Tag Archives: composting

Summary

In the past week I have, again, fallen behind with my reading.

This is true of WordPress, where I have once again not found time to keep up with everyone. It has also been true of my book reading. Over the last few weeks I’ve noticed that I haven’t actually picked a book up, which is unusual. I did read part of a crime novel this week, but that was because I had three medical appointments and needed something to fill the waiting time.

I have been doing a bit on the net, and have read a couple of gardening magazines but that has been it. I also read part of a Daily Mail a neighbour lent me, but that proved to be a miserable experience.

Ebay, as you can probably tell from my recent ramblings, has been taking up too much of my time. I’ll cover that at length in a later post.

Medically speaking, everything seems to be going well. I’m not going to say too much as you never know what’s around the corner.

So, that just leaves the dustbins. Our bin day is Friday. This Friday is was the recycling and garden waste bins. I picked Julia up from work and we went for a coffee. When we returned home they were still on the pavement and the garden waste bin had a sticker on top.

It seems that the bin had not been emptied because it contained either bricks, breeze blocks, rubble, rope, trellis, treated timber, animal waste, plant pots, soil, wood chipboard, bagged garden waste, bagged domestic waste or food waste.

This seemed strange because when I looked at it I couldn’t see any of that. This is only the second time we’ve put the garden waste bin out this year, and it was only about 25% full and there wasn’t much for the heinous contraband to hide behind.

That’s why I ended up with the Daily Mail. It seems that local councils are taking a hard line on such things, even to the point of fitting up to seven cameras on a bin lorry. I won’t talk about litter, poor school standards or any other council issue, because all that is important is that they issue their quota of stickers.

I know that recycling is important, and needs to be monitored, but I think this is a bit over the top. I will be discussing it with them next week.

This isn’t just an idle threat, I really will get on with this one.

I’m fairly sure that they have opened the bin, looked at the hedge clippings and mouldy plums and decided that the plums are food waste.  In fact, with them coming straight off the tree they are garden waste. I would probably just have composted them, but Julia took them off and she tends to get rid of them so the mould doesn’t cause further problems. She’s more professional than I am.

I can see why they wouldn’t want food waste in there, but if a few mouldy plums are a problem where do you draw the line? Will yellowing cabbage leaves, ground elder and nettle tops all be seen as contraband? You can eat them so I would suggest they should be. What about rhubarb leaves? They are poisonous, but they are also waste from food. And tomatoes with blight?

The world has gone mad.

Of course, there’s a little voice at the back of my head suggesting that if we had better schools in Nottingham council employees might be bright enough to work out that mouldy plums are garden waste.

I probably won’t mention that in my email.

 

A Start to Decluttering

No, not the books!

 

I decided it was time to get rid of some clothes.

There were three shirts that don’t fit. I’d been hanging onto them for years, meaning to get on with the diet. There was also one that, with hindsight, had been an error of judgement. Beige with alternating shiny and matt stripes. I’m not yet ready for two-tone beige.

Two pairs  of trousers. See diet comments above.

Finally I shoved some ten-year-old vests in a bag marked “For Rags”. They are still quite wearable, but as I find myself exposing my underwear to hospital staff more regularly I’ve decided to upgrade.

It was a toss up between that or  cutting them up and composting them (they are 100% cotton so would compost down nicely) but laziness won.

In case you are wondering – yes. Cotton underwear, wool socks and leather/cotton gardening gloves have all gone through my compost bins, never to be seen again.

The theory is that by getting rid of clutter I’m going to have a better life.

 

The picture shows Julia doing the complicated bit at the clothing bank while I  sit in the car. You probably guessed that from the wing mirror.

The tumult and the shouting dies

Last night was the peak of our current workload, with just two more weeks to go before the school holidays create a lull. All the other groups that are coming are well within the boundaries of what our equipment can cope with (we ran out of forks last night for some reason – I know we used to have over 40 but don’t know whey we only have 32 now) and we’re quite looking forward to it.

It’s just after lunch and, having done part of the clearing last night, I’m still waiting for the assistance I was promised. That’s about par for the course, and that, if only you knew it, is a very appropriate expression. In case you are confused, the farmer has gone to play golf (hence the “par”), and when he does that the farm staff all regard it as an excuse to have a holiday. Seems like me and Julia are the only idiots left working.

So I’m relaxing with a bit of Kipling, refusing to do the old music hall joke, and contemplating the next hour of washing up.

It’s amazing how much debris a BBQ generates, and how much greasy dirt lurks in corners. I’m also surprised (aghast may be better) at the various places people leave their discarded plates, cans and glasses. At least the water butts were full after a stiffish cloudburst earlier on in the day. That means people don’t tend to treat them as rubbish bins, which has happened at previous events.

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Banana, sugar, Mars bar = calorie overload and horrendous time washing up!

We used compostable paper plates so we could show off our green credentials. I’m not sure whether this is better than using our clapped out selection of second hand plates (or “upcycled crockery” as we also call it) but it did save on washing up. One of our helpers (and I use the term loosely) decided to also hand out non-compostable ones then made herself scarce when it came time to sort through the used plates and separate the two sorts.

It’s been an active morning (apart from one of the community gardeners who appeared to be impersonating a scarecrow) with egg collecting, pig visiting and upcycling milk containers. You can see some of this on our Twitter page (@QuercusCommy) or have a look at these photos.

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Upcycled milk carton

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Pigs are happier now it’s cooler

Talking of Twitter , we now have just over 900 followers – it was 902 but now it’s 901. Someone unfollowed me, but when you think I accumulated around 100 followers last week (no I don’t know how) it’s hardly surprising that some go. Many of them are about music, youth or “love” so I’m torn by indecisiveness now. Ddo I take the easy way out and keep pressing on to the magic 1,000? Or do I start paring my followers back until I only have ones that I consider to be a good fit?

Keyhole Garden (2)

We added the last barrow loads of soil to the bed today and although the central compost basket isn’t quite finished as it should be we’re pretty happy with it.

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Working on the basis of striking while the iron is hot we have started a second bed using recycled materials to form the boundary. This time it’s old tyres, because we have plenty of them (somebody just dumped another four in one of the fields recently.I’m hoping that the black tyres will heat up in spring and give us a slightly earlier start to the year, though we will have to wait until next spring to test the theory out.

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We’ve also started a trial in one of the raised beds. They were made from conifers felled during the building of the centre and half filled with a mix of rubble and rubbish from a demolished barn. We used general purpose compost from the local garden supplier (bought by the ton so it wasn’t too expensive) but there isn’t a lot of body in the soil in the beds as you may imagine.

Digging holes today it was clear that the top foot of the bed we were working was very dry and though it had roots in it there wasn’t a lot of organic material in it. I spotted three worms, but that isn’t a lot for the soil we shifted.

Hopefully we’ve addressed this lack by sticking in a layer of wood chippings, a layer of paper towels, fruit peel, teabags, toast and eggshells. Mainly paper towels to be honest, but we generate a lot of waste on a school visit and we need to reuse them if at all possible. We followed this up with a layer of pig muck and then replaced the soil.

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We harvested the leeks this afternoon so next week we’ll repeat the process with the second half of the bed and use the whole bed as a raised bean trench. It’s going to look decorative and hopefully be very productive. If it works we’ll start a proper rotation and do the same to another bed next year.

 

Keyhole Garden

After six months of discussion (the “we should build a keyhole garden” phase) and three more of procrastination (one of my better developed skills) we eventually entered the final phase of pre-building – the “do a few hours and then stop” phase. We’ve had a circle of bricks and roughly chopped earth waiting for us for a bout a month now, but with trees and lambs and such we haven’t had time to get on with it.

At the weekend we decided we needed to start work again. There’s frost forecast for next weekend, and that’s just what we need to break up some of the lumpier bits. If that isn’t enough there’s a whole list of other reasosn to get on with it – planting time coming up, the need to focus and the upcoming “Kenya Day” we’re having.

You will search in vail for any Kenyan National Holiday on 9th May, we just seem to have chosen 9th May as a convenient day. I’m not sure what is being organised because I’m trying to avoid adding to my workload, but it’s pretty certainly going to involve a reduction in the goat population round here. What? You didn’t think we were rearing goats for fun did you? Farmers, as we always tell the kids coming round, don’t keep pets.

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From the top left – The Start,. The next phase with drainage layer, keyhole and wood chippings applied and the compost cage in place. The compost cage lined with straw. My hard working staff starting to put soil on the layer of well-rotted pig manure. Close up of hard working staff, who by that time were starting to abuse the photographer and talk of tea. Final shot – most of the soil is in place – probably six to eight barrow loads for me and Julia to apply tomorrow and then we just have to let it settle for a while.

The theory is that you put compost in the central cage and water it, thus getting best value out of the water and the nutrients. Some beds are much more like raised beds but the bricks we had earmarked for the job ended up in a path so we’re having to make do with a lower wall. Despite this we will be getting an increase in surface area because of the slope. There are all sorts of keyhole beds, as you can see if you follow this link.

Time to talk toilets

We spend a lot of time here talking about toilets. and the correct way to use them. In fact, with three school groups in this week, each divided into two groups, we’ve talked about toilets three times and demonstrated six. They are plastic toilets at the centre, which always make it seem a bit like camping; they are variously known as separator, waterless or composting toilets.

The first two are true, as they do separate liquid from solids and they do not use water. I think that sums it up – it can be difficult to get the point across without dumbing down to nursery level, or making it sound like a Latin lesson. They don’t let me do it as my vocabulary tends to slip…

Composting? Not really. The liquids are piped away and used when we fill a barrel and the solids are removed in biodegradable bags on a regular basis and composted on a separate site. The products are composted but the toilet doesn’t actually do the composting.

The trouble we have is that we are in a village, and a village that isn’t 100% sure that they want us here. Adding to this uncertainty by adding piles of humanure to the landscape would be a step too far. I’m committed to using humanure after reading an eBook about it but I have to keep reminding myself that the author was living in an isolated house in the American woods.

The truth is that the humanure isn’t theonly important part of the process. We live on a small, densely populated island and lack space to store water: we can’t keep using drinking water to dispose of our waste. I can’t find figures for the UK but in USA toilet flushing accounts for 27% of water use. I have no reason to think we would be much different in our water wasting habits, particularly in view of the car washing habits of my neighbours, and when you think what people in Africa go through to get clean water this just seems wrong.

 

The Moving Finger

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.

The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyam, translated by Edward FitzGerald

Yes, I know it can be read as a bit of a miserable quotation, and I admit I do always get a bit gloomy at New Year. For the first few days it’s always a case of remembering what I haven’t done in the last year, though I gradually build up a good head of steam and start to look forward to the new stuff.

Things are already moving on for next year – we had a booking for a Yoga Retreat yesterday and a local college emailed to confirm five more dates to come and do its animal care course. This morning we had another email as one of our regular schools booked to bring three classes round to look at lambing and do some cooking. That’s a good start to the year.

I’ve also been writing a list of things to do. That in itself is enough to cause depression as it’s a bit like building a mountain for yourself to climb. However, I just mutter the short version of the above quote (The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ, Moves on:) and get on with it. That’s what New Year is about for me, doing things and moving on.

This year we will be building up the butterfly garden and recording butterfly sightings in a more systematic manner.  We will also be doing more observing and recording of insects and birds. We’ll never be as good as the people at eakringbirds.com but that’s no reason not to try.

As usual the garden is the site of many of our good intentions, and as usual we’re already falling behind with it.

I’ve been doing some reading over Christmas so I have a few new notes to add to the cookery demonstrations. I’ve also dusted down my old guano notes as I’m feeling the time is right for more talk of manure. And dung, compost, fertiliser, nitrates, personal liquid waste (as Bob Flowerdew calls it), comfrey, nettle tea and anything else that rots, festers or smells.

I need something to replace the “Is it wrong to eat people?” presentation as this didn’t go down terribly well with the parent helpers or my wife. This will, for the moment, join the notes about eating guinea pigs as a subject that needs a little polishing before being used again.

It’s also the time for finalising all the special days – either traditional ones like Lammas or the modern manufactured ones. I keep meaning to do National Carrot Day just because it’s so unlikely, and because we could make carrot lollies just like World War 2, National Nettle Week is a definite for this year because it ties in with the butterflies and making people eat weeds. There are others I’m looking at too, though I’ll be giving National Chip Week a miss and National Mango Week is just taking the mickey.

So there you go – 2015 and it’s all to play for.