After letting my compost stew over the winter, I decided to dig up the good stuff to prepare for our vegetable garden this spring. So, with shovel and garden fork in hand, I dug out all of the uncomposted material, and made a big heap for the chickens to stir around for me. They just can't resist scratching and pecking at a pile of anything.
Once I got down far enough that the material began to look like dark brown soil, I knew I had hit paydirt. When compost is sufficiently, well, composted it looks much less like what went into it, and much more like dirt or mud.
My next step was to devise a way of sifting it. Sometimes there are little patches of material that are not sufficiently broken down, or there may be rocks or bits of trash that need to be separated from the compost. Because of the location of our compost bin, a lot of wind-blown litter (candy wrappers, mostly) settles into our pile.
We have a set of metal steps in the yard that have mesh steps and a mesh top. This is where I separated my compost. In the past we have used a sifter made from 2x4's and wire mesh, but it became yet another thing that our goats destroyed.
I placed a few storage totes under the steps to catch the compost, and used a flat headed shovel to mix and stir the compost so that it would fall through my sifting apparatus.
What fell through and was caught in the totes will be mixed into my garden soil and be made into compost tea.
I combined the two totes into one, put a lid on it and stored it in the fenced-in garden to keep the goats, chickens, wind and rain from ruining it. Last year I made the mistake of leaving my bin where the goats had access. Now we have a very well-fertilized patch of weeds in the middle of the yard.