Thursday, June 11, 2009


I have a compost pile out in the side yard which, historically, I've pretty much just ignored. It's just a circular cage I made with chicken-wire. I throw stuff in it and walked away.

But lately I've taken a bit more interest in it. Last month I bought a bag of worms from Uncle Jim's Worm Farm and tossed them in. Then I ordered a "real" compost bin through a Smallish City program. That came with a crudely-made tool for stirring and aerating the compost-- a steel stick with a folding barb on the end. You poke it deep down into the heap, then pull up. The barbs unfold, pulling up on the compost, and (I found) splattering the operator with glumps of half-rotten vegetables.

I was distracted from being having half-rotten vegetables in my hair by the observation, after I stirred it, that the old compost pile was steaming hot. Amazingly hot. It was like a Yellowstone hot-spring of compost. I was actually sort of frightened it might catch on fire, though objectively that seems unlikely. It was really pretty cool.

I guess when this sort of completely normal natural phenomenon impresses me so much, I should take it as a sign that I've become a bit too citified.


Blogger Johanna said...

If it's hot, it's working.
Horse shit gets so hot while composting that, if you were to put hoop houses on top of it, you could grow spinach on it in a Canadian winter. Except for the part where you want the poop to be fully composted before you grow food on it, it would have been a great idea.

6/11/09, 9:57 AM  
Blogger Markus said...

And who says it won't catch fire? I've seen a pile of wood chips spontaneously ignite because of the heat of decomposition.

6/12/09, 9:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A compost pile can catch on fire, but I would not expect for a backyard pile to ignite. Usually too small. However, if the temps get too hot, it will kill off all of your benefitial microbes. Temps are good, but want to keep them around 130-160F. It is usually the nitrogen ritch feedstocks that drive the heat so you should balance it out with some carbon feedstocks(leaves, browns, woodier material). Ratio should be 25:1 in favor of carbon. Stir every couple of days and keep it moist. Good luck

6/12/09, 1:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was expecting some ideas about ways to turn this excess heat into a form of power for the turbomansion, or perhaps some way to use the heat directly for the turpopalace- perhaps putting compost piles around the palace to add heat to exterior walls? or having a compost pile in the turbobasement- heat will rise and you don't have to go out in winter to dump the compostables....

6/14/09, 9:21 AM  
Blogger craftosaurus said...

Interesting and on topic: Boston is looking to build a facility to harness energy from large-scale composting.

6/15/09, 9:42 AM  

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