Saturday, January 22, 2011

Waste Management Large and Small

One may think that since I spend a good portion of my cat-care time cleaning up after them, I would be pretty sick of scooping poop.  Excrement is a fact.  "Everybody Poops" is a bumper sticker seen on a plumber's truck.  Sung to the tune of Camp Town Ladies, "What's in the bottom of the chicken coop?  Doo Doo!  Doo doo!"  No only do I clean multiple litter boxes, every morning I scoop the chicken caca out of their nesting boxes so their eggs have a clean place to land during the day.  Jay has provided a bucket for dung disposal so he can easily transport the chicken waste to the garden for composting. 

I blogged on April, 29, 2009 about my adventures with waste management and kittens.  Lately, I've been challenging myself to take on even more crap.  I started working as a volunteer a couple of days at week at Beech Brook Farm Equine Rescue, a farm that fosters and rehabilitates horses who would otherwise end up in a Mexican slaughterhouse.  The farm has 10 rescue horses, 4 miniature donkeys, 1 mini-pony, 2 goats, a bunch of chickens and a barn cat named Shadow.  The cause is noble, the work is daunting.

Main Barn with Shadow the Cat as the Resident Greeter
The horse rescue is a non-profit organization that relies on volunteers and monetary contributions.  Most of the volunteers are middle-aged women like myself, looking for way to reconnect with their childhood love of horses.  I suspect the bulk of it is financed personally by the owner, Debra, and her husband.  She told me the other day that she spent $17,000 last year just on hay.  I was attracted to the farm as a way to be around horses again without having to pay for lessons.  As a young girl, I was fortunate enough to have a pony and graduated to a horse as I grew.  Ever since I sold my horse before going to college, I've struggled for a way to stay connected to horses.  Oddly enough, one of my favorite smells is that of a horse barn.  I love the aroma of the hay, horse sweat and manure.  Vegetarian caca doesn't carry nearly the same punch as that from a carnivore, so I don't find it offensive like I do cat and chicken dung.  Well, chickens aren't exactly carnivores, more omnivorous actually, but they leave behind a lot of little stinkers. 

Thus far, my job at the barn is to muck out the stalls and paddock areas of the three barn areas and work with the horses as time and weather allows.  The owners have "real jobs" so although they feed and water, they need help during the week.  Beech Brook doesn't have the best set up I've seen; the property is on a steep, wooded hill, with upper, main and lower barns and paddocks carved out in the trees.  Two of the areas are just three-sided shelters with paddocks. The only area I'd call a pasture is probably about an acre.  The owners' home is nested in the middle of the hill, between the upper and lower barns. 

Upper Walk-in Barn
While I use a plastic pooper scooper to transport kitty waste to the garbage can outside in a plastic bag, at the barn I use a multi-tined pitchfork to rake and shovel horse manure into a wheelbarrow which I then push up the hill to the manure pile.  I try to speed up as I reach the dumping pile to get enough momentum, flip the wheelbarrow up and hope that most of manure falls out.  Then I have to twist the wheelbarrow back and forth on its wheels to shake the rest out.  My asthma usually kicks in during the wheelbarrow part, especially with the cold weather.  When it's wet outside, my jeans get splattered with horse excrement.  When it's freezing, I have to kick the manure piles loose with my boot so I can get the rake under them.  Sometimes the piles are so frozen, I can't break them up without fear of breaking a toe.  Of course, there's always the horse supervision during the process which involves maneuvering through the snow with a wheelbarrow loaded to overflowing with crap, a pitchfork balanced on top and not allowing a pushy beast to escape for a romp through the woods. This is waste management at its best.

The Manure Pile

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