During a break in the rain showers, I spent an afternoon outside turning compost. We have one of those black dome compost bins that we fill and turn throughout the year. The food trimmings combined with the used straw from the hen house make the perfect combination. But after three years of composting, I have taken very little out of the bin.

While preparing the raised vegetable beds for spring planting, I decided it was time to take advantage of the compost bin. I opened the bottom to find rich, dark humus – perfectly broken down compost. It was really challenging though to pry out the humus from the bottom of the bin. In a fit of motivation, I decided to empty the entire bin!

With a pitch fork, I shifted through the organic material that still needed more time to break down. That went back into the bin. The mostly-broken down material and the black humus went into the raised beds. The chickens had a field day scratching around in the beds with me, gobbling up all of those juicy worms that had been getting fat off food scraps.

Normally, I am not a fan of “tilling” the soil, but in this case I did toss the compost in with the current soil. It fluffed things up quite a bit for future carrots, beets, parsnips and other depth digging veggies. Planting cover crops would help keep the soil from getting so compacted over the winter, but I was too busy canning last Fall to try to plant cover crops. Another year, perhaps.

It’s important to note that nothing in the bin smelled foul, which is a good sign. The smell was of rich, warm earth, but it wasn’t sour or stinky. That means my levels are as they should be and things are heating up and breaking down properly. The bin is only about 1/3 full, but I am sure we can fill it again over the next year. I am looking forward to an early spring ritual of reaping the rewards from our compost bin!

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Written by Renee Wilkinson