As part of the Permaculture Design Course taught at Kin Kin Souls by Tom, he shows students how to make an 18 day hot compost. This is a fungal based compost, which is great for trees; they thrive in a fungal based environment. First we have to get the material together, which consists of:
Freshly cut vetiver grass and weeds/grass
Compost and a dead bird for activation
Diameter established, fresh grass and manure,
ready to be covered with hay
We cut vetiver grass and weeds/other grasses and had cow manure “harvested” from our cows, both high in Nitrogen. We alternately layered fresh cut grass, cow manure and hay (dried, old cut grass, high in Carbon), with the bulk made up from the grasses. The ideal ratio is 25 Carbon to 1 Nitrogen. To get that ratio right is the art of composting.
We had a dig through our compost bin for some citrus and other bits and pieces. A small chicken unfortunately died not long ago, so we used it with the food scraps to “activate” the compost: heat it up from the inside. When we were about halfway up, we added the activator, then buried it under more layers. We needed at least 1 cubic metre of volume for the compost pile, otherwise there would not be enough bulk to be able to heat it up adequately.
We watered the pile after every several layers and then again at the end, after which we covered the pile with a tarp for 4 days.
James watering the compost
Covered for 4 days
After 4 days we turned the compost for the first time, and stuck a thermometer in at various stages to measure the temperature. The temperature was between 52 and 74 degrees Celsius. 74 degrees was too hot, all the beneficial bacteria start dying at temperatures over 65 degrees. But we were pretty happy with the average temperature of the pile, which was around 63.
The first turning after 4 days
Fungal activity already started;
at first turning
From then the compost was turned every 2 days (thanks to Scott, who did most of the turning!). The smell was not very pleasant at the first turning, but after that the smell seemed to have gone. Tom tested the moisture of the pile by grabbing some and squeezing it. It was moist enough if there was water dripping out, otherwise it needed some more water. If there is not enough moisture, the composting process is slower and we don’t want it too wet either.
After every turning we covered the pile with the tarp again, to protect it from the elements (rain would have cooled it down, wind would have dried it out etc.)
STEAM!! Only permaculturists get joy from playing with a steaming pile of …….
Fungal activity was obvious at every turning. Below are some photos on the development of fungal activity in the compost:
Fungal activity day 6
Fungal activity day 8
Fungal activity day 10
Fungal activity day 12
The temperature stayed pretty consistent during the subsequent turns, between 55 and 65 degrees C. It started cooling down at about day 14 to around 50 to 55 degrees C. By day 18 the temperature was down to around 45 degrees C.
We regretted we were unable to make the vetiver grass smaller; there were still quite substantial chunks in the compost. Next time we will use an old chaff cutter we have been able to get, so our finished compost will have a finer consistency.
Zaia is a musician, homesteader, permaculturist, holistic health and wellness coach and sustainability advocate. She and husband Tom run permaculture designed farm "Kendall Permaculture Farm" on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia and the not for profit organisation PermEco Inc. and teach permaculture and self reliance. Zaia loves cooking and always comes up with new and different recipes to prepare the food she grows. She is a percussionist and is involved in various musical projects, including community music projects. She writes about life on the farm and tries to post regular photos and articles.
“I would recommend Tom Kendall’s PDC to anyone looking to learn or become part of the Permaculture Community. I really enjoyed the course. It was also an excellent opportunity to learn from someone who has always worked with the land and who has spent a long time developing that relationship into what it is now. I learned a great deal about the agricultural systems from a practical and solutions based perspective. And yes, they are lovely people too.
It means a lot to me that they offered the course as pay-as-you-can and as self catered. I am in the position where I can only find sporadic work and rather than waste my time feeling stuck I was able to learn and find new opportunities with this course. The sense of community it gives was also really important to me and I am great full to them for being generous with their time. It is something that will give more value as time goes on and I hope to return this fully when I’m able. ” Marni, PDC 02/2020
“ Unlike all the other students I had no previous knowledge in permaculture and it far exceeded my expectations. I was happy to see the ethics related to this topic were one of your criteria. I would highly recommend this course and have done so already multiple times and will continue to refer people to you in all my travels
To be able to do the course by donation has meant to me that I’ve been able to upskill myself for an affordable amount in a time of current unemployment.
It also meant I could please my curiosity on this topic and dip my toes in the water with the little knowledge I had in this field where as a full price course would have not lead me down this path. I thank you both so kindly for your contribution in getting this knowledge out there in our current global situation.” Todd Dent, PDC 02/2020