Do We Finally Get to Keep Our Compost?

The continuing theme of most “outdoorsy” stories Amanda and I grew up hearing was about the cute, resourceful wild animals who frolicked innocently doing what came naturally to sweet rural creatures (think Peter Rabbit and Bugs Bunny) and the cruel, callous, and rather dull humans (think Elmer Fudd and Mr McGregor) who tried and failed to control them. Behold, we have become the villains in our own story.

The latest story is about compost. We started our little adventure simply depositing table scraps, leaves, and shredded paper in a pile on what would later become Veg Hill. We started the pile before we moved here, so we were spared the indignity of knowing who was stealing what from the pile and when they were visiting us. All we knew was that the pile always looked different when we returned after an absence of a few days, and we assumed (incorrectly, as it turns out) that the soil critters were doing their magic and taking the large pieces of food and decomposing them. It doesn’t work that fast, and it wasn’t working that way for us.

What was really happening is that we had gone from feeding our dog to feeding the possum, the birds, the deer, and anybody else who wanted a handout and knew about our meal plan. We figured this out only when we began living here at Longleaf Breeze, when we could tell that the scraps we put in the pile last night were already gone the next morning. We even saw evidence that some creature (perhaps an armadillo?) was digging through the pile looking for scraps that we had been careful to cover. One night Amanda and I came face to face with a fox plundering the pile, who didn’t seem at all afraid of us. That was weird.

Thus commenced the great compost wars. For the remainder of this post, you may refer to me as Elmer, because that’s the best surrogate I can find for my role in this little drama. Plan A was a cage for the compost fashioned from hog wire. We had it left over from the fruit tree cages, so it was ready and handy. Plan B was to anchor the cage to a t-post. That worked great, especially for the possum who crawled through the large spaces in the hog wire and sat comfortably on the top of our compost pile gorging himself, even when Amanda yelled at him. He leisurely moseyed off when she threw a rock at him. She found that adventure gross and assured me that we would find a better way.

Plan C was to wrap the hog wire cage in left over deer fence (which is basically chicken wire with a black plastic coating). That took care of the possum; he wandered off to feed somewhere else. It didn’t work for that fox, though, who found a way to slither in through a gap in the deer fence and through a hole in the hog wire.

Plans D and E consisted of ever more permanent and bristling strips of additional deer fence designed to make the cage impenetrable to the fox. Plan D was a bust, but Plan E worked. The fox joined the possum and we haven’t seen him (her?) since. That left the crows. Loudly they announced their arrivals and departures, and seemed especially proud to let us know when they were leaving the cage with one of their treasures. The well-cleaned corn cobs were the most galling to Amanda, but what worried me was that we compost paper napkins and toilet paper rolls. When they started getting distributed about the farm, I knew we needed to take more drastic action.

Sunday morning before church I cut and trimmed the branches off two saplings from deep in the woods, and I used light wire to lash their ends together to create a circle a tad larger than the cage. Later I covered the circle in deer fence, attached it permanently to the t-post, and adjusted it so we can open and close it. We placed it on Monday, and so far we’ve not seen any evidence of large animals. What we have seen is that our compost tends to stay in the cage and decay the way we had hoped all along that it would.

So take that, you wascuwwy cwitters.

The video runs a tad under a minute.

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