In praise of shoveling manure

I’m trying raised beds this year, in hopes of making my clay-based garden bed usable. Man, is it work. Last week I got the wood down. I could write an entire post on just that, but the short version is a multitude of thanks sung to Ted and Julie for providing, cutting, and moving free lumber and for assistance with putting it in. This week, sisters, I’ve been shoveling shit. Well-composted, nutrient-rich horse shit mixed with hay and sawdust. I’m working on figuring out why I enjoyed it as much as I did.

Bob lent me his truck two different nights to haul manure from the piles that build up at the university equestrian center. I’m admitting, in public, after lovingly mocking my friends for their truck choices, that I really enjoyed driving a vehicle with that much size and power. The little, fuel-economic vehicles I usually drive don’t work like that. This was obvious when I almost got the truck stuck the first time I went to get manure. A barn worker offering to help pull me out asked, “You have four-wheel drive, right?” I said, “Uh, yeah,” thought “Oh, right!,” found the little knob that switched the vehicle from 2-wheel to 4-wheel drive and off I went. Amazing. I was also able to back down the hill to the garden and get back up again with no problems. Magic. I’ll continue to make good use of my hatchback for small-time hauling and be thankful for friends that lend me their beasts for the heavy work. Sort of on that theme, I also discovered the joy of using a pitchfork this week. The right tool for the job is a wonderful thing.

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Loading

Another reason I enjoyed the shoveling is that it feels good to use my body. After years of arm problems, it is fabulous to be able to handle an evening of physical work. I’m definitely sore and tired today, but it is mostly a pleasant ache. I’m still typing and functional–that never would have happened when my arms were bad. It feels great to use my whole body, to be sore but not in pain, to be able to do the work that I want to do. I sent a silent shout-out to my physical therapist again as I was moving wood and manure. Loading the manure in was pretty easy. As you can see from the picture, I could just back up to a mound, put down the tail gate and start pitching. It is pretty well composted, so the smell wasn’t bad.

Devin helped with last night’s final load. He gave names to the piles of manure–I remember Mount Fecal and the Dung Range. We discussed if it would be worth burrowing into the warmth of the rotting manure should the apocalypse hit. I got tired after two loads so he probably did more of the final unloading. The two of us together managed to slam my finger in the tailgate. We got through an hour plus of moving manure without mistakenly hitting each other with shovels, pitchforks, or manure. After gardening together as housemates, I’m thankful for his help as we work our two separate gardens.

Unloading
Unloading

The rest of this week (after an evening off tonight for Game of Thrones with friends) will be for finishing the beds. Plans include putting down cardboard to help kill off the grass, shoveling the manure into the beds, borrowing the truck once more to get some topsoil, getting that into the beds, and then, finally, planting. Only two weeks late. I’ll also have to deal with all the grass in the walkways at some point and get the electric fencing back up. I actually don’t have many plans filling this coming weekend (shhh, don’t tell anyone), so I’m claiming most of it for garden and house work.

Hope your summer days are treating you well, sisters. Looking forward to hearing how your various veggie and flower gardens are going, if you have them. Come see mine and me whenever you can.

Love,
Janna

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2 thoughts on “In praise of shoveling manure

  1. I think it’s so refreshing to do real manual labor. So much of our lives are indoors, in offices, dealing with reports and emails and such. Shoveling manure is the good kind of getting your hands dirty, and you can be proud of the work you did, especially when you get to harvest all the yummy things that will grow. Maybe it reminds us of our farming roots. 🙂 All the farmers around us are spreading manure on their fields–when I drop Miriam off at daycare we smell it as soon as we get out of the car. I don’t mind the smell.
    This made me think of the Marge Piercy poem, To Be of Use: http://writersalmanac.publicradio.org/index.php?date=2006/09/04
    Your dedication to your garden always amazes me!

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