Composting class

Mr B has a friend that is pretty knowledgeable about composting. This guy has invented a large-scale tumbling composter, and he’s found a freegan spool to make an even larger version of it for me.

I can’t reach all the way to the top. That’s how big this thing is!

Side note: this guy says we’re almost composting on an industrial scale, what with all that backdoor fruit my boss sends home with me. Whoa.

I got to pick his brain about composting. He says my compost heap stinks because it’s gone anaerobic.  It’s gone anaerobic because I haven’t been putting enough brown in it. Brown is stuff like sawdust, wood chips, rotten sticks. He and Mr B had some cellulose left over from one of their product testing experiments, and Mr B and I tossed it into my compost heap. I’ve been instructed to keep my ratio of brown to green roughly equal.

This morning, I went out and added some newspaper and egg cartons, toilet paper and paper towel cores, and plain brown paper from deer feed bags to the old compost heap and started a new one with our household compost bucket contents and more of the paper products.

Sunday, when I go to work, I guess I’ll be doing my boss a favor by cleaning up all of the wood chips all and bits of bark around his firewood stacks so I can at least start trying to match the amount of backdoor fruits & vegetables I bring home. 


Practice makes perfect

I make a lot of jokes about how Mr B moves a lot of dirt. While it is true that he moves a lot of dirt, sometimes he’s actually moving dirt for a purpose that I can discern. Sometimes, I think he’s just playing with his toys. Either way, he’s had a bit of practice with his tractor. He’s gotten fairly good at precision maneuvers with it.

He used it to help me turn the older compost heap this week. I was going to remove the entire fence from around it, but he said I didn’t need to do all that.

freshly turned june 28 2017

He was right. He turned that compost heap without tangling up in the fence. I was grateful as hell for it, too; turning the smaller, newer one with shovel & pitchfork was brutal for me so I can’t begin to imagine how awful it would have been to try and turn that big bastard alone.

The newer compost heap probably won’t remain the smaller of the two for long. It’s growing by leaps and bounds every weekend when I bring home all of the backdoor food my boss tells me to get rid of.

new heap june 28 2017

It’s also growing by leaps and bounds due to the addition of all of the dead or dying plants that have given us all they can give for this gardening season. We’re slowly removing plants when they are done producing to try and prepare for Mr B to rearrange the dirt in the garden area. In his defense, it actually needs to be done. There are a few low spots that hold water after it rains, and we lost a lot of vegetables to that standing water and poor drainage this spring. We’re aiming to have all of the dirt rearranged by the end of July, which means we may have to sacrifice some stuff that could potentially produce more food for us. We need to be set to plant our fall crops by the middle of August according to all of my research.

It’s kind of disgusting to me that I may have to let him plow under some things that could potentially provide more vegetables for us, but I’m trying to look at the upside–he will get rid of the standing water spots so that I don’t lose a lot of food to heavy rains. Torrential rains have become the new normal around here when we’re not in drought conditions, so we have to plan for how to keep it from being as problematic for us in the future if we want to continue to grow our own food. And in the end, becoming more self-reliant was a major goal of ours when we came out here.

final note: those compost heaps stink to high heaven. Mollie rolled in the ripest, juiciest parts of them and the stench of her almost made me yarf. Poor Mollie got the bath to end all baths and was mad at me for the rest of the day. I’ve got to plan around the compost heap and the wind when I start planning the next planting, because I am tired of trying to harvest food downwind from that foul smell.


Weekly Progress Report: The Saturday Edition

I’m tired. It’s that time of year, when heat/pollen/dust all work together with my COPD and anemia to leave me really tired. I’ve been doing my best to power through it, and most days I do OK. Some days, I just stay my happy ass on the couch and allow myself the luxury of rest and healing (since my back and hip still haven’t healed from the great septic system debacle because I’m mostly on my own with the fucking garden).

Sunshine got a new compost heap containment fence put up. I took this week’s “backdoor fruit” and put it in there. Now we can let the original compost heap turn into compost so that we can use it in our garden next spring.

As soon as it quits raining, I’ll be using some of the leftover roll of fencing to make trellis for my new beans to cling to for support as they grow.

roll of wire fence for beans

I have beans and things sprouting up all over the place, and they are going to need some support.

We got the tomato plants tied to stakes so that they don’t die under the crushing weight of their fruits like my snap beans are trying to do because they had no support for so long.

staked tomatoes

Yes, I know. Our garden is growing in the middle of a field of grass. Mr B has been too preoccupied with moving dirt to create a place to build a shop, and hasn’t been back to the garden with a tractor since he created the extra rows where we planted beans. I’ve got enough on my plate with work, household chores, and preserving what DOES manage to grow in the middle of that field of grass; I can’t be everything all the time. Maybe after we get the house finished, Sunshine (and perhaps even Biff) can help more with the garden.

We are out of room in the freezers. Thank heaven Mr B’s mom has offered to trade us her large chest freezer for the small one she donated to us a few months ago. Now, if I could just get someone to take the small one to her and bring back the big one, I could get started on some serious reorganization of our already frozen vegetables and blackberries. The situation has gone well past the point of being dire, and is only going to be exacerbated by all of the fruit I’m going to freeze this week to make jelly or syrup or something. Eventually, I’ll be pulling the fruit back out of the freezer; until then, I get to teach myself to play an awesome game of tetris.

It’s been a busy week out here in the middle of buttfuck nowhere. And it looks to stay that way through Thanksgiving at least. I’ll eventually get it all figured out, or get some help, or something. Until then, I’ll do the best I can.


Musical chairs

We moved the compost heap from its original location a few months ago. We wanted to put it in a more shaded spot. We had it on the eastern side of the front pond. Then Mr B took out the pond and left the compost heap exposed to the brutal Texas sun.

side note: the compost heap was also in an unconvenient location for us to keep it moist. We had to carry buckets of water and fuck that

compost new location again

This past Thursday, Mr B hopped on his tractor and moved it to the front of the property for me. There is a semi-shaded spot under a tree, and it is right next to the new water faucet we put in during the great septic system debacle.

Now all we have to do is get some sort of shade structure in place on the southern and eastern sides of it.

Leaps and bounds

I’ve mentioned that the compost heap is growing by leaps and bounds. It’s growing faster than even I expected it to, thanks to all of the spoiled food the boss tells me to get rid of and the trimmings from preserving the vegetables we grew.

I figured it was time for a little photographic proof.

Here it is before we turned it last Thursday.

compost heap 27 april 2017

And here it is after I brought home a trunk full of freegan bad food from work on Friday.

compost heap 29 april 2017

It’s getting so big that we’re going to need Mr B to use his orange tractor to turn it soon. That’s probably a good thing, because I think we need to make a bigger vegetable garden next year.

Lesson Learned

Back in the spring, right after we arrived here permanently, I got Sunshine to build me a compost bin type thing. I’ve been fairly faithfully putting all of our fruit and vegetable scraps in there, and coffee and tea goes in it, too. I also put some of the dead cactus bits in there, as the internet told me cactus is compostable.

Well, yeah.

The internet didn’t lie. Some of the cactus bits are definitely turning to rotten cactus jelly, others are definitely getting smaller.

The problem seems to be that I didn’t know enough about cactus plants to accurately judge which bits were truly dead and which ones were not.

Which means that we had cactus sprouts appearing in our compost heap.

I spent a morning with a pitchfork and a shovel, picking through the compost pile, pulling out the bits of cactus that I was wrong about.

Lesson learned. Next time I trim the cactus plants (and they definitely need more attention), put the pruned bits in the burn barrel or something–NOT the compost pile.