Sweet Compost

Compost. Oh how sweet it is. I will take the smell of compost  over perfume any day! Anything to do with the raw earth, natural elements, and I’m hooked. Our compost has been sitting since summer. It contains our chicken waste from slaughtering; feet, head, guts, etc.


We also composted a few dead cows. Michael added layers and layers of wood chips along the way after an animal was added to our pile. From time to time we added grass cuttings, but mostly wood chips a carbon source was added throughout the butchering season. This is our first chance we had to move it this season. This past weekend  it was sixty degrees. A perfect day for moving compost before snow surrounds us. As you can see it almost completely dissolved into soil.In time it will get distributed back into the earth; into our garden, which will nourish the seeds we plant, and ultimately sustain us. We’ve been milking this last week of warm weather. We even celebrated Thanksgiving with some friends eating outside! It was warm, sunny, lovely, and our pasture raised turkey was divine. Michael’s homemade sweet potato cheesecake completed our celebration.

Cows in Broiler Field

The time has come! The cows leave today, back to Polyface for the winter. The cowboys come with their trailers, load them up, and head east. A farm without animals to me  is not really a farm. We’ve really acclimated to raising animals and we’ll feel their absence for sure. Our winter break has arrived!!! What a year it has been!

Buxton Sun gods

In the meantime, life for us will resemble Buxton kitties. Lounging in the warm sun without a care in the world. Basking, resting, restoring, and revving up for 2012. Life is so good. With winter solstice around the corner, our spirits are uplifted! Be well, stay warm, and celebrate you! See you in 2012.

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About Grace

Grace and her husband Michael manage Buxton a Polyface satellite farm. Her first passion is to align with radiant health. She knows intimately that when you have your health you can do anything. Next, her passion for vibrant healthy food and beautiful landscapes along with her interest in permaculture influenced Grace's decision to align with the Polyface farming model. With 20 years of experience in the healing arts, she feels growing food and pasture raising animals is one of the greatest healers and a true source of personal empowerment. It's been said, "if you're not living on the edge your taking up too much space." Grace lives joyfully on the "leading edge" surrounded by the breathtaking beauty of the appalachian mountains where her and Michael steward 1000 acres with profound appreciation."

8 Responses to Sweet Compost

  1. Brie says:

    Such a beautiful post! Thanks Grace.

  2. jamie says:

    You can compost dead animals?! I thought that was a No-No. Fill me in!

  3. Dorothy says:

    I’ve always heard that you shouldnt put meat items or oils into a compost pile, I thought it was because you’d attract raccons, foxes or the like. Have you had any problems with that sort of thing? i’m also worried my dogs would dig through it. So we’ve always just thrown our leftovers into the trash when we’re done. Can/should our dinner table left overs (bones/meat/buttery or fatty foods) go to the compost pile instead? We do put our vegetable scraps on the compost pile.


  4. Grace Hernandez says:

    Compost is sort of like religion, there are so many ways to practice it! I’m no expert on it, there are endless books you can gather different opinions on how to do it and choose what you are comfortable with. So many opinions on this topic! When we had our homestead, we had a much smaller scale of animals so I did the “berkley compost method”. We moved it 8 times in 17 days and it was ready at the end of the 17 days. The trick with that method is heat and water. Every time I moved it, I watered it. I learned this method from Darren Doherty and Geoff Lawton, in a permaculture design course a few years ago. In that course I learned that “not” putting dead animals into the compost is a myth. Geoff encouraged picking up road kill if you thought you did not have enough nitrogen in your pile. Dead animals are a source of nitrogen. With the right carbon ratio the animals break down, if there the pile gets hot enough.We get plenty of rain in Virginia so we don’t worry about adding water to our pile here. Too much moisture can make it really smelly. I used to cover mine with a tarp to make it heat up even more.This also kept out animals from digging in it which can happen from time to time. Very good point. It’s important to find ways not to encourage pest in the pile! Furthermore, I must admit I hated seeing dead owls (roadkill) in the road in California. Big great horned owls, just lying there. So I tested Geoff’s idea. I added owls from time to time to my pile. There was no sign of an owl once the compost was ready. In fact, the owl was already broken down within 3-4 days. I was always amazed at how fast this process took place. We keep a large amount of wood chips on hand during the season for our carbon source because we slaughter throughout the season. Woodchips are hand in so many places in a farm. Straw is also a good source. Some of the bigger bones of larger animals do not breakdown. Recently we have been taking those bones and burning them in our wood burning stove! Pat Foreman told us about that trick. I rarely have butter and fatty foods left over because our cats devour anything we don’t eat that the chickens can’t eat. I wouldn’t hesitate composting these items. But that’s me. The idea is that nothing goes to waste around here. Everything is a resource. I have friends who only use composting toilets on their farm. Human Manure. They are recycling their own personal waste. I’m told after it sits for a year, it’s a precious resource for your garden! Urine is another resource. In our permaculture design course at Quail Springs Farm, we shared a bucket for the bathroom. Liquids. Yes, everyone who attended that course made a nitrogen deposit in the form of their urine, They gathered urine in a large container and the urine was filtered out to feed the fruit trees. You will be amazed how delicious well fed fruit can taste!!! Lot of books on Humane Manure. In my unending curiosity I have learned to try things on a small scale and see what happens. That’s how I got started with compost. Over and over I was amazed at this magnificent process. The compost we moved this past week will sit all year. It won’t go into our garden until next fall. And we will add to it next summer. Stay posted for more details on this process throughout our 2012 season.

  5. PeterPansDad says:

    We began composting humanure on a small scale this spring and quickly stopped using our flushing toilet. Once we realized the simplicity and the benefit to our compost pile we gave the kids a window of time to adjust and made the switch. I have composted for years and I have never, NEVER had a compost bin that was as hot as I have now.

    Lost 28 chickens to a mink recently. All 28 birds and the skinless mink are in the compost bin. Anything that doesn’t go to hogs or chickens goes to the compost bin. We’ll butcher hogs in about a week. Chickens will get some organ meat, dog will get some trotters, compost bin gets everything we don’t want. There is no waste. If the coyotes hadn’t eaten the neighbor’s dead calf it would have gone in the bin but they recycled it in their own way. No waste.

    If I wasn’t composting humanure and meat what would happen to it? Is it an ecologically sound idea to pay trucks to haul it to a central location? What happens to it there? I mean, if high manure concentrations are a health hazard, aren’t we better off taking care of it locally? …rather than polluting someone else’s back yard?

    I have read arguments that worm populations won’t tolerate oils…but that’s no big deal. Your compost bin should be actively composting. It’s not a worm farm. You can feed the composted material to your worms if you want but it’s microbiology, not annelids, you are seeking in the compost bin. You can take steps to keep critters out of your compost pile but it it’s hot and has a good carbon filter on top they won’t find it. Keep it hot, moist and covered and you’ve got a microbiological playground that dead-ends pathogenicity.

    Grace is right. You can’t have enough wood chips on a farm.

  6. Kristen Marchant says:

    I am being warned against using pig manure in my compost or lasagna gardening application. Too many unsafe pathogens. Any thoughts? I have a pig farmer willing to deliver free poop!! Thanks!

  7. PeterPansDad says:

    The pathogens will be destroyed at high temperatures. Get your compost hot and they die.

    If the pigs are on a production floor they are being fed a subtheraputic level of antibiotics and who knows what else. Some portion of their various medicines will pass through to their manure.

    Composting pharmaceutical waste is a problem. Will the compounds break down? Will they re-combine? Will they be bound in an organic structure for a period of time then released? I don’t know. This is a serious concern. Worse, we drug ourselves up even more to fight depression, anxiety, cholesterol, blood pressure and “shift work disorder” (lol). What do we do with our own manure?

    Why don’t you just raise a couple of pigs? They tend to manure in the same place every day so clean up is easy and you know what’s in it. They’ll eat your scraps and they are yummy.

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