After watching Geoff Lawton’s recent video on making fast compost, I was inspired to get my own pile together. It’s been planned for a few weeks, but we’ve been busy with other things.
Fortunately, we were able to find a source for two half-rotten bales of unsprayed hay. We also have our own Grazon-free cow manure now as well. I was planning to make a nice, big compost pile out of them, using the layering method of alternating “greens” and “browns” in the mix.
Geoff’s video reminded me that I also had some comfrey we could use to “activate” the pile, so I threw that in as well.
The manure from our cows is a major asset.
Once again, I must press home how valuable home dairy cows can be. Milk, cheese, butter, yogurt, pasture mowing and improvement, beef – plus, something like 40lbs per day of high-quality garden fertilizer.
Since most manure sources are now contaminated with long-term persistent herbicides, raising our own cows became a priority. Now, we can’t imagine being without them. The extra milk feeds the pigs and is sold, plus we always have manure available to feed the gardens.
Also, the grass clippings from the yard are really coming in now.
We have a used zero-turn mower which we use to cut a few acres of grass. If you cut a nice little circle in the grass, then rotate around it repeatedly in larger, then back again in smaller circles, all the time pointing the grass-blowing side of the mower inwards, you can quickly create large piles of nice, green, grass clippings to use for mulch and compost. The clippings we are using in this pile have dried out in the week since they were cut, which is not as ideal as fresh green ones, but they should still get quite hot in the compost pile.
An additional tweak which is not necessary, but probably beneficial, is sprinkling in some lime and some kelp meal.
In a conversation I had with Noah Sanders, he shared that he had seen studies on the bioavailability of nutrients being greatly increased via passing them through a compost pile rather than through direct application on crops. Lime in a compost pile allegedly becomes much more effective while requiring a lesser initial quantity.
The sun fell before we were able to complete the pile yesterday, but we got it to about twice the height of what you see in today’s photos. We also dumped some partially digested material from a previous compost pile, along with some paper plates and bones and other things, plus scattered some clay and ashes through it. The clay will make the compost “stick” better, and form long-term humus.
Hopefully we’ll get it done tomorrow morning, making it tall and wide and covering it with a tarp to cook.
After that, we’ll turn repeatedly and water it again and again until we get garden gold.
For a long time we just didn’t have all the materials to make huge piles and reap lots of compost. Now that spring is here and we’re on a spacious piece of land with grass, cows, spoiled hay and more – we can make things happen.
Even multiple years after writing Compost Everything, I’m still fascinated and excited about compost. Every project feels like magic.
This morning we added multiple more layers, watered it all in, and covered!
In about two days, we’ll turn it over. Then turn it again. And again. Every day or two.