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300-Gal. Rolling Composter

Kathy Luepke wanted to make compost on their place near Courtland, Minn., but her husband Wayne didn't want the mess. He liked the looks of little compost barrels that rotated, but knew they would be too small. One day he spotted an unused 300-gal. fuel tank and knew he'd found a solution.
  "I swapped a case of beer for the barrel," he recalls, "and filled it with water. Using a saber saw, I cut a small door for filling and a large door for emptying plus a series of 1/8-in. slits for ventilation. I also welded some flighting inside the barrel to encourage mixing."
  To spin the big barrel, Luepke mounted it on a frame built out of 2-in. steel tubing. An axle and wheels from a snowmobile trailer are hinged to the rear of the framework, allowing the composter to rest on the ground when not in transport mode. A bulldog jack mounts on front. As the jack is raised, a cable attached to the rear wheels pulls them into place, raising the frame off the ground. The extra height allows the barrel to be emptied directly into a garden cart.
  The barrel rests on two idler wheels on one side and two powered wheels on the other side. The idler wheels were salvaged from an old lawn mower, while the power wheels had been gauge wheels on an old cultivator. A castor wheel mounts at the front of the barrel to prevent forward creep as the barrel turns.
  The power wheels are mounted on a 1-in. shaft that passes through two pillow-block bearings attached to the composter frame. At first, Luepke thought he could spin the barrel by hand with a crank on the end of the shaft.
  "I found that when the barrel gets full, it was a struggle to turn," he says.
  To handle the load, he mounted a 1/3-hp electric motor with a 50:1 reduction gear case on the frame. A sprocket drive chain from the gear case drives a sprocket mounted on the shaft. It turns the barrel about one revolution per minute.
  A detachable trailer hitch makes it easy for Luepke to tow the composter to his garden and flower beds for unloading.
  He estimates he has about $350 in the project including another case of beer for the drive shaft and $35 for the gearbox. The investment produces about 200 gallons of rich compost each spring.
  "We add about a third of a barrel of shredded leaves in the fall and some compost-starter bacteria along with table scraps and a little water every month or so," says Luepke. "It seems to hold down the weeds, absorbs rain and our little garden produces beyond what we ever thought it could."
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Wayne & Kathy Luepke, 116 Stony Point Rd., Courtland, Minn. 56021 (ph 507 359-2852; email: wkluepke@newulmtel.net).

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2005 - Volume #29, Issue #4