I hope you all had wonderful holidays and feel prosperity, industriousness and spiritual renewal for this new year! Life has been both busy and somehow satisfyingly slow these past couple of months. Much time to be both reflective about the past and present and ponderous about what's to come and how to get there.
The chill of the Midwest winter has prompted a natural hibernation in our home, a perfect excuse to practice more indoor pursuits and homemaking. I've taken up sewing thanks to the addition of a beautiful Singer machine to our living room, and while I've accomplished little more than running straight stitches down an old t-shirt and sewing the sleeves shut very lopsidedly, I am looking forward to trying my hand at some patterns soon.
We've also been undertaking some woodworking projects geared towards the garden. About a month ago, we built a two-bin composter out of rough-sewn cedar modeled after one Dan's company has built for a couple of their clients.
One side will be used for compost that is still "cooking", or scraps that have been newly added, and the other will be storage for finished compost that is ready to be added to the garden. The boards in front are about 6" wide and stacked on top of each other so that they can be slid out the top. This allows for easy access to the cooking compost, whatever level it is at, to turn with a rake.
We used hardware cloth, or wire with 1/2" squares, to keep out the rodents all around the sides, top and bottom of the composter. Initially, we were going to put a board along the bottom but got the advice that it was good to have air flow underneath the compost and that the wire would keep out anything that might be tempted to burrow into it from below anyway. The lids are secured with hooks to deter curious raccoons as well.
I've been reading a bit about the science of composting and the importance of having the right ratio of nitrogen to carbon, which is pretty interesting. Additives that are high in nitrogen, also called "green" matter (like garden waste or weeds), should only comprise about 1/3 of the mix, while the more carbonaceous ingredients, or "brown" matter (like newspaper, straw or leaves), should be the rest of the 2/3. This ratio would yield the most fertile, sweetest smelling mix. A common mistake is to add too much "green", which leads to slushiness and odor.
As we don't have a yard ourselves, we built the composter for my brother's family as a Christmas gift, but it was very good practice for our future homestead. I definitely feel a lot more comfortable with a table saw and drill now - it's pretty empowering!
Dan also built a cold frame to fit on top of one of the containers we use for our porch garden. This he made of rough-sewn cedar as well, with a plastic window and latches on the side for easy securing and snapping off once the weather is warm enough to remove the frame. It will help us extend the season perhaps a good month or two on either end.
We are looking forward to more projects in the coming months. Thanks for reading and stay tuned for updates!