Composting makes all the difference in my garden. This year, we used well rotted goat/sheep/chicken/rabbit manure and bedding as well as green wastes from the kitchen for the majority of our homemade compost. Other items we tossed in from time to time included paper, coffee grounds and untreated coffee filters, wood chips, weeds pulled from the garden, etc. The compost then sat for almost a year before we decided we really should use it.
In the photo above, you can clearly see where the compost is already thrown down and where it has not. Since putting this down, we did brush the compost off of the leaves of the cabbages and broccoli that you see in the picture. A good watering came next. We are in no way done with laying down the massive amount of compost we accumulated over the year (it’s actually been very hot here so it’s been slow going), but we will get there. We collected the waste material used in making the compost by a large round area fenced in with chicken wire. We would just fork it all in there and let it be. No, we did not turn over the compost regularly – or even at all.
Animals, such as sheep and goats, provide manure that is great for composting and then for use in the garden. Chickens and rabbits do too. However, the only manure you want to use straight off without allowing to break down well would be rabbit. Chicken manure is very hot and will scorch your plants if not allowed time to really compost well. We do not have horses so we have no experience with their manure, but we have used well-composted cow manure in our raised beds (mostly in the greenhouse). Cow manure can be too high in nitrogen for some plants. If using composted cow manure, you should probably add a little wood ash to balance it out.
Animals on a homestead are essential to the entire ecosystem. Without them, the land would have to rely on chemicals created in labs to fertilize and put nutrients back in the ground. Erosion would occur and people would suffer with poor nutrition as well as famine. I recommend watching the documentary “Biggest Little Farm”. It’s entertaining but oh so informing and inspiring.
This year, our summer has been busy. We have hatched out more pheasants, ducks, chickens, and quail than in the past few years. The Lady Amherst pheasants did not lay for the second year in a row, but the Golden pheasants and the Silver pheasants did well. We hope to see some of you at the swap meets in Shipshewana, Indiana and those across Michigan this season.