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June 10, 2012: Son of Compost

Yesterday I got an email from Deb Tarvin, an old bicycling friend. She lives in Pennsylvania and is a real gardener. She attached a Craig’s List ad, which was for a compost tumbler. I immediately checked this out. It was a cylindrical barrel that had a metal post going through the middle. You turn it by hand.

I looked at the unit carefully, and then calculated that it could hold (at the very most) a day’s worth of our manure/weeds/straw/kitchen scraps. This means that if I were to compost year around, I’d need 365 of these things. What fun it would be—I could go around and every day tip my increasing number of barrels. I’d be the owner and manager of Ye Olde Compost Farm.

Turning compost
Turning compost


Coincidently, later in the day, I noticed that small black composter was being advertised on our local Craig’s List. I also looked at this unit carefully, and then calculated that it could hold (at the very most) half-a-day’s worth of our manure/weeds/straw/kitchen scraps. What this means is that if I were to compost year around, that I’d need 730 of these things. That would be a lot of turning. I’d end up getting carpel tunnel. I’d have to seize the carp.

Bottom line – five horses produce a shitload of waste. We had a friend whose wife and daughter were horse-obsessed. His survival tactic was to become a gardener. He ended up getting a cement mixer off of a cement truck, and making compost in it. I’ve considered this, and as well, getting a tractor. The problem is, these machines are gas dependent. This sort of goes against the way we do things around here. We tend to work our fingers to the bone, collapse at night and rise again the next day, in order to again do the same. We’re now old, and thus too adverse to change. Someday we’ll be really old, and have to change. But this is now, and that will be then.

Actually, we don’t have enough of a need for either a cement mixer or a tractor. This is the problem that goes hand-in-hand with having a mid-sized farm. And what we do here works right now. Most of our manure goes to gardeners. In the past, I’ve taken on as much compost as time, energy, and our gardening needs allow. Now I’m going into business. Mine is labor intensive, so this will be a limited venture. Right now I have four stations going. One isn’t yet cooking – I don’t know what the problem is. Two are quite hot, and maybe a tad bit too wet. I just started a fourth one this morning. That’s it for now. I’m going to follow through and market what I’m now making. I suspect I’ll end up at a booth at a local gardening show. I can see it, me sitting there in my Compost Happens Tee-shirt, exchanging jokes about shit with some old guy that some serious gardener woman has dumped off on me. (She’ll be a few booths down, buying bedding plants.) Maybe it would be better to barter my product – perhaps I can get some goat milk.

I had another idea today. I might also diversify, and go into the “rent a compost station.” That is, sell a station of compost after it’s been turned the requisite number of times. I’ll charge extra for bucketing and sifting.

It looks as though the Wishbone Hill Mine isn’t going to become operative in the very near future. The Usibelli Coal Mine Company will have their permit for lack of securing the requisite extensions when they failed to put in a mine, and are going to have to re-apply for another. This could take years. Had the mine gone in, we would have had to move. This is still an option. But it would be nice to have a few years in which to kick back and enjoy the fruits of our labors. Either way, we are going to need more land for our growing herd. The acquisition of land will mean that my composting methods will change. We’ll go to a rotational pasture system, which will cut down on poop pick up time. And we’ll windrow the rest. This will of course require the use of a tractor. Little horses, big plans, the saga continues.