About Me

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No Fixed Abode, Home Counties, United Kingdom
I’m a 51-year-old Aspergic CAD-Monkey. Sardonic, cynical and with the political leanings of a social reformer, I’m also a toy and model figure collector, particularly interested in the history of plastics and plastic toys. Other interests are history, current affairs, modern art, and architecture, gardening and natural history. I love plain chocolate, fireworks and trees but I don’t hug them, I do hug kittens. I hate ignorance, when it can be avoided, so I hate the 'educational' establishment and pity the millions they’ve failed with teaching-to-test and rote 'learning' and I hate the short-sighted stupidity of the entire ruling/industrial elite, with their planet destroying fascism and added “buy-one-get-one-free”. I also have no time for fools and little time for the false crap we're all supposed to pretend we haven't noticed, or the games we're supposed to play. I will 'bite the hand that feeds' to remind it why it feeds.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Compost Heap Project

Behind the two rather ragged old bits of sheep or pig-pen in the upper shot is the compost heap from 2009/10 a few days before it was covered around the 1st of May last. The lower shot shows the basic tools and bits I used on this project, but first a bit of background...

When I first came to the Rectory, the compost - as used - was a half-rotted foot'n-a-half of mossy gunge with recognisable lumps of household kitchen waste in it. The part-timer and I would pull it apart, and spread it on the veg-patch and stand back; within days a green carpet of dormant seeds would spread over the composted areas and we'd have to get the hoes out!

This had been going on for years and annoying the gardeners for years, yet it still took me over a year to convince the boss to go over to a two year system, by which time I was producing about twice the volume of compost, a lot of 'good stuff' had been burnt-off in the past.

Obviously, with only two compost bays, doing year on year off, a third bay would be needed, and this is how I built it, and two proper leaf-moulders.

After I had cleared a patch big enough at one end of the old bays, cut a few branches and cleared a dead stump, it was time to double-up the old iron pen sides so that the broken bits would create a half-decent 'wall'. This was done with simple wiring together where there were two bits roughly opposite each other.

Once the bits were together, the three sides were wired at the corners to hold everything together and hold everything up! Big gaps were then filled with lose bars wired in across the holes.

Old chicken-wire was then draped over the fence panels, pulled tight and hooked over any sticky-out bits, it was then laced to the top and bottom run and down the corners, again everything being pulled tight as you go.

Anyone who decides to follow this (? mad arse!) will discover that the wire is a real pain to work with like this as it has a natural curve and won't go where you want it, so you keep having to pull it all out again, then it goes slack where you'd got it all taught, it drives you round the bend, and then - just when you think you're winning, you get a tight little kink in it and half-pull your fingers off, yanking against the whole structure!

The thinner wire was then used to stitch panels of old fertilizer sack together, and then pin them to the fence/bay walls. Simply poked through either side of a join (panels) or fence-bar (pinning) and given a few twists the other side. All twists are outside the structure with all sharp-ends tucked away round the corners or under the bars with a hammer. Note also the slight overlap of the 'skirt' with the ground surface. What you're trying to obtain is something that will be relatively air-tight, yet collect moisture when it rains, or snow melt.

Thanks to the Farmer at the end of Brightwalton village, who's name I - shamefully - don't know, but he had no problems when I popped in on a walk and asked if he had some sacks spare. He said yes, and pointed to a barn, when I entered the Stygian gloom I found a pile of sacks bigger than a sugar-beat clamp! Some of them still had the dregs of fertilizer in them and I wandered off up the road like an Asian stall-holder in downtown Kowloon with this precarious pile of bags on my head, grinning like a loon at passing dog-walkers while fertilizer trickled down the back of my T-shirt and filled my....

Last thing was to start it off with a bit of leaf mould, leaves are natural ground cover-uppers and the little red worms you need will come up through this quicker than a fresh heap of grass or a bucket of spud-peelings.

This was actually the second bay I'd made that winter/spring, the previous October I'd built the one nearest the camera in the lower shot. This was for leaves over the winter and when this shot was taken (mid April) it had been covered for about two months. The lowest bay (second from the view-point) was the one I inherited and having had two years covered now, is looking better than the one we emptied my first spring, but it's still not as good as the stuff in the one behind, which has only had a year, but has the first magic ingredient...Volume; the more you put on the pile, the more the weight will press the air out, the better the chemical brake-down, the more worms will come...

The second magic ingredient; when I lifted that old rush matting to look under it, back in the summer, there was another mat underneath of small red worms, like earthworms, but much redder, shorter and thinner, these are called Brambling worms I think? With most of my gardening books still in boxes and no Internet, I can't be sure, but there were millions of them and they made the stuff in the next photographs (below)

Since this photo was taken; the other gardener and I have found various excuses to remove all the wriggly-tin (thanks Granite-head!) from the roof, as another reason the old compost was such a mixed blessing was that it was always slowly drying out!

Bottom right shows the third bay built this way in the background, back in October just gone, it's near full and will soon be covered, but look what's come out of the year old one! Cuts like cake, but crumbles like the stuff people pay 3, 4, 6, 8 quid a bag for (top right), it's a bit frosty in the photo, taken yesterday, but as you can see from the bed, will be a real soil-conditioner, and help with weeding, as they have to come up through it which makes it easier to pull them from the looser top surface.

The level it's at where the cover is thrown back is roughly the level it suddenly dropped to between the previous photograph and about June. It just collapsed one day when no one was looking, and within days the rats chucking out scrapes of stuff which looked the same as it does now, so I recon if you get it right you can use this from mid-summer, less than 6 months from covering?

There is a bit of leafy stuff left on the very top, but I've just thrown that on the new one to 'kick-start' it. This will go on all the flower borders, the true compost - which is looking just as good in the two-year old one now - will be for the veg-patch, roses and soft fruit.

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