Posts Tagged ‘compost’

Shoveling Horse S@*#

One of my goals for several years now has been to find a local, preferably free, source of horse manure. There are lots of  horse stables locally, but the problem is how to transport the manure. You can’t just toss it in the trunk.

Or so I thought! Friend and neighbor Andrea knows the owner of one of the stables and we went to ask him about delivering some manure to us. Take as much as you want, he told us, but he didn’t seem interested in delivering.

Horses at our benefactor's stable.

Horses at our benefactor’s stable.

He told us he had piles and piles of it, some fresh and some already composted.


So we had a look. And a think. And it turns out that well-composted horse manure is not smelly or dirty and you can load it into containers and transport it in your car almost as cleanly as buying it in bags at the garden center.

So, we did. Last week on holiday I brought a load over almost every day…rich, beautiful compost. My shoulders ached bit from the shoveling and lifting, but it was actually lots of fun. The weather was great and I had adorable companions.








The horse stable is in a lovely little part of our village, about 3km from the center of town in a little cluster of old farms arranged around a central pond. Time was when all of  the villages Bohemia looked something like this…It’s charming and I’m glad it isn’t all gone.




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When last I wrote about worms, I was trying to separate the worms from the beautiful black vermicompost they had made for me. I wasn’t having much luck…

Why go to all this trouble? Many people have suggested simply putting the compost out in the garden worms and all. But my worms are California red wrigglers, and this isn’t California. These worms don’t belong here in this environment, out in the wild, as it were. Invasive and exotic species are a huge problem in lots of places, and I’d hate to be responsible for some horrible soil organism catastrophe in the Czech Republic, all traced to the release of California red wrigglers by a well-meaning but misguided gardener.So, I am determined to keep my worms in the worm bin, but desperate to get that wonderful compost.

But at last, I think I have found what works….hungry worms, horizontal migration and lots of patience.

Last time, I tried to make them move up or down in the bin, but this time, I piled all the worms and their castings on the left side of the bin, and lots of fresh yummy scraps on the right side. I didn’t think it would work because I was afraid only the worms right next to the scraps would be close enough to know there was fresh food nearby. But I was wrong…it was migration on a massive scale.

Of course, it helped that the worms were hungry…I accidentally hadn’t fed them for a little while. In fact, I think this was key. They didn’t all move over in a few hours like the worm guy said they would, but within a day or two…I was amazed by how empty the compost was and how full of worms the scraps were.

Worth it's weight in gold!

Worth it’s weight in gold!

I scooped the good stuff out into a bucket and as I spread the remaining scraps out across the bottom of the bin, I was amazed to find the worm nest! Kind of gross, but kind of cool.







Now that I am a bit more experienced with worm wrangling, I hope to step up production…I sure do have enough worms!

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Worm Update

Remember the worms? I don’t always remember that they are there, to tell the truth. They are very quiet there in the corner behind the door, living their wormy little lives. I checked on them last week and found they had just about consumed everything in the box and that lo and behold, the newspaper was actually gone, turned into beautiful rich dark compost.

But it’s full of worms and the idea is to separate the worms from the compost by getting them to migrate into a fresh pile of newspaper and food. Time for some worm wrangling!

The tools of a worm wrangler – shredded newspaper, food scraps, water.

With supplies at the ready, I removed the lid and went to work. Some worms were on top of the cardboard, sure sign they are looking for something to eat. I moved the worm-filled compost to one side and layered newspaper, food, more newspaper, wetting it nicely as I went.

You can see the nice dark compost on the left…can’t wait to feed it to my favorite plants! I covered the new food pile with cardboard and am now imagining a worm race to greener pastures. Perhaps when all is very quiet tonight as I lay in bed I will be able to hear the stampede!


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Part of the Urban Farm Handbook Challenge is to try worm composting. I was sure we could make a composter out of plastic bins – there are so many places to find instructions for this on the internet – but I was not so sure we could get worms.

I searched and found on-line providers, but was skeptical of mail ordering worms in winter. One of the providers, Ekodomov (Ecohome) is located nearby and I’d long wanted to visit their ecology center, so the girls and I set off on our adventure to find worms. If this didn’t work, I was ready to try hunting/fishing stores hoping they’d have the right kind of worms for sale as bait. A long shot, but I couldn’t think of anything else.

We found Ekodomov’s front gate, but it was locked. No opening hours were posted. Maybe it wouldn’t open until spring. There were signs pointing to the ecology center, but we couldn’t find it. We returned to the gate just to check and somehow daughter #2 pushed it open.  We went inside but seemed to be in someone’s back yard. I’ve lived here long enough to know

1) it’s easier to apologize than ask permission,

2) things rarely look like I would expect them to, and

3) it isn’t that unusual for two houses to share a common driveway and gate.

We went on through the garden and the next gate.  Still no sign of anything that looked like an ecology center, only homes. I even saw someone through the window, making lunch. We walked around a little but saw nothing.

I decided we should probably leave, we must be in the wrong place, and it was then that I saw the tiny little sign on the tiny little building that I at first thought was a garage. We walked up to it so see if the hours were posted and someone opened the door from inside and asked what we wanted. I kind of stuttered and smiled and he said, “You want worms, right?!”


The 3 men working there were very friendly and helpful, showing us a homemade worm composter and discussing the right kinds of bins to use. We left, promising to send photos of our finished work.

We headed triumphantly off to the hardware store to buy bins.  There was quite a selection, though all of the bins were transparent. All my internet sources say not to use transparent bins, but the guy at Ekodomov had said he’d tried it and it worked fine. So, transparent bins it is1

The girls were very excited (or perhaps just amused at their strange mother) and gleefully announced to their father that we have worms, our first farm animal! We enlisted his help in drilling holes in the bins, invited our neighbor to come watch and went to work.

Wetting shredded newspaper and putting it in as bottom layer.

Bottom layer done

Adding worms

Next a layer of compost

Another layer of shredded paper - do they REALLY eat it?!?

Finished bin in place in the entry hall.

Making dinner was especially exciting as we could feed our worms for the first time! Both girls had a turn.

Daughter #1

Daughter #2

The first thing I did this morning was peek inside – no worms in sight.

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I saw this posted on another website and thought, “What a great way for me to explore all the things I’ve been reading about. This will push me to do it!”

I signed up.

I asked my green friend/neighbor to sign up so we can do this together.

I put a little button on my blog sidebar to declare my intentions (see it over there?!).

I excitedly read the February Challenge. It’s about…


the scariest thing in my garden (why? read this).

Deep breath. I can do this!

Soil Building Challenge #1: Plan for Compost

My not perfect compost

I already do this. I already have a compost area and 2 compost bins made out of old pallets. I’m sure I don’t compost very skillfully – all the talk of aeration, green/brown ratio, moisture, etc. is intimidating to me, so I mostly ignore it. And almost everyone ends by saying that it’s okay if it’s not perfect. Whew! I can do “not perfect” really well!

Soil Building Challenge #2: Buy fertilizer in bulk or make it from scratch.

Joshua McNichols, author of the challenge, says, “Here in Seattle, I just drive out to so-and-so’s store…” to buy all the ingredients to make organic fertilizer. Mmmhmm. Well, here in Prague, I am stumped. The shopping list includes: alfalfa seed meal, agricultural lime, gypsum, Dolomitic lime, fish bone meal, cal phos and kelp meal. I’m thinking I should be able to find lime. The Dolomites are, after all, a lot closer to me than they are to him…

Luckily I am on holiday this week and maybe I can start to track some of these things down. First step: translate!

alfalfa seed meal = mletá vojtěška osivo

agricultural lime = zemědelské vápno

gypsum = sádrovec

Dolomitic lime = Dolomitský (just guessing here) vápno

fish bone meal = mleté rybí kosti

cal phos = fosforečnan vápenatý

kelp meal = mletá čepelatka

Searching the internet for “organic fertilizer” in Czech, I found:

AgroBio. It is unclear whether this is organic fertilizer, though they do say their products are as safe as they can be for the environment. There is a liberal sprinkling of expressions like “bio” which usually means organic, but in this case I’m not sure, and “organicky” which might not mean the kind of organic I want. They do sell Borax, however, which I have also been looking for!

AgroNatura. These guys really do seem to be organic and they sell fertilizer, but it is expensive! I don’t see any of the ingredients for sale, either.

Bat guano fertilizer. Guaranteed to be organic and easy on the environment, sold at a local “grow shop,” a shop for Cannabis growers (this really is leading me to new and strange places!). They do seem to have a nice assortment of other organic fertilizers, though.

Biozahrada. Translates as “organic garden.” Very promising! They have many brands of fertilizer, insecticides, mycorrhizal  mixes, compost and even organic seeds (not a huge selection). On-line shop and a store not so far from Prague.

Well, at least some place to start. Perhaps my partner in all this and I can visit a few of these places and make some fertilizer by spring.

Soil Building Challenge #3:  Build a Worm Bin

I can do this! The instructions are pretty easy and I finally found a source of worms (at Bio.cz). I think the girls and I can manage this on Monday! Look for photos soon.

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