By Sami Grover
Having built a mixed pile of animal bedding, raw manure, crop wastes, and cardboard scraps, we left the heap for a few days to warm up. When we came back, our teacher asked each of us to roll up our sleeves and stick our arm into a hole in the heap—the experience was astounding. Having gotten over the typical urbanite’s squeamishness of putting our hand in a pile of poop, we were amazed at how difficult it was to keep your arm in for more than a few seconds.
For those wanting to try all this for themselves, the Permaculture Research Institute of Australia has a great account by Alex McCausland of Strawberry Fields Eco-Lodge of their super-fast 3-week hot composting system. Using a series of small pits dug into the ground, McCausland and his colleagues pile up a carefully layered mixture of crop waste and dry grasses, kitchen scraps, and animal manure (at a ratio of 3:2:1). The mix is constantly watered as the pile is built, and the layers are repeated 3 times. After this, a small amount of compost from an existing heap is added to ensure a “starter” of the appropriate bacteria, and holes are punched through from top to bottom to allow heat to rise and oxygen to circulate. The mixture is then allowed to heat up for 3-5 days before being turned to ensure even decomposition, and the destruction of weed seeds throughout the pile.
Within 3 weeks, says McCausland, he has a beautiful, fertile and fluffy humus ready for use in the lodge’s vegetable gardens. Next up, the team plan to make a compost-powered water heater to provide hot showers for themselves and their guests. (See the trailer to Geoff Lawton’s Permaculture Soils for an idea of what this might look like.)
More on Composting and Soil Care
Dirty Movie Reveals the Secrets of Abundant Soil (Video)
Is Male Pee Better Than Female Pee? The Compost Conundrum
Build Your Own Compost Tumbler
Moving Your Compost When You Move House
Read full post at TreeHugger