My manure pile is reaching the proportions of a topographic feature. When I muck the knee-deep bedding out of the sheep stall next week, the thirty-foot pile will be over five feet high along its entire length.
Manure is the key to improving my sour, starved soil. I’m always thrilled to have as much as I can get. However there is no doubt that moving it all by hand is hard work.
A wheelbarrow will not roll in snow. All winter I have dragged heavy muck buckets on a rope out of the barn and across the icy barnyard, and then pulled each one, step by laborious step, up the side of the pile to be dumped at the top.
With each storm the manure pile would be re-buried. When he plowed the driveway, Mike tried to clear the barnyard without pushing a snowbank to block the pile, but sometimes he forgot.
Every day, as I kicked in a fresh path and then grunted the day’s half-dozen buckets up the slippery slope in the stinging cold and wind, I would reflect that five feet off the ground on an icy manure pile was as close to alpine maneuvers as I’ll ever get.
Then, while I was in Florida, there was a tremendous thaw. The farm driveway turned into mire. Tom and Alison, who were kindly doing my chores for me, had to park at the top of the property and slog down through deep mud.
Neither muck bucket nor wheelbarrow could reach the original manure pile across the wide expanse of bog, so they started another pile, on slightly higher, drier ground, halfway across the driveway and arcing around the barnyard.
This pile, too, is thirty feet long, but only about eighteen inches high.
The only problem is that the new pile is directly in Mike’s accustomed snowplowing path, and yesterday a Winter Storm Watch was issued for tomorrow, calling for up to 14″ of snow.
No worries, I thought. After snow flurries Monday and Tuesday, yesterday was sunny and warm. I’d simply take an hour and move the new pile across the driveway and consolidate it with the old.
Unfortunately, shallow piles of manure do not heat internally like deep ones do. They freeze solid. I could barely stick my pitchfork into the pile. In most places the tines skidded off the surface as if I were trying to push my fork into a boulder. An axe or sledgehammer would have been more helpful. I gave up after twenty minutes.
The only thing to do is warn Mike, which I’ve done. However Mike plows for many people, after work, when it is dark and he is tired. Just in case, I’ve stuck driveway markers around it to remind him of our new geologic feature.
I’ve been joking about our private Mt. Manure for months. Now DH tells me there is a low climbing ridge in Yosemite called “Manure Pile Buttress.” If they’re looking for it, it’s currently on a brief vacation trip here to New York.