Monday, August 30, 2010

It Starts with Chickie Poo

Several months ago, I cleaned out the chicken coop and piled the chickie poo filled bedding of pine shavings into a pile about 5 feet long, 4 feet wide and 3 feet tall. For 3 or 4 weeks, the amonia that was released by Billions and Billions (use Carl Sagan's voice, please) of aerobic and anaerobic bacteria totally stank! I watered and turned it diligently, keeping the temperatures down to between 140*F and 150*F, enabling the aerobic bacteria to flourish and pathogens to perish. Around the second month, the temperatures did not climb so dramatically, and the main nitrogen burn off was complete. Still, the pile would rise to the E. Coli and Salmonela killing range of 140*F a day or two after turning and watering. So I continued turning the pile every few days when it started cooling down. And day by day, the pile was getting darker and darker, and smelling less and less.

I had read that the compost would "smell sweet" when it was done, but I had no previous experience with "hot" composting, and I was not sure what the authors meant. So one day, the pile did not heat up after watering and turning. So I watered and turned the pile again. And still, the temperature barely rose to 120*F. So per the advice of the compost mages, I ignored it and let the pile sit for several weeks. And low and behold, after that time, I put my hands into soft, barely warm, sweet smelling compost.

I spread the compost where I will plant garlic in late September or early October (depending when the bulbs get here). I sprinkled some goodies for the chickies on it, and they tilled it into the sand for me. The cycle is complete - they will have chopped garlic leaves in the late spring to help clean them of parasites. ...And now, it's time to clean the coop again and make more desert gold.

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