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Compost: Berkeley 18 day [hot] method

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Post  sanderson 5/7/2016, 4:04 am

Sunday would be day 4, but keep us posted on the temp. I put 1/2 cup at the 1' level and 1/2 cup at the 2' level and water well as I build it. If it hits 160*F on Day 3, I will go ahead and turn/rebuild it. Otherwise, on day 4. I have found that if I watered well when I built it, it will get even hotter after the first turn/rebuild.

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Post  ralitaco 5/7/2016, 7:55 am

Thanks AJR, I will pick some up today.

Thanks Sanderson,
If the pile does not get to the 140-160* by Sunday evening, I will need to add the Blood Meal per your instructions, correct? If it does get to temp, then I don't need to add any, right?

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Post  sanderson 5/7/2016, 2:41 pm

Correct. I don't know if a whole cup for a pile is needed. Maybe 1/2 cup per pile? Since every turn for me is a double turn (everything out on the tarp, everything back in the bin), I just want to make sure there is lift off. If the temp reaches even 130*F, it may be okay. The Berkeley is an intensive method because the purpose is usable compost in the quickest time.

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Post  ralitaco 5/7/2016, 6:03 pm

Thanks Sanderson,
It's up to 110.5.
I bought some blood meal and will check again tomorrow and determine if I need to add it.
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Post  ralitaco 5/10/2016, 1:03 am

My pile hit a high of 118* on Sunday, but I was testing in a hole I made with a stick so some heat may have come out of the "chimney". Regardless, it was day 4+ today, so I turned the pile, adding about 1/2 a cup of Blood Meal at the 12" and 24" mark. I checked the temp and it had dropped to 92*. I will check the temp manana.

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Post  sanderson 5/10/2016, 2:39 am

How was the moisture throughout the pile? Sometimes, turning will introduce badly needed oxygen and it will really start to heat up.

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Post  ralitaco 5/10/2016, 8:22 am

Not really sure. It seemed damp but I did not feel it - for 2 reasons. 1. I forgot about it and 2. I didn't want to handle horse manure which hadn't broken down yet with my bare hands. I did add water several times as I was turning the pile
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Post  yolos 5/10/2016, 8:43 am

ralitaco wrote:Not really sure. It seemed damp but I did not feel it - for 2 reasons. 1. I forgot about it and 2. I didn't want to handle horse manure which hadn't broken down yet with my bare hands. I did add water several times as I was turning the pile
Without the proper moisture, it won't optimize.  From doing all kinds of research, I found that the moisture should be like a wrung out sponge.  That was always hard for me to grasp.  I found an article that said if you squeeze it and get a drop of liquid, it is good to go.  If you get much more than one drop, it is too wet. Buy some rubber gloves or some of those throw away gloves that doctors use.  You can find them in the grocery store where you buy mops and cleaning supplies.
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Post  sanderson 5/10/2016, 3:24 pm

Ralitaco, This is just my personal experience. You can not over water a Berkeley pile when you build it because it is turned many times. Some steam pours from center material with every fork full. You will be turning it tomorrow so you can water. The exam gloves can be purchased at drug or large grocery stores.

PS I use older gloves with the finger tips worn through to prevent blisters so I do come in contact with the manure whether I want to or not. But then, I loved everything about my horse and building a pile with horse manure and part alfalfa hay just brings good memories. I just need a really good shower and nail brush afterwards! Razz

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Post  ralitaco 5/10/2016, 3:47 pm

Thanks Yolos and Sanderson,
I checked the temp today and it was only 103.5 this morning. I may check it again but from what I have read, the piles usually are a lot hotter, a lot sooner.

I plan to turn the pile again tomorrow evening. I will water, water, water it. When I turned it, I added water about every 8-12". I am thinking I may not have gotten it wet enough. I will also try the squeezing method to check the moisture content. I will get some gloves though...I don't mind if some manure gets through a hole or tear, but I don't plan to grab a handful...I may be a guy, but I want to be allowed back in the house!

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Post  sanderson 5/10/2016, 4:09 pm

I have to laugh because my husband says I stink, and I do! Especially in the hot summer when I have to turn after sundown. I strip in the laundry room and run to the shower.

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Post  trolleydriver 5/10/2016, 4:11 pm

sanderson wrote:I have to laugh because my husband says I stink, and I do!  Especially in the hot summer when I have to turn after sundown.  I strip in the laundry room and run to the shower.
What a Face  Too much information.  affraid
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Post  sanderson 5/10/2016, 4:12 pm

Opps, sorry! Embarassed Maybe I should delete it.

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Post  trolleydriver 5/10/2016, 4:51 pm

sanderson wrote:Opps, sorry! Embarassed  Maybe I should delete it.

No! No! Do not delete it.  Interestingly we have a shower stall right in our laundry room so guess what?  Shocked

BTW sanderson I sent you an email about TTs. Please take a look at it. Tks.
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Post  ralitaco 5/11/2016, 11:59 pm

Ok, so I turned my pile again today. Temp before turning 114.1. Temp after turning 86.6.

I tested the pile's moisture about halfway down and it was very dry. So as I was re-stacking the pile, I wet it down...alot...pretty much kept the hose running the entire time. After I was done, I dug down about 8-12" and grabbed a handful and squoze it - some water came out...more than a drop but not dripping wet when I grabbed it. Let's see if the pile's temp will shoot back up in the morning.

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Post  sanderson 5/12/2016, 4:23 am

Ah, ha! It needed water. Count today as Day 1, as this is when it was properly built. Houston, we are ready to launch . . .

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Post  ralitaco 5/12/2016, 7:49 am

Well Poo!!! Just checked my pile and it is only 90.1*

I am heading out of town for a couple of days, so hopefully by some small miracle, the pile will heat up by the time I get back.
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Post  sanderson 5/12/2016, 11:46 am

Enjoy your break. The good thing about the pile is that it will either take off or it won't. Either way, it will be fine until you return.

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Post  audrey.jeanne.roberts 5/12/2016, 11:50 am

We've all had those kinds of piles.  You just keep bringing up the nitrogen balance if you can and sometimes they never actually get cooking but it will eventually break down even if it's colder composted.
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Post  ralitaco 5/14/2016, 10:44 am

Well no luck on the compost fairies lighting a fire in my pile...it hit a whopping 92.1* this morning. I think I will let it sit for a bit as a cold pile so I can focus on some other things. On the upside, at least the pile is contained, has a variety of different ingredients and lots of worms.

If and when I decide to try to make a hot pile, should I use what I have now adding more manure and/or coffee OR should I just start from scratch?

Thanks from a wannabe hottie who for now is just a nottie
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Post  Turan 5/14/2016, 11:40 am

Let the worms do it for you Smile 
They are driven out of a hot pile but they will cruise through your warm pile chomping and turning and aerating for you.  It just will take a bit longer.
You have 3 bins?  So let this one be in one bin and put together the next in a second bin.  This is why multiple bins is so nice.

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Post  ralitaco 5/14/2016, 12:04 pm

Turan wrote:Let the worms do it for you Smile 
They are driven out of a hot pile but they will cruise through your warm pile chomping and turning and aerating for you.  It just will take a bit longer.
You have 3 bins?  So let this one be in one bin and put together the next in a second bin.  This is why multiple bins is so nice.

Thanks Turan, I was thinking that about the 3 bins.
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Post  sanderson 5/14/2016, 12:58 pm

Three bins allows you the luxury of leaving that bin to nature and starting a Berkeley in another.  Sweet.  Try to get the C:N ratio between 25-30.  Mine are closer to 25 and if wet thoroughly at the beginning, really take off.

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Post  audrey.jeanne.roberts 5/14/2016, 11:54 pm

audrey.jeanne.roberts wrote:Sanderson will be able to give you the best counsel on the layering etc.  My piles are pretty simple - I gather one trailer full (about 22 cu ft) of hay to one large wheelbarrow of manure (probably 5 to 7 cu ft) and then just toss in anything else I have.

If it cooks from the start, great.

If it's slow taking off I gather more manure, put it on top and water it down into the pile.

My pile is at 155 degrees right now.  

I have a compost calculator website that's on my other computer.  I'll try to remember to log in on it and post it for you.  It's helpful to start understanding how the pile calculations end up.

I don't use it for every pile only when I'm using either different things or at a different ration.  

GOOD LUCK & HAVE FUN!
UPDATE:  That pile was roughly 3 or 4 days in on May 2nd.  I forgot to write it down when I started.  It's still cooking away at 140* I will turn it again tomorrow.  Then I need to decide if I'm going to use this as mulch compost or fully composted material.  The secret to really cooking this batch is my husband's secret trips to the pile (if you get my drift, lol!)
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Post  sanderson 3/8/2022, 9:22 pm

Bumping.

With the shortage of bagged compost, this method of composting will give one a quick rough compost. It does require a strong back and a manure fork, a certain minimum size of cage and filling with a ton of raw material in one day. Pre-planning for the event.

Black gold? Nope. But safe compost that at least can be used in Mel's Mix and makes a good top mulch that can be turned under at the end of the season.

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