Holy Shit: Managing Manure to Save Mankind, by Gene Logsdon, December 2010, Chelsea Green Publishing, 272 pages, ISBN 978-1603582513, RRP £14.95.
My friend and colleague Kerri’s gentle American voice floated over the lawn between us;
“I have just the book for you”
“Who’s the author?”
“What’s it about?”
“Managing animal manure and humanure”
“Sounds great, what’s it called?”
It may seem a little strange that a close friend knows that something that turns me on is composting and manure (I must point out in my defence that there are other things that turn me on) but perhaps I am a little sad as far as that is concerned, after all an interest in… ahem… poo… is not the norm, especially for a minister.
Gene Logsdon is an American farmer, think of him in the same was as you would John Seymour and you won’t go far wrong. This book details the waste of the most important resource that farming possesses, manure. He tells of how manure is, now that chemical fertiliser is becoming so expensive, at long last a valued commodity. Gene gives as an example a friend with an 8,000 acre arable farm who is going into the beef business only hoping that it would break even, as his need was for the manure the cows produced for fertiliser.
With a huge amount of humour, he describes the storage, spreading and applications of farmyard, pet and humanure in an easy to understand way, mentioning the ‘toilet training’ of horses, pets and pigs, as well as people on the way. There is so much common sense in this book that I had the immediate desire to go to the nearest field with cows in it holding a bucked and a large hand-trowel! The history of manure is also covered, and Gene mentions that past societies have disappeared due to the collapse of their agriculture as much as any other disasters.
Also mentioned are the successes of using manure. How where, on one field almost 50 years after one area had had been constantly heavily manured, the crops were far taller and more productive that those close by. Of how it was discovered that plant diseases could be controlled by the use of manure when fungicide had failed and that in correctly aged manure/compost plant disease was reduced as beneficial micro-organisms produced natural antibiotics that destroyed the pathogens that caused plant diseases.
Facts have to be faced, even Monsanto are not trying to engineer a cow that does not defecate and while we have this amazing resource close at hand, (as it were) and now have increased knowledge of how to use it, we should. As Gene remarks in his last few words, it is as close to us as our colon.