Friday, May 04, 2007

Red Ox Pyre Of Madness Power Drill!

I came back to my garden to find that a year of neglect hadn't really done much harm. There were the usual monster dandelions and buttercup; that was expected. The thing I was dismayed to see were the giant clumps of canarygrass. They were coming up everywhere I had filled a hole with compost the previous fall.

I use both anaerobic and aerobic cold composting methods. Both methods leave live seed matter in the finished product. The problem is, I'm pretty careful what I put in there and I never, never put grass seedheads in.

Then I recalled the hayfield across the street.

The guy usually hydroseeds, but last year he dry broadcast because the rain came early. I just know that shit blew across the road right into my delicious finished compost potholes.

I take pains with my compost. I'm not one of these yuppie Greens who talk the talk and then heave everything into the trash; I live this shit.

My kitchen waste goes into the anaerobic bin, which has a sealed lid and one drainhole. If I collected my grass clippings instead of mulching them it would be a different story. But as it stands, my garden doesn't manufacture enough green mass (what you need for good hot composting) to be able to put spoiled food in with a regular heap; it wouldn't decompose fast enough, and I sure don't need the possums, bugs, racoons, coyotes, dogs, black bears and Frobishers this would attract, laying all in it and hauling it around.

I tap the juice off and use it in my watering mix. When the container gets full, I dig out a deep hole in the corner of one of my raised beds, tip it all in and cover it up FAST. Oh my God does it stink; it's like dead dinosaur ass. BIG dead dinosaur ass.
But everybody loves it...particularly my punkies and cukes! And since all the cell structures are broken down, in a month there's not a trace to be found and all the worms in the bed are roly-poly. Fortunately, this procedure only needs to happen once a year.

Anyway, all my brown, black and green outdoor biomass goes into a pile. This is built at one end of an enclosure and gets turned month by month until it ends up at the opposite end, by which time it's fall and I have a base of sticks and brown material upon which to build another heap.

Then I pull out the garden waste and leave it all overwinter. Freeze and thaw takes care of that and come spring, once things dry out, I have a knee-high pile of nice wormy finished product ready to be screened.

First it goes through a sheet screen I made out of some hogpen, doubled over and 'sewn' with tie wire which made holes about 1 to 2 inches wide. This slightly dished screen fits over the wheelbarrow. I heave a couple shovelsfull of raw compost into the center and then shake the screen back and forth across the top of the barrow. What doesn't pass through goes back into the heap. Compost at this stage is what I use to fill in potholes in the garden or mix into my raised beds.

Now with this first screening of the year, I'll take the wheelbarrow full of screened stuff and leave it out in the hot sun for a few hours. Meanwhile I go weed the ornamental beds into buckets and dump them onto the new compost pile. When I come back, I shovel off the top half of the compost into buckets or onto a tarp or what have you, and return the rest of the barrowload to the new compost pile I'm building and dump it on top. This stuff is alive with chubby, wiggly worms. They migrate downward to the bottom of the wheelbarrow to escape the heat and dryness, you see. And because they were so smart, back they go into the compost to chow down on the new weeds and make more happy worms and more finished compost.
Works like a charm.

Now I take it another step because I make my own potting mix.

I made myself a hod sifter out of scrap lumber, 1/4 hardware cloth and nails.

I dump a few scoops of the screened compost into this and shake it across the top of the wheelbarrow again. The big stuff goes into one barrel; that's for drain material. The little stuff goes into a bin up on my potting bench. When I get ready to use it, I cut in about 1/3 screened garden soil and some plain washed sand or pea gravel. This makes a neutral-to-barely acid mix, good for perennials. If I need to up the acid I use crushed granite, but we're naturally somewhat acid here so I very rarely have to...If I need medium for veggies or annuals I add some dolomite and keep this sweet mix separate.

Yes, I have live worms in my potting mix. They go right in the pot with the plants. There they travel around and aerate the roots, keep things cleaned up, and peek out the drain holes and wave 'hi'.

When I water potted stock I water with juice tapped off my anaerobic mix brewed up with rotted grass clippings in buckets of water. This is both sick and disgusting, which bothers the animals I find drinking it not one whit. 1 quart of that brew goes into a gallon watering can, I top it up with fresh water, and away I go.

I maybe spend one afternoon a month during gardening season dicking with the compost. The rest of the time? I just wander around bothering the bumblebees.

Which is total bullshit; there's a thousand things to do in a garden, but all of them are things I like to do. Although it does annoy the bumbles.


  1. you are my goddess and i am in love with you. first chance i have* i am gettin on a plane to sumas and you can't stop me. TEACH ME EVERYTHING, SENSAI!


    *I'm poor, so it's probably going to be a while, trans-oceanic plane tix being what they are and all.

  2. Wow, you know a lot.

  3. Brava! That is a great how-to lesson.Only thing I do differently is NOT put worms in pots.Some of the worms here are like giant man-thumbs.Of course, they do wriggle their way in...
    Which reminds me...I need to shove some cracked mothballs into the drainholes of pots that ants have found.

  4. Wow, my composting method is much simpler. Every night, I hand off the bowl of leftover peelings, etc. from the kitchen to the Spouse Sparrow, and he turns it in to compost.

    I was assuming there was some kind of magical spell he was using, but I see from your post that it's probably science. Since that's the case, I will have to re-evaluate the Spouse Sparrow's requirement that he and I have sex on the compost pile on a night when the moon is full. Oh, and that part where we sacrifice young runaways.

  5. I have an allotment full of composting - but this is is awesome in comparison....

  6. I wish I could be as sceintific as you, (and as good a speller). I have a collection of green plastic bags full of leaves I sweep out of the gutters and up off the paths each autumn, into which goes all the coffe grounds and vegetable peelings from the kitchen, plus any bindweed that get spulled up. After a few months that gets shaken out and riddled, and what doesn't go through the mesh goes back into the bag with the next load of stuff.

    Can you turn slugs into compost, or any other useful thing?

  7. cAnt be bothered to read the post tonight - will read tmrw

    I love u fn xxx

  8. cb: no planes go here. canadian parachutists; yes. just no planes. maybe skateboard?
    alala: all thanks to my grandmother and a former boss/friend.
    dinamow: oh dang! i do the mothball thing too, only inside the shed to keep out the frobishers. works!
    fatty: so then its not 'sex with composting runaways'? dammit, i was lied to.
    muttley: mr. the dog, what's an allotment? it sounds like someone comes around with compost and portions it out or something....?
    sopwith: hell, that's how i did it the first year we were here and i was still building the area. i like you're idea with the potatoes in the tires, btw. my grandma did that too!
    frobi: i love you too my ratly man. keep on tokin'.

  9. I know not of this re-cycling/composting malarky. I only know that my marijuana crops require regular watering, pesticide that i make myself out of crush garlic and chilli and heaps of Jimi Hendrix played to them.

    Easy peasy.

  10. ya see ya dig a hole and fill it up with stuff and forget about it and before you know it you have compost, when I boil cabbage I save the water to pour onto me plants. Reduce, reuse and recycle.

    Not the hippy way it just makes sense.

  11. Jesus.

    I think I managed to scoop the kitty litter a couple days ago.

    I'm still winded.

  12. FN where is the urinating in this grand compost plan , you gotta have a golden showers, it shouldn't be too much trouble for the yum bik to give the compost heap a hose down once a week or so(the uric acid in the pee helps the stuff break down - its true i heard it on gardeners question time).
    I bet Frobisher is out weeing on his and frightening the neighbours , and JJ is spraying her Marijuana like a cat on heat

  13. I am reminded of the story of the Russians and Americans space research teams. The Americans spent millions of dollars perfecting a pen that would work in zero gravity conditions, whereas the Russians just gave their Astronauts a pencil . . .

    1) Get a plastic composter from the Council (discounted)

    2) get a plastic bucket with a lid, keep it in the kitchen and put all your tea bags, vegetable peelings, egg shells, some cardboard, etc. Only uncooked stuff.

    3) Tip it in the composter

    4)Every layer sprinkle some Compost Maker from your local garden store.

    *runs for cover*

    Leaf compost - get a black bin liner, pack with leaves in the autumn. Tie top and puncture all over with garden fork, keep outdoors - leave for a year - leaf compost!!

    An allotment is a collection of little plots next to each other all owned/rented, where people can grow vegetables/fruit. Great for people who don't have gardens or just need extra space. Some of them are great little communities with little sheds excetera. Usually found in towns or cities. A great idea, unfortunately many are now targeted by property developers.

    Got to go my hangover needs attention.

  14. My word you make it sound all so scientificky! Where did you learn how to compost NASA?
    You are far too smart for your own good and way too in tune with Nature..
    for gawdsake get into some fortrel and watch Entertainment Tonight.

    That Mary Hart, bet she doesn't do her own composting. She probably buys eco-credits, what a gal!

  15. jj: your ganja must taste like spaghetti carbonara! note i said 'your GANJA'. no telling what this has done to your vital bodily fluids, love.
    knudie:if i had sandy soil that's just what i'd be doing too...pit composting. ever tried the thing where you feed your houseplants the rinse water out of milk jugs? they like that too!
    danator: and i CHOSE to live like this. hell, it keeps me active and brings me in a little change, too.

    beast: have no fear; this occurs! and this morning i bet frobisher is passed out in his compost bin and someones dog is whizzing in his shoes.

    frobi: there ah many paths to the same destination, grasshoppah. what you're doing is perfect. i'm on four totally gardened city lots, and I have to worry about black bears on top of every thing else! i turn out as much garden waste in a week as most people do in two months. plus, i make this addiction pay for itself by maintaining potted stock for sale. along the way, people see my self-contained system and so maybe i can lead by example.

    homoE: oh come on, bubbe! what i just described is glorified stacking and turning. i made most of the tools my own little muk self, too...and i sure didn't graduate from MIT.

  16. CB - wanna split a motel bill? i'll buy you a beer on the plane and everything. no existential shit tho - i'm not clever enough for all that.

  17. i stopped comprehending at anaerobic and aerobic. but i am impressed at all the trouble you go to do perform this task.

  18. Now I know where I'm going wrong.

  19. I am but a mere weakling.

    I know nothing other than bloggin' and creatin'.

    Now I must bow to ye oh great one.


  20. I eventualy gave up with my composter and gave it to Frobi , i would religiously chuck all my peelings and stuff in there , turn it and stuff , and it didnt do anything , it seemed to be a mumification chamber rather than a composter , I had three year old perfectly preserved bananas sitting in there , and of course there was the problem with the huge cloud of black flies that engulfed me everytime I opened the lid.
    So I gave up

  21. ziggi5:36 AM

    I just use horse shit of which i have a surplus - the weeds like it.

  22. surly: shit, come on past, girlie! we can eat granola and sing 'Kumbaya'! and after some of what flies across the border in suitcases in the dark, everything will seem pretty existential.
    pink: i guess lifted from it's context it seems like effort but it all fits into a system and so it just happens as a matter of course. but it helps if you like dirt and worms.
    tick: good. don't let it happen again.
    awaiting: i wouldn't have clue one if i were to move down south. then you could laugh at me. it's a whole different ball game...but oh, the glorious things that you guys can grow!!!!!
    beast: you know what that sounds like? NOT ENOUGH OXYGEN. it needed to have a bunch of holes poked in the sides. ti sounds counter-intuitive, but the more oxy you get the less flying monkeys.
    ziggy: the last garden i had up in the mountains, i got a free load from a local riding academy and rotted it in over the winter. the plants practically LEAPED out of the ground!!!!! yay for freddie!

  23. oh, i wish i had the patience, work ethic and strength to do this stuff. I come from a family of composters (grandfather, dad and uncle) and once i moved into my own house, have not once even thought about doign it myself until this.

    it's so much work and stink and i think the dogs would try to eat it. also, i haven't got a wheelbarrow.

    so there.

  24. claire has a point. caillou would probably love a good ole compost bin. but it would have to be big enough for the cows too.