Wednesday, June 02, 2010

some november hill updates: composting and tears

On Sunday I rotated horses and mowed/dragged the front field - noticed immediately that the first of several compost piles I started back in the late winter is now fully composted. My plan was to reduce the work load and make small compost piles along the edges of the fields so that we don't have to make the long trek down to the woodland/labyrinth paths all year long, and to put the compost where we actually intend to use it - for the most part, to fertilize the fields.

I wasn't sure how this plan was going to work, but I decided to give it a try while saving up for the O2 compost system that I hope to get at some point.

On Sunday I discovered that my plan is working. That first pile was black, crumbly compost and when I use the harrow behind the mower to drag this material out over the ground, there is virtually no hard labor involved.

This morning I headed to the back field to check those piles out. The first one I made in back is also black and crumbly, and when I rotate the horses back around in a few weeks, I'll do the same thing I did up front - drag, mow any weeds, and pull that lovely compost out to fertilize.

The thing I love about this is that the piles can be made where the compost is most needed. I have not turned the piles. All I did was pile manure/stall waste around four feet high, put a layer of mature compost on the mound, and flatten the top of the mound into a slightly concave shape so it catches the rain. It's amazing how quickly the compost is forming, and wonderful that when I walk around to check the piles, there are no flies. You can smell when it's working - there is no odor of manure. It smells like compost!

Added benefit: horses are beginning to drop manure next to the piles. Perfect way to start the next pile or even add to the existing pile, depending where it is in the compost process.

On another note, Rafer Johnson has had leaky eyes off and on this spring. I suspect he is still adjusting to the pine pellet bedding we switched to, and probably the fact that we made the change during the peak pollen season did not help matters.

Maire, from PoniesAtHome, shared a tip on her blog a few weeks ago. Make chamomile tea and use as an eyewash. The tea bag itself makes a nice compress as you're washing the eye. Rafer submitted to this very non-donkey experience, and when it was over, he was wary, but then decided it felt pretty good, so he came back to my picnic table treatment center to see what else I had up my sleeve. I discovered that the homeopathic remedy allium cepa works wonders for Rafer. After one dose he is a firm believer in the tiny syringe of distilled water and remedy. We love homeopathy on November Hill.

I was going to take a few photos of the Italian sunflowers, but we are having thunderstorms this afternoon, so I'll save the sunflowers for tomorrow.

And check out this very nice read over at the Thinline blog.


Máire said...

How cool, delighted Rafer liked it. I must try your homeopathic remedy for Ben. I note that my two are leaving manure droppings next to the my compost piles.


Ps, Barefoot saddle on its way at last, these long evening are just perfect for riding.

billie said...

Maire, can't wait to hear how the Barefoot saddle does for you and for Ben!

Grey Horse Matters said...

The compost piles sound like a great idea. I like the fact that the horses are even helping out with the proper placement of manure.

Poor Rafer, I'm glad his eyes are doing better. I think I might try this remedy for Sami, his eyes always seem to be tearing for one reason or another.Thanks for the info.

billie said...

Arlene, my grand plans don't always work out just as I envisioned them, but the composting is turning out to be exactly what I imagined.

Hope the remedy works for Sami. I was very pleased with Rafer's very fast response.

Greta said...

FYI, there are very few things I think smell better than horse manure!

billie said...

Greta, I concur! I'm just amazed that I'm getting pretty good at sniffing out the different stages of the composting process.

Chris said...

What a great composting idea! I'll have to remember that one when I acquire land big enough to put my pony and many others on it!

billie said...

Thanks, Chris. It took me awhile just living here and doing the daily work to realize there were other ways to do things than how we started out.

At some point I plan to put a few piles in an easy to get to spot on our little farm so that I can share with the neighbors, and a few other piles that can be bartered with other farms for produce.

Chris said...


That sounds like a great future plan - gotta love bartering! And definitely compost that can be shared with neighbours sounds like a benefit to both of you :)


billie said...

Chris, if you're interested in compost and horse farms, check out o2's website - they have a nice system and interesting ideas - like using mature compost for stall bedding, creating a closed circle for the waste.

ponymaid said...

Billie, we have a plethora of raw material for composting here. The woman rummages through the old piles and spreads some on the gardens. I thought she was quite mad but it seems possibly not...I trust young Rafer's eye is well?

billie said...

Sheaffer, thank you for asking about Rafer's eye. Yes! It is completely dry now. I take the allium cepa mixture out with me am and pm but since the first two doses he has not needed it.

Silly me - I was breaking the rule of homeopathy and trying to give him "one more dose for good measure" but he wisely said NO! Rafer the young doctor is as classical as they come. You don't treat what isn't there!