You’d think it would be very easy – dump manure and bedding into a pile, turn over, wait, and ba-da-bing, you’ve got black gold – high-nitrogen fertilizer for your garden.
Unfortunately, it’s a bit more complicated than it sounds, especially when you’re trying to compost fresh chicken manure which is reportedly among the highest N-containing manures. I apparently didn’t turn the compost enough, so it didn’t all turn into black gold. You have to really get three piles together in three stages – new stuff, medium stuff, old stuff. It takes 4-5 months for the compost to turn into soil. If you harvest it too early, the N will be off the charts, you’ll burn your plants, and potentially contaminate them with E. coli or salmonella.
Today I bought a compost thermometer to make sure the inside core gets to 160+ to kill weed seeds and pathogens. And I’ve got multiple piles going. And I’m studying the nitrogen cycle along with Sam. Did you know that plants can’t use atmospheric nitrogen (N2)? Some plants (legumes) have a friendly bacteria (Rhizobium) which can convert N2 into NH3 which the plants can use. This is why cover crops planted over the winter are so helpful. Chicken manure and coffee grounds are also very effective in replenishing N. Our beds were pretty good with respect to P and K, according to my soil testing last week. Cross your fingers this amateur gardener can get her act together and grow something which doesn’t sicken the family. I plan to grow stuff with goes UP in the contaminated bed – tomatoes, peas? Any other ideas?
We are on Spring Break, visiting mom and Richard in southern California! It is SUNNY! Our legs are WHITE! We haven’t seen them in 9 months. None of us can see in the sun, so we grasp frantically for our sunglasses 🙂 Our neighbors are taking care of our chickens and we have gotten nearly daily reports on their doings – so sweet to hear from them as they learn chicken-tending first-hand! We are on day 3 here and Ben just woke up from a 13 hour rest, catching up after several days of fun! Now we’re off to figure out what to do with the day. The original plan was San Diego for the zoo! Sam just finished building a huge Lego Technic flatbed truck with over 1,000 pieces – he spent a total of about 6 hours on it yesterday, never taking a break for food or water! I had to bring it to him and literally put food and water to his lips – such a dedicated worker! He is tireless and focused. And we still managed to get our bike/run adventure in with all that building 🙂 We have had so many laughs – one of them made me nearly choke to death on a melon. That inspired me to actually look up whether one can literally “die laughing” and it is true – apparently someone in Britain died laughing watching a goofy TV show “The Goodies”. Who knows if true or not, but it made me laugh again! My friend Ang asked how my experience with security at the airport went…so reprinted here for your enjoyment is my recounting of a fruitless attempt to get through security without causing a scene:
1. left sam’s bag unattended at security and had to go back through and get it
2. forgot to take my own shoes off, was standing there dumbly all smiles thinkin’ I’d just licked this one and gotten everything right only to be told by the lady “ah, ma’am, your shoes?”
3. my purse had to be scanned and rescanned then inspected – finally figured out it was the bones I had stashed in there – seal jaw bone and crab claw (huge).