Crazy compost…

The compost bin has gone out of control. It is currently eating everything in site, devouring organic matter at a frightful pace. I do not have a thermometer for my composting efforts, but when I pull the lid off the bins I get a wave of warm air, and a little stir of the top inch or so reveals a toasty warm ( and humid ) biosphere that is happily eating kitchen scraps and yard waste.

I really am astounded at how fast it is eating things. It reduces the lawn clippings by 50% in 10 days. I am a bit worried that it may be running too hot, and that the temperature will get too high and the heap will start to kill itself off, it hasn’t been the warmest of weather here in Calgary over the last few weeks. I’m still trying to find out what the best temperature is supposed to be, I think this heap is sitting around 30-35 Celsius, maybe as hot as 40 Celsius in the core. Stirring seems to cool the heap down, and gets the active… ecosystem up into the new items added. Sort of like making sourdough bread, or yogurt, you get the hyped up live sections to mingle with the new food sources and the party starts. Gets some air in there as well.

I think at some point I have over watered, it is really mucky and bog like in the lower-central part of the bin. I’ve cut back on the amount of H2O I add, I now only water when I add a new layer of clippings or yard waste. We’ll see how that goes.

Bread, Amish style

The latest bread baking is done! I have found that yeast seems to like listening to Happy Hardcore, it makes the little critters foam and froth and go buck wild! This session of bread baking involved an ‘Amish’ style white bread. It has quite a lot of sugar in it, for a change I used white sugar instead of brown sugar or honey. Added a good slug of salt as well. Whether it was the white sugar or the Happy Hardcore, the bread rose like mad and turned out really nice. The loaves are pretty big though, makes it a bit hard to cut the bread. I think I may have to turn it on its side to get even slices.

In other news the compost heap is going nuts. I opened it up to add some funky leftover salads and bruschetta and the damn thing was steaming. That’s right, it’s sitting there at around 40ÂșC or so, and in the cool air today it was out-gassing like a dying star. Smells like… silage. Especially since I added the lawn clippings. I gave it a good stir and watered it down, which seemed to make it steam all the more.


I was out in the back yard tossing the kitchen scraps into the compost and it was like bushwacking through the jungle to get to the bin. The grass in one area was about a foot deep, which means time to cut the lawn. Problem is we don’t have all the gear to properly deal with the lawn, just this busted up old lawn mower older then me. Being a Riedner, things like that never stop me from starting up motorized devices.

This lawn mower is amazing. It has no rock catcher, no bag, no form that shunts the grass in a safe direction. It was left with the house, in the ‘shed’ in the back yard… the shed with no doors. It’s green, rusting, and held together by paperclips and prayers.

Four pulls and she roars to life! At which point I try to throttle up and see what she’s got… but what’s this? The throttle control isn’t doing a damned thing! Closer inspection shows that the throttle cable is completely borked. So now I am saddled with a gas mower from the 70s that is running, and no way to shut it off.

So I start cutting the lawn, what else am I going to do? Worse case I can just let it run until it drains itself of gas. I know that is about as environmentally friendly as pouring toxic waste into a storm drain, but, like, it’s already running… right?

What happens as soon as I hit some of the thicker jungle? The mower stalls out because the throttle is partly choked. Two pulls, she starts again. Stopping solution found, just stall it out. The next 40 minutes is spent crawling up and down the lawn dodging grass, rock chips, and stick chunks. In the end the mower doesn’t stall on the last chunk of jungle, it plows through it… leaving it running, in the middle of our lawn. Some poking and tinkering and I find the throttle lever and choke it far enough to stall. Horray! Lawn cut!

I think I have invented a new extreme sport: death-mowing.  Oh, and the sprinkler broke while sprinkling… another day in the life of our house.

everybody’s working for the weekend…

but I’m working on it.

Today was a day of painting and yard work. The sort of yard work that stirs the very deepest depths of your soul. Work that drives a deeper connection to the world around you and brings you closer to nature. More than just that spring clean up, or starting the compost bins, this was work of a supremely spiritual nature.

My wife and I spent 45 minutes picking up dog feces from the previous owners dog run. In the sun.

Now yes most of these delightful nuggets of doggie goodness were baked hard as petrified dinosaur turds, but there were still the patches of doggie diarrhea and the inevitable shaded areas of the dog run where things were still… moist.

On the up side I invented a new game to play with children down the road. Poop or Pebble. I even have a song for it:

It’s poop or pebble time,
It’s poop or pebble time,
Is it poopie, or is it pebbly,
It’s poop or pebble time!

You just repeat it over and over in various tempos and octaves until your wife goes insane.

honestly, why not chickens?

So there is a bylaw in Calgary that says you are not allowed to raise any livestock in the city limits, and that includes Chickens. You see, apparently they are too noisy, smelly, and can get diseases. Because of those factors the city of Calgary is refusing to let people raise small flocks of chickens in the city limits.

So what is this stuff about noise, smell, and disease? I don’t know about you, but in my neighborhood there are a lot of dogs. These dogs like to bark, we have a lovely old Boxer on one side, an older Golden Retriever on the other, and some sort of giant dog that looks like a bear cub across the street. They all bark. Chickens cluck, they are a lot like pigeons, not exactly noisy, and certainly quieter then a dog. Roosters are the noisy ones, but they are only good for impregnating chickens and looking pretty…

The smell… well, yes, chicken poo stinks. But it is no more smelly then the goodies that dogs leave in parks and in my back alley. Certainly chickens smell better then the fumes that come off of the jazzed up 4×4′s that roam suburbia around me.

And the disease? If you are caring for your birds and don’t cram them into confined spaces chickens are pretty disease resistant. It is only when you shove them into pens with 25,000 other birds that they really start to get sick, but then that happens with people too. Dogs get rabies, cats get feline leukemia, children get chicken-pox ( har har ). If you are not being stupid and are respecting your animals things run tickety boo.

Now you might ask why would anyone want to raise a chicken? Well, for me, there are a number of good reasons. First off eggs. I love eggs, and I can think of no better way to get fresh eggs then to have chickens in my back yard happily laying a few dozen eggs for me a month. Think of the fresh scrambled eggs, and the awesome omelets, and the great baked goods.

Second I think it is important to know where your food comes from. I am increasingly getting keen on the idea of the local food chain and knowing who is growing my food. I don’t trust Safeway. And I certainly do not trust Cargill or Monsanto to deliver me safe healthy food that has been produced with any semblance of respect. Even trusted brands like Maple Leaf scare me now, so I am starting to look to local farmers and ranchers to provide me with food. What can be more local then my back yard?

Third I think it would be good for the garden. Chickens eat bugs, keep the lawn down, and drop some of the best nitrogen fertilizer you can find. Just have to keep them out of the bits of garden reserved for crops so they don’t kill the veggies. Not only is it good for the garden, I think it is good for the soul and the chickens. They get a happy life, I get to connect with my farming roots, any kids Sarah and I have get to enjoy the cycle of life… all boons in my book.