One of the first things we did here at Prairie Hill, once there were residents living (and eating) here, was to fence off a small compost pile up at the top of our site, near the upper garden. We wanted to keep our "garbage" instead of hauling it away, and let it turn into a fertile supplement for our land. What we found, over the months, was that access to this compost pile was more difficult than anyone wanted: up a steep hill. It discouraged some of us from using it.
We recently took a field trip to the Iowa City Landfill, where they have a wonderful composting section. Below, you can see a huge pile of partly-done compost being turned by the large machine on the right:
We saw a number of piles, each at a different stage of decomposition:
We learned that air ventilation is important to having a successful compost operation, as well as a mixture of ingredients: some wetter garbage from the kitchen, some drier grasses and yard "waste". Jane Wilch, head of the Iowa City compost program, gave us a tour through the composting grounds, and forwarded us much information to help us with our own smaller composting efforts.
And now, for the past several days, we have been using a new compost bin, built by several members with some plans using pallets, a low-cost and relatively easy construction. This bin is located just northwest of the common house, by the recycling and trash platform.