Cold pile :-(...

The International Compost Sanitation Forum and Message Board: General Composting Issues: Cold pile :-(
Author: Paul Gutches (Paulg)
Saturday, April 25, 2009 - 12:02 am
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as a side note, having just reviewed the Carbon / Nitrogen ratio list, I'm wondering if a big reason for the low temps in my pile might be the use of sawdust. I see that the C-N ratio for sawdust is somewhere in the 300-500 area. That is quite high. Too bad because the sawdust is free, and close by. I think I may try chopped straw which I buy bags of for adobe mud. That appears to rot within a month. Much faster than sawdust.

Author: Paul Gutches (Paulg)
Friday, April 24, 2009 - 11:16 pm
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Follow up to this. I am in the process of building a new compost bin out of plastered earth bags, which should limit any fire hazard from combustion. The final dimensions will be about 3ft 5 inches on all sides. Someone mentioned to me that nitrogen doesn't stick around very long. Does that mean that when I move all my old material I should be adding some fresh sources of nitrogen to help kick start it? Or will all the old humanure that's been in there for over a year now still be able to ignite a thermophilic reaction?

Thanks

Paul

Author: Paul Gutches (Paulg)
Wednesday, October 29, 2008 - 10:21 pm
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Great. Thanks for the info!

Author: Demeter (Demeter)
Tuesday, October 28, 2008 - 5:06 pm
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Certainly. What you have will make a good start, and you need to keep adding to it so the total volume is about a cubic yard. It's amazing how you can keep adding to it, and the volume still goes down.

Author: Paul Gutches (Paulg)
Tuesday, October 28, 2008 - 1:13 pm
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Thanks Demeter.

Is it an acceptable practice to move the pile into a larger bin after it's been sitting so long? Can it be salvaged?

Author: Demeter (Demeter)
Tuesday, October 28, 2008 - 11:08 am
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The height is ok. The side dimensions need to be at least 3 feet on a side.

Author: Paul Gutches (Paulg)
Monday, October 27, 2008 - 12:14 am
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Hi folks.

I finally purchased a compost thermometer. Tested it by holding it with my hand and it was very responsive to body temperature.

Unfortunately, the needle reached the very bottom when I plunged it into the pile. Ok. granted, it gets colder overnight in northern NM lately, and so, the center may be freezing overnight. That is possible. I did this test at 4pm with the outdoor temps about 67, so I wasn't quite expecting this.

So, I decided to get some physical evidence. My compost pile has been cultivating about a year. It is contained by straw bales. I cored out a channel through the bottom of the bales to try to retrieve some of the oldest material, which goes back to early last summer. Well, it was moist, but sadly, it looked like no biodegradation had taken place in the sawdust at all. It still looked like moist sawdust, though darker. I have been using sawdust from a local lumber resource / sawmill, so I presume it is not kiln dried. The pieces are usually pretty fine with some occasional larger chunks. I'd say on average the bits are between 1/16 and 1/8 inch, and probably pine. Material samples were moist, darkish, had some remnants of dark insects and other blackened material. Sometimes I could see some very very tiny white insects crawling around. The old material did not smell at all.

Can anyone tell me if it sounds like I'm having some problems here? The nitrogen has been primarily humanure and urine, with the amount of sawdust being simply whatever it takes to adequately cover the humanure/urine for suppressing odor. Do I need to be adding more non-humanure nitrogen components?

What pile dimensions are ideal? Mine is about 2 x 1.5 feet and now about 3.5 feet high.

Thanks

Paul

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