Saturday, September 27, 2008

Day 159 of our Green Year: Dealing With Horse Manure

On the ranch, there are some horses (The horses in the picture are: L-R Chubb, Cochise, Cash). As a result, those horses generate a bit of manure that has to be dealt with. All horse manure here is used as fertilizer for the organic garden. (This horse manure is gathered from the barn where it is mixed with hay, or outside where it is mixed with dirt. No sawdust is used.)
We are able to do this at the ranch because we can ferment the horse manure in a pile mixed with dirt over the course of the winter. Come spring, that manure/dirt mixture is then used in the garden to help the vegetables grow.

Now, the point should be made that you cannot do this with most dog or human feces because of what people eat and the by-products in most dog food. The horses at the ranch feed on the grass in the pasture, or on hay provided to us from local organic farmers (neither of which contains pesticides or herbicides). This is a completely organic diet that allows us to use the horse manure in the garden.

This is by no means a new idea. For centuries, farmers and those who lived off the land with a milk cow and chickens, would use their manure as a primary garden fertilizer. This stopped in the 1930s with the creation of synthetic fertilizers (many of which contain a number of ugly chemicals).

Horse manure itself is half as rich as chicken manure (no chickens here yet...) but richer in nitrogen than cow manure.

Manure should always be used as a soil amendment and not mulch, which means you do not just put the manure directly on the soil in the garden. The reason is that the raw manure will release nitrogen compounds and ammonia, which burns plant roots and will interfere with the germination of the seeds. By putting the horse manure into the dirt pile for six months, we allow it to ferment, and then about one month before the spring planting, we will put the manure in the garden and turn it over throughout the garden. This will prevent it from damaging the roots of the plants as they grow in the garden, because it is well mixed and not concentrated in one area.


Some sad news. Despite many people going green and a general consensus that global warming is a serious problem, it appears that we are not exactly moving in the right direction in terms of dealing with global warming. While many thought that energy use would fall due to a growing understanding of the environment by individuals, as well as the economic downturn, it, in fact, grew by three percent between 2006 and 2007.

Now, to add a bit of horror to this, that amount exceeds the worst-case scenario for emissions by the Nobel Prize winning group of international scientists in 2007. As well, the forests and oceans are now sucking up lower rates of CO2 than they did in the 20th century.
If this all continues, the predicted rises in temperature and sea levels could be much, much worse than originally predicted.