Saturday, October 4, 2014

- Compost (like Grace) Happens

It's amazing how my attitudes have changed over the past five years ... from "Five acres? No way!" to "Well okay, but I'm only going in the high grass when it's cold enough for the snakes to be hibernating" to cactus whacking all summer long (albeit in full-length pants, socks and shoes).

What with all the leaves and garden debris, we've had three compost piles for a while now:

In fact, the first one has been emptied and restarted a couple of times. The second one is also our kitchen compost (aka critter feeding station) which is a favorite with the deer, the turkeys, and nighttime visitors (skunk, armadillo, and raccoon are all possible candidates). The night visitors are especially helpful as they like to dig through the pile (for grubs?), which turns everything over. The third pile is on its second go-round and has a long way to go.

But as we began clearing prickly pear cactus in earnest, we realized we needed more compost piles, so we moved out to an open area by the flood plain, creating the fourth pile, currently capped with grass and leaves from this spring ... so we won't peek for another six months. I know you're supposed to turn compost, but if you wait long enough, compost happens.

Then things got a little crazy ... I started two more piles and ended up falling into one of them whilst trying to dump a load of prickly pear (see my May 29 post "On pins and needles"). That was when I realized I needed to go out rather than up and our compost piles became compost rows ... four of them at present, each ranging from 15 to 25 feet long.

I'm in the process of putting a layer of "bad" grasses over the cactus ... except for the last row, which I'll leave exposed.

That way when we burn brush and tree limbs out on the flood plain, the cactus pads can be used to cover up the embers when we're done. Since they're full of water, they pretty much put the fire out. Amazingly, some of the cactus actually survives and begins to sprout ... forming a great fire break (or is that "brake") for the next burn.

But before we burn again, I have some harvesting to do ...

because those little white spots are making me see red ... yep, cochineal red.

To be continued ...


Mo Crow said...

Be interesting to see the red that you get from your cochineal bugs, a favourite book is "Color: A Natural History of the Palette" by Victoria Finlay. Good luck getting rid of the Prickly Pear those spines are deadly!

grace Forrest~Maestas said...

WHAT A JOY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! reading about all this COMPOST stuff!!!!! i've already read over twice
and will do again because i just can't get enough compost stories.

these are really cochineal bugs????? can you tell more? We have Prickly Pear here too, not
Here where i live, but in the surrounds......Please TELL

Liz Ackert said...

I don't know nearly enough yet, but if you click on the Kindred Spirits link to "Natural Dyeing in the Texas Hill Country" (in the right margin) it will tell you everything I know for now.

Saskia van Herwaarden said...

such a different landscape when compared to 'my' bog land, I do love it: the sun, the drought, the complete otherness, harsh I guess, but oh so beautiful in it's unique way

Liz Ackert said...

I always thought when we retired we would live near water ... but I love our rugged Hill Country. Ironically, as dry as it normally is, we do get have occasional "waterfront" property when it rains so hard that the floodplain becomes a creek