Sunday, March 18, 2012

Making the most of what we are given

 Does anyone else get really excited about manure? Just me then? I learned to garden from my gran who would take me for walks in the country around the mining town of Twechar in Scotland. She lived in a beautiful council house with my grandpa and my great grandpa who was unable to bend one of his legs due to a mining accident. A little lady dressed in pretty floral sundresses, she thought nothing of scooping up a fresh cowpat and popping into a plastic bag to take home for her compost heap. At the bottom of a triangular garden that ended in a point, the compost heap was built by my grandpa and was filled with kitchen peelings and garden waste, as well as the regular cowpats. She had been raised on a farm in Lithuania, a very simple, self-sufficient life close to nature. Much of her father's land was confiscated by the Communists before she came to Britain. In Scotland she made the most of her new surroundings and married life, while carrying on the traditions she had grown up with as much as possible.
Some women relish a trip to the shops for a spending spree, give me a shovel and a field full of manure and I'm in heaven. Before I put you off your tea completely I should mention that when manure is well rotted it becomes rich, dark humus suitable for sowing into directly and sweet smelling. Last month I discovered a heap of three year old manure on an bitterly cold day. Thick fog made the world seem less solid. I had a wee chat with the horses before getting to work filling all the bags we had brought. It's polite to thank them! I don't have a car so whenever I hear of someone suggesting a manure run I always jump at the chance. Ideally I would use it to cover all my beds at the allotment but I would never get enough for that. So I tend to use it just where the plants are growing. When planting potatoes I will mix some into the planting hole then leave a mound of a couple of inches on top.  If you use manure that is not quite so well rotted it is still fine to use around plants, just make sure it is a little distance away from the base of the stems.

As we were leaving the stables I noticed a lovely Bamfords Rapid Grinding Mill from about 1910. It would have been used for crushing whole grain before feeding it to the animals. I love the hand painted signage which is in pretty good condition considering the age. I'm hoping to get back out to the stable next week with my Italian friend Corrina. Making the most of my surroundings while carrying on the traditions I grew up with.


  1. Finding a source of manure or compost is always a great discovery. There is an alpaca farm near us and I keep meaning to get in touch with them but never get round to it. Another thing to add to the list!

  2. Hello there from North Carolina in the USA,

    I am wondering, have you ever tried "green manuring"? That's what they call it here. Basically, you get some annual rye grass seed, scatter it around your plot, then let it sprout and grow. There are bacteria on the roots that "fix" nitrogen directly from the air we breath. This goes into the soil, where it can be used to feed other plants, just like what you do with horse manure.

    Paul --

  3. Ooh yes! I'm the same. The sight of a well rotted manure heap is lovely. I really miss our hens and all their mess I used to add to the compost heap. It heated it up beautifully xx

  4. My grandma was just the same. If a horse passed her house and left a little deposit, she would run out with a shovel. There's a farm near us and we get our manure from there. Hubby went and collected a load last week, four year old stuff which is perfect for our needs.

  5. Ooh an alpaca farm - I'm sure that would be a lovely visit. I've been crocheting with that Wellywoman.

    Hi Paul, thanks for your comment. I managed to find time to do this once years ago on a previous allotment. Most of it didn't come up so I was disappointed. My beds usually always have something growing in them, and each spring I dig over a new one (I'm taking my time to cultivate the site so that's it's manageable). For the first time this year I have been transplanting clover and I plan to use this as ground cover over most of my beds.

    I had forgotten about the heat from manure and how useful that can be too Serendipity.

    So funny Jo. You beat me by a year. I bet it's just lovely


  6. Lovely story about your grandparents and their traditions. We rent our field out in the summer to horsey people and after the horses have gone I go round with a big trug and collect all the poo. Not the nicest job in the world but it's worth it.

  7. I think I'm the only one in our family that likes the smell - growing up in the country - I think my lot are far too used to the smell of the sea and always wrinkle their noses at even the thought.

    Though you have given me an idea about the allotment with stable just up the road.

    Have a lovely day,

    Nina x

  8. You've got a field Elaine!! Ooh. Great way to get free manure.

    Hi Nina, thanks for stopping by. It's true it's such a familiar country smell, either loathed or loved.


  9. I have recently gotten involved indirectly in the ag industry and learned to appreciate farmers and the challenges they face. As to whether or not I could ever get into loving manure, that's a different story!


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