I’m excited! I’ve got poo and all I’ve to do is pitchfork, shovel and carry. We’ve got poo from chickens and ducks. The goats are very generous too. In the chicken house and goat stable we have the benefit of using the deep-litter method, which means that bedding and manure get tossed, scratched, and stirred by the chickens, and the mix is perfect for the garden.

The soil depends on poo for several things. In nature it’s abundant. In society it’s been replaced with chemicals, which are synthetics patterned after natural stuff. Give me stinky poo any day!

Poo is a natural by-product of eating, which all life does. It adds humus to the soil, making it better able to efficiently use water, nutrients, and oxygen. When these components are right, the beneficial ground beetles/bugs/worms and wonderful fungi, appear. Why? Because there’s something to eat! And they leave behind another rich poo. Why does it matter? The living fungus feeds the roots of the plants. If the soil isn’t healthy, plants won’t be either and the nutritive value will be poor.

The absence of earthworms is one sign the soil is unhealthy. Brick-like clumping is another. Soil that smells acrid and sour is usually anaerobic, dead stuff. Soil empty of organic matter is lifeless, and lots of poo can amend that. Now’s a great time to pile it on. Spread the manure out over the whole garden along with leaves or compost, and thick layers of very old straw or hay. I like to end up with a blanket that’s about a foot deep. Doing the same thing every year is a great practice. Perfect “tilth” is when you can gather up a handful of the soil, squeeze it into a ball, and it holds together until it’s bumped pretty good. The smell will be earthy and alive.

Clay, contrary to what most people think, isn’t the enemy. It actually has the most nutrient value of any of our soils, they’re just locked away tight in its molecules and only organics can remedy that. Plants like dandelion grow deep roots, down into the soil, breaking up the clay and mining minerals that shallower roots can’t reach. Much of what goes on below the surface of the ground, is symbiotic, a barter system of sorts. Amazing!

Poo is interesting. You’ll need to be careful what kind you’re dealing with because some kinds are “hotter” in decomposition and can hurt your plants, depending on age. Fresh chicken, horse, cow, etc., need to compost a few months, while rabbit, goat, alpaca/llama may be used straight out of the stable. I even use the dog and cat manure from our place, around plants on the perimeter of the yard where no human food grows.

Composting is next to manure and can add some of the same benefits to the soil. Setting up two compartments, one to use now and one to use when the first is filled, is a good idea. There are several ways to set up a pile. It needs sunlight, air, moisture and drainage, no surprises. Use what you already have on hand: napkins, coffee filters, coffee grounds, tea bags, egg shells, newspapers, pizza boxes, leaves, etc.

I like to begin with a bunch of small, dry twigs/sticks, laying one set one direction, then a second set crossways of the first ones. This lets air get underneath the pile and speeds rotting. Next is three parts brown (dry things such as leaves, straw, crumpled newspaper)) layer and one part green (wet things such as kitchen scraps) layer. Continue this way, moist but not soggy. If it begins to smell, sprinkle with lime and check the wetness.

Ever hear of a hügelkultur? Look it up. This is a larger way to rot. We have one on the farm and it’s where our bigger limbs and brush goes, along with poo and anything else that’s too large for the compost. I like knowing that nothing that can rot, goes to the convenience center. It can stay right here and give back. It’ll take it longer to break down, but it will rot and add back to the soil.

Then there’s green manure and cover crops, which are planted things that armor the ground, giving back to the soil, providing lots of humus and nitrogen.

No matter how you use poo, and things that will rot, just do it, and feed the soil so it can feed you.

Sherrie Ottinger, aka: “The TN Dirtgirl,” is a regenerative Earth thinker, teacher, columnist, author and speaker. Her passion is all things “dirt.” She may be reached at velokigate@yahoo.com with comments or questions.

Recommended for you