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July 27, 2010: More on Manure Management

This morning our friend Andre came over and left with manure. He didn’t take a few buckets worth, but rather, he took a trailer load. He has several on hand. What he does is take a full one, and leave us with an empty one. He gets these very beefy trailers at military auctions. They are pained in camouflage colors, so they blend in with the landscape.

With an increase in herd size has come an increase in the amount of manure. Hrimmi, who is now nearly three months old, has become a major contributor. All told, Andre’s trailer holds a three week supply of poop. I’m continuing to bucket it for small scale gardeners, but now the supply often exceeds the demand.

The excess goes to Andre, who gladly hauls it off. I’m a little concerned because he off-handedly mentioned that his neighbors are getting horses. Like everyone else, he’s only going to want so much.

It’s warm out, now in the high 60s. For the first time ever, we have flies. They light on the manure piles. As I’m cleaning up, they buzz on over to the next mound, then the next. As they go, they increase their numbers. By the time I get to the final pile, they are pissed.

At this very moment in time, there is no manure in the pen, and no flies. This is one of the advantages of sequestering the horses in a large paddock. (The other is that their food intake can be monitored. ponies are easy keepers, so having them out on pasture 24/7 invites weight related problems.)

Some deal with the flies by dosing their horses with copious amounts of fly spray. And others deal by utilizing a pest management system, something along the lines of big insects consume little insects. It seems to me that the best way of dealing is to compost the manure. I suspect that we’ll go to a rotational pasture system when we get more land. (As I write this, I hear James Thurber’s Walter Mitty going ta pocketa, ta pocketa.)

I compost what manure I don’t give away. I’m making less than in the past, say, turning four stations instead of 24. But this year I’m taking things a step further. The day before yesterday Pete rebuilt the sifter, so I’m breaking it down even more. It needs to dry some before I can do this in a more efficient fashion. The gloppy stuff doesn’t go through the screen very well.

It’s beautiful stuff. The fine soil in hand has a good, earthy smell. For now, I’m storing it in food grade buckets. I’ve been showing it to friends and saying that it’s for sale for $12.00 a bucket, the same price as a bale of hay. This is marketing. I haven’t gotten any takers yet. Hopefully they’ll tell their friends. I’m willing to barter. I want to be known as the Martha Stewart of Composting. Seriously, I’m thinking about cleaning up my act, and putting on a blue jumper and white blouse when I go to garden shows.

I need to turn the lower station and start dismantling the old facility, so that I can make a larger one. Andre said that he has equipment we can borrow, so in the future I won’t be doing it all by hand. I’ll also be able to deal with larger amounts.

Manure management takes time and effort. I’m managing to stay one step ahead of it. But so far, so good.

Next: 232. 07/28/12: Frog Song