Growing up in the city we never composted (not that you can’t, we just didn’t), and when we did moved out to some land we mostly gave our kitchen scraps to the chickens.  I knew people who composted and they would put “anything” in there, like bones, in my ignorance I thought those wouldn’t break down.  Now however, I know that you can put anything that is living matter (whether it be green, brown, etc.), in a pile of carbon and in a matter of a months it will turn into highly beneficial “dirt” to be placed anywhere in your garden that needs a “pick-me-up”.

Now, I am not an expert on compost (we are always learning more about the little we do know), but I wanted to show you how we have been composting for the two years we have been here.

IMG_2934This is our pile from last year.  We used big wood chips so it is taking a longer time for the carbon to break down, but it is still doing it’s job.  And it’s already growing things!  The green on the left is a butternut squash plant (from seeds from a squash I used last year), and the one on the right is pumpkin.


Because the compost from last year is not done we are using it this year as well, along with some smaller chips, for this year’s pile.  Hopefully next year we will spread it on the garden.IMG_2956

Do you have a compost pile?  What have you learned from having one?

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About Erin Phelan

Born and raised in western Michigan, Erin came to Polyface first as an intern in the summer of 2009. While here she met and got to know Grady Phelan, an apprentice at the time. The next spring they were married and after a couple years in Oklahoma they are back, working as sub-contractors for Polyface. Erin keeps herself busy with the jobs of a wife and mother, as well as helping with the animals, gardening, sewing, cooking, baking, knitting and reading.

11 Responses to Compost!

  1. Canadian Jane says:

    I’ve been trying the Berkeley method of composting this year–complete compost in a month. I’ve also been turning my other pile of compost more regularly and am having more success (I used to leave the pile for the winter and then dig, dig, dig to the bottom come spring.) I have a bin with red worms in it too. Yeah for compost!

  2. Hey Erin, yes, I love composting. I have a funny story I wrote about last November about my compost bin, I wrote it here: . I also have strange things growing out of my bin…and jumping out of it. I think I should put more brown into mine, it was pretty stink-tacious. I also put ashes in there, I don’t know if I should have because when it gets wet it is so sludgy. Any ideas of where else I should put ashes (I burn paper in a firepit)? And any ideas of how to keep your dog out of it if you keep it open? 🙂

  3. Mellisa says:

    I have learned that my chickens will get in there no matter how well I prop the ‘door’ skid up. I don’t think I could keep them out unless I mechanically fastened the thing on! I also learned that skids with air holes work much better than the plastic jobs you can buy places. I have compost in one of those that is a year old and still not ready. My pile in the ‘skid’ compost bin however looks to be ready for fall planting!

  4. Cyndi Lewis says:

    So glad to hear that other people chickens like the compost pile. Mine love ours. Also glad to know that other people’s piles “grow” things too! We aren’t huge composters as most of our scraps go to the chickens but we are trying and learning.

  5. Larry says:

    Thanks for sharing this. I had forgotten how simple (and fascinating) it can be to do homestead composting. We are a certified organic farm and have to make many many tons of compost for our organic blueberries. When we use the term “compost” we have to follow the National Organics Standards: we have to start with a 25:1 C:N ratio, have to turn it 5 times within a 15 day window at certain temperatures etc. I sometimes miss the simplicity of homestead composting. : )

  6. Helen says:

    We live right in the center of a smaller town and we compost. People are always amazed. We have raised garden beds and the compost is wonderful for them. Our composter is a plastic drum, that spins. It works really well and the stray cats and dogs don’t get into it. We are always impressed by the awesome rich soil that comes out of the composter.

  7. Oldfarmgirl says:

    Hello. I am using a form of composting from what we have recently learned off a tape by Joel S. I have a large enclosed run for my flock and we spread truckloads of wood chips down last fall. We take the tiller to it to keep it from compacting. I use sawdust in the coop itself and have our doe rabbits hanging in one section. I have a smaller 3 bin system but I only use the first bin for compost….and yes I have potatoes, both sweet and regular growing out of my slowly breaking down pile. I got a lot freer with compost after reading an article from an ancient gardener who stated that stuff will always break down given enough time.

  8. Jeana says:

    I just started composting this year for the first time. I’ve become so attached to my pile that I keep saying “if I move the compost is coming with me”.:))

  9. Tract says:

    My compost ‘system’ looks similar to yours. I usually have a batch going over winter which takes quite a while to break down to usable compost but once the weather warms up it speeds along and a small heap can be ready in a few weeks depending on the size and matter in it. The hardest part for me is keeping it moist in the summer. Here in my part of Australia, the summers are hot and dry (most of Australia actually) the heap dries out and there isn’t enough rain to wet it and watering a compost heap seems like a waste of resources but if it isn’t kept at a certain level of moistness then the organism that do all of the work stop working.
    I loved seeing your squash and pumpkins in the compost. The pumpkins that have I have let grow from the compost heaps have been some of our best.

  10. Jessie says:

    I love your compost bin!! It’s adorable!! Sorry, I’m a nerd who falls in love with stuff like that lol. This is my first year really journeying into the wonderful world of purposeful composting, even though we’ve been on the homestead 15 years, since I was five. Our system has always been to keep a manure pile from cleaning out the barn (chickens, turkeys, goats, steers), let it sit, and after a couple years we’d always have lovely rich dirt, while more was breaking down. Not the most efficient system, but oh the soil from it was gorgeous. We also had a huge supply of worm casting soil from the year that we went into the worm business, filled our barn and basement with red wriggler beds, then the company we were with went bottom. Oh no, what would we do with all that lovely dark dirt?? Lol it took us a few years to get that all put on the garden. This year my dad made a screen frame so that we have an actual bin, actually close to the gardens! So convenient, versus the pile up the barn. Into it is going all garden scraps, stuff out of the chicken houses nearby, etc etc. The shavings from the chicken houses seem to make a good amount of carbon material in there, but it’s in no way scientific, and I guess we’ll see how this works out! 🙂

  11. We have learned to keep it simple. If it’s wet and smelly, add brown. If it is cold, add green. Keep everything hot and smelling fresh and you’ll be happy.