|Tuesday, April 28, 2009|
Good farming practices require that we believe in the future. Our soils are a precious but perishable asset on our farms, and can be improved or impoverished. Thinking in the long term helps.
I am now making compost piles which won’t be spread on the fields until next year, benefiting those fields for years to come. I choose a spring day when it’s too wet to plow, plant or hoe. As soon as it dries I’ll have plenty of that to do.
Rainwater is exceedingly beneficial for manure. It helps it to rot properly. If a manure pile overheats or gets dry, some of the nitrogen is lost. We want to save as much nitrogen as possible. The addition of hay and soil help hold the nitrogen in. it all needs moisture to decompose.
After feeding hay to cattle all winter, a large amount of all three ingredients (manure, hay and soil), are available for compost making. If left to themselves, they will slowly form a nice blanket of humus, but valuable nutrients will be lost. We save these and speed up the process by piling it up.
I set the bucket on the front end loader level with the ground. This takes practice, and none of our ground is “level.” So, some soil is added, and this is our source of the microorganisms who help in the decomposition process.
In a low gear I inch forward, trying to keep the bucket at ground level. The hay and manure roll up and I lift them and start making a wind row. Back and forth, slowly a mound arises. At first it’s hard to know where to begin, but eventually the piles appear.
The base of a pile is 10 to 12 feet wide. The sides are nearly vertical, and I make it about 6 feet tall. The length is variable. After it’s piled, I place the bucket on top and wiggle it. Pulling backwards leaves a concave depression on the top. This allows for the collection of valuable rainwater.
I’m concerned about moisture in piles made in the spring because dry, hot weather is coming. A fall-made pile will get plenty of moisture. If possible, old hay from the bottom of a hay ring can be spread on top, keeping the drying sun and wind off.
The last step is adding the herbal preparations. These are specially made humus products from the plants yarrow, chamomile, nettle, oak bark, dandelion and valerians when I call compost “biodynamic,” it refers to the use of these preparations. I think they help.
It’s nice to live for today and be spontaneous. But, in the past, we have always had a future. I can’t say for sure that we have a future, but if we would act like there is one, that future will be better.