Transition Culture

An Evolving Exploration into the Head, Heart and Hands of Energy Descent

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26 Jun 2006

Muck Glorious Muck…

pooAccess to manure is an important part of maintaining soil fertility in an organic system, the problem can often be tracking down where to get it from. Humanure composting is not an option for everyone (or rather is *perceived* as not being an option), so manure it is. Before I get howls of derision from vegan gardeners out there arguing that there are ways of coping without it, I am aware of that, but for me, you can’t beat a nice bit of muck. Anyway, the question then arises as to where to get it from. Well, wonder of wonders, here is a website that tells you all the places near you (UK only I’m afraid) where you can find free muck. Don’t say you never get something for nothing at **Transition Culture**. Once you’ve got your horse manure, here is something else you can do with it while it is composting…

poo2Tim Doherty at Log Cabin Chronicles has a very entertaining piece where he talks about you can cook three freshly caught trout with approximately 300 lbs. of fresh horse manure, one large bale of clean straw (50 to 100 lbs.) and several cups of dolomitic limestone ( he doesn’t say why he doesn’t just make a fire and grill them!). You basically make a hot compost heap, carefully layered, so that it gets up to 140-160 degrees.

poo3This can take a while, so this is one meal you need to plan in advance. When the inside of the heap reaches the required heat, wrap your trout in tin foil and pop them into the middle. You then wait 18 hours (this is clearly not a recipe for if family call in unexpectedly). Then, he writes;

>prepare a bed of fresh spinach to receive the trout. At the appointed meal time, gather your friends and proceed to the composting area to retrieve your “repas.

The resultant slow cooked trout is supposed to be delicious.

jean pain The same principle of using hot composting to do more than just make compost is found in the work of the great Jean Pain, who used the heat from hot compost heaps to heat greenhouses and houses (see right). I remember the Organic Centre in Leitrim did some experiments with this. So there you go, horse manure, fantastic stuff, and available free near you(free fish not included).

I also heard recently about an initiative in Cornwall to make paper out of sheep manure, as a tourist gimmick, which I thought was a great idea. Perhaps horse manure paper could catch on…. maybe even horse manure fabric? Then we might see the advertising slogan, “Where There’s Muck There’s Bras”. Ramble ramble, I must go now, and do something useful….

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1 Comment

David Huck
28 Jun 3:16am

Good to see manure making the rounds again. And frankly, I can’t see any reason not to use it, especially since animals can process pasture land we can’t… though I’m sure there are many reasons floating around out there. But anyway, I want to point out that “cooking” manure at high heat (above 130 or so) severly reduces its fertilizer percentage by cooking out much of the nitrogen. I realize that was in jest, but a a compost pile shouldn’t be that hot in reality.

Also, as if there isn’t already enough reading to keep one busy for a few lifetimes, I highly recommend “Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food In Hard Times” by Steve Solomon. He was an original back to the lander, tried out the intensive gardening deal, found it too much work and too resource intensive for the slightly yield increase, and has now, 30 years on, written an excellent book that is the beginning of an agricultural education. A few reasons I enjoyed it immensely:
1) Peak Oil is only included as a “gimmick” idea, mentioned in passing. Sure he believes hard times are ahead, but what he’s saying applies to anyone trying to grow food “when it counts.” Peak Oil is just another reason to do it, not THE reason to do it, and thus the advice is better.
2) Much of what he says just seems intuitive. In fact the farmer’s (from 5 to 150 acres, low input or organic) I’ve run some of this by have all agreed, though some were also intrigued by what he had to say in some areas.
3) He starts of telling you he is going to be the grandfather you never had, namely what he is saying SHOULD be relatively common knowledge, but at the same time also relies on many generations to build it up and support it.
4) The bibliography begins by saying he can’t have possibly covered everything in his book, not even close to touching on every subject (he repeats this often), and recommends that if you really want to know your stuff, you should read all these books and all the books they cite, and put it into practice for a good while–except Jeavon’s book, he roundly rejects the Intensivist method.
5) The book gets better as you go, but as he points out, if you just read Chs. 1 and 2 you will still be able to do decently well.

Good sound advice for North America, the UK and many other similar places. Well written. And “just an introduction” but also a complete manual all in 350 pages.

But enough of that.

I’ll be interested to hear what comes of your conversations with Rollnick and Johnstone. The forum post was quite intriguing.