Mission Compostable

This month’s Urban Farm Handbook Challenge theme is soil building. As I mentioned, I jumped on the bandwagon a little late (hey, there were still two days left in February!), but this is something I’ve been thinking about anyhow, so it was actually perfect timing.

Soil Challenge #1: Plan for Compost

The first part of the challenge was straight up composting. In the past I have always been pretty lax about composting.  I think I mentioned that our city has an urban food scraps composting program, so we do that.  Other than that we do a lot of “throwing soiled chicken bedding in a pile and ignoring it”.  This is the current state of said pile:

Note that this is not so much a compost pile as a pile of chicken…well, you get the idea.  There are other issues with this pile as well.  The location, while out of the way, is a pain in the patootie to get to, since it’s uphill (and up-terracing) from the chicken coop.  You do not want to be wrestling a bunch of this stuff up the hill in our crappy plastic wheelbarrow when it’s raining, which it does a lot of in the Pacific Northwest.  It’s also become a location where we end up throwing a lot of green waste before we have a chance to take it to our local green waste disposal area, as can be seen here.  Note the remarkably still green Christmas tree, considering that I took this this morning.

Another problem with it being on the hill is that as it actually turns to compost, the rain washes most of the good stuff immediately washes back down the hill to the chicken coop, which you can see in the corner of the above photo and in the photo below.  Not great.

Putting together an actual composting bin seems like it would solve a lot of these problems, but many of the ones out there seem to be too small or too expensive.  Urban farm challenge to the rescue!  They suggested constructing a bin out of wooden pallets, which many people are offering for cheap or free on craigslist.  I have an email in to one of these people and hopefully by this weekend I will have my very own two-bin composting system in place and a better place to throw the chicken droppings and all those leaves (although that means we’ll actually have to get around to raking…no plan is perfect.)

 Soil Building Challenge #2: Buy fertilizer in bulk or make it from scratch.

I have a confession: I didn’t realize that fertilizer was different from compost.  My husband has always been more of the gardener in the family, so I am learning a lot of this stuff as I go.  I know about soil amendments as they relate to viticulture, but not so much with the home gardening.  Nevertheless, I was really excited that the UFH people posted a recipe for making your own fertilizer designed for soil here in the PNW.  I’m not sure if I’m ambitious enough to make that much fertilizer on my own yet, but we’ll see how I feel when I get to the feed store.

Soil Building Challenge #3:  Build a Worm Bin

This is the part of the challenge that was really kismet.  My sister had a tray-style worm compost system set up that she had to take apart when she moved into her current apartment a few months ago.  A few days ago I asked her if she was using it and she offered to bring it over and help me set it up.  She’s bringing it over today and I am picking up half a pound of red wrigglers this afternoon.  More on that later!

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2012 Urban Farm Handbook Challenge

UFHChallenge

So I am not the best blogger, or really the best gardener. I do, however, LOVE food, especially really great vegetables. So with that in mind, I am getting on my workboots and getting out in the dirt! I’ve decided to participate in the Urban Farm Handbook Challenge this year to keep me motivated and on track, both for blogging and for gardening.

Month 1 is February, which yes, ends tomorrow. Luckily, before I even found out about the challenge, I was working on it! The challenge for this month is soil building and we have some things in the works.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we are blessed to have some really fertile soil. However, composting and providing nutrients to the plants you’re growing is still really important. Currently we have a sort of haphazard compost pile that is really more just a spot for us to pile chicken droppings. I think we can probably do better. I am liking the idea of building a couple of compost bins that we can put over by the chicken coop and throw yard waste into.

Also, on Wednesday we’re picking up some red worms so that we can start worm composting most of our kitchen scraps. We have the set of trays to put them in and we certainly go through enough stuff in the kitchen! I am super excited about that. Our city does residential food scrap composting, but I think between giving scraps to the chickens and the worms, we should be minimizing our output.

Speaking of the chickens, we had quite the scare this week! On Sunday night one of our hens, Lady Cluckerpants, didn’t come back to the coop. I spent an hour searching for her and when she didn’t come home yesterday morning, either, I thought she was gone for good. Amazingly, one of our neighbors found her on the other side of our hill, lost and thirsty. She took her to one of our other neighbor’s houses since she knew they had layers. Our neighbors knew we were missing one and now Lady Cluckerpants is home safe with the rest of the flock. I am so grateful to everyone involved!

And finally, the sauerkraut I posted about the other week is coming out awesome! We had a bowl of it a couple of days ago and it is tasting delicious. Yum!