Composting horse manure

Here’s a picture of our garden stitched form pictures this evening It’s been a good season. Better than last year; Robie and I are learning a lot. Most folks I know that have a garden have noticed that the season’s been less productive than we’d like, but we’re pleased with the success we have had and what we’ve learned. On my drive home, I pass by a horse ranch Abbey Creek Stables. Although it’s not there anymore, they used to have a sign at the entrance “Free manure. We load”. Since you can never have enough compost and because I like the word “free”, I went and got some. Two loads actually for a total of about two cubic yards. Composting is one of those things that sounds more complicated when you read about it than it actually is. Websites and books talk about cabon/nitrogen ratios and all that. Some refer to it as browns/greens. I’ve generally found that what I’ve got is what I’ve got. If I have too much green, like from cutting the grass, I can’t just conjur up some leaves to balance it out. Whatever I have is what ends up in my compost bins. Having said that, horse manure actually has an optimal ratio. The manure I got is a nice mix of what looks to be sawdust and manure. Good even texture. It heated up pretty quickly. Since I was thinking about composting at the time, I did a bit of reading. One site I came across talked about a simple way of aerating the pile with perforated pipes. This is actually mentioned in a bunch of places, but the key is that the microbes that process compost need oxygen. Most sources advocate turning the compost pile, but that’s a lot of work. So I got a couple lengths of 1″ pvc and drilled a bunch of holes. I also had a couple lengths of ABS. I went to Harbor Freight and got some thermometers to track what the pile is doing and now I have two of them in the manure pile. The one in the center quickly climbed outside the working range of the thermometers (159 deg) and it stayed there for about two weeks. The other one is in the corner and hung out at around 140 deg. The active composting temp range that I’ve come across in a couple places is about 110-160 deg. Today, three weeks after I got the second load of manure, the center is at 140 deg and the corner is 120. I’m curious to see how it’ll look when things cool off and I dig around in there. The manure is under the blue tarp. The other pipes are normal compost. One thing I am a little concerned about is an ariticle I just read in mother earth news about some herbicides surviving through horses’ digestive systems. If it all works out, I’ll probably get a bunch more loads of the stuff. Oh, and it doesn’t stink at all.

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