Holy Crap

One of the underrated benefits of big animals is their big poo.  Between all the grass and water than goes in there's a lot that passes through, highly enriched.  It's great fertilizer, and it's all free.

If animals are out on pasture most of the year, like they should be, they do a good job of scattering it themselves.  Not too much in any one spot.  And the grass truly is greener around the cow patties, at least when there's water.  All that nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, organic matter, and lots of trace substances is just what the soil microbes need to make nutritious plant food.  In the Far East, any and all manure was valued so highly it was locked up to protect against theft.  Every scrap of it went back on the land, and there are wild accounts of incredibly productive farming.  Like 40 acres producing enough food for 240 people, 24 pigs, and 24 donkeys.   

But winter manure is a different beast altogether, because with centralized haystacks most of the manure ends up there too, unable to get to where it's needed.  The piles then are only good for keeping bill collectors away and growing tasty fly larvae for the chickens.  

Because a manure spreader seemed to be a critical item for the farm, maybe even the single most important piece of equipment, I was surprised when I couldn't find one anywhere in the area.  The closest one available was in Ohio, where an Amish farmer had listed one for sale.  Working with the Amish is interesting.  Because they don't have phones, I would send a letter or call the neighbor with a message.  A few days later I'd hear something back.  But we got the deal done, and when it arrived on the trailer I moved the Toyota out of the garage to make space for it.  Priorities.  Evidently cars are easier to come by than manure spreaders.

Like most tools the Amish use it is solid, repairable, adjustable, and understandable.  In other words it's pretty much the opposite of what you can buy at Wal Mart.  And it was probably even made in the USA.  I expect it to last my lifetime, if not longer.  And it was used, another bonus.  For some reason I've always felt partial to well built stuff that has been around the block and just needs some grease, TLC, and maybe a few repairs.

As soon as the barnyard had thawed enough to accept a pitchfork we got going.  The manure spreader holds 25 bushels, which turned out to be just right for two people working comfortably while talking about college, roommates, and boyfriends.  And when the hopper was topped off the horses were anxious to head down the field.  With chains and beaters engaged it scattered a nice wide strip, only occasionally pitching a chunk forward into the back of my head and down my shirt.

Now that I've got the barnyard figured out I just need to set up the house with that composting toilet, or maybe an outhouse around the side.  The Chinese valued their night soil so highly that it used to be considered polite for dinner guests to go to the bathroom before leaving.  I kid you not.  But I haven't yet been able to talk the family into making that sort of personal contribution to the farm.

Fall 2012