The livestock are hungry this morning—always hungry. The chickens line up at the door, the sheep crowd the gate, the tilapia splash at the surface of their tanks, and the pigs squeal and grunt in complaint. Obviously, we’re taking too long to feed them, lugging 50-pound sacks from our stash in the garage on the trusty orange sled. And then there’s at least three bales of hay to lug in the mornings as well, with wooly pushing and shoving, and Belle the guard donkey is more than a little vocal about wanting her share.
The 120 or so laying hens plus 11 ducks snug in the coop eat a bag of feed every day. Just them! Through these really cold snaps, the sheep have even eaten their straw bedding, so more must be drug in and scattered. And then there’s all the water to be hauled about for thirsty lips and beaks and snoots. Ah for a day when I can convince the animals to haul water for themselves! But alas, I doubt that’s coming anytime soon.
But all this feed and bedding and water isn’t a one-way trip on the farm. Oh no, it has to mount to something. So our menagerie of two and four-legged composting units have been doing their best to make great gardening material for spring. Ah yes, some folks make a study of wildlife scat, tracing the tracks of bobcat and raccoon, but here are some musings on the qualities of barnyard manures. Given it’s March, let’s try them in limericks.
It was down in horse apple holler,
Much too cold to have any waller.
The donkey did bray,
For she wanted more hay,
To make her pack rise even taller.
The farmer went in with the scoop,
For to shovel out some of the poop.
It rolled and it tumbled,
And the farmer she mumbled,
For it threw her back for a loop.
The sheep were all bunched like a herd,
They‘re so good at making their turds.
The dog thinks they’re kibbles,
She loved to get nibbles,
But the goat says that that’s for the birds.
The chickens are known for their droppings,
It coats all the bedding like toppings.
Please watch your head,
Or you’ll grimace with dread,
When you hear that next sound of ploppings.
The ducks they just love to make messes,
With icicles stuck to their tresses.
They can make you a lake,
With just one ducky shake,
And leave the technique to your guesses.
The pigs wander out with a totter,
They really would like some more fodder.
But their pile is so high,
They’ll look you in the eye,
And it steams away since it’s hotter.
We’ve a pile outside of the barn,
We thought it would do much less harm.
But the fragrance is clear,
If you’re anywhere near,
Though the garden will think it’s a charm.
And it’s down in horse apple holler,
I’ll lead the way, you can foller.
As the bedding piles deep,
Mucking work is a heap,
And the volume makes you feel much smaller!
Well, guess I’ll have to wrap this up somewhere and bundle up for chores. Our little friendly manure makers are going to be hungry and thirsty again. If you’re on a farm (or grew up on one), I suspect you remember those mucking days well! It’s certainly nobody’s favorite, though a clean coop filled with fresh wood shavings is a lovely sight (and smell, in comparison with what came before).
And how do we notice the first signs of spring on the farm? Well, the bedding pack thawing out is a good one, and the barnyard becoming a slippery, muddy mess. But for now, let’s hope it stays frozen just a little longer. I’ve got snow to shovel first! See you down on the farm sometime.Laura Berlage is a co-owner of North Star Homestead Farms, LLC and Farmstead Creamery & Café. 715-462-3453 www.northstarhomestead.com