Shoveling Poo

Keeping the soil in our 18 gardens healthy and fertile without the use of any commercial fertilizers requires constant effort and attention.  We carefully follow a rotation plan and we use cover cropping.  Our goal is to produce 2 cover crops that are tilled back into the soil for every crop that we harvest.

We don’t use any off-farm inputs to fertilize.  Instead we use compost we make here, the litter from our chicken coops, and manure from our animals.  We like to think that we harvest sunshine and rainwater.  They produce the grass, which feeds the livestock, which make the manure, which fertilizes the gardens, which feed us.  It’s a beautiful self-contained system, designed by nature.

Even though humans have been farming this way for thousands of years, these practices are rarely followed anymore, having been replaced with the use of chemicals and synthetic fertilizers.

But we’re happy doing it the old-fashioned way.  Yesterday morning I shoveled out the horse’s stall, where he likes to hang out during the heat of the day.  I took the wonderful fertilizer that he deposited there and spread it on the garden that produced our garlic this year.  About this time next year it should be producing tomatoes and other goodies for us, thanks to a recipe of seeds, soil, rain, sunlight, compost, human labor and a dose of horse manure.

That’s a good combination.



6 comments on “Shoveling Poo

  1. Bill, yes, indeed I remember those shoveling days during my teen years. Mom always raised chickens destined for the freezer so about the middle of July it was time to clean out the chicken coop. I was blessed with that job. I just had to keep in mind the end result was Sunday fried chicken dinners. The mixture of chicken poo and straw was great to spread on the garden areas and work into the soil. The manure from the 13 milk cows would be cleaned up daily and piled out in the yard next to the barn. After harvest in the fall it would be spread out over the fields to help improve the soil. Dad was not one to use commercial fertilizer either. Crop rotation was key to his homestead management. Unfortunately, he never passed that knowledge on to me. I found some old books of his during my high school years that were from a course in farming he had taken. All I can remember was they were very detailed in land and animal management. No one in the family knows what happened to those books or even remembers them. It would be great to have those today because back in the 1940s and 1950s farms were managed with natural techniques. Today the fancy word “Permaculture” is used for what was just normal farm management back then. I’m encouraged to read about the movement back to natural land management for growing food. Thank you for all your efforts to educate folks.

    Have a great shoveling poo day.


    • Bill says:

      You’re right that there is nothing new about these kind of practices. In a generation they went from being normal to being weird.

      We get a lot of information out of old books about farming/gardening. Basically anything written before WWII (after which came the advent of chemical farming) is helpful and relevant to our way of doing things.


  2. I once drove around in a pasture and picked up dried cow pies, threw them in the back of the jeep and hauled them home for my garden … I had to do some poop shoveling in the barn of my family farm so it was not too bad a gig …


    • Bill says:

      It’s not a bad gig at all. I spent much of today shoveling out the goat stalls, to the benefit of the gardens. I like to say that I used to spend a lot time shoveling manure figuratively. Now I still do it, but literally.


  3. avwalters says:

    Hopefully, within a few years, most of American agriculture will have come full circle, back to a more natural balance. It will be good for the soil, and good for the planet. More and more research is showing the carbon trapping benefits of organic farming and gardening.

    I have a challenge ahead of me. We are building on land that has never been occupied. You’d think all those years “au naturel,” would have left us with good soils. Nope. My soil report came back this week to confirm that what we have is essentially dune sand. We have years of soil-building in my future. I relish the opportunity.


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