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King of the dung heap

April 14, 2010

Some women covet a day at the spa, a candlelit dinner, and jewelry that shimmers and sparkles on their neck.

I love a day in the barnyard, two shovels, and manure that sifts and crumbles in my hands.

I now pronounce you king of the dung heap

Farmer Bruce, who supplies us with gallons of cream-on-top milk, has offered up his lovely manure heap; I guess you could say we’re getting both ends of the cow now.

I can barely begin a new planting season until each garden bed has a fresh layer of manure.

We’ve picked rocks out of black, ultra-composted cow manure from the historic Fort Lewis Indian boarding school site. We’ve held our noses in the supremely stinky rabbit caverns of a spunky octogenarian who goes by “grandma.” We’ve sadly watched the health of our “goat lady” deteriorate while feisty new kids are born to her ewes each spring. And once, back in the early days, so hungry for manure, we drove–truck loaded with shovels and buckets–to the rural outskirts of town, and–ye gads!–knocked on the first door whose homestead sported a cow lazing about.

Because we know that this:

begets this:

Col helped us shovel until Bruce’s grandson came home from the hills behind their house with the lizard he just caught. And a friendship as passionate and fleeting as a summer-camp romance bloomed and withered while Dan and I loaded eight 50-gallon garbage cans with cow poop.

Rose opted to stay in the truck, singing to herself and misplacing her crocs. I’m thinking she would have preferred a spa day and some sparkly jewelry topped off by a candlelit dinner. We’ll indoctrinate you yet Rose Raven.

Here’s our system, tried and true for twelve years:

Load those suckers up

and squeeze 'em in the truck bed

Be sure to thank the cows (a different trip - we love this stuff!)

Once home, Dan puts the heavy buckets on Col’s scooter and shuttles them around to our backyard (ingenious development since our wheelbarrow has a flat).

Then, timmmbbbberrrr…

Overheard on the way home from a manure date:

Me: Thanks for helping me get manure to the garden.

Dan: I love shoveling shit with you.

Hallelujah! Can you hear the garden angels singing?

*So. I’m just a teensy bit embarrassed that I just posted TEN pictures of our manure run. Maybe this is where you realize this is not the “Mommy blog” where I discuss decorative fingernail appliques or how to sneak spinach into your kids’ cupcakes. But if you’re still here, you’ve probably gathered that. Thank you for being here.

32 Comments leave one →
  1. April 14, 2010 9:27 am

    Awesome. And you’re brave. I’m happy with using the results of the compost bin, for now (though there are no cows in Montreal to borrow poo from, either.)

  2. April 14, 2010 9:38 am

    I may be crazy too. But, the smell of cow manure is like heaven. I grew up smelling the smell and it’s very comforting! We have a horse manure pile a block down the street that we scavenge. My husband talked to the owners who were so thrilled that we’re loving it! Jonathan and the kids go for a “manure run” with their wheelbarrows. He likes it for the exercise and how the manure has changed our desert soil into something that can grow veggies! So, we have something else in common Rachel!

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      April 14, 2010 10:13 am

      Kyndale, what a neighborhood score! I love the image of Jonathan and kids toting wheelbarrows of poop down your street!

  3. April 14, 2010 10:03 am

    That’s why you’re my favorite place to visit. ;)

  4. April 14, 2010 10:06 am

    Ah, Romance.

    Maybe you could sneak roadkill into the muffins instead? :)

  5. Ami permalink
    April 14, 2010 10:40 am

    Funny, the roadkill managed to come to mind for me, too, as I read! I was thinking, wow, first roadkill, now manure, and yes, she mentioned her fresh milk again – oh, how the jealousy grows!

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      April 14, 2010 3:12 pm

      Ami, I seem to remember some pretty luscious-looking cow poop in Humboldt county!

  6. April 14, 2010 10:53 am

    God, that’s romantic. I had to shovel my shit alone.

  7. April 14, 2010 11:50 am

    Our kids will undoubtedly have different experiences growing up :)

    Because we’re in the heart of the urban jungle, I am trying to mindfully raise my toddler to not lose sight of the world beyond the concrete around us, and that’s why I come to your site. It provides me with the inspiration to keep her, us, grounded. Shoveling shit may be a little outside of our realm here but roadkill – albeit smaller ones in the size of squirrels and possums – may find its way to our table someday.


    • April 14, 2010 11:52 am

      P.S. What your husband said to you is my idea of romance. It made my heart a-flutter.

  8. Audrey permalink
    April 14, 2010 12:17 pm

    I’m jealous! But I still crave a spa. Maybe Day 2.

  9. Melissa permalink
    April 14, 2010 12:32 pm

    and i think i have been badass lately?

    there’s nothing better than shoveling shit with your life partner–literally or figuratively.

  10. abozza permalink
    April 14, 2010 3:16 pm

    I’d much rather read your non-traditional mommy blog any day of the week! :)

  11. April 14, 2010 3:22 pm

    Nothing like a good manure run! Giggle.

    Still, if your garden is as fruitful as the one you pictured, it’s worth it!

  12. April 14, 2010 4:45 pm

    You know what they say … One woman’s shit is another woman’s chard. Or in your case, it’s both! =>

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      April 14, 2010 6:34 pm

      Stacia, that must be one of those really wise, old sayings.

  13. Barb permalink
    April 14, 2010 6:05 pm

    1a. Thank goodness for the scooter! 1b. Thank goodness for kid who shares the scooter! 2. Isn’t that some cute naked babe of yours back by the tent?

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      April 14, 2010 6:34 pm

      Barb, you win the prize for spotting naked Rosie!

  14. April 14, 2010 6:11 pm

    Oh, we shoveled some manure this weekend and yes I will have to agree with you it is quite exciting to think about what it will help produce! Wonderful post, I loved hearing your manure date conversation lol
    Happy shoveling! : )

  15. April 14, 2010 8:42 pm

    love the poo pictures :) lol

  16. April 15, 2010 10:30 am

    I love how you guys make the best of what you have available to get the job done. We do the same on our homestead. We don’t have a whole lot of tools and accessories, but we use what we do have.
    Warm wishes, Tonya

  17. April 15, 2010 12:57 pm

    I’m envious again that you have a source for not just cow milk but manure…the goats we milk once a week contribute their manure to the community garden outside their pen, and I could just spit at the sight of all that black gold–a good six inches– piled on the insanely productive beds. I’m feeling a little late for manure–what’s your take on composting it?–and so am making endless batches of compost tea instead. I’m still planning the blog garden party, but will move it towards the end of the month since I just finally decided what my contribution should be about. Send me a link when you’re ready, and I’ll post a reminder soon.

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      April 15, 2010 2:51 pm

      Kyce, It’s not too late for manure as long as it has sat for a year composting – I transplant greenhouse babies right into composted goat manure. And compost tea is probably fabulous, I just personally find I can’t start planting until the truckbed of poop is heaved onto the beds. Must be a genetically coded superstition from my old world ancestors. —– Original Message —–

  18. April 15, 2010 1:18 pm

    you always make me laugh. that is why (one reason) i love to read your blog. your day and photos and even that snippet of a conversation reminds me of my husband and i. after our first son was born our first *date* was butchering our chickens together and we were so happy to have time together we didn’t care what we were doing:) ahhh…the good life! be well. xo, pennie

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      April 15, 2010 2:30 pm

      That’s so funny Pennie. I always have felt that the butchering Dan and I get to do sans kids is a date – he’s my captive audience!

  19. April 15, 2010 3:18 pm

    Woo, gads! We had a mountain of cow poo in front of our house most of last spring while they landscaped. I was pregnant and the smell made me gag so. But you’re right~it’s good sh..stuff.

    If you don’t already own this book, try to find it at the library for your kiddos~adorable! Big Bug Surprise by Julia Gran

  20. April 15, 2010 6:44 pm

    Well, you’ve probably intuited by now that I am the kind of girl who digs an occasionaly day at the spa (candlelight and jewelry I can do without, not to mention decorative fingernail appliques), but I do envy you your garden – not to mention your ingenuity in the use of kids’ vehicles. Love the photo of Dan navigating the can of manure on Col’s scooter. Pure awesome.

  21. Steph permalink
    April 15, 2010 10:31 pm

    Love the photos…. especially the cows all around the subaru, Dan with the scooter, and naked Rose outside the tent!!

  22. April 16, 2010 4:55 pm

    I’ll gladly read about your shit anytime. And you can send Rose to me, if even just for a weekend. I would love to treat her to a spa day, all the sparkly jewelry she can wear and a candlelit dinner!!

  23. April 18, 2010 1:19 pm

    LOL! I’ll take sh!t over fingernail polish and stealth veggies any day! :)


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