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.


Spring Is Here

Unfortunately the photos from this old post have been lost
It is so wonderful to look about these days and see life bursting forth everywhere. There are buds on the trees, birds are singing to attract partners, frogs are singing and have already found their partners.

We have been tending to our hedges here over the last week. We are lucky enough to have inherited some great Whitethorn (Hawthorn) hedges on our land, some of which have not been trimmed in perhaps sixty or seventy years. They had become very stringy and were looking a bit top-heavy, especially when they were covered in snow over the winter.

In order to prevent breakages due to snow or wind damage but mainly to encourage new growth we cut our top hedge down to about eight foot tall. I am looking forward to seeing the new growth over the next few years as the trees regenerate.

Right now we have a lot of thorny branches and trunks to trim, chip, cut and stack. The thinest pieces we are trimming and chipping, leaving cleaner bigger pieces of wood to deal with.

We have an electric hand-saw and an electric wood-chipper which have been given lots of use over the last week. Luckily we had plenty of power to run the tools and we only used one at a time which was also the most efficient way for us to work.

I trimmed the smaller pieces whilst himself cut the bigger pieces down to workable sizes for me to work with and we created a few different piles of brushwood for chipping which we then both fed into the chipper. The chips are then wheelbarrowed to the gooseberry bed for use as mulch.

Once we have a good size stack of timber we start chopping and stacking. The branches are cut to a size that fits our wee stove and stacked to dry for burning next year. We’ve heard that Whitethorn wood burns with a high heat so if next winter is like the one just past then we will be glad of the warmth.

When the tree trunks are left for a day or two you can see the moisture dripping out of the cuts. It’s a little sad to be cutting such lovely trees however it helps to know that the wood is all going to good use, firewood and mulch.

It’s also both comforting and promising to be building a wood pile for use over next winter and we are hopeful that we will be burning it in our new home, warm and cosy within the walls which we are soon to build.

Whitethorn, hawthorn, cut wood. firewood chopping