Old Man Winter can’t seem to make up his mind this year! Yesterday it was above freezing and we lost quite a lot of snow thanks to some heavy rainfall last night. Early this morning however, we were awakened from our slumber by the loud sound of gale force winds battering the house. When I took the garbage out a short time later I quickly realized the winds were fiercely cold, and all that had been thawed yesterday was once again frozen solid!
In my last winter composting update I mentioned my concern regarding the dropping temperatures in the bin. The next day I decided to take matters into my own hands and see if I could artificially increase the warmth of the composting mass. I filled a large (4 L) bottle with hot water and buried it in the heart of the bin (as shown below).
I was hoping this would help to stimulate some more microbial heating (since there is plenty of ‘fuel’ in the form of decomposing food waste).
Given the extreme conditions today (it is apparently -23C / -9.4F with the wind chill), and the loss of much of the protective snow layer, I decided I had better check up on things and refill the bottle with some more hot water. In fact, I decided to even add a second hot water bottle. I was happy to see that temperatures didn’t seem to be dropping any further, and the worms and springtails still appear to be quite active.
I was hoping I wouldn’t have to cheat like this but when it comes down to it, even with some cheating last year, I couldn’t keep the bin active! So if I’m able to continue composting all winter with a little outside (or should I say ‘inside’ – haha) assistance, I think I can live with that! Still a major improvement in my books!
Anyway, we’ll see how it holds up. I’m hopeful that with enough attention and effort I’ll be able to get the natural heating back on track again.
As per usual, I’ll be sure to keep you posted on my progress!
[tags]winter composting, composting, compost, compost bin, composter, worm composting, vermicomposting, worm bin, hot water bottle[/tags]
As mentioned recently, I’ll be writing a fair bit about aquaponics here at CompostGuy – but certainly not so much that you’ll be wondering why I didn’t call myself ‘Aquaponics Guy’!
Again, this is a topic that really interests me, since it essentially rolls a bunch of my major interests (aquatic biology, fish keeping, plant growing, waste management) into one cool package! I’ve written some posts about aquaponics over at EcoSherpa (see ‘Aquaponics – Hydroponics, Mother Nature Style‘ and ‘Backyard Aquaponics‘), but this will be the new home of my aquaponic meanderings! I’m hoping to put up an aquaponics resource page in the next couple of weeks, and will certainly be writing more posts about it.
Anyway, with that long-winded introduction out of the way, I should get to the actual point of this post! A little while ago while perusing my google notifications list (I get notified when blog/news stories about certain topics are written) I came across the mention of the new Backyard Aquaponics magazine. I’m a huge fan of the Backyard Aquaponics site, and have had some nice e-mail exchanges with Joel Malcom (owner & aquaponics guru supreme), so I was really excited to see them launch something like this.
Let me tell you, their inaugural edition certainly ‘over-delivers’ big time – WOW! If you have any interest in aquaponics I highly recommend you check it out. The pdf is quite large (and you may need the free Adobe Reader if it’s not installed on your computer), so it might cause some issues for those with a slow connection – but it is definitely worth the wait.
Sitting pretty at 35 pages, this document is more like a small manual than a magazine (most magazines provide more pages of advertising than actual content)! It starts with a great introduction to the topic, including a section on the “myths” of aquaponics – great for anyone new to aquaponics, or in need of a refresher. Some of the other topics include the nitrogen cycle, aquaponics equipment, ‘Good Plants for Aquaponics’, and ‘By the Barbeque’ (intro to their recipe section). If the content itself if not enough, they have also jammed the newsletter full of amazing photos – great eye candy for those of us who are visually-inclined (call me unsophisticated, but I love pictures! lol).
Looks as thought I might be in for a serious winter composting challenge after all! I’ve been feeling mighty confident about my chances of success this winter, given how easily the bin has weathered the snowy (and cold) conditions thus far, but today I finally got a bit of a reality check when I opened it up! Temperatures have dropped considerably and there is frost creeping in from all sides. The image below shows one section of the lid that is thoroughly frosted.
The warmest temperature reading I could find was in the 10 C (50 F) range, and that was right in the heart of the system. When I dug down I could see lots of worms congregated in this central zone – not too surprising!
I really need to try and swing the momentum back in my favour. Given the heat (or cold in this case) holding capacity of water, you can find yourself sliding down a slippery slope towards a frozen bin well before much of the bin actually starts to freeze. Once you get past a certain point it can be very difficult to recover.
To help stimulate microbial activity today I added a LOT of kitchen waste, along with a thick layers of leaves/straw which had been sitting inside. Something else I’m testing out is the addition of microbially-rich liquid solutions to the bin. It all started kinda accidentally, really. I had some mulched leaves/grass sitting in a bucket and decided to add some water (wanted to use the liquid for another experiment). I ended up forgetting about it for awhile so it went a little anaerobic on me. In an effort to liven it up a little I decide to pump some air into it with a small aquarium pump and airstone. While I was doing this it suddenly occured to me that this rich microbial liquid might help to stimulate more activity in the bin.
In an effort to increase microbial activity even more I added some molasses (a rich source of readily-assimilated sugar and other good stuff). Not 100% sure this will make a difference, but even just adding warm (compared to the bin) liquid should help! In a sense I’ve created a form of compost tea – although I doubt it would be as beneficial for plant growth (since I didn’t start with quality, finished compost)
I’m also thinking seriously about filling a large (4L) juice bottle with hot water and placing it in the center of the bin. It should help add some temporary warmth and help to stimulate more microbial activity as well.
I’m actually kind of excited now that things are getting more challenging! Definitely makes it a lot more interesting! That being said, hopefully this years Extravaganza won’t end up like last years.
Regardless, I’ll be sure to keep you posted!
[tags]winter composting, worm composting, vermicomposting, compost bin, composting bin, composter, red worms, red wigglers, kitchen waste, mulch, microorganisms[/tags]
As mentioned recently, we’ve been having some major issues with our current webhost and have been looking for greener pastures!
Well, the good news is that I have a new account elsewhere (and I’m very optimistic that there will be far fewer hassles there), but alas the bad news is that I need to move the site, which of course means MORE downtime for Compost Guy!
When it comes down to it, I should be thanking my lucky stars that A) I signed up for a monthly plan with the current host (rather than saving some money with a yearly plan) and B) This all happened when the site was still relatively new, so I won’t likely lose too many readers (and hopefully all my regular readers will get this msg.
My aim is to make this as fast and pain free as possible. I need to redirect my domain to new nameservers (which may sound like ‘Greek’ to some of you) – that’s actually what will result in the downtime (since there is inevitably some time required for the domain to get ‘hooked up’ to the hosting provider. At least once that is finished I can put up a temporary page until everything else is taken care of.
Anyway, I’ll likely start the process later today so the site may appear to be offline.
Hopefully everything goes according to plan and I have it up and running again tomorrow!
Thanks very much for your patience. It’s all UP from here – I promise!
A couple weeks ago I wrote about my first attempt at making bokashi (which went very smoothly). As mentioned, Neal Foley (aka the ‘PodChef’) says two weeks is enough time for it to sit, so I decided to check it out this afternoon.
I’ve opened up the bucket containing the (ziploc) bags of bokashi once already, just out of curiosity. Interestingly enough, when I did so the first time the bags were ballooned out – likely due to all the carbon dioxide being released by the aerobic microbes while feasting on the molasses and consuming all the remaining oxygen. Today the bags are back to normal, so perhaps the CO2 is being consumed via a particular anaerobic pathway? Hmmm…need to research this a little more.
I was pleasantly surprised by the odour that came out of the bucket when I opened it up (ok, something just occurred to me – if there is odour, gas must be escaping from the bags – HAHA!). It was quite pungent, but not offensive at all – certainly NOTHING like some of the other mixtures I’ve allowed to go anaerobic! I’m sure this is all thanks to the particular mix of ‘friendly microbes’ that have populated the material.
The colour of the bokashi mix is quite a bit darker than when I first added it, again presumably resulting from the activities of my new microbe friends.
I’m sure my mix would be totally fine for use now (especially given the small quantity), but I think I’m going to let it sit for one more week before drying it, just to make sure I have some high-grade bokashi for my experimentation.
I sure wish I was a kid again! I found this YouTube video featuring the aquaponics program at the Kid’s Culinary Academy. This sounds like a fantastic educational opportunity for children.
Just so you know, I will likely be talking a lot more about aquaponics here on the site. I know it has very little to do with composting, but it is definitely a prime example of turning a ‘waste’ into a resource, and it also happens to be a subject I’ve been utterly fascinated with for years.
I will be putting together an aquaponics resource page, and am actually in the process of planning out a small indoor aquaponics system at home. I’ll write much more about that before too long.
[tags]aquaponics, bioponics, hydroponics, tilapia, fish farming, aquaculture, kids culinary academy[/tags]
A short time ago I received an e-mail from a gentleman named Bailey, letting me know about his new backyard farming site. I hate to say it, but given the fact that he was requesting a link exchange without having contacted me before, I suspected I wasn’t going to be all that impressed with his site (I’ve become skeptical in my old age – haha).
I was definitely wrong, and I’m really glad I took the time to check out the site!
When I visited Ecoyardfarming.com, I quickly realized that Bailey and myself have a lot of similar interests! His website covers a wide array of topics – all of them near and dear to my heart! Aside from the overall theme of backyard farming, Bailey writes specifically about vermicomposting, aquaponics and mushroom growing, just to name a few of the topic areas.
Here is a blurb from his Home page:
My purpose in creating this site is to share my experiences and knowledge in growing and cultivating a variety of “backyard” foods in an organic and ecologically friendly manner. I will be introducing some fun and exciting new areas of food production that most folks have never heard of!
Stay tuned as I will be posting regularly on ways to grow a variety of foods that are healthier and tastier, have greater yields in less space, are chemical free, protect and enhance the environment, and are cheap and rewarding to grow. My own Florida backyard will be “the laboratory” to experiment with a variety of exciting new “backyard farming” adventures. Of course, many of these ideas are applicable on a larger farming operation and not just restricted to a backyard “home grown” setting.
I am particularly interested in the idea of permaculture, wherein a number of “inputs” and “outputs” of the farming (and property maintenance) process are utilized in such a way that practically nothing goes to waste. It is imperative that we get back to a sustainable approach to living (if we desire to save both nature and ourselves).
As I think I’ve mentioned previously, one of the great things about blogging is that it’s a great way to meet really interesting, like-minded individuals. Connecting with Bailey is a prime example of this, and I’m certainly glad he got in touch! I’ve added his RSS feed to my reader and am looking forward to becoming a regular reader of his blog!
If you haven’t already, I highly recommend you check out EcoYardFarming.com. I think you’ll be glad you did!
Yes, ‘wintry’ is indeed a word – I just looked it up!
Hi everyone – good to finally be back in action here on the blog. As mentioned in my last post, I’m long overdue for a winter composting update. We’ve seen some major fluctuations in weather since the last update (as suggested by the title of this post).
As you can see in the picture above, we had pretty significant warm spell – nearly all the snow melted away, and it certainly wasn’t too challenging to keep the compost bin contents nice and cozy during this period of time. Keeping the tarp on the bin however, was not quite so easy. We had a day of extremely high winds – I could literally see pieces of cardboard flying through the sky (it just so happened to be ‘garbage day’ in my neighbourhood)!
Winter does seem to be making a come back these days. We had a significant snowfall recently, and temperatures have fallen quite a bit (but still not normal January lows by any means).
The last time I visited the bin temperature readings were somewhat lower than previously. Still well above freezing, but the average was probably in the 10-15 C (50-59 F) range, rather than the 15-20 C (59-68 F) range encountered previously. I’m not worried at all, but I DO need to be careful about letting the temps get too low. As I discovered last year, once it gets cold in there it is very difficult (if possible at all) to stimulate heating again. What’s interesting is that I’ve been adding a LOT of food waste so I’ve actually been expecting to see a spike in temperatures at some point (not that I really want that). Hopefully all this ‘fuel’ will provide a ‘slow burn’ source of heat for the next few weeks. I still have lots of leaves and will be getting a bale of straw soon as well, so there is no shortage of insulation and waste materials this year (one of the problems I encountered last year).
The red worms inside seem quite active. They are quite small, but there are a lot of them, along with numerous cocoons as well!
Anyway, thats all for now – not exactly the most exciting winter composting update! I guess that’s one of the downsides of having such a reliable bin this year!