funny pictures of cats with captionsMichelle mentioned sometime back that we’re looking for composting thermometers in Singapore. We’re at the stage where we’re almost about to ship in a couple of them from overseas, and it really is a matter of how many to ship in while we’re at it.

The most Michelle managed to find was this meat thermometer that someone happened to be selling – I do suspect you’ll be able to find a meat thermometer more easily than a compost thermometer, but we haven’t come upon several either. Perhaps only a few people cook steak in Singapore, or everyone that does is pretty much good enough to do the “hand method“.

Either way, the considerable expense we were about to fork out as a startup made us think a little more about compost thermometers, and our conclusion is that we really do need one.

Temperature and Composting

If you’re unfamiliar with the importance of composting and heat, I suggest you read some of Michelle’s writings which cover the basics of composting and even common myths associated with it. Suffice to say that without enough heat, potential pathogens are not effectively removed. If anything at all, the purpose of composting is definitely not to reintroduce harmful elements to plants/herbs that we are encouraging people to grow and consume!

If you have been following our developments on our Lazy Experiment, you will know that we’ve recently discovered hay *enter a choir of angels singing* which drastically changed our experiment. While smells and the entire dilemma as to whether to cover the bins have been sorted out, the new issues we’re dealing with are:

  1. How are we going to add more ‘greens‘ to our compost pile if it has cooled down and become inactive?(Remember that we have the top layer of hay as a cover material to prevent smells and pests.)
  2. How in the world are we going to monitor the temperature of the pile to ensure that it remains active (warm)?

If it were that hot, you'll be that sad too. So don't be hatin'

With regards to compost temperature, here is a simple guideline: a warm temperature (above 50°C at least) means that the pile is composting rapidly, whereas a cool/cold temperature means that the compost pile is inactive

We once had a local retailer say that they don’t carry compost thermometers because Singapore’s weather is relatively hot enough that they didn’t really see the point for having one.

I must admit I was swayed by that statement for a long time, until I decided to reflect on our current situation:

Firstly, we are doing apartment composting that does not have the luxury of a backyard/garden. As such, composting at the outside common corridor or within your apartment would mean that the compost pile will be very much smaller than that in the backyard/garden. Remember that size does matter for composting – the larger the overall size of the compost pile, the greater amount of heat it can self-generate to break down waste materials and kill off potential pathogens.

Secondly, I would never wish for apartment residents to have a compost pile constantly at a temperature of 70°C – for our small-scale apartment composting method, this is highly unlikely unless you live in a scorching desert. Although 70°C is a highly favourable composting scenario for complete pathogen destruction, especially for Joseph Jenkin’s method of Humanure composting, note that we are only composting “safe” materials such as paper/cardboard wastes, and raw fruits and vegetable scraps. Unlike composting human excrement, there is no need for our compost piles to be at a peak of 70°C all the time. If not, we would have been better off reviewing domestic composters – that sadly cost a bomb.

So all things put together, we believe it is necessary for both serious and novice composters to get hold of a composting thermometer. This is especially important as we are increasingly convinced that hay is absolutely a wonderful and critical material for completely fuss-free apartment composting in tropical climates.

I’ll soon be adding the usage of hay to the Kainosis™ Composting Manifesto too. All that said, let us consider the options available:

Looking for Compost Thermometers

First of all, we have all along been swayed by Joseph Jenkins’ choice of compost thermometers. We can’t help it, his work has been an immense influence on ours. He supports Reotemp compost thermometers and carries the brand on his web store. Just a note: if you are intending to get a hard-copy of his book, I would highly recommend going for the package that comes with a compost thermometer. However if you just want to get the book, you can get it here at Amazon as well. (Psst, our local library carry a few copies of the book too. Just search for ‘The Humanure Handbook’ by Joseph Jenkins or… download the book here.)

Other than that, our search for compost thermometers in Singapore had remained mostly fruitless; the only notable point was that Reotemp has their own online store as well. However this actually turned out to be more frustrating than helpful, I couldn’t figure out whose listing was correct – Jenkins’ web store, Reotemp’s web store and Reotemp’s main web site all held slightly different variations of products. I couldn’t tell if they were all the same thing or if there were indeed a few versions out there.

Moreover, it didn’t help that nobody listed any model numbers that matched other references. This got a pet peeve of mine – I (200%) don’t like purchasing from online stores that do not keep their information up-to-date. In this case, I was more upset with Reotemp than I was with Jenkins’ store because the Reotemp site just wasn’t well designed or maintained. (Ironically, it was Jenkins’ store that listed the product number.) As such, I would rather trust Amazon than Reotemp for my purchase – it also does help that Amazon maintains a rather close relationship with vPost.

Another thing I’ll like to share is that Amazon actually carries a number of brands for compost thermometers! Guess who ain’t number 1 ranking? That’s right, Reotemp now stands as the first runner-up supplier.

So here we are, and my best bet has been to look up compost thermometers. I might get them shipped in using vPost. Considering the shipping charges, I’ve been mulling about shipping in a few other brands (also via Amazon) and review them for our readers’ convenience. We’ll let you know if we do.

Also, looking for compost thermometers has gotten me thinking about other compost-related devices. I cannot deny that a moisture thermometer would be useful and I’m drawn to the other digital measurement devices just because I’m a geek (please don’t get them, they really cost a bomb and other analogue equipment work just fine).

Lastly, if there’s any other composting equipment you’ll like us to review, please do let us know and we’ll consider shipping them in at the same time!


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