Compost Tetris

Over the last few weeks I have been slowly doing the almost yearly job of moving compost from one bin to the next. Our compost gets turned twice before it is considered ready for use. We have five compost bins and of course there is a system for how we utilise them. We use a sawdust bucket system for our toilet, we’ve been using this system for ten years now and it works really well for us. We make our own sawdust using our power planer, it costs us nothing to make as we have the timber on our land and we have all the electricity we need for using power tools.

We put both cooked and uncooked kitchen waste into buckets until we have two or three buckets filled, then every time we need to empty the compost toilet bucket we also empty the kitchen-waste buckets, covering everything with a layer of cut grass and rushes. We use one compost bin until it is full, the bins are roughly 4foot square. When the bin is nearly full I start the process of moving the compost in the other bins.

Compost Tetris, Garden Fun

Imagine that all the bins are full and that the bins are A, B, C, D and E in that order and they are all built in one row. Bin A is nearly full so I begin by emptying bin C and putting the soil around trees, creating a new fruit bush bed or topping up a fruit bed. I keep some of the soil to close the bin which is almost full. I then shovel the contents of bin D into bin C and then I shovel the contents of bin E into the now empty bin D. Now we are ready to finish filling bin A and when it is full I close it up by covering it in grass and then topping with soil. Bin E is now ready for use.

It takes roughly nine months to fill a bin, sometimes longer depending on settlement in the bin. So every year I get to play Compost Tetris.

We always keep a pile of cut grass beside the compost bins which sometimes needs replenishing. Sometimes this requires cutting grass and rushes however today I was able to move some which had been cut over a year and half ago – quite a workout!

When I was resting between runs with the wheelbarrow I was struck with the beauty of the sunlight glinting in raindrops hanging from the bare whitethorn  (hawthorn) branches in a nearby hedge. Such beauty is never far away here and I am always grateful to receive it.


Monsanto in court in the US

Supreme Court Alfalfa Hearings –


The following is taken from the Sustainable Culture Group on Facebook –
Monsanto challenges alfalfa ban in Supreme Court

The genetically engineered alfalfa case will be heard on April 27. This is the first genetically engineered crop case ever heard by the Supreme Court.
Lower courts found the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) failed to analyze the gmo crop’s impacts on farmers and the environment and the USDA violated environmental laws and the agency must rigorously analyze the crop’s impacts.

Monsanto’s challenges the three year ban on planting genetically modified alfalfa designed to resist Roundup weed killer. The case is about farmers choice according to Monsanto (what about consumer’s choice?).

In a laughable statement, Monsanto said reviews of biotech crops should be based on science.

Five friends-of-the-court briefs have been filed in support of Monsanto by a total of 18 groups: American Farm Bureau Federation, Biotechnology Industry Organization, American Seed Trade Association, American Soybean Association, National Alfalfa and Forage Alliance, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Cotton Council and National Potato Council, Sugarbeet Growers Association, U.S. Beet Sugar Association and National Corn Growers Association, the Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America, American Petroleum Institute, National Association of Home Builders, CropLife America, The Washington Legal Foundation, Allied Education Foundation and the Pacific Legal Foundation.

Food companies, farmers unions, scientific experts and legal scholars filed briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court in support of the Center for Food Safety.

The Attorneys General of California, Oregon and Massachusetts filed a brief supporting the Center, emphasizing their states interest in protecting natural resources and the environment.

The Union of Concerned Scientists and other scientific experts warned Monsanto’s alfalfa would harm farmers, the public and contaminate agriculture and the environment forever.

Over a dozen law professors, scholars and several former General Counsels of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) filed two separate briefs explaining the lower courts were entirely correct. CEQ is the expert federal agency charged with overseeing the statute in question in the case, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA):
Conventional farmers and exporters filed a brief warning of lost alfalfa markets in Asia, Europe and the Middle East because they reject gmo-contaminated crops. The Arkansas Rice Growers Association in 2006 lost overseas markets because of biotech rice contamination.

Organic businesses and trade groups including Organic Valley, Stonyfield Farms, the Organic Trade Association, United Natural Foods, Eden Foods, Annie’s, Clif Bar and Nature’s Path Foods warned of damage to their businesses from unwanted biotech contamination. The $25 billion-a-year organic industry has been the fastest growing segment of U.S. agriculture for the last ten years.

The risk of contamination from gmo alfalfa is great because the alfalfa is pollinated by bees that can fly many miles to cross-pollinate different fields.

Monstrous Monsanto

I only found out this evening that Monsanto has bought up a huge seed company, Seminis, Inc., a leading Vegetable and Fruit Seed Company, making Monsanto the owners of the seed suppliers for 40% of American vegetable seed customers and 20% of the global customer base.

That’s pretty scary news and I only found out because I was browsing the web and happened on the story and this is a link to the details. I am rather surprised that I have not heard the news through the Irish media, it is an important issue.

I haven’t fully thought through the implications of this news yet or how I feel about Monsanto owning such an important resource and will probably write about this in the future.

It is so important that we save our own seeds and support people like Seedsavers in Scarriff in Co. Clare. We are planning to grow some food on our land next year, having let the garden go wild for a few years and we will be making a special effort to only use seed that grows plants which we can collect further seed from. You can read a post about doing just that in Australia, check out this link here. Another good thing to do is talk to other gardeners and swap seeds with people in your locality, that way the plants will be best suited to your weather conditions.

Food for thought…

The Accidental Gardener

2008/08/30 This post became lost in cyberspace and today was found – it should have been posted back in August 2008 and probably was stored in drafts because of a dodgy modem connection – now it can be put in it’s rightful place – no longer a lowly draft……..

I accidentally did some gardening today, I had absolutely no intention of doing anything in the garden, I was just drawn outside after my morning coffee by a strange brightness and found myself blinded and shocked by the sight of the sun shining with no trace of a rain cloud – no really, it was!

Perhaps cobweb season is already over and sunshine season is with us? Dare we hope?

Anyway I found myself wandering through the garden admiring the colours of the flowers and the beauty of the ponds, everything just looked SO different.  If you think I am exaggerating then obviously you don’t live in the northwest of Ireland – the wetlands, soon to be known as the badlands if it keeps up the way it has been – 400% of the normal rainfall this month – that’s not funny.

Yesterday I went for a walk up over the top of the hill and met a neighbour who was moving his cattle to a higher field. He has had to move them a lot recently because the ground is so soft that they are not getting to eat all the grass before they trample it down into the mud and he has to keep moving them from field to field to try and prevent as much damage as possible. He reckons he will have start to feed them silage much earlier than usual this year and may not have enough. I would say that his story is not unusual.

I went astray there – I was talking about the garden – I am still stunned by the surprise beauty of today – as I wandered around the garden I could not help but notice the gooseberry bed that I had been avoiding tending to because it had looked so overgrown and thorny and wet but this morning I just got my trusty leather gloves on and started to work.

As I accidentally gardened I harvested an accidental bounty – I had topped up the gooseberry bed with compost from our humanure pile early in the spring when it was time to turn out one of the compost bins. We had decided to not sow a veg garden this year because we wanted to concentrate on other projects like house building (more on that later) so the only place to make good use of the compost was the fruit bed. I did notice that there were a few potatoes in the compost as I shovelled it around the gooseberry bushes but I had forgotten until today – when I dug out two buckets of lovely looking spuds.

Accidental Spuds

Because I had used the compost from the humanure pile and it hadn’t really rested as long as it would have if I had intended to use it for a root crop I think I will recycle these as seed potatoes so they won’t go to waste. And the goosrberry bed really benefited from the spuds growing there, the soil is lovely, the weeds are minimal and the fruit harvest looks good. There was a redcurrant bush growing there that was not great looking at all and it looks great now with a much better crop on it than before – thanks spuds!