Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Chicken-keeping and Composting Workshop

On Saturday July 2nd we held a chicken-keeping and composting workshop at the farm, from 2 till 4pm, free for anyone to attend. Despite advertising the workshop in The Cornishman, and putting posters around St Just, no-one came to the chicken-keeping hour, but three of our regular volunteers came for the composting hour.
Hugh explaining the hot/aerobic composting technique used here on the farm.
At Bosavern Community Farm we use the hot, or aerobic, composting technique. At least one cubic metre of material is assembled to make the compost heap, and added in layers to give a good mix throughout the heap and allow adequate ventilation. Our main materials are:-
- chicken bedding (straw) and manure, from cleaning out the chicken house;
- grass cuttings;
- weeds from the vegetable beds;
- nettles;
- and kitchen scraps, vegetable peelings etc...
The chicken bedding acts as both a carbon-rich material (straw), giving structure to the compost and allowing ventilation, and a nitrogen-rich activator (chicken manure). Nettles are also a nitrogen-rich activator, while the rest of the ingredients act as "greens", providing energy to heat the compost and nutrients for the finished product.
Moistening the heap to ensure good fast composting.
For every two layers of "greens" added to the heap, we add one layer of "browns" (straw). The straw allows air to circulate through the heap, feeding the micro-organisms that enable fast hot composting. The heap will heat to 70-80 degrees Celsius, hot enough to destroy most weed seeds, and accelerate the composting process to make your compost ready for use within two months. The heap needs to be sufficiently damp, so watering is necessary at the beginning. Compost we made in early spring is already feeding the tomato, pepper, and aubergine plants in our polytunnel.
Poster for market square, St Just.
For more details of this method of composting please follow the link below to the webpage of Hotel Posada del Valle in Spain - the rest of their webpage and blog is well worth a read too.

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