October Update: Manure Composting System is Complete!

We are excited to announce that construction of our Manure Composting System is finally complete! This is the conclusion of what has been a nearly two year process, and it is so satisfying to see the project finished.

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This project really started back in 2016, when Alena Warren of the Strafford County Conservation District first came out to visit Cold Moon Farm. I was interested in learning about what opportunities we might be eligible for in terms of funding for projects related to soil and water conservation. With her help, we applied for and received an Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) grant from the Natural Resource Conservation Service, used to fund the creation of a Nutrient Management Plan. EQIP grants are available to “provide financial and technical assistance to agricultural and forestry producers to address natural resource concerns and deliver environmental benefits such as improved water and air quality, conserved ground and surface water, reduced soil erosion and sedimentation, and improved or created wildlife habitat.”

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Steps one and two went hand in hand: site prep, done by Jake Farrell of Farrell Construction, and pouring of concrete by Gerry Perkins of Rochester. This wasn’t the original site we had proposed; upon consultation with the construction pros and Alena, it was determined that behind the barn would be more ideal for this particular design.

Among the recommendations for improved soil and water conservation and protection on Cold Moon Farm was the design and construction of a Manure Composting System. We have been using an old cellar hole to store manure and paying once or twice per year for it to be hauled away. This process was not efficient, the location not appropriate for composting manure, and the need to haul away manure a constant expense. Meanwhile, I was also paying to have companies spread chemical fertilizers on my grazing pastures once or twice per season.

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Roughing out the position of the bin and the individual bays.

Once again Alena came to the rescue, this time helping me to draft an application for a New Hampshire Department of Agriculture, Markets and Food Agricultural Nutrient Management Grant. These funds are available through a direct-to-farmer program to aid in the construction of projects just like this one. The first time we applied, in 2018, our application was not selected. So we were thrilled to receive the notice back in April that our grant application was approved for 2019.

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The framing went in stages. We used 6″x 6″ post brackets for concrete to install the main frame of the bin, rather than hand digging the post holes and pouring the concrete around them.

The unit we built is set on a concrete pad and has three bays for composting manure, each approximately 8′ wide, 12′ long and 6′ high. The design was inspired by the NH Department of Agriculture’s Small Farm Dry Bedded Manure Post and Plank Structure. (Check out this link for more information on general guidelines).This diagram outlines all of the necessary components and parts required, but you have to do your own calculations to determine the required size. Our bin’s capacity was calculated to accommodate the annual manure output of five horses. The plan is to be actively adding to one bay, maintaining the pile with a tractor, and when it is full and in the process of composting, begin to add to the next bay. Theoretically it should take between two and five months to complete the composting process.

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You can only fit so much lumber in the back of your pick up at once (plus this design uses A LOT of 2″x 6″ x 12′ boards, and Home Depot won’t have enough good ones at once). So it went up in waves.

 

This experiment will continue into the next year, as we figure out the most effective approach to encouraging the manure to become compost! We are planning to spread the composted manure on the fields in lieu of chemical fertilizers, but also anticipate having extra to share with local farmers and gardeners. Stay tuned for more updates!

 

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Posted in Equestrian Land Conservation, Updates

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