Data from pages 34-35 of handbook

The International Compost Sanitation Forum and Message Board: General Composting Issues: Data from pages 34-35 of handbook
Author: Iuval Clejan (Clejan)
Friday, April 06, 2007 - 2:03 pm
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Thanks everyone for your help. I did contact the Cornell lab and asked them directly just now, so we'll see what they say. It looks like all percentages are based on dry weight from the formulas, which correct for moisture content, but we'll be sure after they respond.

As far as the high carbon materials, please see my comments below:
Sawdust (mills, wood shops, used from horse barns)-I would like to avoid using power tools and minimize the use of wood. There is way too much demand for wood products which is probably gluttonous and unsustainable.

Coffee grounds (coffee shops)--I'm not sure the use of the fuel to transport coffee from large distances (central america) is sustainable.

Shredded paper (any office with a shredder)- paper is a huge resource sink the way it is done now-unsustainable.

Leaves (check the curbs before yard waste day)-but we have to give it back to the trees instead of using it in the garden, at least eventually.

Other yard waste-same as above
Rice hulls (I've heard of this but not tried it)- sounds good if we end up growing rice.

Hay-as long as we are doing our own scything, but then we may not generate enough

Straw-don't think we'll have any

wood chips (not a perfect cover)-take fossil fuel to produce-not sure it would be justified.

Organice fabric scraps-won't have enough

Hair (salons)-won't be close to any hair salons, and would only want to use our own hair

Spanish Moss-don't think it grows here, too north, but maybe other moss.

How about aquatic plants from ponds that are occasionally fertilized with compost or bugs that eat the compost?

The basic idea is that if we want to not cheat, make sustainability replicable and useable by all, and not use other people's unsustainable practices (while falsely easing their conscience)we have to think more carefully about what we are doing.

Author: catbox (Catbox)
Wednesday, April 04, 2007 - 5:36 pm
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dryer lint if your clothes are made from natural fibers.

Author: TCLynx (Tclynx)
Wednesday, April 04, 2007 - 8:34 am
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Finding sustainable sources for C materials can be a challenge. I like the one of letting the lawn got to weeds to make more dry materials. Many people are not going to find enough c materials on their own lot. To make a more sustainable world I try to find materials that other people would otherwise be throwing in the landfills and I use those for cover. I've heard of people getting rice hulls.

I'm sorry I can't give the answer to the % and dry or wet weight question. I think in most composting operations that require a really hight % of carbon might be because they will be turning and mixing it. When you are doing that, you can't keep the high N hot center from being exposed and smelling up the place. When doing a continuous pile you can keep the smelly center well covered except when adding new materials and therefore get away with a hight N content.

Still you do need C materials. I'm wondering if we should brainstorm as many sources for C materials to see if we can come up with a few more that haven't been thought of?

Sawdust (mills, wood shops, used from horse barns)
Coffee grounds (coffee shops)
Shredded paper (any office with a shredder)
Leaves (check the curbs before yard waste day)
Other yard waste
Rice hulls (I've heard of this but not tried it)
Hay
Straw
wood chips (not a perfect cover)
Organice fabric scraps
Hair (salons)
Spanish Moss

Finished compost (I have heard of peole using their finished compost to cover the new compost. It might not be desirable if you wish to use your compost in the garden but if you simply need a way to re-cycle this system would need less input. Aparently finished compost makes a really good biofilter for smells.)

Who has more ideas

Author: John Smith (John)
Tuesday, April 03, 2007 - 11:38 am
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If you want to get precise about composting calculations:

http://www.css.cornell.edu/compost/calc/cn_ratio.html




John

Author: Patrick (Pcinca)
Friday, March 30, 2007 - 3:50 pm
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Iuval, are you saying that you are trying to increase resources for dry (C) materials? If so, this is a conundrum for many people and as TCLynx has mentioned, his(?) resources include aquiring the neigbor's discards. And I assume that this is both dry and green stuff. And as TCLynx says, this is not neccessarily a sustainable resource, ie., the neighbors might start keeping these resources for themselves.

When I need dry stuff only, I spread available green out in the yard to let it dry and become a (C) resource.

I store all of the dry stuff produced at my place all year round for a continuous supply. I let almost the whole back yard go to weeds every year for a good crop of both green and dry material. After the weeds have gone to seed, it usually only takes 1-2 mowings and they don't come back until the following spring.

As far as the % of (N) in dry material, I don't have any concern about that- by the time it's dry, for all practical matters, it can be considered as (C) and it won't break down unless manure or green and moister are added.

Author: Iuval Clejan (Clejan)
Friday, March 30, 2007 - 2:40 pm
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I was actually trying to increase the carbon, not the nitrogen. It seems that humanure composters have the opposite problem from other composters--they need more carbon, not nitrogen.

Patrick wrote:
"One doesn't need to strip leaves from trees or mow grass merely to produce N products and that's an advantage of using manures/urine as a "hot" form of N and they can be used as the only form of N. It requires no mixing in of green plant stuff- only dry stuff, but the same pile is a good catch-all for all forms of green materials."

Except that it depends on how the lab would analyze the samples. If they evaporate water first, then all percentages would be based on dry weight. Can you do me a huge favor and look in the original reference? The author must have indicated. Or else could you find out what kind of lab did the testing? I could call my local soil testing lab. Thanks a bunch.

Joe wrote:
"It's not clear in the data whether the weights are based on wet or dry conditions, but I think it's fairly safe to assume it depends on the material and that humanure would be wet, while, straw, for example, would be dry."

Author: TCLynx (Tclynx)
Friday, March 30, 2007 - 12:03 pm
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I don't really care for much grass as it can be pretty wastefull. The only grass I have is over the drain field since you don't want anything else over it and a little in the back yard for play and project area. I simply mow what grows and I'm replacing all sprinklers with drip or micro irrigation. My leaves I tend to let be where they fall but most of the neighbors kindly bag them up and leave them by the curb and I go around collecting them for my compost. Perhaps not sustainable but I can only do so much about what other people do. As far as paper, sawdust, etc goes. I get them free from sources that would be there anyway if I use them or not. Shredded paper is junk mail and stuff from friends who would otherwise be sending it to the trash. Tissues and papertowels also go into the buckets.

A great source of paper for shredding is old phone books. They are also a pretty convenient way to store/stack a large amount of shreddable absorbent paper.

As far as that C:N ratio. It doesn't need to be terriblely specific or exact. I do notice the more green (or yellow in the case of urine) the hotter the pile and more likely to have a bit of smell from it. That is just the pile telling you it needs a little more brown mixed in if you object to the smell.

I understand your wanting to make this a perfect cycle but unless you are sealed in a bubble, it could be tricky. If you are eating any food from off your plot, then you may be producing more greens than your plot can provide browns for, in which case you need to balance that with some covermaterials found elsewhere. It is usually pretty easy in places where people put ward waste out for the trash guys to collect.

Author: Patrick (Pcinca)
Thursday, March 29, 2007 - 12:36 pm
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Iuval, I started to look at the reference to pages 34-35 and realized that I had loaned my book out, so I'll have to wing it (at over 45 years of composting, however, I can usually pull this off the top of my head, lol).

Right off the bat, I can state for fact that all C/N ratios in composting books are sometimes confusing and one need not be precise at all to get good results. If one skimps on N, the heat action will be modest- add more; if too much N, the action will get hot with a high ammonia odor- just add more dry stuff (C) or let it be because it will eventually break down.

My best overall results have been a ratio of about 6 parts C to 1 part N for non-manure piles using green stuff only as a N source (veggie garbage, leaves, grass clippings, etc.) and dry brown stuff (leaves, etc.). These are good ratios for "speed" composting that requires turning for quick compost production when one needs finished compost in a hurry. Advice: Don't get in a hurry, plan ahead. Keep a "working pile" (finished) near a "stewing" pile (unfinished, decomposing).

When mixing in manuers of all types, however, the ratios are widened significantly because of the high N content in them. The Humanure Book recommendation of letting a manure/C pile sit for at least 2 years, esp. for veggie crops use, is highly advised as this gives plenty of time for the bacterial action to do it's thing regardless of the temperatures achieved. There is both anerobic and aerobic bacterial action going on plus higher level micro-organisms working in the decomposition process.

One doesn't need to strip leaves from trees or mow grass merely to produce N products and that's an advantage of using manures/urine as a "hot" form of N and they can be used as the only form of N. It requires no mixing in of green plant stuff- only dry stuff, but the same pile is a good catch-all for all forms of green materials.

Another huge advantage of manure composting is that one need not- should not, turn it. Let nature take it's course.

Author: Joe Jenkins (Joe)
Thursday, March 29, 2007 - 12:12 pm
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It's not clear in the data whether the weights are based on wet or dry conditions, but I think it's fairly safe to assume it depends on the material and that humanure would be wet, while, straw, for example, would be dry.

Author: Iuval Clejan (Clejan)
Wednesday, March 28, 2007 - 11:58 am
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Does anyone know if the % nitrogen and carbon reported in the pages above are for dry or wet weight of materials (including humanure)? The reason I'm asking is because I have a spreadsheet computing the lbs of any substance that must be added per lb of humanure in order to achieve a minimal 20:1 C:N ratio. I don't think I will be using much paper or leaves or grass clippings because these are not really sustainable. I think lawns are terrible ecologically and taking leaves from trees means there is less nutrients for the trees. If thermophilic composting is going to work, it must work in a CYCLE, so I only want garden crops that get the compost back as additives to the humanure, or I suppose I could add compost to the area around trees where leaves come from.

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