Thursday, May 8, 2014

Making Dirt : Compost

I'm starting at the ground, literally, with this homesteading endeavor.  Making dirt.  Compost is the lifeblood of a garden.  That and manure, which I will be picking up a load of today, and one year soon I'll have the livestock to produce it ourselves.  

I remember, growing up in a Civil War era farmhouse in Maine with a giant garden out back, we had an equally giant compost pile out back, and in the later years we were there (the ones I remember most clearly) I don't believe we ever bought soil amendments.  And now, when I'm looking at a quarter inch of soil over a hillside of glacial silt and clay...  I long for that giant fertile pile of rich dark loam.  But this is how it starts: one step at a time, one pail of scraps, one armful of leaves.  Directing the decomposition...

The current compost heap...  I hope to be able to harvest a good deal of dirt out of it before the end of the summer.  My way of making dirt is a bit of an improvisation.  I pay very little (if any) attention to the proper balance of green and brown composting material.  Instead, I empty the pail of collected kitchen scraps, occasionally throw on some dried leaves or a bucket of sawdust, add congealed chicken's blood when I have it after a slaughter (cross my fingers no wild predators stalk the compost for chicken's blood) ...  and call it good.  It all eventually decomposes.

But since I was making a new pile, I figured I might as well be a little conscientious about it:

I laid down cardboard and newspaper to help block the grass and fireweed and rosebushes from simply growing through it.  I plan, very soon, to make a container for it, log cabin-style, of stacked fallen trees, so the pile can more easily grow up than out. 

And I bedded it down with a wheelbarrow of leaves from the forest driveway, before I ever tossed the first pail of kitchen scraps.  One day it will be dirt :)

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