est. 2007

Whitewater Township, Ohio, United States
My wife Julie and I purchased our property in June 2007. Our home sits on seven acres of hillside overlooking the Whitewater River valley in western Hamilton County, Ohio roughly 20 miles west of Cincinnati. The property is well wooded and boasts a pond of about 1/5th acre. Our professional careers dictate we live in Hamilton County, which makes a country setting a bit difficult to find in a county of almost 1 million people. We share the property with our son Casey (3 1/2), and a herd of domesticated animals including 2 dogs, 3 cats, 3 parrots, and 4 Blue Swedish ducks, 10 Buff Orpington chickens, not to mention my oldest hobby aquarium fish.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


Alright I fell for the whole compost thing when I bought my first house in 2000. I had a very small vegetable garden, perhaps 3'x15'. Just enough to grow a tomato plant and maybe some green beans. I also purchased a wire compost bin, and I diligently placed grass clippings and fallen leaves into it, hoping for an organic miracle. It didn't happen. Five years later I never so much as got one shovel full of dark, rich compost. It just never seemed to break down to the point where it was useable.

When my wife and I got married in 2005 we had one too many houses for two people, so we sold the superfluous home, which just so happened to be mine. It was fine by me, I had plenty of ideas for a new larger garden and set to work taming an unruly hillside next to the patio. It was still small, maybe 10'x15', but now I could grow a couple tomato plants, more green beans, and a pepper plant, along with cilantro and basil. I had even more plant material and grass clippings so I set forth with creating another compost pile or two (as it turned out). After researching the web I learned I may have been less diligent than necessary in turning the pile in my first attempt, quite possibly leading to my failure. I was determined to make compost this time and turned that damn thing, on average, every third day or so. The new planting season arrived in the spring of 2006 and after 12 months of decomposing my compost pile looked better than my first, but not like the stuff Paul James turns out every third show. I used it anyway and the plants did in fact seem to grow better.

When we moved to our current house I had dreams of a large garden (at least for me). This would require a fence to keep out the large number of deer, rabbits, dogs. I also wanted chickens at some point in the future so i fenced in an area adjacent to the garden to house them. In all the garden is 25'x40', and the chicken run is 15'x20', all told this garden was roughly the same square footage as my first house, 1300 sq. ft. I didn't have a garden in 2007, there was just too much to do in the new place to justify the effort. That didn't stop me from trying the compost thing again, and come spring 2008 it was nowhere near ready. Again it likely was not turned near enough.

This year we had one helluva windstorm for the Cincinnati area. Seventy mph winds, something we get every 60 years or so. I lost more trees and limbs than could possibly be counted, so I actually bought a woodchipper, thinking it would be a wise investment considering another wind storm might be coming my way in 2068, at which time I will be 94 years old. I had more carbon material than I could have dreamed of and started two more piles. They heated up nicely the first 5 weeks or so, then the weather turned colder and heating was pretty much done. I add nitrogen materials, and they decompose, but no heat and the wood chips still look like wood chips, but its only been three months, so there is still hope. I turn about every three days or so. I should probably mention I do not have traditional compost bins yet, but by next year they should be ready. I think I will try covering them with a tarp to keep out excess moisture and retain any heat they generate, and hope for the best.


Anonymous said...

Good compost is easy, but fairly specific. 30:1, Carbon:nitrogen. Adequate moisture (you can't squeeze water out, but it leaves your hand shiny) Air: after you make the pile, poke some holes clear through it with your pitchfork handle. Size: about 4'X4'X4' Fancy bins are a waste of $$. If the carbon:nitrogen ratio & moisture are good and you turn it about every 4 days, it'll finish in about a month. Don't let it get rained on. Chicken poop is a good, hot nitrogen source.

Chris said...

Thanks for the info. I covered the piles a couple of days ago cause its been raining a bit. I took the opportunity to turn them as well and they didn't seem too wet. We'll see how it goes.