Saturday, November 3, 2012

Getting Going With Compost Bins

I've been in my small mountain town for nearly five months now and it's time to get the compost bins set up.  It took quite some time to establish where they should go and get the materials needed to get them going.  In a small mountain town it's quite a ways to drive to get to a Home Depot and our local supply shop doesn't order anything they don't need in bulk so much of what is purchased is done so online or with much driving.

The first step though was actually deciding where the garden would go.  My brother, who is a worm whisperer, and my sister-in-law, who is a garden harvesting/cooking goddess, and my nephew, who is a green thumb god, all came up several times over the months and helped establish the best place to set up a garden, the compost beds, and the worm beds.  It was their much needed insight that showed me the most important rule of gardening: keep everything properly distanced in the beginning because farm work is hard work and we're inclined to be lazy.  In other words, do it right from the beginning and make sure you make it as easy as possible so you won't dread doing it.

With that in mind, the sun determined where our garden would go.  We had a neighbor contractor friend help us set up the horse fencing all around to act as our garden fencing.  We will later add hog wire or chicken wire to the bottom third to help deter the rabbits, squirrels, etc (they will still get in but at least it may keep the infiltration a wee bit smaller and limited to the truly brave).  We will also add Montana Fencing to the top using rope to keep the deer out.  For now, however, the space is established and we can look at it with an eye for the other parts.

Here's a pic of how the garden sits currently as a work in progress:



Next up was finding a place for the compost bins and the worm beds.  You want the compost bins and the worm beds close enough to one another that you can easily transport the completed compost to the worm bed for final dirt-awesome-sauce-ness.  You also want the worm beds close enough to the garden that you can easily transport the completed worm dirt to the garden beds.  So everything here is a lovely little dance of location.

The garden will be on a wee meadow beside the barn.  The chickens have a stall in the barn with a dog door that leads out to their run.  The dog door can be sealed at night with a big metal plate that slides down keeping the girls safely inside and critters that would eat them and/or their eggs safely outside.  Their run was constructed by the same neighbor contractor and he used the dog fencing the previously owners left us.  The chicken run now has gates that will allow us to easily let the girls into the garden to assist with eating bugs when the time comes.

Here's a pic of the girls and their run so you can see their dog door:



Beside the chicken run live two oak trees.  They are fairly young in that they aren't too thick, but they aren't so young that they would easily topple.  A chainsaw would be needed.  The point is, they are large enough and strong enough to be used as support for the compost bins.  We will set up three compost bins using pallets.  The pallets were finally purchased for $2 a piece from a local fruit/vegetable vendor and delivered by our same neighbor contractor.  They are currently stacked in the meadow awaiting my attentions.

The worm bed will be conveniently located directly across from the pallets and in convenient wheel barrow distance to the garden beds.  Once it warms up, we are going to attempt to keep the worms directly in the ground...not entirely sure how that will work and whether or not a straw cover will be enough to keep them warm through the winter, but if not, we can always start over with worm beds in a stall of the barn and any worms that don't make it through the first winter will at the very least provide additional awesome compost for the garden.  (Not to say the life of a worm is considered to be so valueless but rather so valuable that if they do survive it will be truly greater than life in a plastic container and if they don't their lives will not have been in vain for they will live on through garden growth).

It's taken much longer to get to this point than planned but I suppose that's to be expected when you're living a life full of meteor shower parties, local festivities, the raising of chicks, working, hiking, and laziness.  Soon it will be too cold to work outdoors so I need to get the bins completed in the next couple of weeks before turning my attentions to the quilts I promised the nieces and nephews for Christmas!

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