{winter projects 2012} A Compost Pile

Editor’s Note: Our last installment of “new to us” posts from the personal blogs of FSC Contributors is a lovely piece from Jillian. She writes an extremely reflective blog about family life on Everyday Life for Four Seasons. This post was originally published on January 16, 2010. On a related note, if anyone is moving their family into a new home this year check out Jillian’s latest post “How to Pack & Move With Children”- not to be missed!-Christina

I made some progress on building our new compost pile – finally, I got around to making the pile!  I put it in the woods behind our house.  So much snow has melted these past few days and a fluffy bed of leaves was exposed, so I dumped my buckets right on top.  Then I covered the kitchen scraps with a sheet of newspaper and some more leaves.  I did break one of the rules of winter composting – the scraps in my buckets weren’t cut into small pieces, but going forward, they will be.  Come to think of it, I probably should have ripped up the newsprint too.  Oh well, live and learn, right?

Remember how I talked about green layers and brown layers in the compost pile?  All organic matter has a ratio of carbon to nitrogen (C:N) in its tissues.  The ratio for kitchen scraps is 15:1.  The ratio for dead leaves is 60:1.  30:1 is the ideal ratio for creating a compost pile that heats up well and generates enough microbial activity to turn the pile to rich compost in a shorter period of time.  The compost pile is teeming with bacteria that break down the waste.  The “food” that keeps them going comes in the form of carbon and nitrogen.  Carbon provides energy and nitrogen helps them produce the protein they need to grow.

Material that is high in carbon is called “brown” and material high in nitrogen is called “green.”  If the C:N ratio is too high, decomposition will slow down, and if it’s too low, the pile will begin to smell.

So there you have it, a mini-course on composting in your backyard.  Stay tuned as I grow my pile and learn more about it.

While I was making the pile, I spotted a few sets of red fox tracks in the woods – I haven’t seen them in 10 days.  The claw marks on the red fox print are pretty neat to see in the snow.  Beautiful.

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Categories: DIY, Homesteading, How To, {New Year}

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5 Comments on “{winter projects 2012} A Compost Pile”

  1. epeavey1
    January 8, 2012 at 8:21 am #

    Good pictures of the staring of a compost pile, you have as many leaves as I do more then a billion. I have put up a fence around my compost piles to keep out the creatures and the roaming dogs. Buford my donkey and the two goats help make regular deposits along with the five chickens and seven rabbits. That is why I have to have a fence because I have three compost piles one made of straw bales and the other two are just big and bigger piles of all the compost from my kitchen and animals and then of course all the leaves. I have put the compost piles in along side of my raised beds and fenced off the whole area easier to get the compost into the raised beds. Ellen from Georgia

    • January 10, 2012 at 3:41 pm #

      Hi Ellen. I ended up putting a chicken wire fence around it too. I like that I can see the sides of the pile because of the fence. I have found that too many leaves keep it from breaking down into useable compost. And if I don’t cut up the kitchen scraps small enough, they sit there forever.
      I love using the compost in my garden, and the best surprise of all has been seeing the tomato plant “volunteers” that come up from it! One of my piles is also near my raised bed and the volunteer tomato plants growing out of the compost fit right in with the rest of the garden.
      A question for you – how do you get the chicken “deposits” into the compost pile? I’m going to get some baby chicks this spring and have been wondering how that process will work. Do you clean out the coop and toss everything in the compost bin? Is there enough to make a difference?

  2. January 8, 2012 at 10:43 am #

    Most people around where I live simply burn their leaves in the fall. I choose to compost mine. I save all of my grass clippings, then add the fall leaves and a truck load or two of horse manure. Last years pile netted me almost a cubic yard of soil. This falls pile is twice as big as lasts. My garden should do well. Good luck with your pile.

    • January 10, 2012 at 3:43 pm #

      Hi Three Days, do you have horses? How does your garden take to the horse compost? Around here I can get cow or horse manure but have never experimented with horse.

  3. January 11, 2012 at 9:05 pm #

    I do not have any horses. Last year was my first try at a compost pile. The horse manure broke down well and the pile has a pleasant earthy seem. The majority of the material is leaves and grass. I’d guess the manure makes up 15-25%. I’b be willing to bet more wouldn’t hurt. It will go on the garden this spring. Hopefully all will go well.

    I’m putting a fair amount of rabbit manure into my current compost. You’d be suprised how much they p… produce.

    Thanks for asking.

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