Our farm is DNR certified to compost up to 40,000 cubic yards of leaves for
the city of Watertown per year. We have a mutually beneficial agreement with
the city to manage compost for them and in return they will do any heavy
machinery work for us. This gives the city a second compost site and saves
them untold man and machine hours driving to their single site. It also
saves them the trouble of managing the compost at our site. This arrangement
affords us access to large machinery and an endless supply of compost.
They don't have a compost turner though, and I had looked into purchasing
one of the commercially available compost turners. The price tag on these
puppies ranged from 10 to 150 thousand dollars, plus we'd need a much bigger
tractor with a creeper gear.
Not wanting to see all our profits end up in the pockets of manufactures,
middle-men and financiers, we chose Tamworth pigs to do the work for us. The
pigs love to root and dig and burrow, and in so doing turn the compost for
us. As an incentive to keep them working we lace the leaves with corn and
other goodies. They may not do quite as good a job as the industrial turner,
but you can't eat steel and rubber and we aren't hopelessly in debt.
Last year we built their winter quarters out of compost, leaves, sticks and
recycled telephone poles. We started with a large pile of compost, dug the
center out from the south side and put some telephone pole rafters over it.
These we covered with 10 feet of city sticks, and then used our elevator to
cover the whole structure with new leaves.
The completed quarters looks kinda like a gigantic beaver lodge. The geese
and chickens soon moved in with the pigs an they all coexist nicely. When
the fall rains came, the leaves began to heat up and warmed the place well
into January. The pigs root into the roof structure and as the steam rises
around them, they can bask in the sun of the cold winter season.
This year we want to try something slightly different. We'll start with a
pad of compost about 4 feet thick and thirty feet in diameter, sloping
gently to the south. Next ...OH..., I knew I was going somewhere with
this..., we take around a dozen black locust saplings, 4 inches-ish at the
bottom, and 12 to 16 feet long, and erect them into a teepee. These get
surrounded with city sticks, then covered with compost to a height of six
feet orso. Fresh leaves fill the inside as high as we can get them, and more
fresh leaves cover the entire teepee, again as high as we can get them,
probably twenty-some feet.
The opening will face the south to take advantage of any available solar
heat. Chicken roosts will be built in the 'attic', with nesting boxes for
the hens. We'll build three of these farrowing teepees out on pasture for
use in spring or winter, which ever the pigs prefer.
I like the idea of compostable animal shelters because it allows us to
'intercept' and make good use of a waste stream (i.e. city leaves and
sticks). It helps out the city of Watertown, and provides the farm with a
valuable commodity. The shelters, when biodegraded, can be spread on the
fields. The black locust poles, being very rot resistant, can be recycled
for next years use (I hope). To me this makes good sense, as it draws little
from nonrenewable resources, utilizes nearby materials, reduces energy
consumption disposing of a waste stream and saves valuable space in the
cities waste site.
So...Can anyone out there in the Watertown, WI area help supply my need for
black locust saplings? Amelda, Tummyrub, Sunshine and I would be eternally
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