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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Compost woes

I have a confession:
I have really stinky compost!
It all started last year, right about the end of the season, my father in law started to bring in "decomposables" from the restaurant he works at, The Farmer's Gastro Pub (in downtown Springfield, by the Moxie).
They wanted to minimize their addition to the waste stream as part of the theme of the place, it seemed the right thing to do.  They use local  foods from local farms.  The premise of the venture is great.

 So for a little while I had some extra kitchen wastes coming in. Nothing abnormal about that at all, except for the fact that he was so quiet about bringing it in, and I really wasn't visiting the garden as much as earlier in the season...so when I did, it was UH_OH!
He has never built a hot compost pile and I never said anything about it.  He asked if it was OK, I said sure.  And one day I went to the back yard and realized he'd been there, a lot! And I didn't have any bagged leaves out there, as I usually do...so I had to get to work....and fast!  I layered it all up and got in heated and thought all was well.  I left it sitting all winter, expecting great compost.  Boy was I wrong!  Moral of the story, I have matted food waste in the compost that is refusing to break down, and well, it smells too.  By no fault of his own, he has created "the poopy"!!! And this my friends, is how compost became "artificial manure"....because if you mess up, that is exactly what it smells like.
 I guess I have been spoiled so far, that my compost was never stinky and always heated up initially and killed off any odor by turning time.  But now I have spoiled compost! So you ask.....

What would have prevented the smell and clumping?  If I had paid attention at all, (at the time,) would have been carbon.  All that kitchen waste is counted as "green" material as far as compost.  So with the amount that was there, all that was needed was to mix in thoroughly, some sort of "brown" materials at the same time.  The best thing, probably would be straw or chopped leaves, and mixed well as soon as it is brought in.  Check the moisture level as you go and all that scrap just disappears! Dump it in by the bucket full and leave uncovered, and well, you have my compost pile!
Currently the restaurant returns their compost to the farmers that bring in their goods for them, which is great! The farmers even pick it up I think and take care of the dirty work. It has finally come full circle.

So I have learned a lesson about compost to share with  everyone.....a little goes a long way!
The Saga continues...I have mixed and remixed this compost, re aerating and re layering and re moistening and re heating...and that little booger is still stinkin' it up!!!  So today I have turned it, and hopefully it will heat through in the next several days.  My lawn mower is on the fritz and that will have to be remedied to start a new pile....hopefully I can get through this one soon, and get back to my own compost again.....good luck to all ....and I will add a post about common "mess-ups" in the compost and what to do about it!

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