The Great Composter Adventure

UtahHi Friends! Hope your edible garden has lots of growing activity going on here at the beginning of our new year.

How has my edible garden been growing? To be honest, it’s a bit on the sparse side right now. I had every intention of planting a variety of cold weather crops, but because I was so busy during the holiday months, I missed my opportunity to follow through with my late fall and winter planting plan.

What I am growing is doing wonderfully. Currently, I have four different varieties of delish garlic starting to peek up out of the soil. I planted a total of 134 garlic seed. Nice. I planted the first batch of 71 garlic seed on 12/7 (that’s 18 days earlier than last year). The other 63 garlic seed, I planted out on 12/28. A lot of folks here in town plant their garlic in October, but for those of you that are running behind with garden planting (like yours truly), planting garlic out in mid-late December works just fine. I do try to give my newly planted garlic some warmth though by covering it with a lightweight frost blanket during the evenings and especially cold days.

As a lot of you know, I’m growing about 80 square feet of White Sonora Wheat this year and so far it’s doing awesome. The wheat did get a little frost damage on their tips with the cold temps we had a few weeks ago (as nicely demonstrated in the photo below… brrr). Other than that, the wheat is nice lush and green. For those of you interested, be sure to check out my Facebook page for frequent updates on how my wheat is growing.

Ice from hose

What my winter garden may be lacking in green so far this year, hubby and I have definitely made up for it with a few great finds this past month. I’m so excited, I must share.

Can you say… compost. Anybody? Yup, we’re finally going to start making our own compost here at the ole homestead. Only a gardener can get this excited about a soil amendment. Am I right?

It all started a few weeks ago… well, actually, it’s been a long time coming. Over the years we’ve practically drooled over photos and brochures of composters, compost starters and such. Even the mention of it would stir something deep inside the belly of our inner gardener. Compost romanticism at its best.

To be honest with you, just the thought of the labor involved has been a special kind of deterrent. Sure, hubby and I have entertained (a lot) the thought of composting our own garden waste and rearing our own wormies to make garden magic, but to avoid the pitch fork and muscles routine we’d have to buy a compost tumbler. For the budget-minded, this can be quite a challenge since most decent and reputable composters are quite cost prohibitive.

For me, I’m simply amazed how things have come together lately ~ composter-wise that is. First, it started with a birthday present I had received from my hubby. I had no clue he was scheming and planning this enormously thoughtful gift only a die-hard gardener could truly appreciate and love. He found a great deal and just had to buy it for me… a Worm Inn Mega. He even built me a simple and sturdy wooden frame for it. Thank you honey. No worms yet, but it’s gardener heaven to look at 🙂

the Worm Inn Mega

the Worm Inn Mega

the Worm Inn MegaWith the vermicomposting wheel now in motion, I thought it couldn’t get any better. But, my dear friend, it did. Shortly after Christmas, a great deal on a compost tumbler just about fell right into our laps. Before this happened, I was feeling v-e-r-y satisfied with the fact that homemade vermicompost and its deeply rich nutrient-filled tea and castings were in my near future. A compost tumbler was far from being on my garden radar.

It all started with Hubby perusing Craig’s List for gardening deals.  That’s when he found it.  An Original ComposTumbler in like-new condition with its 18 bushel capacity and nifty waist-height stand. Now mind you, I’ve never seen one of these beauties in person, but I’ve heard only good things about it and have seen tons of positive reviews on-line from multiple sites. Brand new these tumblers retail for about $400 or more. This unit is ginormous so shipping definitely costs a pretty penny jacking the price up to close to $500.

The price listed on Craig’s List was too good for most gardeners to pass up, but it was still too high for our budget. Since the listing stated OBO, hubby and I decided to throw caution to the wind by offering an amount that would probably be refused. To our surprise, the nice gentleman kindly accepted our offer. Without hesitation, we planned to meet with him that very same evening. This is where the story takes a little twist and turn.

When hubby first shared his prized find with me, I asked whereabouts in town the seller was located. Hubby quickly responded, “Enterprise”.  Neither of us thought to question this much since we were both very familiar with Enterprise as an unincorporated town close to Henderson, Nevada.  It just struck us as odd that someone would refer to Enterprise as where they lived. Most would just state their city. For now, let’s just chock it up to us being uber-excited about the whole deal. So, without further hesitation, I continued my text communication with the seller.

With address in hand from the final “great, see you at 4:30PM” text, I quickly prepared for our possible acquisition that evening by entering the address into Google maps. Odd. Google maps gave me such grief over the address I entered. After a few more tries and a quick manual scan of the map, I knew something was awry. Without hesitation, I fired off another text to the seller, asking for confirmation of his address and major cross streets briefly explaining my dilemma. The response… the address was confirmed along with mention of a few visual markers in the area near his rural home. Again, nothing here struck  me as odd. There are tons of homes in the Enterprise area that are quite rural with lots of open space to stretch.

Well, soon after confirming the address and a couple more head scratching moments with Google Maps, hubby called to shed some light on the mystery location. “The address IS in Enterprise. It’s in Enterprise, Utah.” Oops. That was a titanic-sized oversight. Guess hubby and I weren’t the sharpest tools in the shed that day.

After several deep sighs and shoulder shrugs later, the adventure conversation began.

Hubby was quick to explain that the seller was located just a short distance outside of St. George, Utah. “Only a 2 hour drive”, he proclaimed. “We can check out a few of the places we’ve been wanting to while we’re out there. It would be a fun adventure. A day-cation.”

Yes, it is true. We’ve been wanting to head out that direction for some time now to check out a couple of places. One in particular that came to mind is Ali’s Organics, a cute and very unique organic garden shop that I discovered while watching some videos on YouTube.

After much thought and contemplation, the decision was made. Day-cation ~ here we come. Of course, I had to suck it up and contact the seller to tell him all about our blunder and see if we could stop by on Saturday instead. His response took a few minutes (he probably thought we were out of our minds), but when his text finally arrived it was good news. Saturday was a go! Such a nice and patient gentleman.

That Saturday, with a tank full of gas and cooler and thermos filled with homemade goodies to eat, our road trip was well underway.

Driving to St. George was uneventful and the skies were nice and clear. I was nervous there would be snow in the area, but we only came upon piles of snow along the roadside the closer we got to our destination. It was cold though. Good thing we brought our big fluffy warm jackets.

Utah

UtahAfter a little hiccup with our phone GPS app, we finally reached our destination. A beautiful very rural community with open space sprinkled with homesteads as far as we could see. At this point, the visual markers provided by the seller made complete and perfect sense.

Upon arriving at our destination, the seller stepped out into the freezing cold to greet us. A very nice and obviously hospitable person. We conversed and laughed for a short while about the events leading up to our arrival and the fact that we drove all the way there for the ‘big green thing’ taking up space in his yard.

During our polite conversation, he mentioned that he was selling the composter for his Dad who had only used it a couple of times, which was confirmed upon inspection. Aside from a bit of dust and debris inside and a couple of small scratches on the drum, it was in mint “like-new” condition ~ just like the listing stated. All the parts that were supposed to turn, turned. All the parts that were supposed to close, closed. Sold.

ComposTumbler

After our transaction was complete, we proceeded to ‘load-er up” onto the back of our truck. Finally, a composter all our own. It was such a satisfying feeling. One that was confirmed over and over again as I glanced back to check on our “like-new” compost tumbler as we drove down the street, headed to our next destination. Homemade compost was definitely in our near future.

Before we made our way to Ali’s Organics near Hurricane, Utah, we headed back into St. George for a quick stop for gas and to munch on the goodies we brought with us. When we were finalizing our transaction with the seller, he had mentioned that the Costco in St. George was selling gas for $2.19/gallon. We needed to fill up, so we decided to check it out.

WHAT A MAD HOUSE! Totally and utterly insane. There were so many cars lined up to get gas, the cars were overflowing into the street. For any of you familiar with Costco gas and their mega-sized gas-up area and pump lanes you know that this was a sight to see. It reminded me of the gas shortage in the 70’s when I was a kid, but on steroids. Holy smokes. We quickly decided to bolt from the scene and headed to Ali’s Organics in search of gas along the way. I’ll save our story about Ali’s Organics for another post so I can give Ali and her awesome store and property the attention it deserves.

Ali's Organics

After a rough start, our deal worked out quite well for us. We met some really nice folks on our adventure, picked up a couple of organic gardening products and of course, the crème de la crème and main event… acquired our quite large and slightly used ComposTumbler. What more can an artistic gardening gal ask for? Well… we’ll save that list for another day 🙂

ComposTumblerChat with you all very soon.

God Bless,

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16 Comments

Filed under In The Veggie Garden

16 responses to “The Great Composter Adventure

  1. I’ve seen glimpses of your layouts for your garden where it appears that you use some type of a computer program that shows you approximations for how much various plants will spread out. Might I inquire as to what program that is, and to know if it’s pretty user friendly? Becky in Hesperia

    • Hi Becky,

      I use a professional graphics program (Adobe Illustrator) where I created my garden layout to scale as well as the different veggie plants I grow (based on biointensive plant spacing and from my own experience. I keep track of the various mature plant sizes so I can easily resize (update) the plants in my garden file. I am very experienced using this program and would have to say it’s not an easy set up task for a first time user. If you want to do something similar, there are other programs out there that are more user-friendly. I’ve tried several on-line garden programs and none of them have the flexibility I’m looking for in my planning process. Though some programs do offer cool features that my process doesn’t have (i.e., count the number of plants I set out onto my layout), but I still find their process too restrictive in lots of other ways.

  2. ~Kat

    What an adventure! So glad you were able to find such a great tumbler…can’t wait to see the results! Yes, we love that “black gold”..hehe..

  3. Brenda

    Enterprise is in the southwest, where your brother John lives 😉 – mountains Edge is enterprise –

  4. Ranka

    What a heartwarming roadstory, I so enjoyed reading it. And the beautiful pictures from Utah, wonderful. I am really looking forword to the story about Ali. And of course of your coming compost experiences. I too “love” my compost-making-efforts and what comes out of it. It is so exciting and rewarding. Better than baking cake (and healthier). 🙂

  5. Lois

    What a great find. Have a great 2015.

  6. Hi April, that looks like a really nice composter. How does that actually work?

    We found that our compost (about 3 x 3 x 3′) fills up pretty fast with all our food and garden waste and then we go on to the next one. We basically have 4 going now, almost all are full.

    After the first one filled up, we watered it and just let it sit. About once every 4 – 8 weeks we mess with it (trying to “turn” and aerate and water) and it’s usually a foot lower. Eventually we combined two of the composts that were almost done.

    I started composting this way in February and just a month or two ago I finally used some of the compost.

    So how does this work in your tumbler? How does compost finish while you always add new waste?

    • Hi Christine. Can’t wait until we get to try it out this Spring. The side opens up very easily to reveal quite a large opening. You load it up with the usual “compost” materials, seal it back up and give the lever (at waist height) a couple of turns. It’s very easy to turn. To make compost, it requires about 5 turns each day. When done, remove the door, place a wheelbarrow underneath, turn to dump its content into the wheelbarrow.

      That’s so awesome… four compost piles. I knew you would have compost going.

      Essentially, once you get started composting, you should refrain from adding new waste, otherwise it will stop the composting process. Unless you have two units (or another way to make compost), a temporary storage area for waste needs to be established. When the compost is done it can be removed from the tumbler and used or stored. The stored waste can than be loaded into the empty tumbler to start a new batch of compost. It’s not the ideal setup, but something to start with.

      Also, there is an accelerated process that takes about 14 days and a slower process that takes about a month or so. I have to read the manual to see what its all about.

      • Ok, that makes sense about storing compost until you’re ready to make a new batch. Turning it 5 times a day is a lot to remember, but if you get compost that much faster, it’s worth it. Can’t wait to see how that works out.

        I’m assuming you’re “hot” composting and that’s why it gets done so quickly. Our compost never gets hot because we haven’t added any manure (nitrogen), and that’s a problem because we definitely are short on N. We have red wigglers in the compost, that’s the upside to cold composting.

        Are you adding extra goodies to your compost? We’ve been adding left over pottery and refractory clay to help with retaining nutrients and increasing CEC. We also added inoculated bio char and there’s some products you can buy to enhance compost, but haven’t tried those yet.

        I forgot to mention, I started the Kingman Master Gardeners class this week and Bob Morris will be teaching two of the classes. We’re still trying to get someone with a backhoe to dig up the new orchard caliche.

        And, we’re getting ready to wholesale order berries, kiwi, figs etc. from Hartmanns’, just posted our preliminary order last night at the blog. With plants for under $2, I’m going all out! If you’d like to add to our order at cost + shipping we can bring the plants to you as we get to Vegas occasionally. Or you could finally visit us!

        • Hi Christine,

          Yes, you’re correct in saying it’s “hot” composting. We plan on adding some rock dusts, but haven’t gotten our plan of action pulled together quite yet. I’ll keep you posted.

          That’s wonderful news about the Master Gardeners class. Bob is a great teacher and I’m glad you’ll finally be able to meet with him.

          I would LOVE to visit with you. I’ll connect with you via e-mail so we can set a date for our visit 🙂

  7. Linda B.

    Don’t you just LOVE Craigslist? OOXXOO Linda

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