It begins with the cows!

We have about 25 head of cattle on the farm.  In the summers they are rotationally grazed through the pastures which makes for healthy fields by building fertility and carbon in the soil and happy cows who are regularly dining on new grass.  In the winter the cattle are moved to our “heavy use area” where they are fed local hay to protect the fields from overgrazing when the grass is essentially dormant, and ground too wet and soggy for cattle.  We provide them a thick bed of wood chips which keeps them out of the mud and absorbs much of the nutrients from their manure and urine.  Every three or so weeks, we clean their area of manure, old hay, and the top layer of wood chips, mix that with ground yard debris to provide additional pathways for the air to circulate, wet it if necessary, and place this mix into the aerated compost bin.    Within a week, sometimes days, the pile will be steaming with temperatures above 130 degrees, warm enough to kill weed seeds, and other pathogens.

Cows & Tub Grinder

Cows & Tub Grinder

 

 

Smoke or Soil?

Every year on this island hundreds of yards of branches, trees, brush, leaves and grass clippings are cleared, pruned or raked up.  Historically they have been burnt.  It is common to see a column of smoke lingering for days.

The Tub Grinder & Wood Chips

The Tub Grinder & Wood Chips

Our intention is to provide an attractive alternative where the “waste” is now a fantastic resource.  We have a tub grinder which can grind up all the yard debris and wood waste into a readily compostable blend or wood chips .  It is exciting to provide this support for islanders islanders who are either motivated by a desire to minimize burning and other greenhouse gasses, or just want to grow plants that are healthy and might have less need for watering!

A Compost Bin that will blow your skirt up!

With a lot of help from friends, including the owner of the company which designed one of the two facilities which handles Seattle’s green waste, and another who runs the program in Seattle (both have property on Lopez) and some local funding, we’ve built a system that creates optimal conditions for those little microbes to go to work.  There is a 1,400 square foot concrete bin with air holes every four feet.  The blower comes on every thirty minutes or so to keep the compost fully aerated.  The advantages of this aerated bin are many, 1) happy aerobic bacteria which keep break the material down, significantly reduced odors, and reduced emissions of nitrates and other climate changing gasses.  Our piles spend at least a week over 130 degrees.  On a cold winter morning it is magical to see them steaming away.  After the material works it’s way through the aerated bin we let it sit and age.  The final step is to screen the compost for uniformity.

Black Gold

In the end the manure and other farm wastes, in combination with yard debris is turned by a teeming mass of microbes into a dark, rich amendment for our normally carbon poor island’s soils.  It is a closed loop.  The nutrients and the carbon stay here, on this island so that our gardens can have vitality.