It just started getting warmer out, and I noticed that the top of my pile had a lot of bugs flying around… when a pile is covered properly, this won’t happen.
I had been uncovering/depositing without adding new brown material, and since I got lazy this is what happened.
You can see halfway above the compost thermometer that there’s a section of greenish material/hay and then a solid blanket of leaves on top.
I get so happy when I shred a bag of leaves…it gives me several inches of fresh cover, which looks like this:
You’re looking at the solution to most composting issues.
Ample (shredded & dampened) leaf cover on top will:
-Negate any odors
-Kickstart your pile by providing enough carbon for your food scraps
-Insulate the pile (especially in winter, of course)
-Avoid attracting pests, neighbors or pesty neighbors
When making weekly food scrap deposits, dig a hole in the center by pulling back the cover material, dump and cover it up.
I put my shredder to use and converted 3 bags of leaves into one full, dense bag of shredded brown fuel.
I added a bunch of leftovers, the compost toilet bucket, weeds I picked from the side yard, and cat food that the picky guy doesn’t want to eat anymore.
On a side note, my cat seems to only want the cheap processed crap. I tried feeding him some super good stuff with real meat in it, and he doesn’t want it!
Anyway, it makes great fuel. My pile has been at or above 131 F for a few days now. Yay!
According to Jenkins, Gotaas, and numerous others, complete pathogen destruction takes place in a well-managed compost pile arriving at the temperature of 62 C (144 F) for one hour, 50 C (122 F) for one day, 46 C (115 F) for one week or 43 C (109.4 F) for one month.
To achieve these temperatures, all you need is at least a 3′ x 3′ x 3′ compost bin with well-shredded leaves and food scraps. Emptying your compost toilet in there will guarantee these temperatures.
As with anything it takes practice, but once you do it once, you’ll keep nailing it. And it feels pretty good. 🙂
We just had a quick snowstorm and it’s going down to 7F tonight… the pile is hanging in there just above 90F. It’s cool how the pile is melting the snow off the top. I feel like I could do a better job insulating the thing… this weekend’s deposit will hopefully keep the pile going.
Every time I open the tarp I worry that I’m going to lose all the heat, so I work as quickly as possible to keep the momentum going. I want to take a picture of the steam barreling off of it next time.
Would be nice to stay warm in there… well, maybe not!
Here’s my compost toilet bucket, part 1 of the weekly ritual. After dumping it into my bin, I then dump in my weekly kitchen scraps. Since it’s below freezing, I have to bring out a bucket of water from inside to rinse out the two containers.
After dumping the rinse water into the pile, I cover up the contents with the layer of leaves and finally the tarp. Maybe I should make a video of the whole process?
On late Sunday afternoon, I went outside my house and found several bags of leaves at the curbside. I got really excited and stashed four massive bags in my backyard, in addition to the two that I shredded up and added to my compost pile.
I was getting concerned about the compost pile, as it was starting to fall out of the Steady range around 80 degrees. Then I realized that it had been awhile since I added anything to it, so I contributed a hefty top layer of shredded leaves for insulation. I need to go looking for straw, too.
In a little over 24 hours, just two bags’ worth of shredded leaves, a bucket from the compost toilet and a week’s worth of kitchen scraps revived the pile back up to just shy of 140 degrees!
I was a bit surprised, I didn’t think it would be that drastic of a change…but with a light rain over night and a warm day yesterday it was the perfect mix to rejuvenate the pile.
So remember, collect all the leaves you can, shred them and add them. See if you can keep your compost cooking all winter long!
Even if you don’t make it all winter, you can be sure that when the temperatures start to climb again, it will start cooking again like nothing happened.
In this video, our waste reduction specialist shows us that mixing wood chips works best for degrading animal carcasses.
I’m curious if he’s experimented with shredded leaves and/or sawdust instead, as they compost quicker than wood chips.
Either way, I’m really happy this is being taught instead of simply hauling the carcasses off to an incinerator, which is definitely not the way to go.