Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor’s Manure Pile

Look at it.  Just sitting there.  All that fertility.

My neighbor cleaned his feed lot and put together a big-ole manure pile.  The stuff that dreams are made of.  I’m sure he’ll spread it on his fields this fall without really letting it compost but that’s just how most people do it.

My other neighbor, my dad, keeps horses.  There is a fair manure pile at the barn made from the manure of one of the horses.  I …erm…liberated…some portion of that manure for my garden and hope that dad doesn’t mind.  I mean, it’s his manure.  He needs it for his hay fields and his own garden.  Maybe if I put in some extra effort to keep all three horses bedded and keep the manure composting he won’t mind…

I have a few cows.  We rotationally graze them so there is no cow manure pile.  I have a lot of chickens…same thing.  No manure except in the old hen house.  Pigs?  No manure pile.  I keep rabbits and the breeders stay put.  Well, that’s what I’ve got.  Rabbit manure.  Well, rabbit manure and what I clean out of the hen house each spring and fall.  Well, that and what I clean out of the greenhouses in the spring.  But I need compost now.  Like…NOW!  Ugh.  What to do?

I guess I could head to St. Louis Composting to just buy compost.  For $25 I can buy a pickup truck load but why would I do that when I could spend a month shoveling, raking, sifting and hauling to end up with a lesser quality (though herbicide-free) compost for free?

And even if I had my neighbor’s manure piles and even if I had the energy to turn them all by hand or a heaven-sent front-end loader to turn the piles for me would it be enough?  How much finished compost could I haul home at $25/yard?  When would that be enough?  If I had 50 yards of compost sitting in a pile on the farm ready to be used would I still look over the fence wishing that manure pile was my own?  Is there such a thing as enough?  Am I a compost miser?  Do I hoard manure?  Are my eyes bigger than my stomach?

How much is enough?  I don’t know.  I just know I need more and I need it right now.  And again in the spring.  And again in the summer.  And again next fall.  Does anybody else have these problems?

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Farm Bank Deposits

Northern people have always been savers.  Those that didn’t save didn’t make the winter.  Those that saved may have made the winter.  Farmers are savers.  We are savers.  Unfortunately, we don’t have any money.  We save sunshine.  This is the main branch of the First Chism Heritage Farmers Bank, established in 18??.  We keep our sunshine here.

Isn’t it majestic? (don’t mind the paint job or the leaky roof)  Several times each year we walk up to the teller’s window to make a deposit.

Then, to keep banking fees to a minimum, we head into the vault to help arrange, sort and stack the deposits.  Here’s a small portion of this year’s deposits.

In the foreground you can see a low stack of sunshine in the form of alfalfa bales from the third cutting.  Further back, among the posts, is more sunshine in the form of grass hay we cut earlier in the year.  To the left (and out of the camera) is an absolute mountain of alfalfa hay.  There are also a few fair piles of straw tucked away here and there.  Tons and tons of sunshine.  Think of the different kinds of hay as different kinds of currency and I’ll keep my lame bank analogy running.  When withdrawals are needed we head into the vault, determine which kind of currency is in demand that day and grab a whole bale of it.

Since this is a farm economy (and something of a closed loop) any withdrawls from the loft vault are soon to become deposits somewhere else.

Then deposits somewhere else.

Then deposits somewhere else.

Then out to the alfalfa field.  Just add sunlight and a dash of rain and we’re ready to fill the barn vault again.