Apr 052010
Heed this advice for transporting manure for your compost pile.

To minimize transport complications as much as possible, get your manure as close to home as you can.

Collecting new types of organic materials for your compost pile can be fun if you transport them back to your pile site in a way that minimizes mess, clinging odors, and general discomfort to those involved.  A wheelbarrow can be used to collect a bag of leaves from a neighbor.  But larger quantities and/or longer distances present a greater challenge.  Plan the move carefully.  This is especially true when collecting manure.

Try to get the manure from a source close to home.  For one thing, your local vet is almost certain to know what risks to humans are associated with handling manure from this type of animal.  You can check with the vet to discover if there is any risk in using the manure for composting.  Secondly, it cuts down on your transportation costs, time, and consequences.  I know this from personal experience.

One day, my mother decided that my father wanted to plant azalea bushes along the front of the house.  When she informed him of this decision, he said he would only do it if he could do it right, which meant mixing in lots of aged manure with the dirt below the root ball.  Mom said he could do it any way he liked. So far, so good.

Then things took a turn for the worse.  My Dad, farm boy born and bred, went to the store and found they wanted over a dollar a bag for cow manure, and the bags weren’t all that big.  This certainly had to be a scam or at least unethical, he thought.  Manure is waste.  He refused to purchase it on principle; he had never paid for manure in his entire life and wasn’t going to start now.  After all, there were truckloads of manure lying all around his parents’ farm which he could have for free.

So off to Grandma’s we went.  Dad thoroughly covered every square inch of the back end of the station wagon with plastic tarps, making sure that there was (just barely) enough room for us kids to sit up against the back of the front seat.  He thought the plastic would not only protect the car, but would seal in the odor.  He was wrong, but that’s what he thought.  Then he loaded as much manure into the back two-thirds of that station wagon as he could fit.  He couldn’t make a decision on the wet or dry choice , so we had both.

We drove home on the hottest day of summer from Grandma’s house in Mississippi to our house in Texas.  We couldn’t’ drive as fast as the speed limit because Dad didn’t want the car to overheat while hauling the extra weight.

The car couldn’t be air-conditioned because the windows were rolled down in an effort to move odorous air out and clean air in to allow us to breathe – through our mouths.  (Some 6-hour drives are longer than others.)

When we finally arrived home, we scrambled out of the car as fast as we could.  Dad said he was exhausted from the drive and it was late, but he would get the manure out of the car and into the ground first thing tomorrow.  A slight chill and total silence permeated the air.  They seemed to emanate from Mom as she slowly turned to Dad and quietly, forcefully said one word: “No.”

Even Dad was scared.

We helped as much as we could.  He didn’t have time before dark to dig holes for the plants and rework the soil, but he did manage to get all the manure out of the car onto the lawn.  He thought Mom would be happy, but apparently every neighbor had called to ask about the smell while we were out front working.

Learn from this Cautionary Tale!

  • Obtain manure locally if at all possible.
  • Plan carefully for transporting.  (If you have a wife, ask her to check your plan.)
  • Don’t improvise with unsuitable vehicles – borrow or rent a truck if you do not have one.
  • People and manure should be transported in separate compartments.
  • Don’t bring home more than you can use in a day without an airtight storage plan.

Mary Tynes, Master Composter, www.mastercomposter.com

Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/niosh/2492846492/

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