Building fertility.

Apricot Lane Farms officially has two new compost piles, almost three – one day we’ll have as many as 6.  Aren’t we big.  The picture above shows one of these piles in front of the trees it will one day nourish – my heart’s a flutter.  No puny piles here, but 100 – 200 foot rows designed to create compost for our many thousands of hungry fruit trees.  Merging the detailed approach Biodynamic farming and 130-acres of production is not easy, but holy cow, does it feel good.  From a cook’s perspective, every effort is for one singular goal – great food.

We’re building two kinds of compost here at Apricot Lane…

1) Compost using manure from local farms.  In our town, this means horse manure.  Organic dairy manure would be the most desirable, but 3 days of cold calling led me to a goose egg.  Luckily, horse owners largely treat their animals very well, and we aren’t dealing with lots of hormone & antibiotic usage.

2) Compost using internal waste, including grass clippings, tree mulch, straw and manure.  Our farm currently collects sheep and cow manure for compost.  Since we don’t rely on petroleum fertilizer, our animal manure is like gold to us.

Option #1 is pretty easy.  I coordinate the deliveries of fresh, moist manure & bedding, and once we’ve got our row, the interns measure the internal temperature every 5 feet, every couple days, using a super long thermometer.  Once we’ve reached 150˚ for two weeks, we use a tractor to turn it.  And repeat.  Months later, we’ll have compost.  I’ll let you know how this goes.  (BTW, I’m very aware that I used the words “manure” and “moist” in the same sentence, as though it’s not disgusting.  Since becoming a farmer, I discuss manure and mating more than the sum total of my previous existence.)

Option #2 takes a bit more finesse.  However, it also involves a food reference, which is a sure-fire way to captivate my attention.  Building our internal waste compost is like making a lasagna.   Sigh.  Love.  It’s totally fun, and our hands-on Biodynamic Consultant lead us through the entire process during his last visit.  For many months prior, we’d been dividing our waster into piles of grass, straw (with manure) and mulch.

At go-time, we began by building a 10′ x 100′ bed of mulch, followed by a layer of grass, then straw – repeat.  However to really build it right, our entire team gathered around the long pile with pitchforks to spread each of Raul‘s tractor dumps into a nice, even layer, focused on building up our edges.  We learned to focus on the edges and the middle will take care of itself, which makes sense when you’re actually doing it.  All the while, we took turns soaking each layer with a hose.  Water, oxygen, nitrogen and carbon are needed to start the cooking process, which results in safe, gorgeous compost.  Nourishment for our fall garden… I’m already dreaming of broccoli.

Four hours later, we had a beautiful pile that stood about 5′ tall.  And guess what?  In a matter of days, that pile was only 3′ tall.  It had already cooked down two feet!  I couldn’t stick my hand 5 inches in without pulling it back from the heat.  Nature’s dehydrator – I’m loving it.

Do you have a compost?  What tricks have you learned?


Organic Spark


  • Dad

    I can’t wait to get out there and stick my hand in a pile of manure. You are something!

    February 21, 2012
  • Mom

    “nature’s dehydrator”…just loved that word picture. And I too, can’t wait to get there for another visit. This place is a tiny city of its own.

    February 21, 2012
  • Finally, a compost geek like me! Only you’re doing it on a much bigger scale. I just have 3 major piles on our farm, and I do deep litter in the chicken house, so that’s effectively another pile of compost! I never tire of reading about compost, chickens, farming, or real food!

    February 22, 2012
  • Su Lane

    March 18, 2012

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