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September 27th, 2009

Till, We Meet Again


Fall has made its official, blustery entrance here at the farm and the tiller and broadfork are out and about, working over exhausted beds , turning under organic matter before the long sleep of Winter.

Out at my neighbor’s horse farm this week, his ten-year-old appaloosa gelding stood curiously by as a shoveled composted manure into the truck, then brushed his long, warm muzzle against my shoulder, as if to ask “what are you doing with my poop?” I love this horse – his sweet and massive tenderness. Do you suppose if I bring him a bushel of Purple Haze carrots and heirloom apples he’ll make the connection?


My Troy-Bilt tiller, Mad Max, and soil-puncturing broadfork,Spiny Norman. The tines have come.

About four, half-ton truckloads of hay-sweetened soil will top-dress the farm. Years ago, when we had just started working this land, we would travel across the Hudson in a run-down Mazda to gather our horse manure. We loaded up to the roof-line in sturdy yellow IKEA bags and hauled it home, dragging our bumper all the way across the bridge. The first methane-fueled sub-compact.

Now the horses are nearby, and chickens add their high-nitrogen spoils to the mix, although – unlike the horses – they seem perfectly ambivalent about the contribution.


Chicken guano cuffs pears in the orchard with a high-nitrogen blast.

The compost piles will in turn add their sweet, damp crumble of organic matter to the soil - a billion-strong natural order of nitrogen fixing bacteria, fungi, yeasts and molds. This universe of organisms, all dancing in the dark, and so vast as to far outnumber life above ground, is where it all begins.  The Big Bang.


Composed compost.  Corn husks, fava shells, pawpaw rinds, wood ash. It’s all good.  The larger bins, below, will turn all of our yard waste into a fertility bank with no withdrawal fees.  Good ‘ol Yankee, feel-good frugality.


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