compost pile questions

A couple questions about my compost piles (plural) if you will.
How often do you water them? I've noticed that with all the heavy rain I've been getting lately that the clippings have composted rather quickly and into some rather nice soil. All that makes me wonder if I'm not watering the piles enough - as in I don't letting rain do that. I do turn my compost piles, that's why I have two.
How long would you expect a tree branch to take to degrade? Normally I don't put wood in with my compost, but the occasional fallen limb (less than 3/4" diameter) makes it in there. But some of those limbs have been in there for a couple years without any outward indication of decomposition - even when surrounded by fully decomposted grass, dandilions, and shrubs.
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    Compost requires moisture and turning on a regular basis for best results. The coarser the ingredients, the longer they take to break down. Branches can take what seems to be a lifetime, but that's what happens in the woods, and the soil out there has a beautiful odor. When we harvested firewood in the forested area, we stacked branches and other trimmings for the wildlife habitats which eventually rotted. I met a gardener about thirty years ago who stacked all his broken branches into piles that were left to break down naturally, and composted other stuff in the conventional manner without inclusion of large branches because it was easier for him to handle.     I have a chipper/shredder that I use for reducing branches and other coarse     material to compostable size, but I'm not inclined to spend money on city     water when weather will (eventually) provide moisture. I have several wire     bins for composting and, like you, turn the heaps occasionally. The compost     is usually ready for the next garden season, if not sooner. Even if left     alone, it'll just take a little longer.     So far as the occasional fallen limbs that you describe, they earn their     keep by opening small areas for various organisms to breathe while     converting the compost ingreadients. . . it must be hard work for those     little guys, and they need to catch their breath every once in awhile, no?
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On 6/14/2008 6:37 AM, Eigenvector wrote:

I don't water mine often enough. They should be watered enough to keep them really moist in the center. If you find dry matter when you turn them, you need to water more.

A 3/4" branch is real wood. It can take many years to decompose. Buried wood more than 1,000 years old is often found during archaeological digs.
My compost is actually leaf mold, consisting of about 90% dead leaves. When I have my red fescue lawn mowed (about once or twice a year), I have the lawn service add a small batch of grass clippings.
When I have my trees trimmed (about once in three years), I have the tree service save a barrel of chipped branches for me; I slowly add the chips to my compost pile. The problem with branches is that the outer bark can inhibit composting. In my case, the branches are chipped, exposing the center of the branches.
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On Sat, 14 Jun 2008 06:37:44 -0700, "Eigenvector"

Keep the compost pile moist, not wet and not too dry, almost like taking care of a typical house plant. Having at least a cubic yard of material makes it work better, otherwise it may dry out too quickly. If your rain gauge indicates 1" per week, that's about right and no additional water is needed.

Limbs are too thick for typical composting and some may take years to fully decompose. Put branches through a chipper/shredder and use them for mulch. Some fresh sawdust (or small chips) can be added to a compost, but use sparingly. White oak, cedar, redwood, teak, and cyprus are decay resistant.
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wrote:

Thank you all for the responses, from the sounds of it I'm not watering it enough during a "normal" summer.
As for the wood, I can live with a fossil in the dirt. If they get too obnoxious I can always hack them up, but one or two branches - eh no biggie.
Just a side note - does anyone in the US have to worry about teak branches falling? (just kidding, I realize Usenet isn't only for Americans).
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Such branches, if hardwood, can be used for kindling instead. Kindling should be kept very dry. Just another way to reduce petroleum product usage. That is, BBQ starting fluid.
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On Jun 15, 12:32am, "Dioclese" <NONE> wrote:

I'm stripping off the leaves and using the branches to "basket weave" around several posts to hide the pile.
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On Jun 15, 12:32 am, "Dioclese" <NONE> wrote:

Petroleum products are fossil fuels. That refers to the fact the source of fossil fuels is plant matter from the Carboniferous era.
Burning wood has a really high carbon footprint- higher than natural gas, I bet.
Better to let it decompose slowly and keep the carbon sequestered for as long as possible.
Chris
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news:f2d25c08-d539-492f-b78a->

That would depend entirely on the stove in which one is burning. Some of the newer EPA rated stoves are quite stingy with their emissions.
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That's pretty cool- I was not aware of that. Do they have some kind of carbon scrubber?
Chris
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news:f12b305d-32f3-48d6-8350->>

Some of them recirculate the gasses to burn a second time and others have catalytic converters.
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Hills of Kentucky
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I've used a Catalytic converter on a Efel Belgian wood stove. Heated our 1600 Sq. foot home nicely for about 10 years 20 years ago. After about 4 years they go bad. Wear out.
BUT...
The wood stove became more of a furnace. Crank it up to 1400 F and then shut it down (The damper). I may be wrong about that temperature as it has been awhile.
Good points.
1) A load will go overnight even in a small stove. 2) Creosote is burned up so a cool chimney doesnt present a chimney fire. Especially if you have a outside or cold chimney. 3) Smoke particles are reduced. Read no smoke but gases go up and some think the gas with out a particle will not fall down. (Industry installed bag filters to reduce the smoky emissions but the gases still went up. Controversial .) 4) FOUR cords of wood will give the heat of SIX.
Bad points .
1) This baby is real hot I fenced it off with wire to prevent kids from touching it. 2) Subtle build up a light layer of gray dust can build up clogging the flue. This thing looks like a ceramic bee hive. I'd vacuum the device once a month to reduce the chance of Carbon monoxide. I'd get a CO alarm too.
Bill who heats with Natural Gas.
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In article

If this is anything like the ceramic stove I had in a house in the Alsace, it is wonderful. A couple of pages of a newspaper, would heat the entire room.
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You may be right "green-wise".
Its quite common here in S. TX for people to use the same old charcoal briquet BBQ pit. Most use excess amounts of lighter fluid to light off the briquets, if they aren't using the matchless type of briquet. That was some coaxing from my part to use available kindling instead.
Living in an all-electric home, and the natural external temperature being usually high, I find it more efficient not to cook in the house. Eating out is usually expensive at the very least, not including the carbon produced by the automobile to get the place and home again, and money out pocket to pay for that gasoline. I have free access to oak cut to proper length for a BBQ pit, and kindling. Weighing the fact that the AC electric to carry off the kitchen stove heat and stove electric both provided by a coal-fired electrical plant against my burning oak is nulled out in terms of carbon. Plus the fact I don't have pay for that electricity as a result as I'm not using it.
I am inclined to use the kitchen stove in the winter for obvious reverse reasons as the external temperture is adequate to make use of it, and help heat the house.
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Dave



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In article

No. Natural gas and fossil fuel are already sequestered (underground) and out of the biosphere. Burning them, reintroduces them back into the biosphere, increasing the existing pool of carbon.
Burning cellulose (wood) simply cycles existing carbon dioxide that already exists in the biosphere (CO2 --> plants ---> fire or decomposition --> CO2). We can shift the distribution of biosphere's pool of carbon (by growing forests or burning them), CO2 <---> cellulose (plants) but the size of the pool stays the same.
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m44 snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com says...

I have a bucket in the kitchen for scraps, so I add at least a couple of litres (equals a half gallon) before I dump it in to one compost bin, about every two days.
The other bin - full and aging - gets about the same.
Often, I will use urine instead of water.

It is important to chop limbs and branches into smaller pieces. That makes more surface area to the material. Also, some of those pieces can end up being included when I mix the compost into my beds, and it isn't a problem (like a whole branch would be.)
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Never. I don't turn them, either. The bugs and other myriad critters taking up residence do a better job than I ever could.
I'm in no great hurry to use the compost -- the ingredients I pile up now to make "lasagne" won't be touched for another 2, 3 years, by which time, it's the best potting soil I've ever run my fingers through.

Pull them out before using the compost. Absolutely not a problem.
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