Saturday, January 23, 2010

composting, version 3

I spent some time this morning talking with local Richardson resident and master composter Rob.

I've been learning/experimenting with compost for a while but sometimes talking it out with a teacher really helps gel one's thinking.

Lessons I learned from Rob, and took to heart while watching him work his own compost piles:
  1. A practical, simple approach to composting will suffice for most people.
  2. Circular bins are great. They can blend into your backyard -- the mesh is almost invisible and the leaves and other materials are, by definition, a natural color. The bins can be unhooked quickly and relocated; this gives you plenty of room to "completely deconstruct" the pile and rebuild the parts that need more time (see below).
  3. Sifting can help seperate out the "finished" parts of the compost from the unfinished. Rob has MacGyvered up a sifting mechanism that lets the finer, velvety compost fall through for use while retaining the coarser materials for reconstruction of the pile.
  4. Multiple piles are useful and time is your friend. Multiple bins can help this process along, but Rob demonstrated that a working compost pile can stand on its own after it has taken shape. You can remove the circular bin to start a new pile.

So I came home and decided to make a few test bins. They wouldn't be as good as Rob's bins but these are another step in my own understanding of how compost works. The image above is one of the three 3' diameter bins I made that came out ok. I have one tucked away beside the house; it holds leaves I swept up from the curb. There's one stored behind the shed and one that's going to get used next as soon as the ugly duckling 4' bin gets full.

I wasn't trying to make a 4' bin; I was trying to make a 3' bin from 9.5' of material. But it was my first one and a series of mistakes meant I cut out 12' instead of 9.5'. Oh well. I didn't want to cut the material down and have an unusable scrap, plus I figured this would be a good way to experiment with size. It's holding together and isn't wobbly. The wire is 16ga and fairly heavy.

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