Saturday, August 9, 2008

That's a $700 Load Of Crap...

Or manure, as they say in the horse biz. Time to construct our two bin manure composting stalls. For those of you in King County, Washington, there is some good news. If you have a farm plan done, much of the cost of this project will be reimbursed to you by the county. You have to set up an appointment with a Farm Planner at King Conservation District Office. They come to your property and generate the farm plan free of charge. So I've got that going for me.

Here's the link for the plans I used for this project. It was created by our good friends at Clean Water For Horses, so I figured I'd follow those to the letter to make sure I'd get the reimbursement money when we submit our receipts in a few months. The one thing that's not accurate on the plans now is the cost. The plans were made up a few years ago and estimated the cost per bin to be about $200. I spent at least $350 per bin. How bout them oil prices everybody?

Let's start at the beginning.

Picking a site. This advice may seem really obvious, but try and put the bins as close to where the horses live as possible. The shorter the distance, the happier you'll be come December.
I know what you're thinking, "What about the smell?" I'm glad you asked. If you follow the directions on the plans, it really doesn't smell that much. Not as much as you'd think. Just keep things covered and get some air in there.

We also tried to keep in mind that we would need tractor access and truck access to the bins when we will be giving away truck fulls of compost I'm sure.

I guess this is the "before" picture, and I put it after the "after" picture. I've gone and spoiled the reveal. Ty Pennington would be so disappointed in me.

We had a giant ugly bush in this spot and a bunch of blackberry bushes. So we paid the local teenager to clear out the area. Then I did a bit of tractor work to level things out and clear the root balls from the bushes.

I use the two sticks and 160 lbs of cement routine to make sure the first post was plumb and square. Just pound the sticks in to adjacent sides and use your bubble level. When the bubble says go, drive a screw in there and it should hold it until the cement is poured and dry.

Now you need to take your time in setting the next post. I did not want to have to trim all these landscape timbers, so the posts need to be exactly 8 feet apart.

The way I did this was to just put one of the timbers on the ground and use it as my guide. If your first post is exactly plumb, then the rest will fall into place.

This step is a lot easier when you have two people. Then the partner can hold the cross timber at different heights to make sure the spacing is right.

I'm rambling on forever about this because I found that this was the most important part to making the walls go up easily.

I also used a string to make sure the back three posts were perfectly aligned. Just attach the string to your first post and when it is lying right along the face, that's where the next post face should be.

Once you get all six of your posts in, it's time to make the channels that will accept the landscape timbers.

The plans call for pressure treated 2x2's. Home Depot does not carry PT 2x2's. So I bought PT 2x4's and ripped them in half on the table saw. You get four 4 ft 2x2's out of each board. (By the way, if you haven't worked with dimensional lumber, it won't really be 2 inches by 2 inches because the 2x4 isn't actually 2 inches by 4 inches, it's 1.5 inches by 3.5 inches. Don't ask me why. But just cut the 2x4 in half both ways, and you'll be fine.)

You now create a channel for the timbers to fit into. The plans call for 3 inch deck screws (screws, on the other hand are actually 3 inches long if the box says 3 inches.) The best way we found to do this part was to put up the inside part of the channel on both posts with just 2 screws.

Then you put the landscape timber on the ground, put your level on it, and when it's level, drive a screw from the outside, through the 2x2, and into the timber. That will hold it level while you attach the outside 2x2 that will complete the channel using the timber as your spacer. At this stage, only use 2 screws so the channel can flex a bit when you insert the timbers.

I chose to add some additional screws ever other timber just to tie things together.

Here's how the first two walls look. I know the posts are higher than the walls, but I think they are right to only go up 4 feet. If you piled up manure all the way to 5 feet, I think that would just be too much to turn and work with later. Four feet seems about right.

Then just finish up all the walls the same way. I put channels to make front walls too. I figured that when one side gets full, we can put some extra timbers in there to keep things contained. I don't know if that will work well, but I had enough 2x2's, so I did it.

I also back filled the wall closest to the hill with gravel. We get a lot of rain in the winter, and I don't want that hillside moving around much.

Now we just need to get some tarps, and we're all set to scoop that poop. I do have to say that this feels like the Taj Mahal of poopers. But it will make the chores a lot more efficient, and the compost will come in handy in the pastures and garden.

And now (drum roll please) here's the Cowgirl with her first dump in the new bins:

See you next time...