Our "new" old corn crib structure...not used to hold corn, but leaves for use in our compost bin
Our “new” old corn crib structure…not used to hold corn, but leaves for use in our compost bin
Egg shells and coffee grounds...perfect for the compost bin!
Egg shells and coffee grounds…perfect for the compost bin!

It seems that we can never make enough or have enough compost on hand at the farm.  We use a healthy scoop or two in every single planting hole and as a mulch around all of our vegetable plants.  We also use it as a main ingredient in making our own potting and seed starting soil, and in each batch of our organic compost tea fertilizer.  When we are lucky enough to have any left over – we also add and incorporate it into our raised row beds at the end or beginning of each growing season to keep them full of vitality.

The problem is that even though we compost almost everything we can from the farm and house (leaves, grass clippings, vegetable scraps, chicken manure and straw bedding, etc.) – we still run out of materials to make as much compost as we could use.  One of our goals over the last year was to begin to find additional sources of materials to make more compost, and of course, do so for free :).

Building A Win-Win Relationship With A Local Restaurant.

We have now partnered with the first of what we hope will be several local restaurants. The Big Apple Cafe, now saves all of their coffee grounds and eggs shells for us.

big apple cafeIt is a simple process – we provide them with a couple of clean 5 gallon buckets – and they fill them up with the coffee and eggs shells they use each day. Twice a week we stop by and provide them with two clean buckets, picking up the filled ones and add them to our compost pile.  It’s a win-win for everyone.  They create less waste to have hauled away – and we get a steady supply of incredible materials for our compost pile.  It is an arrangement that we hope to duplicate with a couple of other local restaurants.  Just a note – I think it is fantastic that a place like Big Apple supports the initiative – and hopefully, more and more places can do this in communities around the country – it really is a win-win!  If you get a chance – head over to their Facebook page “Big Apple Cafe” and give them a “like” and “thank you” for helping out the cause.

The Leaf Silo…Wait…The Leaf Corn Crib….

The original silo project started out great - then the winds came....
The original silo project started out great – then the winds came….

Late last fall, those who have followed along with us will remember that we began our leaf silo project.  It was another way to take advantage of a great compost material – leaves.  We wanted to design an outbuilding that could store the tons of leaves that are free for the taking in the fall around our neighborhood.  Leaves are so abundant here in the fall – the only real problem was to create a place to store them all for use throughout the year as a main ingredient in our compost. And so began the leaf silo project – an idea to build a mini farm silo that could store the leaves.

The silo project started off great  – and in fact we had the entire carcass of the structure and the curved roof supports all built heading into late fall.  The plan was to finish it up over winter with a metal roof and then make and secure it to a foundation in the early spring.  That is where it all went south so to speak. The silo was pretty large – and from the get go after constructing it – we worried about its ability to withstand strong winds.  Twice it toppled over in windstorms in December – only to crash a 3rd time and destroy most of the intricate curved roofing cuts.

We used old barn boards to make the slats, and of course, more old metal siding to match the barn and coop.
We used old barn boards to make the slats, and of course, more old metal siding to match the barn and coop.  We added a gutter to the back of the roof, to help collect extra rain water for the garden watering tank.
The chicken coop project was completed with it's barn matching coat of stain and paint put on this past week.
The chicken coop project was completed with it’s barn matching coat of stain and paint put on this past week.

There are times to work harder and there are times to work smarter.  It became obvious that the “leaf silo” building plan had to be revised.  We really wanted to keep with the theme of using old farm style buildings to keep the look of the farm  – so we decided to use another old-time farm structure, the corn crib – to create our leaf storage unit.

The corn crib “leaf storage” structure is 10′ long x 8.5′ feet high in the front, sloping to 6′ in the back.  We installed a wire mesh floor about  a foot off the ground to allow air flow through the leaves – and then cut down old barn boards we had on hand to make the slat walls.  They too allow for air flow.  The entire structure holds about 12 cubic yards of material – or more than enough to hold about 200 large yard bags of filled leaves. The best part is we were able to re-use much of the broken silo wood frame to help create the new leaf crib structure –  and the metal siding from the silo was taken off and used for the roof of the new chicken coop!

We still have the dream of a small silo for something someday…but for now, the corn crib looks great up by the garden –  and is holding a nice supply of leaves for the coming year of composting.

The important thing for us – is the more compost we can create – the more productive our little farm and garden will be.

Happy Gardening – Jim and Mary

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