Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Cold Dead of Winter

It is the coldest part of the year in Colorado. Today I woke up to see 2" of snow on my porch. The fluffy white continues to fall as I contemplate projects for this summer. Composting, of course, is one of the items most prevalent in my thoughts.

I tended my outdoor compost yesterday. It was around 65 degrees in the middle of the day and knowing that a storm was fixing to blow in made me want to check on it. The plywood compost box is doing well. I noted the fresh soil smell as I turned it despite having small bits of food waste still in it. Even with below freezing temperatures occurring on and off for the past 2 months my efforts are being rewarded. I worried a bit when I was setting up the pile that it wouldn't hold enough heat to continue to compost after winter set in - I'm too lazy to try to cover it with a tarp to hold in heat. It has held up though and with VERY little attention.

Since the cold weather I have only been forcing myself to turn and add to the compost pile maybe twice a month. It has fallen into a nice routine when I do add to it though. I carry out my containers of green waste and dig out one of the four corners in the box to a depth of maybe 12 inches below the rest of the contents. I pour my composting matter into the hole and spread it around with the shovel. On top of that I add my most recent collection of shredded junk mail. I add a few inches of dirt (not soil - this is the crappy clay filled stuff that plagues my backyard) on top of the shredded paper until I think there is enough to keep the paper from blowing away. My last step is to half-way dig out the corner where I will put my next batch of compost by shifting everything counter-clockwise. I add to it in a clockwise fashion just sort of pushing everything out of the way. This makes my compost box have a perpetual slope to it.

I am worried about how it will work this summer though. Even in the cold dead of winter the plywood box keeps up with my family's vegetable waste production. This summer as it heats up I may have to start bumming compost from the neighbors (oh darn!) to keep up with it. My husband and I discussed adding a second box this summer too. That way we will have a box that is "in use" (being used to fertilize the grass we plan to start) and a box that is "in production" (being added to).

We plan to use our outdoor compost for the yard while my worm box will supply even richer fertilizer for our garden. The reason for this is that our outdoor compost MAY have traces of old chemicals in it from the weeds that got sprayed when we moved in. My worm box on the other hand has been kept pure and clean (if you can call worm poo clean) so I don't have to worry about chemicals getting into the food we grow.

Other projects I have been pondering include a private outdoor shower area, a root cellar, and automating my greenhouse with an arduino based setup. I blame Pinterest for most of these obsessions.

Things I noticed I really like in a luxury shower: outdoors, river rock drainage under the tub, a waterfall type shower head, plants that get watered as you bathe, simple colors, grey water collection abilities... it almost makes me weak in the knees! You can see some of the pictures I'm using as inspiration on my Pinterest board. It's still a dream in progress.

As for the automated greenhouse I've been reading up on nerd blogs for the best tips to do it with an Arduino board. I want it to measure temperature and humidity as well as being able to open/close windows to maintain the environment. Yes, it will take some hardware knowledge and a bit of programming... that's why I married a nerd! Really though, I imagine I can do it myself with minimal troubleshooting from the hubby. Programming, I learned the other day, is a lot simpler than people make it sound in most cases. For all you computer geeks that read this: my first program was nested If Then statements to light LEDs corresponding to distance read-outs from an ultrasonic sensor. Not bad for a newb!

Ok, end random rant.

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