A couple of weeks ago our son Brook called me and asked if we had an extra 55 gallon drum that he could turn into a composter for his garden. Of course, living in the country like we do I had several extra drums lying around but none without the residues of oil, gasoline or diesel fuel. I freely offered what we had but he declined asking if I knew where he might pick a clean one up for not too much money. I had in fact just seen several different types of drums (both plastic and metal) for sale at a local farm store called D & B Supply. A few days later he called back excited not only about the composter he had constructed for under $60 (which was as functional as any he had seen for upwards of $200), but being a true Robinson he was elated that he had beat the system by making his own.
The next week Nancy and I dropped by his house to check out the new invention and whatever other projects he had going on. When we arrived we found him in his backyard building a small chicken couple that adjoined his raised-bed vegetable garden. Both of our kids own older fixer upper homes in a classic part of the city. Their houses are of the 1940′s vintage and have smaller backyards which they both have in part turned into productive gardens. A couple of weeks before they worked together hauling composted soil to supplement their ground in preparation for spring planting.
The minute we saw Brook’s composter we were amazed by its simple design and yet professional appearance. It was already in service and was working great. Seeing it, Nancy immediately decided we needed one for our garden at Timber Butte and that we would stop on our way home to pick up a barrel and other needed parts. The following is a short description of Brook’s composter for anyone who might be interested.
First, the barrel Brook choose was a 50 gallon plastic olive container. It was ideal because it had only held organic material and because it had a skrew-on lid. Brook drilled 5/8″ holes in the lid and smaller ones around the bottom of the container allowing for aeration and water drainage. Second, he purchased several 1″ galvanized pipe fittings for the drum to pivot on (see picture). He had to have the center pipe custom cut and threaded for a perfect fit inside the barrel he selected which cost him a couple extra dollars. He bought two 6″ nipples, two caps, four floor flanges and the one I already mentioned that was custom cut for the inside. He drilled two 1″ holes in the plastic barrel perfectly centered and bolted the flanges together for extra support and strength on the inside and outside (again see picture). And finally he set two treated 4X4 posts in the ground for the barrel to spin on. He told me that his friend Greg had climbed on top of the whole thing after it had been completed to check its strength and durability and luckily for Greg’s durability it did survive the test.
Brook has been amazed at the rate his new composter has turned his grass clippings and household garbage into rich black soil. If you have any questions for Brook you can write them in our comments and I’ll pass them on to him for his response.