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Mucking manure (warning: not for the squeamish)

March 3, 2014

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?


From → Faith, Family Life, Nature

  1. Caro - Claire Wiles permalink

    A good read here
    Hope you have a lush garden when the spring comes from the extra toppings in the soil

  2. Thanks. Hope it didn’t turn too many stomachs. It is interesting to me how animals create fertilizer and so many other good things.

  3. Athanasia permalink

    Haha that’s funny. I guess in this case manure is good fortune.

    I am sure I have never mucked anything out. My grandmas were both pretty into divisions of boy’s work and girl’s work…but one of them had 8 boys and no girls, the other had 6 boys and 4 girls. So when we visited , my sister and I were put to work in the house and my 4 brothers got sent out with the men.

    Women on another blog were discussing their lawn mowing techniques and I thought to myself, I’ve never mowed a lawn in my life! Is that weird? Now my oldest girl has been farmer girl all her life…nothing else she ever wanted to do. She loved all the outside work, went to university for agriculture and animal science, married a large animal vet, and is getting her goat dairy up and running. Among other things.

  4. Very interesting and amazed that you’ve never mowed a lawn. I would say that is somewhat unusual, even for girls/women. I’m sure that puts you in an older generation, perhaps mine, but wow! Another friend who I knew long ago, a preacher’s kid who lived in town and never worked on a farm but admired our farm, says that her two daughters are both into agriculture–small scale like for farmer’s markets and making a sustainable income off a farm.

    And hats off to your grandmother with 8 boys. My my. Thanks for sharing!

    • Athanasia permalink

      There were always plenty of others to mow and I don’t care for the riding mower
      And other mechanical things with sharp whirling blades. I do rake leaves if I feel
      like it. I do garden, flowers and vegetables. I work full time during the school year
      (librarian) I can,sew,cook from scratch, don’t have a maid. I think I do enough. Oh, I help my mother and take turns caring for my husband’s disabled brother. 5 children, grown now.

  5. I like your line “and other mechanical things with sharp whirling blades.” !! (a good reason to stay away). Like you say, you do plenty of other stuff! For sure. Thanks for filling in the pieces!

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