130F about a foot under the surface. None of it was touching soil or dirt the earthworms found this stuff and can move across concrete especially at night just fine. I generally move this material over to some piles so I can park my car there but I had other project I was working on. This was educational. So you should take what your local extension service tells you will a grain of salt, as someone who volunteered there for years we are told to be very conservative. Also if you raise earthworms in bins they move themselves to a new bin just fine no need to reach in there an move them worm by worm unless you have nothing else to do with your time.
    Last edited by TXyakr; 12-28-2014 at 03:06 PM. Reason: temp and moisture measurements

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    Default Sticks and large carbon items in compost bins, just my personal opinions

    Quote Originally Posted by Adventure Wolf View Post
    Should I also use twigs and other small items thrown into a chip-shredder as compost, and if so how long would it take for shredded yard waste to decompose?

    If it takes to much longer then the table scraps, I will keep them separated.
    Personally I just pull out the larger twigs and sticks and branches up to 2" in diameter that have not yet decomposed and add them to a new pile. Running everything through a shredder is very time consuming. Also you can make a "lean-to" between to posts and put wire mesh (hardware cloth across it) and toss your compost onto it and shake it until the finer finished compost falls through. Or some similar set up. Simpler the better. A frame over your wheelbarrow may work for a small operation. Run large items back through piles for second cycle or use as mulch.

    Here is a link to some small backyard sifter designs (waste of time and far to complicated IMO):
    http://www.instructables.com/id/Trommel-Compost-Sifter/

    A 55 gallon barrel tumbler composter may be the best option if you have a tiny yard but for many people this would just be a child's toy. There is typically a 50% or up to 10 to 1 volume reduction so if you start with a minimal 1 cubic yard you should expect to get 15 down to 3 cubic feet of finished compost and once the volume gets less than about 1 cubic yard most of the heat is lost and the efficiency goes way down and it takes a long time, moisture loss becomes a big problem. Rats and mice chew threw the plastic of the tumbler, it is just a mess IMO. I hope people who paid big $$$ for these systems have better success but I would not recommend them. Go big or stay on the couch.

    Time to compost: As you know material high in protein (nitrogen) will compost faster than just carbon so if what you have available is high in carbon find some cheap protein source to speed up the process. A local restaurant may even be able to provide it for you, or a neighbor that collects grass clippings or constantly trims top of hedge etc. Too much protein/nitrogen smells. Plastic scraps make compost clump up, as does fat which smells. But anything once alive will eventually decompose. Plastics are mostly processed petroleum which were once carbon life forms but they may take hundreds of years to decompose, I avoid plastic in compost bin more than even metal or fat. Compost I purchased by the truckload from the city and other commercial producers years ago had lots of plastic scraps in it and some metal lawn mower blades etc. This is most likely because citizens use plastic grocery store bags to collect weeds etc thrown them into the required large paper bags and obviously the contracted collection trucks do not inspect every bag. So the plastic bags get shredded and the finished compost comes out all clumpy with this plastic. Now I just make my own, it is easy and fast.
    Last edited by TXyakr; 12-29-2014 at 07:44 PM. Reason: Time to compost

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    Senior Member hunter63's Avatar
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    Couple if notes.....
    Metal 55 gal drum will rust out in a year.....

    Compost from city recycling centers....or at least ours......uses some street sweeping, (dirt) to mix with the grass clippings leaves and shredded up trees/brush......May contain heavy metal traces and petroleum waste.
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