I turned a compost pile today (the one with the squirrel carcasses) and took the finished compost from the bottom to side dress my garden today. To accomplish this, I simply pulled the hogwire cage over to one side, placing it over a few feet to where I planned to put the pile next. The non-composted material was shoveled into that wire cage to kick off a new pile. This material is mostly grass clippings, used peat pots, small sticks and various garden trimmings. Very little kitchen waste gets into this pile. This was the pile in which I was running the squirrel composting experiment. Out of six squirrels, I found only a bit of tail hair, I did not even find a skull even after screening. They have been gradually decomposing over the last three to four weeks, and I’ve been checking on them (its a smelly job to crack open such a compost pile) several days ago, the pile no longer had any smell. Over the course of these past three weeks had reduced in volume by half, and I expected rich compost, but did not expect the squirrels to have kick-started a decomposition process that left me with so much good compost in so little time.
I shoveled the rich finished compost into a screen frame that I made of 2×4 lumber and hardware cloth. This is the same design I used on my one archaeological digs in college when I thought I wanted to pursue that field. Its a simple device, you can use any kind of frame, or you can choose not to sift your compost at all. I prefer a nice, fluffy compost, but even more, I wanted the chunks and un-composted material to go into the new pile, along with its accompanying microfauna, as a starter for the new pile. What I get from the screening process is a garden wagon full of smooth, loamy, sweet smelling organic gold.
I had a whole wheel barrow/wagon load full. With this good stuff I side dressed all three beds, all of my containers and a lemon tree. Anticipating a week of rain means this will leach into my soil and I expect growth in the coming week or two to be exceptional.
Composting is actually pretty easy, its as high or low maintenance as you want, its organic, and above all, its good stewardship of materials.