Plunging a pitchfork into the compost pile and watching clouds of steam roll out of it: Priceless.
Anybody who gardens will understand the incomparable beauty of steam coming off the compost pile. For the uninitiated, I’ll explain briefly: A healthy compost pile that is functioning at peak efficiency will give off heat. The heat is a byproduct of decomposition and indicates the presence of thermophilic (heat-loving) bacteria, which break down organic material very quickly.
To get a pile to heat up, you have to have a good balance of “greens” (organic matter high in nitrogen, such as grass clippings, vegetable scraps or animal manure), “browns” (organic matter high in carbon, such as dry leaves, sawdust or peat moss), moisture and oxygen.
The fastest way to get your compost good and hot is to start with some type of barn litter, turn it daily, and add water as needed to keep it about as damp as a wrung-out washcloth. You just add stuff to it as you get it — grass clippings, kitchen scraps, whatever — and keep turning and watering every day until it all breaks down into rich dirt for your garden. Lovely stuff.
This is the area we had tilled up for our garden. From the garage back was our old garden plot. We’ve doubled the size for this year.
This guy was sitting on the back fence while I was working. I couldn’t get very close to get his picture, so this is a little fuzzy, but you can see him pretty well:
And I found a bunch of henbit growing under the deck tonight. Here’s a closeup of some of it: