Jonathan & Denise >
The ‘old’ compost heap (background – covered with old carpet) was started more than a year ago. It was forked out of the ‘new’ recepticle (foreground) into the ‘old’ recepticle late winter this year, and covered ; it will be forked out and onto the growing beds next winter, when the compost is almost two years old. Since it was covered the ‘old compost’ has fermented and settled dramatically. We started adding kitchen and garden waste to the ‘new’ recepticle (foreground) early spring this year, and it is piling up rapidly.
Historically, (well, since the 1920s or ’30s), crofters have collected the seaweed from the shore using a tractor. Here’s a crofter from Smercleit Taobh a Deas [South Smerclete] working with his trusty Massey Ferguson. [ J > No, I don’t know which model and year, or the terminology of the attachments ! ]
But it’s more tricky and time-consuming than it appears : getting the prongs of the attachment to penetrate dense drifts of kelp, and then pull back out and not leaving the seaweed behind, takes practice and patience.
We don’t have a tractor, because we don’t have enough work for it, and we can’t get the tractor to where we need to offload the seaweed. So we use garden forks and wheelbarrows instead of that prongy attachment thingy, our arms and legs instead of a tractor, and we cart it home to in the trailer, then reversing the operation to get the seaweed onto the compost heaps. Hard work, but it keeps us fit!
Each year, the previous year’s ‘old’ compost gets forked into barrows, wheeled away, and spread out across the growing beds of the walled garden. Then the compost in the ‘new’ recepticle is forked over the partition into the ‘old’ recepticle, mixed and aereated as the work progresses. Next, seaweed from the shore is loaded on top of what has just become ‘old’ compost, and then the whole of the ‘old’ heap is covered in an old carpet. Seaweed makes excellent compost in itself ; but, as it ferments and rots down, it releases ‘liquor’ which drains through the other compost material below (kitchen and garden waste, mostly), performing the role of a powerful composting ‘activator’ : worms go crazy in there, multiplying wildly – and that’s great for soil health, good vegetables, healthy us, and an abundant garden wildlife!
Late winter this year – later in the winter than usual – we brought home not only an exceptional number of trailer-loads of seaweed from the beach, but also (for the first time) soiled straw bedding from the byre, where the sheep had spent most of the winter. We’d already filled the compost bin with seaweed right up to the brim, so the straw from the byre was piled up in a pyramid shape ; and there was still a few barrows left over, so they went into the ‘new’ compost recepticle.
If we’d covered the ‘old’ compost heap – like this – with the old carpet, the top layer of straw would never have rotted down. We needed one last trailer load of seaweed to cover the straw. As with the straw, we found ourselves with several barrows-full of surplus seaweed, so they went onto the ‘new’ compost heap, too.
At last we were ready to cover the ‘old’ compost heap with the old carpet ; but shaped like this it was too small !
That was back in mid-April – more than three months ago, and early in the lock-down. Since then, the ‘old’ heap has fermented furiously fast : at times, the carpet is so hot to the touch that it feels like it’s been scalded ! The heat is from the fermentation, and that’s accompanied by shrinking and settling, so the peak of the compost has now slumped almost down to the top of the pallets that form the recepticle. Meanwhile, the ‘new’ compost receipticle has been filling up fast – with kitchen waste, garden waste, and daily additions of soiled bedding straw and raw poop from the hen house.