Saturday, April 12, 2014

Shipping Pallet Compost Bin and Unrelated Notes

Our compost bin isn't anything special.  I based it off of the one detailed in Joseph Jenkin's the Humanure Handbook, an absolute must-read for anyone interested in composting.  Seven shipping pallets (heat treated instead of fumigated with methyl-bromide [look for  "HT"  or   "MT" on your salvaged pallets!]) are arranged to make three separate piles and braced together with a minimal amount of scrap wood.  The middle pile is for cover and bulking material, mostly a 60/40 mix of wood shavings and peat moss.  The cover is used to, well, cover up fresh compost as it goes onto the pile, thus stifling any unpleasant odors, helping to keep a good green/brown ration, and keeping good air and water flow throughout the pile.  We use this bulking material in our composting toilet, so it's been very important for us to keep to that 60/40 ratio, and to keep it dry.

We started our compost pile in the empty section to the left.  We started by digging a shallow ditch and piling some straw in the bottom.  For the last year or so we've been throwing food scraps, dead garden plants, compost from our toilet and straw from the chicken coop into the pile, mixed in with cover mix.  Once the pile reached a critical mass, we bungee-corded another pallet to the front, enclosing the bin.  

The first pile is just about full, so it's time for us to start another pile in the third section of the bin.  While the second pile is building, the first pile will be curing for a full year.  Because our toilet waste is going into the pile, we want to give the compost plenty of time to kill any fecal-coliform bacteria.  Since this is our first round, I'll be testing the soil in a year to make sure we've done a good job.  If all goes well, we'll spread the pile all over the garden and roto-till it into the soil, thus completing the food-waste-food cycle that all of friends don't want us to talk to them about.  Especially when we're dropping off fresh produce.

Note #1

Perhaps you've noticed our lack of blog activity this year.  The truth of the matter is that not everything we do on a weekly basis is particularly interesting or homestead-related.  Instead of forcing it, we've decided to only post about things that seem post worthy, even if it means intermittent activity.   All killer, no filler, as they say.

Note #2

We're cuurently working on our biggest project to date.  Think the house was a large undertaking?  Three years worth of around-the-clock work?  Well this time we're making something way bigger and more complex... HUMAN LIFE.  At least it doesn't need to be permitted...

Christy's pregnant!  Come October, there'll be one more resident of Mellish Fields West.  We're scrambling a bit to get some loose ends taken care of, (which has a lot to do with our blog neglect), but this new chapter is already starting out to be exciting, productive and a little terrifying.  If there's one thing we've proved over these last few years, though, it's that we do a pretty good job once we get in way over our heads.   Adventures abound!


  1. Congratulations Christy and John! That's very exciting news to hear. I hope that everything is going well with Christy's pregnancy.

    I like your compost set-up! That's very well thought out, and it looks like a great system. I'd always wondered how exactly one would use their compost when it was ready if it was buried under the fresher scraps. Where I work (a small cafe on Bainbridge Island), we have a guy that comes out and collects the used coffee grounds and vegetable waste for composting.

  2. Thanks! Coffee grounds are great for adding nitrogen and moisture, not to mention they smell wonderful! There's a roaster here in Kingston who occasionally lets me come vacuum the chaffe out of his roaster to add to our cover mix. It composts really quick and also smells of wonderful, toasty coffee. Add all that to the plethora of coffee sacks we've used to mulch around trees and insulate our chicken coop, and the coffee culture around the northwest really starts to come full circle!

  3. A baby!! Holy Moley! Congratulations, John.


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