It’s time to talk about an insensitive topic – poo. Everything in life has consequences, and with livestock there comes poo. Or manure, if you prefer. And the more livestock you have, the more poo you get, by the heap, by the bucketful or by the trailer load. Forget birds, bees and educated fleas, let alone falling in love, and think chickens, geese and sheep doing it all over the landscape. (OK, so technically chickens and geese are birds.)
Even poo has consequences. Firstly, inevitably there are jokes. (Do you put manure on your rhubarb? Really? We eat ours with custard.) And secondly, it’s never in the right place. Take the broody hen who perched on top of the recycling bin yesterday – not quite poo on the handle, but definitely in need of washing off before using the bin. The thing is, broody hens only poo once a day, a single stinky, festering heap all of its own. And, as we learn from reading AA Milne, poo sticks.
Now, as it happens, the rhubarb joke and poo in the wrong place are important. We don’t actually have rhubarb any more, but we do have fruit trees, and would very much like some of our manure supply to be in the orchard, contributing to the next apple crop. We also have a winter shelter for the sheep, some distance away, which has quite a collection of poo. It would be so much easier if the sheep were in with the fruit trees, delivering directly to the doorstep, so to speak. However, one of the other challenges with our livestock is stopping the sheep from from eating trees.
You thought sheep ate grass, right? Well, of course they do, but just like I have a weakness for chocolate, and the cats go berserk if we’re having fish, our Soay sheep like their treats. A nice leaf or two here, a bit of bark perhaps, and my doesn’t it come off the fruit trees in lovely long strips…
Anyway, back to the poo, by the bag, bucket and heap, over in the field shelter. The sheep leave it small heaps, mix in the dodgy bits of hay they don’t fancy, give it a good trample, and perhaps go to sleep on it. Over time, it forms an amazingly robust composite which has to be broken up with a fork (spades and shovels just bounce off) and then heaved outside into a new heap.
Finally, that new heap can be transferred to bags and buckets, under the watchful eye of the sheep, and carted away to enhance the orchard. I don’t think the sheep know or care that I’m cleaning up their mess, they just like to keep an eye on their people. Or, it may be because as well as buckets I’m also packing poo into empty feed sacks. The sheep definitely recognise those.
There’s a phrase that recurs whilst shovelling poo – pass me another bucket, this one’s full. Of course, that doesn’t work when I’m working on my own. I can say the words, but I have to go fetch the bucket myself. Or sacks once the buckets run out. It’s amazing just how many buckets are needed for one small manure heap.
Oddly enough, as I was moving a heap of poo a week or two back, my thoughts drifted sideways. I fetched another bucket and remembered something interesting – this month’s prompt from #BlogBattle happens to be bucket.
Out of a pile of poo a story grows. You see? It’s not just good for fruit trees.
This was written for the January #BlogBattle prompt of Bucket, and because I had things to get off my chest, boots, probably some in my hair…