• helpinghensfarmri

December 2021 Updates

It's been too long since we provided any updates on goings-on around the farm, for which I apologize. Things are going well, and we're into a pretty good rhythm as the end of the year approaches.


We've had a few losses...sadly, all but one of the chicks we hatched or bought in June, and a few more adult hens of late to a unknown predator. That being said, we also added a mother bantam and her clutch of chicks. I expect to add more birds in the spring to get back to or over our prior high water mark.


Most of the projects during the second half of the year have been compost-related. The compost pile in the big wooden composter was growing and composting well. If fact, it got so big that one wall fell over.

You can see in the photo here the size of the pile, and how broken down the materials were. You can also see that the wall kind of "blew out" and has some compost material on it.


While the pile was well broken down, it wasn't quite ready for us. Also, it was really getting close to filling the available space in the compost unit even before the wall fell down. So, I decided to build another compost setup.


I had a part of the run that was underutilized to leverage, but just needed an approach. The wooden composter had served us well, despite the fallen wall, but with lumber prices high and my source for free scrap lumber not available, I needed another approach.

I landed on hay bales. I have a local hay bale supplier who I had been using for a while, and the prices were very reasonable. I found that I could buy year-old, non-feed-quality for even cheaper than the "good stuff".


The idea of a low-cost, low complexity, locally sourced, renewable building material source was attractive, especially for someone like myself who's far from an engineering or construction expert.

So, I went to work. My little pickup will hold about 10 hay bales. Many weekends I'd take two trips and work with 20 bales. I started by stacking them two wide by three long by two high (as seen in the pictures), and later added a third level of high.


I started with one composter, which was filled with a mix of the existing partially broken down compost, fresh food waste, and fresh carbon. I quickly realized that wouldn't cut it and built another. Then I built two more, making the last two three wide by three long by three high.

So, I've been filling all four composters with fall leaves, food waste, and the compost from the big wooden composter. As we approach Christmas, I have the bulk of the composter emptied.


With a little luck, I'll be starting the new year with the wooden composter empty, repaired, and ready to be added to throughout the year. Meanwhile, the hay bale composters, once full (which may still take some time), will be left to rest until that compost will be ready to harvest.


I also used some harvested compost earlier this fall to grow some grass in a small space of the yard that never grew well. It's amazing how thick the grass grew in there in the rich compost. The area was only about 20 x 20, and I probably put 12 wheelbarrow loads of finished compost down. The grass grew like gangbusters, and I plan to replant small patches of the yard on an ongoing basis. I also recently refilled two of our raised flower beds with another dozen or so wheelbarrows full of finished compost. I look forward to seeing how well that grows things come spring.

The only other things I'll mention is that we went up to 40 buckets for food waste pickups, and it's working great. I pick up about 20 full buckets on Monday and Friday, so the pantry always has half the buckets empty while I'm emptying and cleaning the other half. The pickup truck fits just about 20 buckets, so it works out well. It's a lot easier than hauling bags and boxes of food waste.


Thank you for reading...I'll do an end of year post soon, and will try to post more often with updates and goings on.

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