Share the post "Understanding The USDA Hardiness Zones"FacebookTwitterDiggStumbleUponE-mailUnderstanding The USDA Hardiness Zones by Robin Follette Reprints by permission. The USDA zones are too often misunderstood. As a result of the misunderstanding, they’re More »
Pallet Bin, Spinosad and Propane
How’s that for a random title? Here are answers to recent questions.
Cooking on propane is great. It’s hot when you need heat, it’s gone instantly when you turn it off. It’s convenient. I grew up cooking on propane and a wood cookstove at camp and electric at home. I love propane. I imagine natural gas is the same. We don’t have access to natural gas in this part of Maine. I made a mistake when I chose this particular stove. I cook a lot so power burners sounded like a great idea. The front burners have a bigger flame which heats much faster than the normal burner. It saves a lot of time. The problem comes with pressure canning. Those burners are too high even on low for the pressure canner. I can’t maintain 10-15 pounds of pressure, it gets too high. I no longer pressure can so it’s not a problem now but I’d still chose only one power burner. Two was overkill.
Spinosad is a miracle! I still hand pick potato beetles while I’m scouting but I’m not as diligent about it now. You spray the larva for control. Within 24 hours you’ll find dead larva littering the ground below. Spinosad works well on flea beetles, corn worms and cabbage worms too. I rented a field a half mile up the road for potatoes a few years ago. It was far enough to get away from CPB. A quart of Monterey Garden Spray from most suppliers is around $15.00. You mix it with water and spray it on until the plants are dripping. I put mine in a hand-pumped pressure tank. CPB eggs hatch in as little as four days so check often to avoid letting them get ahead of you. (Bill, I emailed your hotmail address with some marketing suggestions.)
This is two sections of a three-section bin. That’s a Bourbon Red on the pile. He was trying to land on the pallet but after our recent wing-clipping episode he miscalculated and landed in the snow (and I laughed a little as revenge). The middle section is closed in with a fourth pallet to keep the dogs out of it. They’re my biggest pests in the compost bins. They know they’re not supposed to do more than hunt moles, mice and voles but sometimes they can’t resist a snack. I couldn’t keep raccoons out but the dogs take care of the coons so they aren’t a problem. I occasionally scare a vole out when I’m turning a pile. We don’t have rats thankfully. The bins are so simple that they’re held together lightly with lathes. If you look closely by the turkey’s head you can see a lathe running from the left side of the bin kitty corner to the back pallet. There’s another from the back to the right side. I tied the corners together just above ground level with some baling twine. I had it in my pocket after giving the goats a bale of hay.
The center bin was over filled (piled 2′ above the top of the pallets, it shrinks fast) until it snowed in December. It’s a cold pile. It probably heated up in the center but since I haven’t turned it, it didn’t stay hot. This pile was built on top of a dead turkey and has three or four cornish cross chickens that keeled over before reaching a decent weight. I’m sure there are a few mice and maybe a red squirrel. The open bin on the right was full when it first snowed. The pile was hot enough to melt the snow. I turned it until it got too small to stay hot. In the spring I’ll combine the piles and turn it as needed.
Look closely at the top of the pallet on the right. See the corkscrew sticking out of the snow? That’s the end of a compost aerator. Very handy tool. It cuts down on the number of times I turn a pile. You hold it in one hand, crank it with the other and aerate the pile. If the pile is dry I stick the hose in the aerator before I pull it back out.
I listed some of the things I add to compost piles in a previous post. I didn’t include things like newspaper, feed bags, paper plates after a cookout, and mail and similar paper. If it was once alive I probably compost it.
I’m often questioned on the animals I add. It makes some people a little squeamish. “Don’t add meat” is passed along so adamantly and with so much authority that many people think you can’t ever compost meat. The same must go for animals then, right? Animals die, they decompose and disappear into the soil. It’s nature’s way. They can decompose and add to the nutrients in my compost pile too. Don’t kid yourself by thinking nothing has died in your garden. You might have crushed a tunnel and its occupant(s) and not known. Or maybe you’ve injured or killed something with your hoe. Stepped on a toad? There are natural deaths you never see. Last fall I unearthed a nest of mice when I pulled a big weed in a row of potatoes. They were newborn. There wasn’t anything I could do at that point. Sticking them back in the soil would have suffocated them, the nest was ruined. I have a hard time letting creatures suffer. I couldn’t let them starve, dehydrate or chill to death. That’s inhumane. I moved them to the path, stomped on them once and buried them in the soil. Life and death happen. If you can keep pests from digging up your compost pile you can add meat and small animals.
All that said, I’m not going to stomp on a rabbit and leave it in the garden to rot. I don’t stomp on rabbits, btw. The dogs occasionally bring parts of them home when they’ve eaten their fill (show of hands, whose stomach’s turning now?). Mice yes, rabbits…ewwww. They go into the compost pile. So do birds. I dig a hole in an active pile, drop the critter in and shovel the pile back in place. A hot pile will break the bodies down quickly.
That’s enough dead-body talk for one night.