Backyard Farm Stories
The Joy of Poop
‘Eggs’ is not the only thing that comes out the back end of a chicken and if you bring chickens into your life be advised: There will be poop. Of course I knew this. What I didn’t know was how much there would be.
Chickens are the Maestros of Poopdom. They poop wherever and whenever the urge comes upon them. They poop all day long and seem particularly prone to poop in front of my friends when they stop by for sunset and wine on the patio. They even poop mountains when they’re sleeping.
Now, as a fledgling farmer I knew that I was expected to worship manure in all of its myriad manifestations. After all, it is Nature’s greatest fertilizer and an essential component of organic farming. However, I had spent a lifetime thinking of poop as the repulsive gunk that flies eat and I knew that changing my perceptions would be an uphill battle. But given that I was now knee-deep in the stuff I decided to give it a try.
My first attempt to upgrade my poop perspective was to look at the world through different eyes and the first eyes I looked through were Farm Dog Jesse’s for his mindset is completely different from mine. (He loves poop; he thinks it’s food). To be honest, my dog’s love affair with poop really grosses me out but it did make me wonder why he thinks it’s food. So I checked in with Google and after considerable clicking I discovered that Farm Dog Jesse is right. Poop is chock-full of vitamins and protein and before we disinfected the world with antimicrobial everythings and shielded our minds from the true nature of Nature we probably had no problem with the idea that a lot of animals eat poop to thrive and survive. Indeed, my research led me to stories of cute fuzzy bunnies who snack on their own home-grown Hershey’s kisses and wild horses in the high deserts of Nevada who have bacteria in their guts that turn the poor-quality grass into vitamins which end up in their poop which they then eat. Considering all that I had learned I was forced to admit that poop-as-food is a highly efficient, elegant way to recycle resources.
Sadly, this did not cure my aversion. I mean, seriously, “Oh yuk and gag me.” Right?
My second attempt focused on economics. Before chickens came to my backyard I’d been shelling out good money for organic Chicken-poo-in-a-bag. Sure, it was packaged as sanitized, neat and clean, user-friendly pellets that disguised its true nature but it was once no different from the nasty stuff the chickens spread all over my yard for free. Look at all the money I was saving!
Sadly, this did not cure my aversion for on balance paying someone else to make poop appealing and easy to use seemed worth the expense.
My third try was inspired by the Advertising Industry for they can sell us anything, right? I mean these are the folks who made us buy more old cars simply by changing their name from “used” to “pre-owned.” In this spirit I rechristened poop “Golden Resource.” Henceforth my yard was no longer full of shit but resplendent with priceless treasure.
Sadly, this did not cure my aversion for calling the stuff I scoop out of the coop every morning and put into a bucket to spread on my farm “Golden Resource” made it no less disgusting.
My fourth and final attempt to make poop my friend was to consider its undeniable value to my farm. Back before chickens when I was using store-bought poo-in-a-bag my plants were sad and spindly and harvest a disappointment. (My first year as an organic farmer back in 2011 netted me a handful of tiny tomatoes, a few small potatoes and several deformed beets). But now, thanks to the chickens’ copious contribution, I’ve got plants that look like bushes with leaves as big as dinner plates and cucumbers the size of Louisville sluggers. This argument was compelling and irrefutable.
Sadly, even this did not cure my aversion. It is true that poop is one of Nature’s miracles. It is essential to my farm and I cannot live without it. It is free and mine for the scooping. But I still do not like it.
However, I am not giving up and continue to hope that in time I will come to love Golden Resource and give it the respect it deserves. And last year I even cooked up what my real farm friends refer to as ‘tea’ which is a gruesome concoction of chicken poo and water that they pour on their vegetables. So you see I am making progress…...
The poo-in-a-bag era
The Age of Louisville sluggers