Every day, food scraps that can't be saved, fed to the dog, or given to the chickens end up in the composter. And about twice a year, we harvest the compost piles and add the rich, intense matter to the garden beds.
|Bits of leaves and other flotsam make it through the system.|
Our chickens (this Barred Rock is 5 years old) are then very "helpful" in working the compost into the soil in the perennial beds.
How to Build a Composter
Many have started composing with the best intentions, only to soon give it up. We designed this composter using found scraps of materials to be easy to use and require no maintenance.
- Pick a location that is a short walk from the kitchen door.
- Stack bricks or cinder-blocks into two walls, about three feet apart.
- Put coated shelving between them (err on the side of too big spacing, at least 4 inches, rather than using a more intuitive smaller mesh).
- Put some type of structure, such as a garbage can with air holes and the bottom removed, or even a traditional composter, on top of it.
- Put water holes in the lid. A discarded outdoor plastic bowl, with drainage holes, of the right size can make a perfect lid as it can deters animals and still be removed with one hand.
- Put a catch bucket underneath the composter. Drill some 2" holes directly on the bottom. This facilitates the ability of bugs and worms to go up from the earth into the compost and lets any water seep out and not pool.
This system models the human body. It allows for the long term development of microbes in the middle that never get flushed out.
Also, because the entire bottom of the compost is exposed, there is plenty of air in the system, so there is no need to "turn-over" a pile or do the other traditional maintenance activities. Rain and gravity do the work of moving the compost, and only when it is ready. There are no uncomposted squash pieces or corn cobs mixed in with finished compost as is the case with traditional piles - the bigger pieces simply stay higher up until they break down. Worms that are added seem to survive the winter and thrive.
This model allows for constant, thoughtless use. Even the volume is self regulating within the composter; the more weight there is at the top of the composter, the more finished compost is pushed through at the bottom.
One can add a second composter to increase capacity if need be. These composters are close to zero maintenance, although the process of composting is not fast, so patience is a necessity. Finally, the system works better with ongoing use, rather than at a weekend house.