Thursday, April 24, 2008

Compost moisture

compost moisture
Originally uploaded by tlbaraka
And the compost marches on. Actually the compost marches back and forth with each turn. It has been developing for about 12 days now and some big changes have taken place. For one it is getting easy to turn as the big banana leaves have broken down into smaller pieces and are no longer getting caught together. We only saw the wool twice on this mornings turn( we put a whole sheep's worth of wool into the pile). The material has a nice dark brown colour to it, not black. Black would indicate an anaerobic compost. There is no offensive smell. The pile seems to be maintaining its initial volume. Often when a pile is too hot it will shrink in size. In all compost piles bulk carbon is gassed off, however, this lost volume can be replaced by air space and structure if the pile is well turned and oxygenated.

Today we also performed a quick check to ensure proper moisture content.
1. Take a handful of compost.
2. Squeeze as hard as you can.

If water drips out of the compost and off of your hand the pile is too wet.
If no water appears the pile is too dry.
If water just appears, but does not drip, between your fingers and on the surface of the compost the moisture content is just right.

Notice in the picture the moisture between the pinky and ring fingers and below the tip of the middle finger. This pile seems to have just the right amount of moisture content.

In the next post we cover pile shape and its effects on the composting process.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Turning the pile on day eight

turning the pile on day eight
Originally uploaded by tlbaraka
Ok so the pile has been going through its own evolutions. Luckily for us we have been there to push that evolution in the direction we want it to go. Everybody remembers the stinky mess when we first turned it. On the second turn it was going well but a bit too hot. We decided to turn it every day to keep things oxygenated. Now on day eight, the sixth turn, it appears our strategy is working, as there are few signs that the pile is ever getting anaerobic. It is uniformly moist and hot. On day two, when we first turned it the heat and moisture were patchy. It is only by turning the pile that we spread out these patches of activity to the rest of the pile. We have been adding one watering can of water to the outside before each turn to keep things moist. We also keep the pile covered with plastic between turns. If we allowed the pile to be exposed to the air it would dry out in no time.
It looks as though we are on track to be finished with this pile in about 10 to 15 more days.
This is with out a doubt our most successful composting effort. It has been a fairly intensive job, but it will be worth all of the good soil biology in the end.