Thursday, May 21, 2009

Composting Hay

Our compost pile was giving us a hard time recently. I had completely cleaned out the left side of our two-bin setup and we started over using hay from the chickens' run/coop as the "brown" ingredient and some kitchen scraps and lawn clippings for the "greens."

That last paragraph may have led one to believe I actually know what I'm doing when it comes to composting, but let me assure you. I do not.

My general philosophy is to just pile in whatever is sitting around, stir it once in a while and then months later, magically, there's compost (and lots of little fruit flies and some pill bugs...). I don't think the compost pile has ever gotten over 115F but still, it's worked slowly but consistently ever since we started composting 7 or 8 years ago.

Which brings us back to this latest pile. It sat in the bin for two weeks, refusing to warm up. I added blood meal and sprinkled some water in there. Still no luck.

I sought help and guidance. @plangarden on twitter had been posting about their compost pile reaching over 150F and offered some sage advice about moisture/etc. My neighbor also has chickens and also composts using the hay. He borrowed a compost shredder and was using that to great success; however, I want our compost pile to not require electricity and spending time shredding hay seems... Well let's just that task falls below my laziness threshold.

Still, with the new lawn adding more and more clippings and with the chickens contributing generously (and one might say a bit TOO enthusiastically) their own ingredient perseverance paid off.

Yes, the compost pile got up over 100 degrees and stayed there for a day. A huge success! Tragically, the compost thermometer was casualty of the process as someone managed to hit it with the pitchfork (I'm not going to mention any names, but it rhymes with 'by near knife').

I felt the compost yesterday and it was still fairly warm so I'm calling this one a success. The hay is finally starting to break down but it's taking a long time. I also need to go pick up a new compost thermometer.


The guy at Home Depot actually looked confused when I asked if they carried compost thermometers. Looks like I'll need to try another store...

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