February Mucking Day/ Composting for a Huge Harvest

With the Buttercups, known also by the name of Daffodils, popping their heads from the ground in Mid-February, the farm springs to life with anticipation of the coming garden season.  One farm chore I excitedly dread is the cleaning out of the sheep shed.  Our tiny barn is home to our ewes Nesse, Phoebe, and Beatrice  and their big brother Moose ( a lovable goofy whether) where they are kept safe from predators at night year round.  It needs cleaning out twice each year to prevent foot rot and yuck from mounting up and eventually squeezing them out of the barn.  I realize it is now April, but I found some pictures I took this year, and thought I would share how we garden organically with our barn, yard, and leaf keepings.

barn muck3

The most exciting part of mucking day is the end when I can stand back and look at the mountain of organic fertilizer and hay mulch that we will now mix with the fall leaf collection.   We have experimented with several different ways to create compost.

Initially I used a 2 foot square compost bin I purchased, but that was way too small and did not facilitate the proper amount of moisture and was hard to turn.  Then, I built one from a huge plastic barrel with a crank handle, but that also was not large enough to provide enough fertilizer for the whole garden.  Finally, we arrived at a method that is both easy and time effective.  For easy composting we set aside about a three by eight foot rectangle of space at the end of the garden against the horse fence.  There we  began piling up the barn mucking and leaves in layers along with kitchen scraps and the occasional bucket of chicken manure.  Layering the dry matter with the manure as we piled keeps us from having to turn the pile.

Half the year we add to the pile on one end as we use from the pile on the other.  That way we are always building for the next garden season fall or spring.  It is never too late to begin composting.  Since spring gardening is already upon us this year, we are building our compost for the fall.  If you are just now getting started, think ahead to all those wonderful fall veggies you can grow and get started composting.  Composting is a very simple, economical way to make sure your garden harvest is the most healthy you can produce in addition to saving money on commercial fertilizer.


I am sure there are many clinically “accurate” ways to compost, but we like to keep it simple at the Kottage. Nitrogen and carbon are the two working ingredients in good compost.  Layer green /gooshey stuff (yard clippings, manure, garden and kitchen scraps) with brown / dry stuff (leaf rakings, straw, sawdust, shredded paper) and then wet it down.  When you are satisfied that your mound is a good mix and is wet down, then cover it with a black plastic tarp and wait.  You can add to it and move it around with a hay fork if it makes you feel productive.  Check it ever so often to make sure it it moist and add water as needed.  The following link explains in more detail the nitrogen and carbon that comes from different sources.

Composting (article from EarthEasy)

So as much as I dread the full day I must devote to cleaning out the sheep stall, I am equally excited to be putting it to such tasty use in my garden.  We always make it a family day and have fun with both leaf raking and mucking stalls.  It makes for great family fun as well as precious memories.