Mucking manure (warning: not for the squeamish)
The last snow we got, when I got up the second morning, the world was still covered with snow. I looked out my window and thought I was dreaming.
There were three beautiful horses in our backyard. And, um, we don’t own or keep horses on our eight acres.
It was still almost dark. I was just waking up. I blinked and looked again. I would not have been surprised by cows (there are close neighbors with cows on both sides of us) or deer, or one horse. But three beautiful, tame, well-cared for horses made me think I had died and woke up in almost-every-little-girl’s la la land.
My husband was still sleeping so I just let him sleep. No biggy. Likely the next door neighbor’s horses just crossing over into greener (snow-covered) pastures. We’ll call him later.
Long story short, after contacting all the neighbors we knew who had horses, after posting on Facebook and calling the local radio station, no luck. So several hours later we called the local sheriff’s office which said they would send out someone from animal control. We were leaving on a trip, so we never saw how or when the animals eventually got to where they needed to be. But the point is this:
It looked like our yard had been hit by 12 Budweiser Clydesdales. Those three productive ladies (?), in just several hours, left manure like they were a herd.
When life gives you horses, you collect the manure as compost for your garden.
I felt like my father-in-law with the free booty, who used to find (usually free), deliver, and pitch horse manure for people’s gardens to earn a little “pocket money” as he called it. Many people for miles around knew Hershel as the horse manure man. And knew him as the best gardener in Bridgewater, Va. (We’ve been thinking of him a lot these days as he died 16 years ago on March 1.)
I felt like my sister who, if she had her choice, would choose mucking the cow, hog or sheep manure over housework because … it got her out of the house and into the barn. We always suspected (the two sisters who got stuck with the housework) that she chose barnwork because it gave her a chance to sneak off to the hayloft to play with the kittens.
(View of our house, garage and chicken house from the upper window of the barn’s hayloft, where kitties played.)
My main surprise with the free barnyard booty? How light and dry it was after a week or two: nothing more than dried grass. Not gross at all. I know that in rural parts of some countries, people still burn cow dung for fuel.
But mainly, I felt like a farm girl again, when there was always a lot of manure to muck. Not too much different than a lot of workplaces these days.
This post is be “rich” in metaphoric (and punning) possibilities. And even the Bible uses the dung heap as a metaphor. In the passage from Luke where Jesus talks about the cost of being a disciple–of the need to count the cost of following him–Jesus said disciples who are not committed are useless to him, and then finishes with this example:
“Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out.” (Luke 14:34-35).
I was left with a nice pile of manure for my garden. Jesus implies that there is value in the manure pile–but not in unsalty Christians or disciples. As Jesus finished that particular story he gives his slightly cryptic, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”
Am I listening?