Different kind of compost heap

Organic compost on skids

Back to cold and wet, with a bit of snow… Today was an interesting first in my brief tiny farming career: compost on skids! Fertility delivered! How convenient… This is about 5.5  tons (5,000kg) of fully composted, certified organic cow and sheep manure (half and half). According to the people who make it, at this point there’s no appreciable difference between manures, it’s all just high-grade compost now. Our organic certifier agrees: it’s “legal” to use any time, unlike any type of manure, which has to be spread a minimum of 90 days before veggie crops are planted. So here it is, from around 65 miles (96km) away, via flatbed truck and forklift up the drive…

This is a one-time thing, part of what we’re doing to start the market garden from a hay field plowed late last November. Unlike at the old farm, where cow manure was well-aged and plentiful, available by the ton, there are so far no animals here.

While I like the idea of animal manure, and find DELIVERY kind of odd and offputting, the current reality does force one to really think about hidden costs. The cows at the old farm ate far more hay than the farm produced, which meant buying in, so all of that free, on-farm manure wasn’t exactly free, or on-farm. Factor in the total cost and complicated logistics of raising and selling local beef, and the relatively low return, and manure on a tiny farm can seem quite unsustainable.

In any case, maintaining fertility here is a whole new game. Green manure, compost, and a small amount of on-farm manure, from chickens first, are this tiny farm’s future. And today’s delivery is the kickstart. Here we go!

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6 Responses to “Different kind of compost heap”

  1. Dan says:

    Looks like you are going to be very busy putting all those bags down. Good luck!

  2. In addition to really liking your photography, I really like the way you think! I’m very interested in your progress at the new place!

  3. DennisP says:

    It’s really interesting, thinking about trying to be a sustainable farm. When you look closely at what you do to build up and maintain good soil, it turns out that one brings in a lot of off-farm inputs.  I’m opening a new garden and will be bringing in a lot of fine compost from a local provider in another week.  I’m realizing that I can’t produce enough compost for my needs just using the leaves and grass I harvest from my property.

  4. Eric Stoffer says:

    Can you say where you ordered the compost? We are about to takeover 1/4 acre urban lot in the Cleveland area, and like you, need to import some fertility to jump start the plot. I’m hoping to have our composting in full swing mid-summer and I’ve got a “plan” to vericompost restaurant wastes in my garage all winter.  I really appreciate the information you provide on your blog, it’s great that small farmers can learn together!

    Eric & Annabel

  5. Mike (tfb) says:

    Dan: Bagged (18kg/40lbs) was the only way we could get certified compost, which we need for organic certification. It should actually work out well, because I think we’ll spread and incorporate in sections as we plant, not try a bigger area like an acre at a time. Fun work on a nice day with the compact tractor, and a couple of people spreading and chatting!

    janet: Thanks! I love compliments on my thinking, it makes me feel I really am on a mission and…sane! :)

    DennisP: Yeah, it’s a puzzle. I think a practical solution for all types of gardens is working locally, cooperatively, y’know, like a community. :) There’s probably always someone who has what you need just down the road, and vice versa. That, combined with smarter, more realistic, in-tune ways of doing things. Maybe… :)

    I’m reading Growing Green: Animal-Free Organic Techniques. So far, it’s great. I’ll post about it…

    Eric: Pefferlaw Soil, here in Ontario. A little far for you! There ought to be some place near you, or maybe there’s a municipal compost facility that delivers by the truckload, that stuff could be good and relatively inexpensive (I need certified, for the organic rules).

  6. Sandy says:

    It’s just too bad the stuff was all bagged up before transport and couldn’t have been delivered via truck unbagged.

    Good luck getting the new field started!

  7. Kelly B says:

    I am not a farmer, but I have purchased a home in Upstate NY that has a barn filled with aged farm animal manure.  The barn is large and the manure is almost 2 feet deep.  How do I go about selling the compost?

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