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Ever try something new with one intention and find out later you’re absolutely amazing for creating a solution for something completely different? If finally happened to me and if anyone asks, I’ll tell them I did it intentionally. It’s creative composting.

Hoop house converted into a barnyard sauna. In the foreground is the animal’s playground. Photo by Rebecca Hooper

At our place, we have chickens, goats and turkeys. We had great dreams of becoming a super homesteading farm, blah blah blah, and we’d milk our goats every day for our coffee and eat chicken for dinner every night… yeah, right.

All the animals free range in the backyard and it’s more like a petting zoo than any type of organized working farm. And while we make good use of the eggs, we have so many that we give them away to anyone who drives by with their windows rolled down.

As you know, Oregon coast winters are rainy and chilly. The backyard pets looked quite unhappy with the non-stop rainy days this year so we came up with a solution – open up the hoop house so they’d have another place to get out of the rain.

They loved it! So we added a couple bales of straw so they could cuddle up and be cozy and love it even more. It was a hit! The afternoon sun had all the animals in the hoop house enjoying the sauna-like warmth from the clear plastic and they were out of the rain and wind where they could freely chew cud or take a dust bath. We were happy because they seemed happy.

Photo by Rebecca Hooper

A few months later I took a few classes on soil science and composting with the rockin’ James Cassidy from Oregon State University. If you ever have an opportunity to hear him speak, go – you’ll never think about soil in the same way again. Ever.

Now, I love soil. So much so that I considered giving away the goats because their traffic was interfering with my goal of wonderful soil structure. I know, I went a little off the edge with excitement but James makes a case for soil that is THAT strong.

So I explained to him that I had turned our hoop house into a barnyard sauna and now I was worried that the goats would trample down the soil and ruin it’s structure f.o.r.e.v.e.r – I had created doomsday! He explained that it was actually a good idea.


The straw protects the soil from the impaction from the goat’s hooves and provides carbon for composting. Then the feces from all the species provides the nitrogen needed for composting the straw. All this goodness while providing a happy and healthy environment for the critters! In summary – I was brilliant and the goats can stay on the property to be our pseudo-dogs.

In a few weeks I’ll pull out all the poopy straw and create a large compost pile. As long as it is balanced with 2:1 C:N and is 3’x3’x3′, I should have good compost in about 10 weeks.

Do you have a creative composting story? Please share it – I’m here to learn!

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