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#128 - Step-By-Step Active Composting - Day 21

Welcome to Day 21 of our Active Compost Series. The pile was running at 168 degrees yesterday when I checked on it, so it is still chugging along at an elevated temperature. It seems no matter what I do to this pile it always wants to run extremely hot.

This morning it finally came down to an acceptable temperature of 160 degrees so since the temperature dropped, that signals that it is time to turn the pile to get more oxygen back inside it.

Normally, the pile would be complete somewhere between the 21st and the 28th day of active composting, and if you remember Pile #1 was almost complete, but because of the herbicide overspray incident caused by my idiotic former yard maintenance people, I had to combine both piles together and Pile #2 was a couple days behind in chronological time and severely behind in the amount of decomposition I am seeing in the pile.

As I turned the pile today however I am seeing a glimmer of hope in that everything is starting to darken up a little more today than what I have been seeing. It isn't looking like soil yet, but it is slowly getting there at least in color if not texture yet.

I am sensing a slight odor to the pile showing that some anaerobic activity has been working on it so flipping the pile today to get oxygen back into it will help with that. The oxygen will kill off the anaerobic bacteria and allow aerobic bacteria to go back to work again. This is one of the things that I have been struggling with on this pile due to its excessive heat above 160 degrees. The anaerobic odor was not strong, so it had not gotten bad yet. If I would have let the pile sit for another couple days it would have though.

I went ahead and started another pile next to it from materials that I have been holding onto for a few days trying to wait for this pile to get a little further along. Unfortunately I need to get the other pile going before my next load of compost materials arrive and I get too backed up.

I will be setting this pile up differently from the other piles I have done in the past as an experiment. For the "green" component of the pile I will be using grass clippings as always, but for the "brown" component of this pile I will be using wood shavings instead. This is a very course grade of saw dust that is too large to use in my worm bin and too small to use as a topdressing mulch so I decided instead of wasting it to see how it would work in the compost pile. Once again I added the green and brown components in layers wetting the pile down between each layer.

Sawdust does work well in piles and I have added some to a pile before when I needed to boost the carbon level in a pile, however this will be the first compost pile I have tried to do using only sawdust as the only brown component so it will be interesting to see how this pile progresses.

Wood shavings and sawdust have a very high amount of carbon in them so you need to use these items sparingly in a compost pile. I ended up using about a pound of wood shavings sprinkled throughout the layers of about 13 bags of grass clippings which made a very large pile.

I hate having a pile this large because it takes a lot of work to turn it and since there is so much grass in it, it will have a tendency to get matted down and not oxygenate well so I expect to have temperature issues with this pile along with the other one. I allowed about half of these grass clippings to dry out a little bit scattered on the ground for the past few days so hopefully that will help with the airflow problem and temperature control. I also added in a couple forks of material from the other pile to inoculate this pile with, hopefully it will allow this pile to start processing quicker.

I always like to save a little of an older pile to add into a new pile to inoculate it with. This way the beneficial bacteria and microbes are already introduced into the center of the new pile instead of having to wait for it to build up in the pile from the soil below.

Ok, both piles are good to go, their thermometers are inserted so it's time to cover them back up with the tarp and let the bacteria get to work.

Until Next Time,

Aloha & 73


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