Creating a "closed system" on one acre

Discussion in 'Designing, building, making and powering your life' started by Yvonne Forrest, Dec 3, 2005.

  1. Yvonne Forrest

    Yvonne Forrest Junior Member

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    I'm a new kid on the block and have been wanting to ask a question for the past week - but have been sidetracked by all the great postings ! What a terrific bunch of sharing people. I hope in time I'll be able to pass on some of my experiences or offer suggestions. Meanwhile.....back to my question.....I have a one acre pty and would like to create as close to a "closed" system as possible. At the moment I am buying in wheat and pea straw for my two chooks, vegie garden and of course for the compost heap. Is anyone doing a heap without straw, or substituting something in it's place? I've been an organic freak for a long time but fairly new to permaculture. Well maybe not entirely new - I recycle, reuse, grow, cook and preserve as much of our food as possible - trying to eat 'whole' foods rather than processed. So I guess I'm on the journey. Any suggestions for my straw problem would be appreciated.

    (PS: I can see the value in a closed system - since buying in straw the variety of weeds in my garden have increased (not always a bad thing), also in the last lot there were oodles of earwigs and I had never previously spotted an earwig!)
     
  2. Cornonthecob

    Cornonthecob Junior Member

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    Must it be straw, could you use something else in its place?
     
  3. Yvonne Forrest

    Yvonne Forrest Junior Member

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    Cornonthecob,

    I hope I'm responding in the right area - pretty new at this forum stuff.

    Thanks for replying - that's my question really - is straw an essential ingredient for compost or is there something else I can produce on an acre in a closed system? I add other stuff to my compost (grass, weeds, chook poo, vegie scraps, fire ash, leaves) but have mostly used straw between these layers.
     
  4. Cornonthecob

    Cornonthecob Junior Member

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    G'day Yvonne,

    as a thought check out Green Harvest https://www.greenharvest.com.au/seeds/or ... index.html

    I've just brought a fair few things from them...green manure and mulch seeds. And a heap of millet....for the seeds and as a straw subsitute.

    I think you should be able to use anything instead of straw...as long as it does the same job. The thing I like about what I got from Green Harvest is that evrything will have a couple of uses...

    With only two chooks you wouldn't need to put aside that much space for growing....rotate it in and out of your vege garden and you're on a win/win :)

    Oh!....have to admit I don't know if chooks like millet (am hoping they do!)

    :)
     
  5. Yvonne Forrest

    Yvonne Forrest Junior Member

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    Hey thanks for the link - I'll check it out shortly. Will also check out the millet for the chooks, can't see why they wouldn't like it. I've never had enough space to grow a decent green manure patch but will give it a go.

    Going to a local craft & produce market tomorrow, they also have a poultry auction so you never know....perhaps I'll buy a few more chooks to help my compost heaps along, not to mention yummy eggs for breakfast, and they are terrific company. Now saying that there's something else I'd be bringing on to my pty isn't it. Hmm, better do some more thinking on that one.

    Take care.
     
  6. Cornonthecob

    Cornonthecob Junior Member

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    Think away!

    :)
     
  7. Jez

    Jez Junior Member

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    G'day Yvonne,

    Welcome!

    Comfrey is a wonderful thing to grow in your garden, it can be used to make a fantastic organic liquid fertiliser, adds potash to the soil by various means, and is great for getting compost heaps started quickly and 'hot'. It's dead easy to grow, multiplies quite rapidly and doesn't take up much space for all its benefits...a great plant for a self-contained system. Valerian is also meant to be good for compost but I couldn't recommend it from personal experience...yet! (worth checking out).

    As for straw substitutes, straw is a 'brown' material. You say you are adding leaves...if they are dry then these are a 'brown' material and therefore a straw substitute. Basically you want a ratio of about 4-5 times as much 'brown' material as 'green' and manure (just my humble opinion here!). Sounds like you have a good supply of green scraps and manure from the chooks, so you might like to add any other dry organic matter you can get hold of instead of straw...could be paper or cardboard scraps well broken down or anything else which is dry, dense and contains lots of cellulose.

    Back to your closed system, lucerne is a great little provider of readily mulchable or compostable material, can be planted wherever you have space.

    You might like to try growing some rye to use for mulch if you have a weed problem...as it breaks down it leeches into the soil and stops weed seeds from germinating.

    Greenharvest which Corn gave you the link for has a lot of solutions for growing your own mulch - anything from here would be appropriate to replace straw in compost once dried.

    But bottom line is - you don't have to use straw in your compost, but you do need a high ratio of a material with similar properties to get a healthy breakdown rate.

    Hope that helps a little! :lol:
     
  8. Guest

    Hi Yvonne,
    Am I reading your question right...? You want to stop hauling bales and replace your chook feed, mulch and carbon source in your compost with something other than straw, yeah?...And you want to produce it, or use something readily available?

    If I have that right....here's my answer... :lol:

    Feed your chooks straight from your garden. Plant our extra silver beet, lettuces, corn etc...knowing you will be calling through your vegie patch each day to feed em (instead of the hay shed). If you make this conversion slowly, you will not notice a drastic reduction in eggs. Do it quick and you may have to wait for a moult or two before they kick off again.

    Paper pulp can be used in your mulches and in your compost. Set up a trough, drum or even a bucket, and start tossing all your scrap paper into it. Newspapers, wraps, cardboard, whatever will all reduce to a slurry that can then be added to your compost or used as a water retainer around plants or through your potting mixes etc.

    There is likely to be objection here to the ink, but you work out for yourself what you intend to do with the water. I print with water based non toxic ink here, so my newspaper (and all others in my area) no longer pose a direct problem, that I have noticed. Strain it if you want.

    If you are using a lot of manure in your compost, you will need carbon to balance out the nitrogen blast from manure - but straw is not the only source. A good rule of thumb is anything brown... dead leaves, wood, chip bark, saw dust, will all do it for you.

    Go hard Yvonne! Am so glad you're here - and looking for solutions within your own environment.
     
  9. SueinWA

    SueinWA Junior Member

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    I don't know about your animal auctions there, but here the chickens tend to be young roosters or worn-out layers. They usually have parasites and mites.

    Be careful. If you don't know much about chickens, take someone along who does.

    Sue
     
  10. forest

    forest Junior Member

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    Welcome Yvonne. :) We have one acre here and have the chicken vegie setup you're going to establish.

    Your compost heaps - it's good to do 2 or 3 - will take most organic matter which is basically anything that was once alive. There is one exception to this rule though, don't add meat, manure from carnivores or anything that will attract rodents or other wandering wildlife. The usual things that are added to soil to build it up are:
    grass clippings
    newspaper - not the glossy, coloured bits
    shredded computer paper
    ripped up cardboard, not glossy, coloured cardboard
    fruit and vegetable scraps
    crushed egg shells
    straw and hay
    Other not so usual things, but still valuable additions are:
    hair - animal or human
    the contents of your vacuum cleaner
    tea bags, loose tea leaves, coffee grounds and coffee filters
    saw dust and untreated wood shavings
    wool and cotton clothing
    seaweed
    poultry manure and manure from non-meat eating animals. It's a good idea to avoid using manure from meat eating animals as it contains dangerous pathogens.

    To make your first compost heap:
    Lay a base of lawn clippings, straw or shredded paper about 15cms (six inches) high over an area of around 1 metre (3 feet) square. You are aiming for maximum internal area with a minimum external area so try to keep the sides rising up as vertically as possible. It's an excellent idea to enclose the heaps with fixed sides, with one side at the front that can be removed to attend to the heap.

    Add a layer of manure and kitchen scraps or any of your saved green waste. Don't add anything that clumps up. Try to fluff up everything that you add to allow maximum aeration of the pile. This helps with decomposition. Depending on what you have to add to the pile, you want to add layers of alternating green or wet waste - kitchen scraps/lawn clippings etc to brown or dry waste which is your straw, newspaper etc. Every so often you need a layer of manure, dried poultry manure pellets or comfrey to activate the pile and keep it decomposing. Keep your hose close by so that you can moisten each layer. Ideally you'll build a pile that's a metre tall, but you probably won't have enough material to complete your pile unless you've been collecting like a mad woman.

    When you run out of material, water the pile so that it's moist but not soggy. Never let the pile dry out and this slows down the rate of decomposition.

    And like RF suggests, always plant vegetables for your chickens. Not only will it feed them and cut down on your feed bill, but it will also add a great flavour to the eggs.

    Good luck. Let us know how you get on.
     
  11. christopher

    christopher Junior Member

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    Hi Yvonne,

    I would suggest considering an aquaponics :wav: system.....

    It was recently pointed out to me by someone that I do not own, nor have I even seen an aquaponics :wav: system, and that this somehow made my evengelizing on behalf of Joes brilliant system questionable.

    I will start out by saying that I do not own one, I have never seen one, I am completely unqualified to promote them, but that I think that aquaponics offer people with small amounts of land, or those in drylands, or areas of high population densities significant advantages as part of alarger system.

    I am not advocating the elimination of soil based vegetable production, but I am saying that as part of a larger diversified system, aquaponics :wav: is a wonderful way to increase productivity with a limited foot print.

    Now, having tried to preach unto the unconverted, to show them the Way (and I am being very silly here), I would suggest that you can also use saw dust (if the wood has not been treated) for the carbon in your compost, as well as rice hulls.

    The trick is to make sureb the carbon rich material is broken down, or while it is breaking down it will take the nitrogen out of the soil.

    Also, we use bamboo leaves for our chook house, and it makes a monderful compost. We like sheet composting, making small compost piles near where we want the compost to end up. When the chooks find it, they scratch it all up and spread it around.

    Dawn makes nice compost piles for her garden (I am banned from going in the garden... properly delineated boudaries make for a stable and long lasting marriage.... :lol: ).

    Where are you? What type of climate?

    C
     
  12. wwoofertobe

    wwoofertobe Junior Member

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    hi yvonne, i don't know how to give a link to website's but a good one is tropo's organic info library, i've had a look at a few things in there and it will probably interest you
     
  13. Tezza

    Tezza Junior Member

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    Hi Yvonne .....Ive read and re read your post re A closed system....

    Im working on a closed system now, have been doing the open system so far but want to stop importing in outside materials.. Its a bit hard to be strictly organic, if im not sure where my sources come from...or control of weeds,if they come from a weedy paddock... I dont bother with compopst heaps per sey,as i find that,to be a waste of time in some cases...To make a good heap you need expertise,then you gotta move it to wear you want it..which involves work,when by time pile is composted most of the goodies has leached out into the ground where heap was made..The best ground is where the heap was. :lol:
    Running poultry and using their abilitys to break down straw etc to enable it to start improving the soil is how i go My whole garden is like 1 big compost pile..,the breaking down of materials is everywhere, not just a heap.

    Any ways getting back to your Question.......Hopefully from this year on i can do away with the need of importing ,straw,woodchips etc as a mulch for my area,As i have a mixture of trees in my area..Some are ever greens and others are decideous.Im hoping that now my area is about 5.5 years old to be able to rely on the leave fall from my decidious trees as the mulch/feed i need for my system.This removes the nead to collect straw,or woodchips,and spend many long hours carting around to back of my house,Ill also eventually get rid of the supply of weeds that grow like crazy from the straw i import in.......Another way to get in the mulch that is still required,is to grow trees that can be lopped and mulched for your areas.an example is Tagasasties,these can be pruned allmost at will,all year,and being a quick grower can be used to mulch areas as seen fit...

    My idea of a closed system is one that is non relient on outside additives.
    and sends nothing out of the system...

    Tezza
     
  14. Guest

    If your compost bin or pile is right near your back door, then you wouldn't want to add meat - for the reasons above. If you have a pile or bed that is not within immediate reach of your home, you can if you want.

    I provide recovery here, and we don't always get a win. Small animals who don't make it (birds, guinea pigs, bilbies, bandicoots etc) are buried directly into composting beds, because trying to dig a hole anywhere else is a mammoth effort. Mice are composted in a black bin thing. As are any ducklings that are lost during the first week, or eggs that have stopped growing.

    I layer my compost (various manures, mulch hay, paper, cardboard, fabrics, wood chips/saw dust) directly into beds over fairly long periods, and only aerate when I'm preparing for planting.

    The bin thing is lifted up when its full and forms a new bed wherever it is. It is probably one of my poorer composts, despite looking like 'a professional setup', as being near the house it tends to get lots of bits and pieces and is never very well balanced. When I layer out the beds thoughtfully , I know what's gone in, going in and what's working with what, and can then also gear the bed toward the intended crop. Hope that makes sense?
     
  15. bazman

    bazman Junior Member

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    Welcome to the forum Yvonne

    I did a course on composting and i'm still trying to get it right, But this is from my notes on the course. I make my compost in one go, prepare on a saturday and make it on the sunday.

    It's all made in layers of the following

    coarse carbon layer
    coarse nitrogen layer
    fine carbon layer
    fine nitrogen layer
    repeat

    layers can vary from 2-5cm thick, start with some sticks on the base.

    Things to mix through the different layers are molasses, fresh compost, worm castings, liquid kelp, water, yogut/milk/cream, clay dust, rock dust, dolomite.

    Carbon = anything dead for over a week or two
    Nitrogen = fresh greens, grass, leaves, all ripped and cut before adding to the mix.

    I go on a hunt the day before I make a mix, with my horse feed bags and try and find as many different weeds, grasses, leafs, flowers, anything that will rot down (apart from seeds). Plus anything I have around here, I freeze all my food waste a week or two before making it too, as this makes great nitrogen.

    I try and get as many different things into the mix as possible, this will make better humus.

    When you pull your compost or humus out of the bin, put it into plastic rubbish bins and let it sit for two weeks in a shaded spot, the added oxygen from digging it up will help help the final break down, you can also keep humus for as long as you like in the bins if it's kept out of sunlight.

    In regards to your closed system have you read Bill Mollisons series of books on Permaculture, if not getting this book would make for an excellent start to your jounery.

    https://www.tagari.com/booksales/Intro.htm

    Your local library should be able to get it in for you.
     
  16. forest

    forest Junior Member

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    yvonne, I think you can see by the above responses that everyone has their own system which works for them in their area. I think gardening and permaculture is a complex system that is developed over the years through trial and error. Happily you can cut down on too many erros by trying things people suggest to see if it works for you too. Whatever you do, I wish you luck with it.
     

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