One of the keys in making a small farm sustainable is closing the fertility loop. One of the best ways to do this is raising animals on the farm and composting their manure to use in the gardens. That has been difficult for us, as the farm doesn’t have a suitable winter dwelling for people or animals at this point.
However, we’ve been keeping the fertility loop as local as possible by sourcing composted animal manure and bedding as locally as possible. In the past couple of years that’s meant me driving down the the end of the road to our neighbor’s horse paddock with a wheelbarrow, a shovel, and (after the first time I forgot and lifted the wheelbarrow into the truck several times by hand, causing me to ingest many, many pain pills through the next couple of day) a ramp.
Going in and out of the paddock fifteen or twenty times with the accompanying gate openings and closings, several near-misses of dumping the full wheelbarrow and myself off the ramp, and dealing with feisty horses who weren’t receptive to my apple and carrot bribes, I started thinking there ought to be a better way.
A couple days ago, I called said neighbor and asked if there was a way to get the whole pile out of the paddock by means of a loader or tractor and H’s gravel truck, delivering a large amount of lovely composted fertility directly to my garden less than 1/2 mile down the road. She called back today and said, “Sure! No problem!”
I don’t think I could be as excited if someone offered to dump a big pile of jewels in my yard. Considering one of my all-time favorite birthday presents was a garbage bag full of buffalo chips (boy, were my leeks awesome that year!), you can imagine how I’d feel about a few cubic yards of weathered and composted manure.
I’ve commented on how it seems ironic to me that the year I’ve decided to take a sabbatical from the CSA (while still growing for market, of course), I seem to be inundated with more help and possibilities than ever before.
Though I’m still not tempted by the idea of opening up the CSA before the 2010 season, I am thankful for how things are shaping up, and really glad we can partner with such a close neighbor for our fertility needs and tighten the fertility loop.