Wednesday, June 20, 2012

summer solstice and black gold

Today is considered the longest day of the year. For me it is a very long day, the first day alone after this weekend's marvelous time spent with my best friend and beloved partner. About 6 o'clock this evening the sun will be directly above the equator. And for the next 6 months it will once again trek southward until the shortest day. It is a comforting cycle for me, a devoted midwesterner. lover of all four seasons.
While he was here, Jerome and I worked together nearly nonstop on projects we each found satisfying and enjoyable, despite the 90+ degree days. Let me tell you now about one of them...

When we bought our farm, there was a very large pile of old fencing, scrap wood, old rotted posts, etc stacked a bit haphazardly at the edge of the flower bed near our wonderful Cortland apple tree. Who knows how long that pile had been there or over what amount of time it was assembled. We had added to it in the nearly 2 years that we've been here, pallets from our chicken house materials delivery, scraps removed from the potting shed as it was rebuilt this spring, wind blown fencing, and some of the railings that the wind had actually snapped into pieces. On the whole, it was too good to burn.
Last year many of the good enough posts were dragged out of there and used to hold up the chicken yard fencing. A few more were used this spring for the raspberry bed.
When I talked with Eli about building my compost bins, he thought he could use much of the picket fencing pieces in this pile. We discussed the merits of his being able to work on it at his place with his tools when he had a bit of time between his own chores and all the other commission work he does.
Last Friday Eli arrived with the sides assembled and spent a good part of the day putting them in place.
Over the weekend we finished the setup. Jerome lined the bottoms with layers of old cardboard boxes to discourage grass and weeds from growing there and we began to lay a bed of mulch in the bottoms. This allows for some air circulation at the bottom of the piles and is the first layer in the lasagna approach to building the fertile black gold we hope to encourage.
The fronts are designed with removable panels cut on angles. Jerome commented to Eli about this design and Eli explained that the Amish build their oats bins this way. Each panel has little wooden blocks attached to keep it above the panel below it. This allows more air to enter the bin, and the slanted design aids in the lifting off of each section without having to slide it all the way up or down the tracks they move along.
In keeping with the "use what you have" theme, I remembered an old rusty T-post that Eli had found under the potting shed when he jacked up its sagging back corner. I had put it aside knowing we could find some use for it eventually. Eli pounded it into the ground against the side of the compost bin just where I am standing in the photo above. Its job is to put a little pressure on the side of the bin should the sides expand. Jerome and I had purchased a bundle of 6 foot long T-posts to put up a cucumber fence in the vegetable bed, and had one left over. It was too tall to pound all the way down, so I added this sweet horse head that I had found among the "stuff" left behind in the potting shed by the previous owner. I just love the way it looks and can't resist patting its head every time I pass it.
Now the miracle of composting can begin.


  1. Quite a project, Sharon! Love the way you repurposed materials and worked together on something so beneficial to your farm. And that horse's head is just the perfect finishing touch!
    Hope your separation from Jerome isn't too difficult.

  2. Very cool! And I can see a little sneak peek of the potting shed done up in its new paint!! :)

  3. You can't beat homemade compost! I spy a beautiful potting shed too!

  4. Hi Sharon! seems you're working hard! I like your shed I can see behind you!!
    I like this kind of works, too...they make you feel alive, and more "part of the nature"!
    Hope to have my own garden soon!!