Compost! Mmm that nice pile of “waste” decomposing in a pile/hole/compost drum in some corner of your garden. Some people have their compost down to a serious art, or science, depending on who you talk to while others just chuck that waste into a pile that occasionally gets stirred. However its done with whichever special recipe, everyone agrees that compost is a hugely important part of growing healthy soil and thus healthy food. Some such as Abishay (pictured with beard below) refer to this mix of stuff as black gold. However you look at it, there’s something beautiful about turning our waste and scraps into rich, fertile soil that feeds the crops we nourish ourselves with.
Making black gold
At the farm we usually make a “lasagna” out of:
- Greenwaste: nitrogen and carbon from kitchen scraps, cut grass and alfalfa, garden weeds
- Brown material: mainly carbon from dried grass, corn stalks, quinoa stalks, etc.
- Dirt: fertile bed soil, adding a mix of microorganisms from around the farm
- You can also add: manure (nitrogen rich and really great addition!), urine (for urea), ash, calcium, etc.
This last Thursday we hosted a compost workshop with our friend Abishay, a composting genius. We made a large pile of compost. We do use manure for boacshi, a rapid acting compost but not in our regular speed compost. This pile was perfectly stacked and with well packed edges that will be turned once a month for a total of 3 times before it is ready for use!
Key things worth sharing:
- Larger piles break down faster (at the minimum a 3x3ft. pile will do, even bigger if at altitude).
- Start your pile on an even plain, flat surface cleared of grass. Piles should kill any weeds below it but it helps to clear the space first. We did a half fresh manure, half chala (corn stalk) base to see which controls the grass beneath better.
- Fresh manure at the base will kill grass, while broken down manure will help it grow
- Height of the pile is more important the width
- Water between each layer as you build
- Water the ground for several days (dripping) before turning the first time. This will bring out the worms!
- Manure makes your compost richer. Manure from smaller animals such as cuy (guinea pig), chickens, etc. is richer than from larger animals such as cows and sheep.
- Urine is a cheap substitute for urea (dehydrated salt-like substance) that is rich material for any compost pile.
If you’re in the Sacred Valley, come check out our pile! If not then these photos will just have to suffice. Best part of the day? Asking everyone to bring their own bucket of manure, urine, or food scraps…nothing like a nice warm gift of someone else’s urine! ~Kat