Every effort was made to fill a pit to the brim within one week. If there wasn't enough material to fill an entire pit within one week, then a portion of one pit would be filled to the top. To preserve good aeration, every effort was made to avoid stepping on the material while filling the pit. As mixtures of manure and bedding were brought out from the cattle shed they were thinly layered atop thin layers of mixed vegetation brought in from the dried reserves heaped up adjacent to the compost factory. Each layer was thoroughly wet down with a clay slurry made of three ingredients: water, urine-earth, and actively decomposing material from an adjacent compost pit that had been filled about two weeks earlier. This insured that every particle within the heap was moist and was coated with nitrogen-rich soil and the microorganisms of decomposition. Today, we would call this practice "mass inoculation."
Pits Versus Heaps
India has two primary seasons. Most of the year is hot and dry while the monsoon rains come from dune through September. During the monsoon, so much water falls so continuously that the earth becomes completely saturated. Even though the pits were under a roof, they would fill with water during this period. So in the monsoon, compost was made in low heaps atop the ground. Compared to the huge pits, their dimensions were smaller than you would expect: 7 x 7 feet at the top, 8 x 8 feet at the base and no more than 2 feet high. When the rains started, any compost being completed in pits was transferred to above-ground heaps when it was turned.
Howard was accomplishing several things by using shallow pits or low but very broad heaps. One, thermal masses were reduced so temperatures could not reach the ultimate extremes possible while composting. The pits were better than heaps because air flow was further reduced, slowing down the fermentation, while their shallowness still permitted sufficient aeration. There were enough covered pits to start a new heap every week.
Temperature Range in Normal Pit
|Age in days||Temperature in degree C|
Period in days for each fall of 5i C
|Temperature Range No. of Days|
|65 degree-60 degree||4|
|60 degree-55 degree||7|
|55 degree-50 degree||1|
|50 degree-45 degree||25|
|45 degree-40 degree||2|
|40 degree-35 degree||44|
|35 degree-30 degree||14|
Total 97 days