Compost, sharing the love

compost 101 || cityhippyfarmgirl

composting 101 || cityhippyfarmgirl

I did this poster for friends of ours recently, (old school method, pen and paper even) They were starting a compost system up and were asking for a few simple tips on getting it all up and running.

I took that as a, yes, of course they would like it in an A3 poster format!

I also did a post on becoming a little geeky about the whole composting process over at Milkwood recently, if you would like to know a little more about the whole composting process.

good compost || cityhippyfarmgirl

How about you? Do you have any tried and true composting methods? Or failures perhaps? Any tales of composting woe that you’ve learnt great lessons from?

More composting details can be found here, and more information on those tiny compost friends Black Soldier Fly.

black soldier fly larvae || cityhippyfarmgirl

 

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Love ’em or Larvae (Tales of the Black Soldier Fly)

black soldier fly larvae || cityhippyfarmgirl

They are incredible composters, excellent sources of protein, extremely polite by self harvesting themselves and might just be the alternate meat source that world wide dinner circles need to embrace. Say hello to the Black Soldier Fly.

Now the title of this post doesn’t even particularly make sense but hey, it was that or March of the Soldier Fly…actually, on reflection the later was probably a better choice.

The long story of how I came to have a compost bin with a seething wriggling mass of maggots, requires a pot of tea, shoes left at the front door and no place to be for an hour or more, (or something like that.)

The short version was, what started as a small maggot problem with questionable outcomes, turns out is an excellent compost larvae friend of which I have inadvertently created a home for and is now looked upon as some prime utopian real estate for soldier fly larvae.

Seriously, it really is the promised land for wriggly segmented critters.

Now before I disgust some of you any further, and you click off for good let’s quickly recap on why these (quite incredible) critters are good for your compost, (and also why you should just skip to the acceptance and embracing stage of having them in your garden/compost/table and simply bypass the revulsion and dry gagging bit that I had to go through first. I mean really, just skip that bit, these guys are awesome.

soldier fly larvae || cityhippyfarmgirlblack soldier fly larvae || cityhippyfarmgirl

  • Black Soldier Fly are about half the size of a regular house fly, they also naturally keep away house flies- and that dear people is a good thing.
  • They don’t mind it hot, actually the hotter the better. Anything upwards of 27C is going to show activity and humidity is apparently a big factor. Being in a black compost bin with the weather we’ve been having lately (rain++ and hot++) I’d say has had a big impact on their numbers.
  • They are excellent composters due to playing a big part in contributing with decomposition and nutrient cycles. They are also rather excellent at aiding the bioconversion of organic waste material.
  • They are a great form of protein. I’m not ready to get in there for that dinner plate just yet, but for animal feed, herptiles and tropical fish I say buon appetito.
  • If you were keen on cooking up a little spagetti alle larvae, have a peek at this site, Farm 432. It’s a table top incubator essentially where you grow your own sustainable protein filled dinner.
  • Protein wise they are filled with in terms of % and in comparison with their other insect counterparts, they are definitely front runners.
  • They clean themselves just before they self harvest, plopping right over the side, ready to be scooped up.
  •  They are only dark in colour at the very end of their pupation, I had previously seen them like that so had discounted mine as something else, as they were cream coloured, (rookie mistake.)

“…reduce the volume and weight of would-be waste: The larval colony breaks apart its food, churns it, and creates heat, increasing compost evaporation. Significant amounts are also converted to carbon dioxide respired by the grubs and symbiotic/mutualistic microorganisms.” (Wikipedia.)

Really, they are hoovering through the compost, considering mine is only weeks old and not as balanced as I would like it, the quality is pretty darn good. I’d say a good proportion of that is due to my wiggly segmented (creamy coloured) friends. (They can apparently reduce composts or manure down by 50-70%.)

black soldier fly larvae || cityhippyfarmgirl

Now I’m absolutely fascinated by these critters, having watched their behaviour over the last couple of weeks, not understanding what was happening, seeing them explode in population, and reading up a lot. I’ve gone from dry gagging to grinning excitedly and holding them in my hands.

And really, how exciting is learning something completely new eh.

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More fascinating reads found here.

And a huge thank you to my mate Sarah who introduced me to these critters in the first place.

 

the community garden

Our local council is trialing a new community food foragers garden. I really love the idea of this and hope that it takes off,  just getting bigger and bigger.

Imagine city living where on each high density living block there was a community kitchen garden readily accessible for all the locals. An attached community compost bin, for all those to access that didn’t have backyards. Seasonal food grown within a hop skip and a jump of where you live, with composting scraps being used for the same garden while decreasing all the food scraps being sent to land fill.

It doesn’t seem like a big ask, does it?

It just makes sense. Cutting back on waste having to be collected by council. Making more efficient use of space. Encouraging a community spirit. I’m sure on each block there would be at least a couple of willing people who would love to regularly tend the small edible space. If people are living in a high density living area, green spots are hard to come by and the chance to actually dip your fingers in to some soil and tend a little foliage would be incredibly appealing to a lot of inner city dwellers.

More green spaces in the city are needed. Whether it be roof tops, street corners, reclaimed concrete areas, where ever they may be. However,  first people need to ask for it, and be encouraging when trials are put into place. Be vocal, spread the good word. Whispered words of encouragement is what gets ideas moving. Spoken words and acts of enthusiasm keep them there.

If everyone’s local councils started up just one food foragers garden in their area, it was successful, and people respected the space. Surely this could mean the start of many more to come?

The benefits of a nation wide scheme like this?… Oh can you imagine.

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Do you have any community gardens or food foraging gardens in your area?

The best pet for small spaces…or big spaces

Living in a flat sometimes you can be a little restricted with sort of pets you can have. Constrained because of space, landlords, body corporate, prying childrens fingers. All sorts of reasons.

This pet ticks all those boxes though. It doesn’t need regular walks, doesn’t need a kitty litter tray, doesn’t hog the bed at night time, doesn’t chew furniture, doesn’t eat a lot, don’t need costly visits to the vet and doesn’t take much to set them up in their new home.

So what pet is that?

A worm.

Actually a lot of them.

Thousands of the little critters. A worm farm may not be the most interactive of pets, but they eat your compost, don’t take up much space and provide lots of wonderful solid (castings) and liquid fertilizer for your garden or pot plants. Sure you don’t get to play with them, stroke their tiny baldy heads, and their recipricle loving attention is a little wanting but they are still cute in their own hairless way. (And The Monkeys still want to poke and touch them as they would any other pet.)

The average household garbage is about 50% compostable. So instead of going to landfill it gets chewed up and turned into liquid gold by these little fellas.

10 top tips for worm farms

1/ Needs a cool well shaded spot to sit in (easy for a flat or balcony).

2/ You can buy a ready made worm farm (usually made out of recycled plastics) or you can easily make your own. (Try local councils for ready made ones as they quite often have them at cheaper prices, may deliver it and set up for free, and also run free worm farming courses.)

3/ They don’t like eating acidic foods such as onion/ garlics/ citrus fruits. Also no meat/ grains or dairy.

4/ Worm farms shouldn’t smell. There should be a lovely earthy smell, if it does get a bit pongy (stinky) then just stop feeding them for a few days, let them break down the food a bit more. Loosen the food and castings- so its easier for them to manouvre through.

5/ The smaller you chop the food, the easier they can break it down. Saying that, you can also just throw in your scraps, it just takes a while longer to break down.

6/ You can toss in all your vegetable and fruit scraps, but can also pop in ripped up newspaper, soggy egg cartons, hair, tea bags, vacuum dust…. you can do dog poo, but not advised on using the worm castings for your plants afterwards though.

7/ The worm wee can be used as a fertilizer mixed with water. 1 part wee to 9 parts water, and then just watered in to your plants. Your plants will love you for it.

8/ If you were a fishing kind a person= live bait!

9/ Worms like a nice moist environment. The water from the scraps is generally enough to keep things at a moist level during cooler months. However during hotter weather, a little extra added water may be needed intermittently. Some moist newspaper on top of the food scraps (or a hessian bag) acts as a blanket and keeps things at a stable temperature.

10/ After the initial start up, there is no ongoing costly maintenance. The worms continue to multiply (as long as they are fed) and you can’t have too many of the useful little critters.