Compost Month

March is the compost month. The cows have cleaned up the hay and are eagerly awaiting the greening of the pastures. By harrowing where they’ve been, old hay and cow pies get spread around and mixed with a little soil. This is called sheet composting, where the decaying and rebuilding of humus happens directly on the fields.

piles of manure cropped

This is taken from an old farming book written before 1900.

In places that cows have been fed rolls of hay we pile up the resulting manure, hay and soil mess into windrows five feet tall and ten feet wide. They may be 100 or more feet in length. A concavity is created on top of the pile by inserting the front end loader bucket and backing up. This is done to allow rainwater to soak in, and also gives access for air flow.

Last year’s compost is loaded into the manure spreader and flung out on the garden areas. The first priority is the potato patch. It then gets chisel plowed and harrowed, ready for the ton of seed potatoes that are cut up in baskets down in the cellar.

The early spring garden is also ready for seed. A row of English peas is already up, and a quarter acre of onions are in. A couple of cold frames have lettuce up, and the others are ready for tomato seeds.

The rich earthy smell of the compost is such a pleasure to breath while it is spread. It is quite the contrast to the unusual practice of spreading the toxic waste products from the new industrial chicken houses we are trying to keep from overrunning our lovely community. With a NPK value of only 2-3%, farmers will surely quit angering their neighbors, fouling the air and polluting the water table with dead birds, antibiotics and who knows what else.

A neighbor brought over the clean out from the stockyard, and it would have been horrible to spread. Instead, I added soil and old compost to it, made the windrows and will let it ferment down into sweet smelling compost before it is used. All of our piles get our homemade biodynamic compost preparations in them when they are made and after they get turned.

There has been much March mulching. Berry bushes love old hay or rotten wood chips around them. I’ve been threatening to put the old tin from the barn reproofing underneath the orchard trees to smother grass. It’s unsightly but effective. And as we march through the garlic beds, weeding and mulching, the delicate pastels of March’s redbuds, maples and wooded hillsides foretell of April’s showers and flowers, and what may come gushing forth in May.

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