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The long view – animals on the farm or The continuing saga of the Cloverwood Chronicles

January 26, 2010

Most of the time people have a one track mind when it comes to farm animals.  They are only good for one thing.  We steal their eggs and milk, and eat their meat.  We assume they are dumb when they don’t bend to our will.  We are superior and smarter, and we know what is best.  And what is best is, eggs every day, only steak, and all the milk so we can sell it or try out all those cheese recipes we have been drooling over.  It’s impressive you know, to make cheese, and dine well.  We deliberately compartmentalize in our minds that we need the best of everything and leave all the other stuff to “someone else.”

We don’t have steak too often here –  always on birthdays, or when we feel we need to treat ourselves.  It would be disrespectful to this fella and his place on our farm to only eat his steaks.  He was pill for sure, and serendipity brought him here,  but he did his part and we had to do ours.

The other huge disconnect in agriculture and our culture these days is waste.  I don’t mean wasting food, I mean animals’ waste.  And most farms waste their waste.  Or worse yet, don’t even have farm animals to complete the cycle.  The excuses are many:  too much work to clean out the barn, coop, whatever.  It stinks.  We don’t need it, we can buy fertilizer.  And organic farms aren’t exempt either, they purchase inputs to beat the band.  I purchase inputs too, but they are used by the animals first.  Minerals to help them be healthy, and to heal our pastures and gardens.  Straw to bed them to keep them warm and dry and to fuel our carbon needs for compost.  Which then in turn is spread around to replenish what we have taken.

If we want to be more sustainable we should close the gaps.  Buying in fancy amendments from far off places is no different than buying processed food at the store.  It’s convenient, and neat and tidy.  But those practices are begging for a closer look.  How much different is it really to be using purchased inputs that are deemed OK?

This discussion also needs to address the vegan mentality of farming that only allows for green manures to replenish what is taken by cropping.  That is all well and good, cover crops have their place, and I use them in my garden too.  But, that isn’t how nature works.  Cover cropping only, leaves a break in the thread that holds the farm quilt together.  It’s not really a quilt until you have all the pieces and layers put together in the whole.  Just like adding a hint of yellow to a quilt to make it pop, adding diversity by way of farm animals is a way to make the land come alive.

But the land will probably won’t wake up if we don’t nurture that manure.  It sounds funny doesn’t it?  Nurture manure.  We giggle when the horse farts, or when the cow poops during a farm tour.  Bathroom humor, stuck in the 4th grade when bodily functions are thought to be embarrassing or awful.  It never ceases to amaze me how fixated people are with poop in such an odd way.  It must not be seen or heard, shoo $hit, get outta here!  But really we need to start paying more attention and close the gaps in our farming and gardening processes.

Besides using short duration, high density grazing to place the manure where we want it, we use deep bedding during the winter when the soil is dormant.  I know it makes people groan thinking of cleaning out a chicken coop anymore than they already do.  But by adding carbon, (in our case a little sawdust and lots of straw) the sum of  the manure and carbon parts is more than the whole.  The bedding takes on a life of its own, starting the age-old process of decomposition and turning into rich soil.

I need to rotate my chicken coops, which are actually small greenhouses.  So yes, I will clean it out by hand, but the material is light, doesn’t smell, and everyone needs exercise right?  Not the same as my neighbor’s chicken house which is a dank, dark, crap encrusted cute little chicken coop, painted to look like a little barn.   I wouldn’t want to clean that out either.

As you can see, from the last three photos, the top layer is straw, and and you dig a little deeper it is rich soil already.  I didn’t do anything but bed the chickens as needed.  The hens and the microbes did the rest, and hats off to the earthworms too, my coop has dirt floor so the worms have a field day here too.

So connect the dots, confinement can be OK – the key word is management.  We manage all our other affairs, why not our livestock manure.  Free range is good in theory, but we need to mix and match a little.  If my chickens free-ranged, I would be feeding the wildlife, and not gaining any manure or eggs.  Less work, but more worry.  Same with our cows, I can build a little fence everyday so the cows can graze or I can sweat bullets making more hay or worse yet, work at a desk so I can buy hay from someone else.

There is gold in them thar compost hills, we just need to build them first!

What do you think, can agriculture survive without farm animals somewhere in the equation?

56 Comments leave one →
  1. January 26, 2010 9:02 am

    The animals on a vegan farm are the humans, no need to waste most of those useful nutrients when they can be gathered up and composted along with the vegetable wastes.

    It might not fit your choice but it makes sense to us.

    • January 27, 2010 5:54 pm

      Catofstripes, are you able to grow most of your food with your composting? Or do you purchase food stuffs grown elsewhere?

  2. January 26, 2010 9:03 am

    What an interesting post. Thank you for posting! Much to think about and discuss for sure. Do I think agriculture can survive without animals in the mix as far as manure goes?…absolutely. Nature builds soil and re-juvenates itself with animal compost for sure, just not big animal compost…little animals like insects and soil microbes would be much more probable in the overall scheme of things. I would have to say that in nature, large omnivores, birds and ruminants play a very minor role in soil building. Nature hosts microbes, inects and other animals in the soil through natural rotations and a very diverse plant base…legumes for nitrogen, natural cover crops, worms, voles and gophers for tillage, brassicas and other types of plants for phosphorous & potassium conversion, tap-roots to bring leached minerals to the surface. On and on and on. Larger animals have their role for sure as you are demonstrating on your farm, but organic agriculture can indeed get along nicely without either the fancy inputs that you describe or the farm animals. Carefully planned tillage, timely planting and harvesting related to comprehensive crop rotation and cover crops can supply the soil with all known ingredients to create healthy soil and productive crop lands…without purchased inputs. As far as all your other points, I couldn’t agree more. Excellent reading.

    • January 27, 2010 6:05 pm

      John, are you aware of farms that have done this long term? Klaas and Mary Marten come to mind, but I have no idea what they are using as a nitrogen source. Many organic farms here use broiler or layer litter, or feather meal for a nitrogen source.

      My favorite farms are Eric & Anne Nordell’s Beech Grove Farm, and Nigel’s Eatwell farm. Both are using some animal manure, but not copious amounts. Generally feed the soil and cover crops and then rotate vegetables through.

      I am sure there are many more, such as yourself too that are giving a people an alternative to industrial ag.

      • January 29, 2010 10:35 am

        Well…we have been doing it long term and it is common practice here on the prairies with all the organic grain farms I can think of. There is simply too much land and not enough animals around here. Nitrogen is simply sourced from legumous plow-downs. Peas, soy beans, clover…alfalfa is great because of its ability to fix nitrogen from the air into nodules in its roots plus it has a tremendous tap root of up to 11m to suck up leeched nutrients from deep within the earth! I will post about it on my own blog sometime soon. All the nutrients required for successful cropping can be easily attained without any animal manure whatsoever. There are a few exceptions like liming etc. that affect ph and don’t have anything to do with nitrogen that need to be obtained from, well, lime stone.

        • January 29, 2010 12:47 pm

          John, can’t wait to learn more from your future blog posts. Do you all raise your own legume seeds too? I guess when I think of crops, I think of the intensive vegetable farms in our area, since not too much grain is grown on this side of mountains. And most farms I know of don’t really integrate the animals with the crop land in an integrative way – livestock goes here and crops go there – is the usual order of business.

          Looking forward to those posts!

  3. Aveena permalink
    January 26, 2010 9:43 am

    Recently I was wavering about keeping my 2 dairy goats, wondering if they pull their weight in terms of dollars. I began calculating the amount I spend on their feed against the price of the organic dairy products I would have to buy if they were gone. It’s about even, not including my labor. My decision to keep them, though, was made by thinking of all the vegetables that I don’t buy at the store because my garden is so marvelously fertile and healthy. I just don’t think it would be as verdant without the manure. Buckwheat just won’t cut it for me. The goats stay.

    • January 27, 2010 6:09 pm

      Aveena, I agree, buckwheat has it’s place but so does animal manure. We have been trained to only think of the tangibles, so unless you can produce a spreadsheet showing how much your goats pooped, what it weighed and how many minutes a day it took to transport it to the compost pile vs the value of your garden produce compared to the store you are sunk these days 🙂

  4. boveybelle permalink
    January 26, 2010 9:54 am

    You gotta have the animals, to get the good soil. When we had horses, they were mucked out daily and although they are now in new homes, I still have a marathon muck heap which is feeding my soil and better still, making it more friable. We have heavy clay on top of slate/shale bedrock which does NOT make for easy gardening. But dig in well-rotted muck heap (or farm yard manure) and you have a totally different soil texture, and a greater depth of soil – much easier to work and which produces good crops. It is part of the natural cycle.

    Two year old muck heap – even when it’s shavings-based rather than straw (which of course rots down much quicker) cuts like a rich fruit cake . . .

    As for your chicken-keeping neighbours with the dirty coop – that breeds disease and how on earth can they keep on top of treating for red-mite etc if everything is plastered in poop with the consistency of concrete?! If you have animals, they come with an energy price-tag. They give you food, you keep them clean and well-fed. In my books anyway.

    P.S. Bet you have some very happy worms!

    • January 27, 2010 6:11 pm

      Boveybelle, I am happy to report all the worms are happy except the ones that got consumed by the hens!

      I have given up on those neighbors, they are worried about us – since they found out we don’t eat Jello! Imagine.

  5. January 26, 2010 10:15 am

    Hubby and I just spent an afternoon shoveling out the chicken house, the rabbit shed, the billy goat barn and the barn where my girls live and flinging it on my frozen garden where it will sit until we can till it in this spring. Poop is fabulous and my garden gets a lovely mix of horse, goat, chicken, and rabbit. As for wether or not a farm can survive without livestock……..perhaps, but for sure not MY homestead. I think to me the difference is in the terminology…..homestead vs farm. My homestead exsists to provide for my family’s needs, a large farm may supply for the family’s needs but the main purpose is to make money. I’m not articulating myself very well………I know what I mean, and maybe you do as well 😉 LOL!

    Have a great and blessed day!

    • January 27, 2010 6:15 pm

      Sarah, yeah I think I agree, besides the manure benefit, I just like animals, and my bad, I like to eat them too. But truly, we do hay on a couple of “farms” bereft of the animals that once were there. The lack of diversity in grasses, forbs and bird life, is astounding! Of course, they are being kind to the environment and do not allow animals. And sadly, it shows, they just can’t see it.

  6. January 26, 2010 10:35 am

    Another great post…I’m seeing a pattern here, lol. Do I think composting without manure is possible? Yes, but I believe you will get a much better amendment with it. I think that using it makes more sense than avoiding it. Poop happens. It always has and it always will. Why not take advantage of it to help suit our needs?

    The vegan concept of not using animal waste seems to take things a bit far. Like I said, poop happens. Cows are vegan too, so unless you’re eating the poop itself, your food will still have no animal by-products in it. Just a thought.

    • January 27, 2010 6:17 pm

      Paula, good points, but as a vegan once pointed out to me that cows cannot be true ruminants because they are killing insects and eating them with each bite of grass… sigh.

      It’s better to take andvantage of it than it is to make it problem for someone else, which is what huge factory farms do.

  7. January 26, 2010 11:00 am

    Great post, and I’m glad I followed the link to learn about Blackie and his demise, which didn’t bug me, but maybe that was because he was already starting to look like meat when you got the first picture.

    Anyway, I just finished a book on compost making that was written in ’46 in the UK, and the author indicated that although her method made great compost in 4 to 6 weeks and after analysis was no different in fertile value than compost made by the bio-dynamic method against which it was tested, it did seem to produce even more and better vegetables when chicken and rabbit manure was added.

    I think that animals have a place with us, and as long as they live happy lives and are dispatched humanely, they should continue to contribute to our compost piles and dinner tables. The one exception is manure coming from animals pastured on land treated with Merit or Forefront herbicides by Dow Chemical. Evidently, the herbicide can persist in the gut of the animal and the compost pile into which their manure goes, with ill effects on plants grown in that compost (for more info, see

    I wasn’t aware of this issue until I read the post, so I’ll be saving animal inputs for when I finally have some chickens and rabbits. I don’t have enough space for anything larger.

    Thanks again for the post- really good reading.

    • January 27, 2010 6:23 pm

      Paula, interesting about the compost analysis. Cows play a huge part in real Biodynamics, if the preps are used properly.

      A side note about the herbicides, it isn’t only in the animal feed, it is in the bedding straw too, so gardeners have to be careful about their straw source.

      I work occasionally at a soil testing lab nearby, and have heard many horror stories about Clopyralid. Here is another link about it.

      Click to access 60.pdf

  8. January 26, 2010 11:47 am

    I’m so glad you are posting about your chickens. I’d love to hear more. I’d like to see pictures of your coop. When you clean that bedding out, do you put it directly in your garden or compost it further?

    I have no farm animals (so far) but I have friends who have made garden beds out of 100% composted alpaca & llama manure. They say those veggies are the best they’ve ever grown.

    • January 27, 2010 6:29 pm

      Mermaid, the coop is basically a small greenhouse. Here is an older post about it, and explains why I don’t free-range my chickens.

      I will place some of the bedding on the garden, berries and my fallow spot that is cover cropped. The rest will go to the general compost pile that is for the pastures or whatever.

      I don’t doubt that your friends garden grew so well. Composted animal manure is a wonderful thing to jump start a garden. 🙂

  9. January 26, 2010 11:49 am

    Two comments, and I regret that they don’t bring a heck of a lot to the discussion… One, I’m learning a lot about farming by reading your blog, and I suspect it’s going to help me a lot when I start up my own little farm, as I’d like to do sometimes before this decade is up. Two, the feathers on that rooster are absolutely beautiful! Such a lovely sheen to them! (My artist’s eye strikes again!)

    • January 27, 2010 6:30 pm

      Ria, thanks for the comment, and those beautiful feathers are actually on a hen – they are gorgeous!

  10. January 26, 2010 11:59 am

    Excellent post. Recently I’ve been writing on my blog about getting ready to get chickens. Of course the cost/benefit ratio comes up in the conversations, and I repeatedly get the comment that keeping chickens is a very expensive way to get eggs. But, I counter, I’m not just going to get eggs. I’m going to get meat, more chickens, and manure! The manure, I say, is worth it’s weight in gold. I know because I’ve tried gardening without it. Still, it doesn’t seem to occur to folks, even homesteaders, that they need to factor in the manure as part of the benefit I’m “paying for” in terms of my cost, i.e. feed.

    In regards to our culture and it’s disconnect from agriculture, I am a handspinner who used to do a lot of demonstrating. It absolutely shocked me how many folks commonly think that sheep are killed for their wool. Our society is so out of touch ….

    • January 27, 2010 6:34 pm

      Leigh, waste not, want not. If you have the birds you may as well gather their output on all fronts!

      I had a new spot this year in garden and I didn’t quite get to it with enough compost and the plants were small, bug infested and had a heck of a time during the heat, when right in the next row were robust growers and pest free too.

      That is one for books, kill sheep for wool – that’s bad. I like it when people tell me my cow can’t give milk because she has horns and therefore is a boy!!

  11. A.A. permalink
    January 26, 2010 12:08 pm

    Matron, I’d really like to recommend The Vegetarian Myth by Lierre Keith if you haven’t read it already. The first fourteen pages of the book can be found online on her website, just look carefully for a link. The book’s really worth reading.

    I’m getting some cows grazing starting next summer to help the fields and their soil recover. That’s my tiny contribution. In the bigger picture though, I don’t see any way agriculture is going to get reformed, and no significant change of direction is going to mean a sweeping crash. I think that grazing animals are what can make a field more living year after year, but so far as I know, nearly nobody even thinks there’s an equation there that needs to be solved. All that “balance” stuff is thought of as a problem of the past, solved by agriculture 10000 years ago, the most important one-way solution ever discovered: Open up the earth, take annuals, open it up again, take more. Too few annuals this year? Take more land. And now that whole pattern’s even more solved with the help of oil. Anyway, my two cents. Thanks for the blog post!

    • January 27, 2010 6:39 pm

      AA, I placed a hold on that book at the library today after you mentioned it earlier.

      Oh my, don’t get me started about annual cropping. There is a fair amount not far from here, and when I go to town I drive through those few remaining monocrop farms. I am always torn between wishing they would at least rotate their crops or at least give the land a rest, and then I go around the next bend and see the housing developments marching ever onward, and I am glad at least they are farming. At least they may change, but one it’s paved, that’s it.

  12. January 26, 2010 1:42 pm

    The sentiment in the first half of your post is why we homestead in a nutshell. Ten or fifteen years ago we began thinking about our society’s habit of eating what we called just eating the tasty bits. Like you said, a beefer isn’t made of stakes alone. If we all went around eating just steak and pork tenderloins, what would look like. I guess McDonalds is the answer, sell those other bits cheap enough, someone will find a way to process them with enough fat, salt and other amendments to make them palatable to the public. But what about rice hulls, the rest of wheat and every where else we have paired down what we eat to the tastiest fraction of what nature offers us. And our our intestines and waistlines show the results.

    Growing and consuming our own food, using all of it because that is what we have and composting what’s leftover at every stage is a big part of the motivation that has us keeping our own livestock and planting more gardens.

    • January 27, 2010 6:43 pm

      MMP. I did kind of get off track there didn’t I. Shoveling manure will do that to a gal…

      Good point about the rice hulls, I cringe when I see recipes for things like homemade granola and it calls for wheat germ, wheat bran and this and that. We humans are good at taking things apart and then putting it all back together again with something else. We are a nation of by product eaters now. A woman I used to work with thought she was eating vegetables by having a daily doses of french fries and a serving of chocolate zucchini cake. She also never drank water, just soda. How she maintained her large, lean frame I have no idea. I often wonder how her health is now…

  13. January 26, 2010 2:56 pm

    Thanks Matron, this is one of your best yet, very dear to my heart.

    I was talking with my son (5 years) yesterday about what useful creatures chickens are and we listed all the things they do. Eggs were top of the list but he managed (with a little prompting) to list all the other things: meat, poop, compost, scrap and bug eaters and decoration (’cause they’re fun to watch and they give us feathers for Indian headresses!).

    I run a few beef cows for my freezer and a jersey heifer calf who I hope will become a house cow and I’m thinking about managing my paddocks more like you describe (short duration, high intensity), but I’m interested in what you do for water as I have fixed drinking troughs and would need to sort out something different.


    • January 27, 2010 6:48 pm

      Ms. Lottie, prompting at 5 is a good thing. He won’t have any trouble making healthy choices when it comes to food.

      I do move the water with each paddock, sometimes though depending on the lay of the land, I can get 4 days out of one trough move by adjusting the fence. It is more work to have the water and minerals always moving, but I don’t like lanes to a central watering spot.

  14. Rita permalink
    January 26, 2010 4:14 pm

    You mentioned in the “grow a pair” post comments that propagating chickens on one’s own farm would lead to in-breeding problems. This I can understand. BUT, what did our not so long ago ancestors do for chickens before the days of big hatcheries, back when this country had more family farms than cities? Didn’t they just hatch their own chicks? or did they trade roosters with neighbors?

    • January 27, 2010 6:51 pm

      Rita, the people I knew that kept their own chickens did trade roosters and sometimes fertile eggs with others. Chickens also weren’t such a big deal then either, chicken meat was a luxury.
      They kept their best hens for years that would raise chicks. So it can be done, bull trading was common too, but no longer.

      • Rita permalink
        January 27, 2010 7:05 pm

        Funny, city girl that I am, chicken was always cheap meat for us–yes, I know, it was raised horribly. Now that we buy directly from a farmer chicken is very expensive. Probably a more realistic cost after reading all you have said about chickens.

  15. January 26, 2010 5:35 pm

    I love my animals, they are clean and the manure is used on the garden or out in my fields.

  16. January 26, 2010 6:05 pm

    A neighbor pointed out to me that when your horse passes gas, he is just assuring you that his digestive tract is still operating efficiently.

    Then again, growing up my Dad’s cousin told me that the cow yard “was the smell of money”. When I passed that bit of wisdom to an eight year old foster boy – he replied, “It doesn’t smell like money to me!”

    The 19th century book “Ten Acres Enough” begins with the observation that “No man needs to farm more land than he can efficiently manure.”

    I read of the Nordeens in Pennsylvania, incorporating the heat generated by compost into managing their greenhouse. Also, some horse owners report they mound manure around the sides of their water tank, to insulate and warm the water to reduce ice on the stock tank. The Nordeens used a complex of three bins for compost. In the first, some chickens scavenged as manure and other materials are added, to reduce the presence of seeds and larvae. Once full, the chickens are moved to the next “fill” bin, and a pig is turned into the full one. Holes are poked into the full bin, and corn dribbled in, to get the hog to turn the compost over on a continual basis. When the full bin has completed composting, the chickens and pig are moved to the next bin over – and the ready bin is emptied while fresh material is added to the chicken populated “fill” bin. They added a catwalk, to get the chickens from one end to the other over the pig’s bin.

    Some horse owners report using a pit for composting manure, with a pig kept in it to keep the manure and compost stirred and turned. Again, baits of corn are used to keep the pig turning over the compost/manure.

    Matron, I think you may be understating one big reason for all the agribusiness farms without livestock. With livestock, you have to feed daily, and usually twice a day. That means that you have to be home, and working, on a regular schedule. This isn’t just a chore, or an annoyance, it is a cultural embarrassment, if you are trying to believe you are as socially adept and sophisticated as any one else. Taking on livestock is a distinctly different livestock than living livestock-free. There are also changes in relationships with the community and friends – who may not value the need for you to keep to the feeding schedule your livestock comes to expect.

    Once you break the ice, of course, you only add chores, not change a major component of time management in your life. But it is a major change for anyone not used to keeping livestock.

    • January 27, 2010 7:21 pm

      Brad K., that’s funny about the smell of money, here they used to say the smell from the paper mill was the smell of money… 🙂

      I put a link about the Nordell’s in John’s comment above. Did you know that is where Joel Salatin got his idea about pig composting his deep bedding? Seeing a pig butt sticking out of a pile of certified Standardbred horse poop from Beech Grove Farm! PASA puts on some good farm conferences for sure.

      Well, people should get over the embarrassment of animal caretaking. All these big farms have employees, I doubt the owner does much actual farming, most just drive around checking on their investments.

      I love the direction that Eatwell Farm in California is going. Huge CSA with eggs and meat chickens, incorporating the fertilizing benefit of chickens for a California irrigated row crop farm. It can be done.

      Of course, this wouldn’t happen overnight, change is hard. But it’s thought anyway.

  17. January 26, 2010 9:12 pm

    From a permaculture perspective, the ability of animals to process raw materials into edible products AND convert the unused by-products into additional resources such as fertilizer, is extremely beneficial for the system. Can agriculture/gardening be done without livestock and their wastes? Well of course! But they add SO MUCH FERTILITY to the equation; why would we ignore their potential contribution?

    The travesty of mis-application of unbalanced amounts of animal manure at industrial-scaled operations just makes me sick. What a waste of a valuable resource… instead of a positive addition to the ecosystem, it is a toxic, hazardous material with negative effects. How sad.

    Bravo for another great post.

    • January 27, 2010 7:30 pm

      Thistledog, so true, by stacking multiple uses, it just makes the land more productive. When we separate is when we run into trouble. Just think of headlands on farms being grazed instead of mown, it puts wasteland on a vegetable or even grain farm into production and makes it a paying proposition. Even the most meek vegetable farmer could handle a few weaned lambs with a minimum of capital investment. Sell the lambs when the grazing season is done, and never start that tractor for mowing. Win, win.

      The popular thing around here now is bio-solids. Gee, it’s free too. Sure makes that grass grow, but stock won’t eat it. But the guy selling the hay is happy because his tonnage is up. Several fields around have stopped getting the yearly application and now the weeds that show depleted soil are rampant. Sad state of affairs.

  18. Rita permalink
    January 26, 2010 11:31 pm

    Am I the only clueless one? I got the “Grow a Pair” joke. What are the “Cloverwood Chronicles”? Google is similarly clueless.

    • January 27, 2010 7:40 pm

      Rita, I just had to throw that in, short story – long. Cloverwood is what we affectionately call our farm. You know like the subdivisions where farms used to be. Although there will be no houses planted at my Cloverwood! There are a lot of old estates around here that used to belong to the well-to-do in Portland. Not to mention Edgefield. I grew up playing in houses called Forest Hall, Menucha, Crestview, and Sunset Gables, so I thought we could call our plain jane farm something too.

      Speaking of clueless, I hope someone caught the Oprah show today with Michael Pollan. His segment was the usual, no processed pseudo-foods etc., and then Alicia Silverstone had a chance to tout her new book about a kind diet. She took the audience shopping for all kinds of processed meat and dairy substitutes. She did include fresh vegetables and fruits of course, but the rice milk and fake breaded chicken breasts kinda caught in my craw. I am sure the audience was even more confused – don’t eat processed foods to be kind to the planet, eat processed foods to be kind to the planet. Sigh.

      • Tami permalink
        January 28, 2010 7:45 pm

        I caught Oprah yesterday. Scary how far we have to go. It would be great if we all had unlimited funds and a Whole Foods in our backyard! Wish they would’ve had more with Joel Salatin…Wonderful posts lately, I don’t know where you find the time, but thanks!

        • January 28, 2010 9:12 pm

          Tami, I think Joel is too “meaty” for Oprah just yet, since she made such a stink about the beef industry. I sense another diet coming on for the “O” – but you have to admit, what she touches turns to gold a good share of the time. The vegan diet spin was a silly, I like cashews and almonds but I doubt I would want to milk one 😉

          I would have loved to see him on there though, his segment on Martha was hilarious, one of her few guests she couldn’t bulldog!

          I need to get off my soapbox I fear – and back to farming. Spring is coming, Della was on her knees “warpainting” today. She was plowing sod with her horns – it was hilarious, and in her condition!

        • Tami permalink
          January 29, 2010 5:00 pm

          I remember spending a lot of time on the weedeater in my later stages of pregnancy! I know exactly how Della feels, ready for spring! I wish I would’ve caught Joel Salatin on Martha, and I thought the same on Oprah, she may just be flirting with it, but hopefully it’ll help. We got 6 1/2 inches of snow yesterday, makes me want to bake, bake, bake, I think I see another diet in my future too!:)

        • January 29, 2010 5:42 pm

          Tami, LOL we roofed the shop waiting for the blessed event. Didn’t seem to help things along though 🙂

          Joel was hilarious with his modifiers, the audience was captivated, and if I remember right she had a vegan chef on there too after-wards, just to be PC.

          Sorry about the snow, we have still enjoying the effects of El Nino, the storms just aren’t getting here, and I am not complaining!!

  19. Kristen permalink
    January 27, 2010 9:24 am

    Thanks for the poopy post 😉 I love it!!! I deal with poop so much around here and it is rather exciting to think about how it will help feed us in the summer months 🙂

    • January 27, 2010 7:40 pm

      Kristen, sometimes you do have to think of the garden to get through it all don’t you?? Hope you’re all well 🙂

  20. michelle permalink
    January 27, 2010 5:59 pm

    i couldn’t agree with you more matron. i find myself saying that a lot while reading your stuff… now if i could land myself enough land to house all the animals…

  21. roostershamblin permalink
    January 29, 2010 6:02 pm would you please spend a few minutes and read my blog. I have been raising 50 breeds of chickens 40 years.

  22. January 29, 2010 11:03 pm

    MOH – I’d love to see more on your chicken setup! We just have a converted dog house and do buy grain in the winter but in the summer they weren’t eating it since they had full access to the yard and compost pile. Your “close the gap” posts have really got my city brain spinning. Working on getting as close to self reliant for food and personal products as possible without buying a seed extractor here. 🙂

    I do clean out the coop every 2 days and get excited to fling that chicken gold into my compost pile. Between the wee bairn, ginormous guard dog and chickens I feel like some days I am an artist in my brown period. Know what ya mean. And I don’t even have a cow.

  23. January 30, 2010 8:47 am

    I find those who talk about composting w/ animal manure far more convincing than those who don’t. Don’t know for myself yet. Have been seriously considering my chicken plans for spring, wondering if I can afford to have them spread all of that manure on the grass when I don’t have any to work with for my garden.

    It sure gets complicated. I hear that coffee grounds are almost as good – hope to get a lot of them from the coffee place nearby. They gave me an OK a couple of months ago, but the roads have been so bad I haven’t set up a collection schedule. I want to be consistent if/when I start collecting from them.

    As an unashamed carnivore, I figure using everything is the best way to pay respect.

  24. January 31, 2010 7:33 pm


    In the summer our chickens free range the lawn. Their poops are so big I go around and collect them all and throw them on top of the compost heap. You will also be surprised how much will be in the coop from overnight. I find the wood shavings and chicken poop are perfect dry layering for the compost pile as well. I bet you’ll benefit more from it than you think you will. I raised up the coop and had my husband cut a door in the back of it so that I can simply rake everything out into the waiting compost pile just below. If the shavings don’t need to be changed yet I just take a gloved hand and pick out the bigger poop piles and drop them onto the compost pile. It’s really convenient having your compost pile right next to the coop.

    Right now they are quarantined since the grass is a soggy sponge but I’ve been putting down layers of alfalfa hay in their area. They poop on it then scratch it all up and in a few short weeks it’s approaching compost. Then it gets another layer. By April or May when the lawn is shored up enough to unleash them again that will be some great compost as well.

  25. February 2, 2010 1:52 pm

    No, I don’t think farms will survive without the animals. Nature requires a balance of all ingredients in the cycle. Without one, the others will fail.

    Compost, animal manure and cover crops make a great garden. It is all natural and there is no need to buy anything else.

    I love having my own source of chicken manure!

  26. Angie permalink
    February 3, 2010 8:53 am

    My goodness, i have been reading your blog for some time now, and i never knew we were neighbors until i saw that meat package 🙂

  27. Richard Paget permalink
    March 3, 2010 1:24 am

    Does anyone have direct experience of low tech (yet hopefully quite efficient) methods to harvest heat from manure muck heaps? I have searched for info on hotbeds – ie a ‘cold frame’ ontop of a pit filled with newish muck with a soil cap. But the descriptions all seem quite simplistic and allude to it not being as easy as it sounds … without saying why or how.

    What I am really looking for are examples of people who have harvested the heat from the centre of muck / straw / hay / shavings heaps? Especially – if you do take heat away: how much do you get over what time period; and what effect does taking the heat away have on the composting process or even the worms that are breaking down the fibres to produce something that will improve the soil.

    Thank you.

  28. February 16, 2011 8:21 am

    Does your household compost humanure?

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