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October 23, 2013     The Sun Paper
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IIIII Tips for transforming your leaves into 'black gold' • Three solutions to common compost By Denise Ruttan Special to The Sun As you recycle autumn leaves into compost this fall, consider the science that trans- forms waste into "black gold" for your soil. "There are more microor- ganisms in a teaspoon of top- soil than there are people on planet Earth," said Nick Andrews, small farms special- ist and compost expert for the Oregon State University Exten- sion Service. "Compost is simi- lar. It's teeming with billions of microorganisms for each ounce of compost." Those billions of microor- ganisms aren't sitting still. Their metabolism works hard to convert organic material into fuel-activity that heats up com- post. Compost must reach 130 to 135 degrees to kill weed seeds and pathogens, Andrews said. Turn the pile after its first 3-5 weeks with a garden fork to add air and break up clumps of material. If the pile is big enough- one-half to one cubic yard-and well-built with a good carbon- to-nitrogen ratio, moisture con- tent and porosity, it should heat up within a week and stay hot long enough for you to turn the pile and "process" the raw ma- terial to kill pathogens and weed seeds. If compost just isn't happen- ing, Andrews offered these troubleshooting tips. • Problem: It isn't heat- ing up because the pile is too small. For a continuous fuel source, microorganisms need at least one-half cubic yard to one cubic yard of fresh organic material, Andrews said. During harvest time in August and Sep- tember, that's realistic for most gardeners. Solution: Make sure you have a steady source of fresh material. If you don't, you could cool-compost the rest of the year, or build a worm bin, using earthworms to decompose food waste and organic matter. "Adjust your expectations," Andrews said. "If the pile isn't heating up, allow it to decom- pose over a longer time period, and wait long enough for the raw material to look fully de- composed, like 'black gold.' It's the 'Don't worry, be happy' approach." • Problem: It stinks like rouen eggs. Healthy compost should emit a rich, earthy odor. But a stinky compost pile might not have enough air and could be too wet. Compost piles thrive on a good balance of air and mois- ture and should contain 60 to 65 percent moisture, Andrews said. Solution: Add dry material like straw, dry leaves or shred- ded paper. Turn the pile with a fork as you incorporate these materials. To keep out rainwater, cover the pile with plastic tarp or en- close your bin with a roof made out of scrap material. • Problem: It attracts raccoons, mice, rats or other critters. Material that invites varmints includes meat, poul- try, fish, fat, oil, dairy products, bread, grains and bones. Solution: If this is a prob- problems lem for you, avoid composting food that attracts unwanted critters. The more actively you manage and turn your pile during early decomposition, the less likely you will have prob- lems. You can also build your composting pile to exclude mammalian pests-for ex- ample, line it with hardware cloth. Your goal is to prevent animals from nesting or feeding from your compost pile. Grass clippings, leaves, plant stalks, vines, weeds without seeds, healthy fruit and vegetable scraps, live- stock manure and straw don't attract pests. Wood chips, nut shells, twigs, acorns and egg shells are also compostable, but note that these materials are slower to decompose. To learn more about composting, see the OSU Extension guides "Garden- ing with Composts, Mulches and Row Covers" at http:// bit.ly/OSU_Compost and "Composting with Worms" at http://bit.ly/ OSU WormComposting. Heati pellet stoves Wednesday, October 23, 2013, The Sun 5 Prepare now for power outages PGE crews work hard year- round to keep its electrical sys- tem in top working condition. But winter storms sometimes send branches crashing down on power lines and trigger out- ages. PGE offers the following four steps to prepare for out- ages. • Put together an outage kit, with a flashlight and other nec- essary items, and keep it in a handy spot. • Register your mobile phone for two-way texting with PGE so you can conveniently report an outage and request status updates via text. Other ways to report an outage: online, by phone or through mobile-optimized links on your smart phone. • Learn what to do if the lights go out, how to stay safe and how to get outage updates. • If you have a portable backup generator, review these critical generator safety rules. See the PGE Stay Safe, Be Prepared blog for more infor- mation. Outage kit for when the power goes out If a power outage occurs, you can be prepared by having a kit together to meet your ba- sic needs until we're able to re- store power. An outage kit is also a great first step towards a more comprehensive emer- gency kit for use in a crisis or natural disaster. A basic outage kit should include: • Hand-crank or battery powered flashlight and radio • Battery-powered clock • Extra batteries (change them periodically - even unused batteries lose power over lime) • Manual can opener • Cell-phone car charger if you depend on a cell phone, and/or a corded, non-electric phone for home Other handy ems to have: • Bottled water • Sanitary water containers (if you rely on electricity to pump water) • Thermos • Disposable plates and utensils • Extra blankets or sleep- ing bags Get prepared for emergencies, too While a power outage isn't an emergency, natural disasters and larger emergencies can knock out the power. In a natural disaster or cri- sis, basic items we normally take for granted- like food, wa- ter, electricity and sanitation- can become survival needs. Predicting and planning for your family's needs ahead of time can help minimize the ef- fects of emergencies. Disaster preparedness ex- perts suggest having enough water, food and other supplies to survive on your own for at least three to ten days. Since it can be a challenge to build a kit that's both com- plete and portable, consider building two. A small kit can be helpful in the event of natu- ral disasters and other pressing crises where you may need to leave your home, and carrying a large kit would be difficult or dangerous. Larger kits can be helpful for sheltering in place, but these might not fit in your backpack. To learn more about emer- gency kits and preparedness, see the FEMA website, www.fema.gov. Meadow Lake Land & Development, LLC 135 N. Maple St. • P.O. 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