i’ve posted about composting spent brewer’s grain before. it’s hard stuff to work with. it’s wet, it likes to mat down, and full of nitrogen. if not handled with great care it goes anaerobic very quickly. before we worked out the kinks and figured out how to handle it, we had already picked up at least 200,000 pounds of the stuff. which leaves us with a situation, hundreds of cubic yards of poorly constructed compost piles.
taking a shovel into them reveals almost no break down. they look like they were just built a week ago, and we are quickly running out of room to do anything else because they don’t break down.
we have no choice, but to flip the piles and mix them up and get more air into them. certainly doing it by hand is out of the question, it’s over 275 cubic yards of material! we have to call in the big guns, and borrow a bobcat. after much searching brother nature is kind enough to provide a couple of days of bobcat use.
once we start flipping the pile we have to do it fast, both so we could return the bobcat, and so we would not make the epic stench last any longer than necessary. the stench does prove to be pretty amazing, but working near it one quickly gets used to the smell. everyone that visits is just dramatically overwhelmed by the smell, recoiling in disgust. i woke in the middle of the night after the first day with a panic attack imagining the neighbors to be extremely angry. i crafted a letter of apology, and ask my coworker shane to deliver it along with honey, jam and collards. i follow-up with personal apologies when i have time, and am shocked that no one is angry.
i think coworker rachel may have found her calling, she took to the bobcat pretty quick, and spent more time working behind its controls than anyone else. after two and a half days of flipping the pile is reconstructed.
while the structure is not ideal, it’s what space had to allow for. over all the pile looks much better. digging into it the mix is more uniform and the smell, while still not the sweet earthy smell it should be, is certainly doing much better that it was before.
after a week we take temperature readings, and i’m pleased to see it heating up nicely.
after all that stinky compost flipping rachel and i felt it was best to give the bob cat a little love, fixing one of the seals on the hydraulic hoses, greaseing all the fittings, wash her up twice and then a solid bleaching to try to kill the smell.
i’ll keep taking temperature readings on the pile and watch to see it start dropping. if after they start dropping it looks well finished, then it’s time we start sifting and laying it out. if it still needs to break down more, then we may be in need of borrowing a bobcat again!