Monday, March 28th, 2011
There are so many things one really doesn’t consider when one buys a farm. The day I sat in that pristine title company’s office, dressed up and ballpoint pen in hand, snazzy realtor in expensive suit by my side, I can honestly say that the Manure Factor was not one of them.
And yet the very first thing children say when they arrive at the farm, is “ewwww, look!! Poop!!!!”
Last week we had a visit from 25 first graders. Sure enough, parked right between two of their parents’ cars was a relatively new, quite large, deposit of horse manure. I do not exaggerate when I say that the entire group of kids gathered around, marveling at this sight, squealing with both delight and horror. Now, to be absolutely honest, little kids used to make me nervous. I seemed to always be tripping over them. However, I’ve learned that these youngsters have a handle on truth and imagination that we oldsters have long forgotten — rather like the example given in “The Little Prince”: where the adults see a hat, and yet the child had drawn a snake digesting an elephant.
A dutiful adult, I spent the last nine years drily, interminably, politically correctly explaining to young children that making manure is normal (as the goat stands and pellets drop spontaneously, right before their very eyes). “It’s natural.” “Don’t you do it?” And so on and so forth, and many boring, very boring tours later …. I now exult in the enjoyment right along with them.
So last week, when the first observant little dude yelled out “It’s POOP!!!!!”, I ran over and yelled right with them, “EWWWW, WOWWWWW, COOOOOOOL.” Because to little kids, poop *is* cool. I proposed to the parents that our tour include a detailed rundown on the many different types of manure produced on the farm, and they nodded their heads vigorously in agreement: “Great idea”, “Awesome”, “Oh yeah, go for it”. We not only identified at least 5 different genres of manure, these kids got the ultimate reward: I handed them muck rakes and had them clean up the piles.
After 15 minutes, the ones who hadn’t had a chance yet started to fuss. Can anyone say “Tom Sawyer”?
I personally, look forward to my nightly barn cleanings. I don’t think I really know what “Zen” is, but if I did, I’d say there is “Zen” in this process. Dirty barn becomes clean barn in a matter of 45 minutes. How many of you have that much satisfaction in your 8 hour work day? Seriously? In fact, there are quite a few adults who come here regularly (largely cubicle refugees) and actually thank me for the chance to clean the barn and fields.
In all seriousness, the observation of manure is, in fact, an important part of being a good farmer. Often signs of illness first show up here. Keeping living quarters and fields clean is essential to grazing health, and the beauty of it is that it is all recyclable. We have dozens of gardeners who come religiously to pick up loads of the composted stuff (which by the way, does *not* smell), claiming that their gardens flourish wildly as a result of the nutrients.
As I prepare for this coming weekend’s “Manure Day”, I marvel at the cycle of life. That which is no longer needed by one creature serves to nourish many others.
Till next time,
Star Gazing Farm 501(c)3
A haven for retired farm animals and wayward goats