Sunday, November 17, 2013

Building the Compost Pile

It seems like this entire summer/fall has been spent bouncing around from one project to another!  First it was the really important stuff like fencing and the barn, and now we've moved on to smaller secondary projects.  Of those, one of the most important was getting the compost pile constructed.

For those of you who don't know, I clean up the llama manure on a daily basis (or every 2-3 days).  This is mostly for parasite management, but it also allows me to harvest the manure for use in the gardens.  For the first month or so after the llamas moved in, I was dumping the llama manure around the established fruit trees in our small orchard.  Llama (and alpaca) manure has the wonderful quality that it can be used fresh- it doesn't have enough nitrogen to "burn" plants so it can be applied directly.  Composting is good (especially when there is hay or grass mixed in with the manure), but not always necessary.  It quickly became evident though that there weren't enough trees to fertilize, so we got to work building the permanent compost pile in the fenced garden area.

My compost-building companion, Abby.

In addition to using the manure/compost in our gardens here on the farm, I would also like to sell some starting next year.  So we definitely needed a permanent place for the compost to "brew".  I had seen plans on Pinterest for compost bins built with t-posts and wood pallets- this seemed like the easiest way to go, and I had already found a place to buy pallets pretty cheap.  I chose to put the compost pile in the corner of our fenced garden.  That way it would be out of the way, protected from the dogs, but still easily accessible with the tractor (so I can turn the pile with the front-loader).  Originally I wanted to build the pile so it was 2 pallets wide and 2 pallets deep (it would be 3-sided).  This was wide enough for the front-loader to easily turn the manure.  However, after a month of adding manure to the pile this looked much too small, so we expanded it another pallet wider.  It currently only has 2 sides…I'm waiting to see how it works this winter to decide if I want to add the 3rd side in the spring.

Pallets ready for use.

First we had to set some t-posts.  I measured the spacing for the t-posts by using the pallets, so they would fit snugly.  Then my husband set the posts in the ground with a manual post driver.

Metal t-post after being set.

Next we lifted each pallet over its t-post, and set it in place.  I later went back with some 14-gauge high-tensile fence wire and wired the edges of the pallets together for extra stability.

One side of the compost pile wired together.

The corner wired together.

And that's it!  It was really easy to build, and it looks to be very functional.  Only time will tell how well the pallets manage to keep the manure/compost contained.

The finished compost pile (version 1).  It now has an extra pallet on both sides.

No comments: