After going to Georgia Southern to pay my spring tuition I stepped into a pile of manure with both feet.
During the spring, summer, and fall, the only manure I get to harvest is from the sheep, goats, and chickens, because they all have night pens. The horses have not been fully meshed into the system yet. The cows spread their manure for me, until winter, throughout the pastures. In the winter I use a hay ring and large round bales of hay to feed the cows. This congregation makes for a concentrated area of manure with wasted hay mixed in, too much wasted hay. In late winter I use a rake on the tractor and put it into a short, long pile. If I had a tractor that could use a front end loader then I could really get it composting, but I don’t. This mixture of brown gold sits around until the end of the growing season, then it is applied to the garden beds, orchard, blueberry patch, flower and herb garden, and anyplace else that needs it. Organic matter evaporates like water in our hot summers.
I also have the manure, mixed with bedding, from the sheep and goats to spread around.
I made an egg mobile about a year and a half ago. I have not harvested the chicken manure yet. I may mix the chicken manure with some of the waste hay this spring and make a real compost pile. We don’t have what most people would call a compost pile, the only things that the hogs, chickens, or worms don’t eat is the inside of peppers and citrus peels. Our weeds even feed the animals.
The cycle of hay and feed, to manure, to the gardens, to food for us, to feed for animals is one that is ages old. It is a cycle that works well when it is in balance. Sometimes the balance of animal to crops can be tricky, when the balance is out of whack problems arise. Big mono crop or mono animal growers get so out of whack one of them is forced to import chemical fertilizer and the other has so much manure, it becomes toxic.
We try to mimic nature as best we can on a relatively small farm. This means small numbers of a large variety of animals, rotating pastures, and lots of hands on care. Although this style of farming can be a lot of work, I don’t need or care to go to a gym, it is a joy. I will speak more of the joys of animal tending in future posts. The joy of growing and eating your own food, which includes the recycling of most everything, is like the commercial says “priceless”.