You know that horrible stench you smell when driving past feed lots full of cattle, shortly after some rains?
There’s folks that say “it’s the country, this is how things are done, if you don’t like it you’re free to leave.”
I find this to be very shortsighted and irresponsible philosophy.
Our senses are very important to us, but beyond that, they mostly know how to tell us what is good and what is bad.
When something smells bad, it probably is. Your nose is telling you, there’s pathogens in there, or toxic levels of something, you need to vacate the area.
Trust your senses when they tell you something is wrong.
Stabilizing Animal By-Products
I took the picture above to illustrate just how safe and harmless animal manure can be. I’m completely happy to have Elias helping me clean the brooder.
There are very few offensive odors and the job is even pretty easy.
The carbon to nitrogen ratio is very easy to grasp. High carbon material is your more woody plant products, wood chips are a great example with 400 carbons to one nitrogen.
Low carbon material like green grass have a C:N ratio of about 30:1.
Manure, especially from poultry and hogs is very high in nitrogen. If manure isn’t mixed with high carbon material, the N will evaporate into the air causing those unhealthy smells.
As you can see in my picture, I keep my little birdies very well bedded with high carbon wood chips to stabilize and retain the nitrogen.
Biology, the key to breaking down manures healthily
Many people think that animal manure is the perfect thing to improve soil health in your garden, and in a way, they’re correct.
In our modern day soils however, there’s a missing link. We need healthy soil biology to break down manures so that they are useful and helpful in our soils.
Healthy soil biology is unbelievably diverse, balanced, and aerobic, meaning oxygenated.
Dr. Elaine Ingham is a great resource for learning about the bacterial and fungal components, and also the protozoa and nematodes that ought to be present.
With the correct soil biology, animal manures can be broken down and stored in soils as nutrients ready to be taken up by the growing plants.
The best part about this is there are no bad smells or hazardous issues to the environment if it’s done properly.
Composting, means to an end
So how do we get soil biology?
I mix all the correct components, add the right amount of water, and monitor temperatures until I need to turn the pile and continue the process.
It’s more complex than I want to get into here, but bring it up sometime when you see me if you want to know more, or email me.
How does one monitor for a balanced soil biology?
Check out my sweet little microscope below. With it, I can determine what soil life is present and how it ought to change in order to grow the best crops.
Of course, there’s a learning curve, and I’m just muddling along, making a bunch of mistakes, but learning lots.
Hopefully I’ll have a sufficient grasp on the ins and outs of this whole process within a couple years or less.
It’s very technical, let me tell you.
The best part of all
I love my vegetables, but especially really flavorful ones.
Balancing your garden’s soil biology just for your plants is the best way to put world class veggies on your table.
We should be composting all the animal manure from confinement operations everywhere and applying it to all our crop soils. It’s the best way to capture nutrients from animal waste, and simultaneously the best way to grow nutrient rich crops.
In my mind, there’s nothing to lose, and everything to gain!