We are still clearing stumps from the future orchard. I will be really glad when I can plant the first fruit tree so I can stop calling it the future orchard. I will also be glad when we don’t have any more stumps.
The hard part about dealing with these stumps is that they need to be cleared of all the debris that is clinging to them and have all the soil pulled away from the base. Some of the stumps were really quite covered with dirt, blackberries and scotch broom so this became extra difficult. I decided to try to compost a stump cluster which contained quite a bit of dirt. The stumps were close together and I figured I could try to compost the whole mess in place.
I love to compost things. I consider myself an advanced composter. Since I don’t pay for trash pick up on the farm and farms often have lots of trash I have to be very creative in my waste disposal. I compost all organic materials, every thing from the kitchen, garden, farm manure, shredded paper. I have a husband that loves to duck hunt. I compost a LOT of carcasses, I once even composted a horse placenta. You name it, I compost it.
The trick to good compost is to get the pile REALLY hot. Once the pile is hot things really get cooking. You can break down an entire compost pile in just a few weeks if it is super hot. Layering green waste with manure is one way to get things hot fast. I am fortunate to have a large garden and I always have trimmings to add to the compost, I bed my rabbit with hay and that is a great source of green waste as well.
My stump cluster had compost written all over it. I could envision tilling it in the spring, a dark crumbly thing of beauty spread in my future orchard.
The first thing I did was pile up some green material, branches, leaves, clumps of grass, followed by a few scoops of dirt and wood chips. In order to get things hot I obtained a couple of carcasses. I scored a nutria on my way to the farm one morning, he didn’t fare so well crossing the road (nutria get hit by cars frequently). He was a good source of organic material and quite heavy. I tossed him on the compost pile. He was joined by a raccoon. I buried them with a good scoop of soil and made sure the stumps were covered with several inches of organic material. I covered the entire mess with a tarp and weighted it down with rocks and large pieces of wood. Keeping it covered is important to keep the rain from washing everything away and also helps keep in the heat.
These guys got nicely buried. Don’t worry I said a few kind words and hey…I am recycling!
I suspect that I will need to add some manure to this pile to get it really cooking if I want to have compost by the spring. I’m not sure how long it will take to break down a stump, so some of this is still an experiment.
One of the stumps that I uncovered while clearing had been partially buried in a slash pile. When I cleared all of the slash and dirt away the stump looked like this:
You can see that it has really rotted down, the center hole reaches to the level of the surrounding dirt. I cleared out as much of the center as I could and cleared around the stump. This stump seems like a great candidate for starting a fire inside, the outer walls of the stump will probably burn easily once the inside heats up. I covered this stump with a large plastic bin to keep it dry (we are having torrential rain) and will try the fire method this week.
You can see the outside of the stump is not quite as rotten. Being buried really helped the break down process but it still has a ways to go. Hopefully a little ‘fire in the hole’ will do the trick and we will be rid of it. Only 20 or so more stumps to go!