Warning: This post is not for weak stomachs or the faint of heart.
I made a vow to myself that when I started blogging I would only blog with a topic that’s laying on my heart. Know what’s laying on my heart these days? Poop. That’s right. Poop. It’s an ugly but necessary fact of life. Every living creature does it. Most of us humans learn at an early age how to propery deal with it. Our youngest, however, who is almost 3 1/2 years old now, refuses to be potty trained. We’ve been trying for a year now…with very little success. So as I continue to change poopy diapers every day (sometimes several times a day) poop lays heavier and heavier on my heart.
Potty training issues notwithstanding, we live on a farm. Not a productive, revenue generating, working farm but rather a counter-productive, financially draining, hobby farm complete with most of your standard stock of barnyard animals. And with that comes…POOP, of course. Lots of it. We’ve got horse poop, miniature donkey poop, sheep poop, goat poop, peacock poop, rabbit poop and, not the least of which, dog poop. We used to have cat poop, too, but we learned that poopers who don’t mind property boundaries always end up meeting an untimely and often early death of some sort or another (hit and runs, midnight snacking for wild life and the like). So we have no cat poop at the moment.
When an excess of poop abounds, one quickly learns and masters the art of poop management. There’s even such a thing as poop etiquette. Oh, you won’t be able to find “Poop Etiquette” on Wikipedia, much less a book on it. But if you’re a farmer (productive or otherwise) and you’ve got critters…you know the etiquette. For you casual farm visitors, here are a few simple pointers to help you navigate through (and around) the poop (the “poop” on poop, if you will):
Recyle your poop. This is one of the 3 R’s of the green initiative, of course: Recyle, Reuse, Reduce. Like most farmers, we make compost out of our poop (mostly the horse & donkey poop) and use it for fertilizing our pastures and gardens. You’ll never get Martha or the Backyard Gardener to show you how it’s done so if you’re interested, come on over for a live hands-on tutorial.
But composting is just one way that we recycle our poop. Our eclectic band of barnyard animals also contribute to the recycling initiative…oh, yes they do! They actually eat each other’s poop (hey – I warned you this wasn’t for the faint-hearted). Here’s how the poop recycle cycle works: The miniature donkeys (Eeyore and Merlin) eat the rabbit poop…the dogs eats the donkey poop…and…well, nobody really wants to smell much less eat the dog poop so that’s really where the cycle ends. But there you have it…recycling with poopers eating other pooper’s poop.
Poop in one place. When I was in my early twenties and on-the-go, my dad used to say that I was “like horse sh*t….all over the place”. He was so complimentary toward me, wasn’t he? That one wasn’t as bad as telling me the reason my eyes were brown was because I was full of sh*t. Too bad I hadn’t yet learned the laws of genetics back then as he, too, has the dominant brown-eyed “sh*t” gene that I inherited. But I digress…
Pooping in one place is a big deal when you have lots of ground to cover. Most critters don’t really care about this particular rule of etiquette but every now and again you come across one or two very poop-conscious animals. We have two such animals at the moment: Jimmy, our Paso Fino Stallion and Bunny, our bunny. Jimmy is very thoughtful and poops in one of several large poop heaps in our pasture as shown in Exhibit A:
(I included the basketball in the photo as a point of reference…
my kids don’t actually play in the poop).
The other two horses and two donkeys (and the rest of the barnyard gang for that matter) just poop willy nilly all over the place with reckless disregard. Poor Bunny has no choice in the matter as she is held prisoner in her rabbit condo and her poop just conveniently collects down below her but we give her credit for poop etiquette just the same.
Don’t poop indoors. This applies to most everybody. Most horses, including our kind and considerate Jimmy, do not have enough of a disgust for their own poop that they refrain from pooping where they sleep. We do have two, Reno and Brownie, who do actually hold their pee until morning (that’s a topic for another post) but not their poop. I did own one beautiful white horse, Libra, back when I was a teenager and she was a verifiable poop snob. She never, ever pooped in her stall! And for that she earned the World’s Greatest Horse title from me.
If you’re going to poop indoors then, for crying out load, don’t poop on walls or window sills. This may seem like common barn sense to some, but to others it’s just another messy day in the barn. Brownie, our mongrel horse, as well as Eeyore and Merlin, have a penchant for backing their butts up against a wall (or window in Brownie’s case) and pooping away. This makes for very difficult poop scooping as well as leaves unsightly skid marks up and down our newly renovated barn walls.
Poop and be still. This etiquette rule applies only when pooping inside barn stalls, otherwise pooping while walking (as when horseback riding) is perfectly acceptable. The problem with pooping and walking around in the stall is that the poop gets kicked around and mixed around with the clean, fresh-smelling, fluffy wood shavings on the stall floor making it impossible to eradicate the poop from the area. Like throwing out the baby with the bath water, you end up having to throw out $10 worth of contaminated shavings out into the poop wagon the morning after. Fortunately, we have only one such horse, my Reno, who is the midnight pacer in the family. The others obediently obey the poop and be still rule making clean up much easier and relatively inexpensive.
Wear your boots. This etiquette rule also fits into the Top 10 Rules of Owning a Farm (a post for a future date). Stepping into poop while barefoot and feeling it squeeze up and around your toes is just about the grossest thing that could happen to you on a farm, especially if it’s dog poop…the worst smelling poop there is. Wearing flip-flops or open toed shoes of any kind is just plain fool-hardy (unless you happen to like the look and smell of poopy feet). And visitors…if you’re visiting a farm, bring your boots! I remember one time about 10 years ago my cousin’s 5 year old daughter came to stay the night at our farm. My cousin, a non-farmer, always had her daughter outfitted in the most adorable girly-girl clothes. When I picked her up to bring her to our house, she had on the most beautiful pair of new, white sneakers complete with lacey trim and glitter embellishments. That was her worst pair of shoes, according to my cousin. I shook my head and drove away with the excited little girl. And promptly returned her the next day with sneakers that were completely dirt brown, poopy smelling, torn lace and no more glitter embellishments. But she had a darn good time getting those sneakers dirty!
Look down when you walk. This is yet another rule that also fits into the Top 10 Rules of Owning a Farm list. If you’re not looking down when you walk, you WILL step into poop. This is a solid no-clean-soles back guarantee. Nothing more needs to be said on this one.
Don’t buy a house near a charming farm if you don’t want to smell poop. Some people love the thought of living next to or close to a nearby farm. And why not? They’re pretty to look at with all the rustic barns and fencing and animals grazing in green pastures. They just never consider the poop factor. Farms = animals = poop = SMELL. No way getting around it. I happen to love the smell of horse poop. It is, in fact, the sweetest smelling poop of all creatures because of the sweet smelling grass they eat (cow poop is not sweet smelling given that their digestive system is much more elaborate and thorough and consequently less sweet smelling grass is pooped out). One of the most heavenly smells on earth to me (other than horse fly spray…the farm girl’s “eu du toilette”) is the aroma of horse poop swirling in the warm summer night air. I love to just close my eyes and take a long, deep breath of horse poop through my nose (aaaaahhhhhhh…slowly opening eyes now). Okay, I know I just lost the respect of most of my readers with that visual but believe you me when I say that there IS a secret club of horse poop smell lovers out there. Maybe I should start a new web ring for that just to prove it?
Don’t throw poop. It’s just plain rude. Unless it’s at your younger brother who tattled on you for watching more than the daily one hour of alloted TV viewing you were permitted and then it’s perfectly justifiable (especially with the big, flat, dried cow poop chips…you can really get one flying through the air like a frisbee and nail him on the back of the head).
So you see, poop management and poop etiquette is really not as difficult to grasp as you have thought. The bigger truth is that poop management inside the home is much, MUCH harder. Back to that 3-year-old…the one who cannot be reasoned with, bribed, threatened, coaxed or begged…the one who defies all potty training theories and practices. I have been, as yet, completely defeated in this endeavor. Me…the older, wiser, more mature, more cunning, more intellectually developed adult. The one who has mastered the skill and art of farm poop management, for crying out loud! Defeated! By a snot-nosed, dirty-diapered 3-year-old. Sh*t.