100 Days of Useful Homesteading Skills: Day 19 – How to Compost

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dish-meal-food-meat-barbecue-cuisine-775929-pxhere.comCompost is a valuable resource on the homestead. Most soil is lacking in something, compost can make up for that. As a homesteader, you will eventually have more than you can handle in the form of manure. Manure is rich in nitrogen, which in the composting world makes it a “green” and not a brown (even though common sense would have you thinking otherwise).

The brown matter will be harder to acquire, at least it is for us. We live in the mountains and our goats, donkeys, and other animals eat most of our fallen leaves before we can get them into the compost pile.

The making of compost comes down to just a few components:

  • Brown matter – usually fallen leaves and chipped twigs
  • Green matter – grass clippings, green leaves, food scraps, and manure
  • Air circulation – that means you turning it and not trapping the moisture in with tarps
  • Moisture – it needs to be watered regularly

Most people don’t have both brown and green matter at the same time. Brown matter usually comes in the form of dead leaves in the fall and green matter usually comes in the form of green grass clippings. That’s fine. Just put it in when it comes and keep turning it. If you have livestock, your green matter is their manure, you’ll be fine. If you don’t have livestock, check with a neighbor who does, they might be more than happy to let you take some.

We used to turn out pile every week but now we let the chickens do it for us. We have poultry nets and a mobile hoop coop. We put our meat birds by the compost and let them scratch and peck and turn it all they want.

That means less work for us. Plus, they add more compost while they do it, right where we need it to be. It’s the best place for our meat birds to finish off before butcher time. They get to be very active and eat all the bugs they want. The extra exercise means more tender and flavorful meat for us with less greasy fat.

If you aren’t keeping birds for meat that’s fine. You can keep your layers next to your compost and it will help improve their egg production. Just watch how much you feed them. Cut back their feed a little bit every day until their production drops off, then bring it back up to the amount you fed them the day previous.

Watch to make sure production is stable and occasionally try to cut it back again to see if it was a fluke. Remember that the number of bugs will change with the season and they may need more feed or less depending on the season, especially during molting and the cold months.

Tell us about your compost success! Do you have pictures?

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