Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Wednesday 19th May 10 The Day I Fell In Love With A Ridan

Today I went to Durham by train... I got the 8.30 and was in Durham by 9.15, with my bike, minus trailer. I'd been on Googlemaps the previous evening to work out about travel, and had seen that Houghton Le Spring was only 7 miles from the train station in Durham, so I took my bike (but not my trailer, as these aren't welcome on trains).

I'd memorised the route and it didn't take long to get to where I thought I needed to be, but I took a turning off the main road a bit early, and cycled through an office estate before going back to the A690 and going a bit further North. I was looking for a sign to the A1052, but it wasn't advertised on the A690 so I cycled past that exit, thinking it must be the next one! But there was a steep hill through a cutting and I walked up this, and asked a local, who told me I'd overshot the mark, so I went back and soon found Dairy Lane and Houghton Kepier Sports College, where Dan from Ridan was due to install his lovely Ridan Composter. Terry King the Estates Manager met me and proudly showed me round... first to the readout from the newly installed wind turbines. This readout shows how much they are generating now, how many Kwh they have generated, and how many kilos of carbon they have stopped going into the atmosphere. Then Terry took me to see the gardening area, with greenhouse and raised beds, and a few food plants, and then to the field next to the A690 where the wind turbines, capable of generating 6Kw each, are situated. These were put up in February (see Sunderland Echo) and underneath, they've planted an orchard of mini fruit trees, and some soft fruit in a fruit cage.

As we were walking away from here, and Terry was telling me about the automatic light switcher offers in the classrooms, he got a message saying that Dan from Ridan had arrived.

He had driven from Devon with two Ridans, one in the van and one on a trailer. Several Sunderland City Council people arrived, as funding has come from them. I helped carry the Ridan out of the van... it was quite light, just 60kg, and it was placed in the bins area just outside the kitchen door. There was a raised area next to where the machine was placed, which means that access to the entrance hatch won't need a stepladder. The second stage of the process requires a fairly long 'sit and wait' in a compost bin called a worm bin, and one of the two supplied was installed next to the Ridan. The other will go up near the wind turbines in the orchard, although the idea is to fill one, then the other and let the first rot down. I wonder if the school intends to dig out the one nearest the machine and bucket it over to the second one? I'm sure they will work something out!

So, what is it about the Ridan that I love? It's the simplicity and the sturdiness. It is a plastic tube with a volume of 400 litres. This is double skinned with an air gap between the two... and then surrounded by an insulating blanket about 5 cm thick. Along the length of the tube is an axle with a series of arms which sweep through the material when the handle at the end is turned.

A nice design feature is that this handle is geared, meaning that it is easy to turn, and about 6 turns of this handle gives just one rotation of the inner axle. When the unit is full of a third of a tonne of material, this system should make aerating the material reasonably easy.
For every bucket of food waste... and it will take meat and cooked/processed foods too, an equal volume of woodchip needs to be poured in. Ideally, if it receives 150 litres a week, the material will take about a fortnight to pass through and fall out of the exit hole at the other end. This won't be fully composted but will easily rot down in the static compost bin. The Ridan should easily enable the contents to get to 60 degrees Celsius for several days, pasteurising it and rendering it down to an easy to compost worm food, and thence on to a brilliant soil-improver.

Dan did a brief training session.... it's hardly complicated... and then he had to get off to his next delivery, a National Trust property in the Lake District. I cheekily asked if I could have a lift to as far as the A1(M) so I put my bike in the van and got that lift. From there it was a quick cycle down into Durham, getting to the station at midday, just 3 minutes before a Southbound train pulled in. I was home for lunch just after 1pm.

I didn't do a lot during the afternoon, until the children came home, and then I got busy in the conservatory, filling up a couple of the planters ready for tomatoes and cucumber plants, which will go in tomorrow.

I will do a report for York Rotters and City of York Council about this composter, as I think it is well worth trying out here in York, probably at a school, or perhaps the Environment Centre. Of course, I'd love one, as it would be a lot easier than having all the different smaller tumblers and dalek bins. For me, this composter has overtaken the Rocket in my affections... it is lots cheaper, doesn't need electricity, and can still legally 'do' cooked food.

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