Composting On Rocks
Composting on a mountain made of stone, impossible? Challenging, perhaps, but we're learning.
One of my favorite hats had the simple phrase “Compost Happens” printed on
it. And that's just about all there is to say about that.
It does happen, everywhere, and all the time. There are ways to speed it up but
the basic process really can’t, nor should it, be messed with.
The basic composting process is, of course, millions of little bacteria
bugs eating stuff. Research has shown that there is an optimal carbon
to nitrogen ratio in the “stuff" which the bacteria are the happiest
and work best. This ratio is around 25-30 parts of carbon for every 1
So what do we do here? When we first started building soil for our
planting beds, we realized that the best source of nitrogen available
to us would be grass clippings. We have about 10 acres of fields,
including all of the areas around our berry patches and other beds that
we mow all season.
That's a lot of grass!
In order to utilize it, we purchased a commercial sized grass catcher from
Woodland Power Products
We have used this machine for several years now and although I have
modified the frame and wheel structure to help it survive our “simple
mountain life” the basic machine has always done a fine job. The
collection bag is large enough so it doesn't have to be emptied but
every 1/2 hour or so, but it's light enough to be pulled by our 25 HP
“straight-out-of-the-showroom” Sears 48” mower. This thing will really
pick up some grass!!!
For a while I mixed the grass with rotten sawdust from a local sawmill by using the
rototiller on my garden tractor. It made some great compost but having
the sawdust delivered got to be too expensive.
Recently we've been tilling the grass directly into the planting beds and
letting it compost there. That works O.K. but it's very
slow. The problem with this approach is: you obviously can’t till the
grass into the soil with plants growing there, but if you don’t till it
in the clippings turn into a slimy, smelly mess which rivals a big ol'
manure heap (technically called anaerobic digestion –which simply means
breaking down without oxygen). So we just do this on new or empty beds.
Sharing the Wealth... similar families who share their secrets
Another family living a similar lifestyle in Oklahoma is
Organic Gardening and Homesteading
Organic gardening and homesteading tips and techniques to give you
freedom and live a self-reliant life today. This site covers everything
from caring for livestock to cooking healthy on a budget. They also show
how living a frugal, organic lifestyle can be a most rewarding
Another site we love is
. GardenMandy.com was started in July of 2007 and has quickly grown into
one of the internet’s leading resources on organic green gardening
solutions. Check out her site, she's one cool gal!
Worms and Worm Poop
This is Ed's worm box, a first attempt at vermicomposting. It worked pretty
good, only problem was it sat too far away from our everyday activity
to remember to keep it moist. The worms dug deep enough that they
survived anyhow, but it was less than ideal conditions for them. Future
plans for this box are to move it closer to our new camp store and
offer it as a place for campers to dump their own food offerings and
watch the miracle of worm soil come to life!
These creatures make beautiful composted soil.
Here's a great place to gather information on composting, organic gardening,
pest control, identifying insects, and boo-coos of other really useful
things from the kind folks at
Organic Gardening Info.
Ed's been thinkin' again...
We also need a supply of compost to include in the “potting mix” for our
nursery plants. I've been kicking around the idea of building what I
call a Batch
I probably need to work on the name. The acronym doesn’t seem to describe
the process. Anyway, the idea is to have a closed container, probably
of painted plywood to make it simple and cheap, into which I could
deposit a mix of shredded leaves and grass clippings. The box would
have a manifold of air pipes connected to an air inlet at the bottom of
the container. The top of the container would be connected to a solar
chimney. As the solar chimney heats the air in it, that hot air would
rise and draw fresh air through the mixture. Will it work? Who knows.
I’ve tried crazier things. Stay tuned.
Update Jan 2010
I still haven't tried to build this composter yet!! Too many ideas and too little time.
It's still on my list though.
Here is a great composting site
with loads of information about the entire process.
Tent camping interest you? Here's