INDOOR SMALL QUANTITY COMPOST PRODUCTION
This is a neat trick taught to me by Bob Harris many years ago....
It makes great compost in about a week....
If you have a shed, garage or basement,
small amounts of compost can be made.
In the event that one desires a small amount of compost
done in a precise fashion,
a perfect method using a styrofoam picnic basket,
with a variable transformer to control the steam
and compost temperature can be used.
The final product is about 3 gallons of
pure pasteurized compost in just 6-7 days.
The construction of the compost maker utilizes
a styrofoam picnic basket,
preferably 14 inches by 22 inches by 15 inches deep.
Six 3/4 quarter inch holes, evenly spaced across the surface,
are cut into the lid with a knife.
Six more holes of the same size are cut in the basket
(three on each of the long sides) two inches up from the bottom.
On the short sides of the basket, one hole is cut on each side at the bottom edge.
One hole is 1/2 inch and will serve for drainage.
The other end has a hole 3/4 inch wide and 2-1/2 to 3 inches deep to accommodate the head of the vaporizer unit.
Line the bottom with aluminum foil.
Next, a screen support is made from 1/4 inch hardware cloth
so that it sits 4 inches up from the bottom of the chest.
Make sure there is clearance in the screen for the vaporizer head.
The compost sits on this screen so that the steam can flow
evenly under the compost.
Finally, a hose is clamped to a one-gallon jug
which is placed upside down in a ring stand.
A 1-1/2 inch hole is cut in the reservoir of the vaporizer to accommodate the hose.
The vaporizer is filled to the "fill" line and the hose inserted so that the open end of the hose rests 1/2 inch below the fill line.
In this way, a constant level of water is maintained in the reservoir,
which makes the steam output constant.
I should add here that the vaporizing electrodes
must be cleaned at least every other day
(according to the manufacturer's directions)
or the output of steam will be grossly affected.
Before beginning a compost run,
it is best to hook up the vaporizer
to the variable transformer (set on full voltage).
Put adhesive tape over all the holes except for the one for the vaporizer head and allow the basket to steam for 4-6 hours to eliminate the plastic odors.
To begin the compost run,
mix approximately 3 gallons of shredded dry cow manure
(with chopped straw) in a bucket or plastic bag
with 3-4 ounces of cottonseed meal,
or 1-2 ounces of blood meal.
Add 3-1/2 quarts of hot water
(about 184 degress F.) to this mixture,
preferably with a sprayer to assure thorough mixing.
This warm mixture is put in the picnic basket without delay,
loosely filling the basket to within 1-2 inches of the top.
Five sticks are placed in the
basket before adding the compost
so that after the compost is added
a two inch ventilation shaft can be created
by moving the stick around.
The sticks are removed, the lid placed on the top,
the transformer set on full voltage,
and all the holes taped shut except for one of the holes in the lid farthest from the vaporizer head.
A thermometer is placed in this hole so
that it is in the middle of the compost.
During this phase pasteurization occurs,
killing all the insect life. Note that this is opposite
to how it is done at a mushroom farm
where pasteurizing takes place at the end of the composting.
After about two hours, the temperature should rise to
about 184 degrees F.
Note that the settings described for the transformer are different under different circumstances, so use this data only as a guide.
What is important is to get your unit to reach the temperatures described. Once the temperature rises above 160 degrees F.
check the time and let the compost stay
above this temperature for 3-4 hours.
At the end of this time, remove all the pieces of tape
from the holes to allow the compost to ventilate.
Within a day, ammonia will be noticeable
in the exhaust steam and the temperature should be 155-175 degrees F. Hold this temperature for two or three full days.
After the first day, the ammonia odor should disappear.
After this happens, white fire fang, or actinomycete fungi,
are apparent in the compost.
At the end of this time, these fungi should be prominent.
Do not be alarmed at the sight of white fungus in your compost.
This is the fire fang and it is necessary for
converting the sugars and starches
in the compost into mushroom food.
The voltage is then lowered a few volts
at a time so that the temperature drops in the compost
to 140-150 degrees F.
-a few degrees every 2-3 hours is a sufficient drop rate.
The compost is then held 3-4 days at this lower temperature.
At the end of this time, the transformer is turned off
and the compost allowed to cool in the basket slowly,
say over 6 hours. The compost is ready for inoculation
when it cools to 101-105 degrees F.
Once the compost has cooled,
place in trays or boxes and mix thoroughly with PF cake "powder"
(see OT's Straw methods in Mycotopia's archive for details).
The spawn powder will colonize the compost very rapidly.
When you see mycelium growing on the surface of the compost
it's time to case. Use a good peat based casing soil
and apply 1/2 to 3/4 inches thick. Keep casing moist
by lightly misting until you see pins starting to form....
PS....even though this is an indoor method for compost production
I'm meaning a barn, garage or outdoor shed...
Do not attempt to steam the manure indoors in a room or house
as obviously the aroma is quite extreme!
Good luck and have fun....
one from the archives