Building the Ruminator

The fruit and vegetable garden is well established within the stone fence enclosure I built for the Richters twelve years ago. Now it’s time for the construction of a stone compost bin. Rick and Susan asked if I could come up with a design to match their earth-making ambitions. But where to locate it?

In the beginning the idea was to make it a solitary object out in the field north of the garden. I had visions of a compost carousel with four pie-shaped stalls. Then it was a long barrow-shaped affair with tractor ramps to the top of the bins. I knew little about composting but I was having lots of fun with modeling clay imagining the construction of a dry stone Ruminator. Scale model making is an enjoyable pursuit that helps develop spatial acuity. The process of shaping clay is slow enough for deliberation to take place and fast enough for a form to observably emerge. Results unfold in an organic fashion.

After a few years of semi-serious design consideration, the moment of truth came when their barn was finished. With the new structure established, a shift in thinking about where to site the Ruminator took place. Closer to the source of compostable materials made the most practical sense.

A two-pile container with the east side open for tractor access was decided upon. The shape of the piece is an “E” with an arched back to widen the mouths of the bins. The walls need to be heavy and rugged to withstand an unintended shove from the tractor bucket. The “Galloway Dyke” style of building meets that bill and is compatible with the available, on-site stone. And, as it happens, mastercraftsman waller, and Galloway specialist, Dave Goulder was visiting from Scotland. We teamed up for two days to set the first and second courses of “singling” on top of my “doubling”.

Two days of stone gathering and site preparation with help from A.S. Clark and Sons, four days of doubling, three days of singling and the Ruminator is ready to start making sweet, dark garden loam.