How To Make Compost Bays

sounds so much better than poop containment

First – I am feeling much better, though the steroids will be done on Tuesday, and I am going to start doing more of the chores again Monday so we’ll see if I still feel better come the end of this week; but for now, I am happy with my improvement. I have not however made that acupuncture appointment yet. Or the dentist appointment I have been meaning to make for myself since March. However, I did get Juniper’s dentist appointment scheduled. Priorities!

There are many, many projects we need to get done, and all of them will be easier if completed before winter. But the poop does not stop coming so the compost bays keep winding up on the top of the list. Once the corn is harvested for the year we will just spread the poop around the field. I know that’s not a long term solution with my hatred of bugs (poop = bugs), but the one upshot to winter is no bugs! I had hoped to make real compost that would be good for a garden but (A) we don’t have the equipment and knowledge to do that properly – though I’m hoping to learn more over the winter and (B) with Juniper on so many antibiotic and antifungal meds I’m not sure what the impact would be on a real food web which is what I am trying to get going for my plants. The field around our house has been conventionally farmed for years so it doesn’t have a food web to speak of so no concern there. I had really, really hoped, that this was our last year being surrounded by pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. But with the decision to buy the hay shed instead of building it, the money has to come from somewhere and I think it’s going to come from the money that was supposed to go towards planting native prairie-based pasture and hayfield on the land. Which means we’ll probably be leasing it to the farmer for one more year. I’m still not 100% sure that is the best course of action. Nate and I always hide in the house when they are spraying the field with their various chemicals, but I can’t bring Leeloo and Juniper inside. Also, sometimes the well water turns funny colors after they spray and/or plant the field. Maybe I need to start a native-prairie OnlyFans to pay for it…

We did get a decent start on two more hay boxes this weekend and we got some of the mats laid out in preparation for a future muddy spring, but our biggest accomplishment was finishing another compost bay. We have learned from our first two and now have a pretty decent process.

How To Build A Compost Bay

  • Find three pallets, two of which are approximately the same size.
  • Set them up in a U shape.
  • Use scrap wood to screw them together along the back and/or sides depending on how you had to lay them out to maximize your space.
  • Use L brackets in the lower inner corners and possibly the upper corners – or more scrap wood. 
  • Use scrap wood to screw them together along the top on the back side of the U.
  • Line with chicken wire – a staple gun makes this job go more smoothly. It is also easier if you set the U up so the two long sides are pointing straight up and the back is lying flat on the floor. This way gravity is working with you instead of against you.
  • It is easier to build it in it’s permanent location; but where our compost bays reside it is not even remotely level or even, so we decided to build them in the garage and move them. Moving them is not an easy task, the best method has been to slowly “roll” the completed bays from back to front and over again down from the garage to their final location.
  • Make a lid from scrap wood and scrap rubber roofing material and attach it with hinges that are designed for a full 270 degree opening. If you do not use the correct hinges the first strong wind will tear all your hard work right off.

Set up in a U shape – note L brackets in corners.

Scrap wood on the top an the side for stability

We started adding more scrap wood and a big block at the top that we screwed into both the back and the side for more stability

Look at that beautiful lid. With the wrong type of hinge.

Compost Bay Building Tips:

Find free pallets. Ideally, they should be heat treated and not chemically treated and free of any mystery spills or liquids.  If a pallet is heat treated it will have an HT on it somewhere like one of these pictures.

We’ve been getting pallets from a closet design company (they were posted on Craigslist) so I feel pretty safe using them for compost and for under our hay.

If you are doing the compost stuff by hand, then you want to maximize your depth. Getting the poop up high without equipment means shoveling it out of your cart onto the top of the pile which is a pain.

Line it with chicken wire! This was an “optional” thing on many of the sites I saw, but it makes a huge difference.

No chicken wire – look at all that escaped poop!

Hopefully by next spring I’ll have fixed the lid situation which will help in the actual creation of useable compost. Once we get this compost thing figured out, I am sure we’ll have tons to share!