Thursday, October 02, 2008

Not So Fresh From the Field

As I mentioned yesterday I was driving through the vast agricultural areas of Oregon recently and I was struck with the scents of farms. Some farms smelled like dirt, while others smelled of chemical fertilizer. Some smelled of manure, but the oddest scent I came across was a farm that had the smell of rising bread. It was the smell of yeast. I don’t know what it was because I’m not all that familiar with all the verities of farm smells, but it was a smell that was comforting and disturbing at the same time.

I remember working on the farm when I was much younger. Each field had a different smell. The corn field has a good smell as did the tomatoes. The butternut squash had something going on that was somewhat nauseating, but the worst was the cabbage field after a long rainy spell followed by a few days of heat and humidity. Ho-man it could gag a maggot.


Blogger Auntie said...

To this day the smell of fresh "slurry" being blown out onto the fields. Reminds me of Ireland.

5:53 AM  
Blogger darev2005 said...

I drove across the country moving from Oregon to Missouri lo, these many years ago. It was just me and our dog in the moving van, as the wife had come ahead and found us a place to live. Kind of late summer, early fall, if I remember correctly so we drove most of the way with the windows up and the a/c on. At one point near the kansas/missouri border I decided it might be cool enough outside to roll the windows down and get some fresh air. Turns out we were just passing a fairly large pig farm at the moment. The miasma immediately took my breath away and the dog rose up out of the seat with this "WTF?" expression on her face. Had to slow down a bit as I rolled up the windows because my eyes were watering so bad I couldn't see. We made the rest of the trip with the windows securely up.
And I don't think I even want to know what "slurry" is.

6:31 AM  
Blogger weese said...

"gag a maggot" tee hee

9:04 AM  
Blogger Syd said...

OMG, a cabbage field can smell worse than shit. Literally.

10:27 AM  
Blogger Auntie said...


Slurry (a thick, liquid mixture) of animal manure and urine from a livestock shed makes good organic fertilizer, as it is rich in nitrogen and organic matter. The slurry must be kept for some time before it can be used to fertilize crops.

Urine-manure slurry is useful in areas where livestock are kept in sheds in a zero-grazing system, where the manure and urine can be collected easily (see the section on Zero grazing).

The slurry is ready for use as manure after a short time.
It makes an ideal fertilizer for leafy vegetables and other crops.
It makes use of manure, which might otherwise be seen as a waste product.
If fresh slurry is used, it can scorch or burn the crop leaves.
It is costly to build a concrete floor and slurry pit.

Animal shed with concrete floor and drainage channel running to a pit.
Drum or pit to store slurry.
Bucket, broom, shovel.
1. Build an animal shed with a slanting roof, so rainwater runs off outside (see the diagram in the section on Zero-grazing). The floor must be made of concrete and have a drainage channel sloping towards a lined manure pit outside the shed.

2. Wash and sweep the manure and urine into the pit every day.

3. When the pit is full, transfer the urine-manure slurry into another pit or drum, and keep it covered for 2 weeks.

4. After 2 weeks, dilute the slurry with twice the amount of water.

5. Pour the mixture around the roots of crops. Do this every 2 weeks during the growing season.

Using fresh slurry
Instead of storing the slurry for 2 weeks, you can use it fresh. Dig a furrow alongside the row of crops and pour the fresh slurry into it. Cover it with soil to prevent the nitrogen from escaping into the air. Take care not to allow the fresh slurry to touch the plants directly.

Cover the pit and storage drum to stop the nitrogen in the slurry from escaping into the air.
Allow the slurry to mature for 2 weeks before using it (or see the note on Using fresh slurry above).
Don't handle donkey manure, as it contains the germs that cause tetanus.
Don't use fresh urine or put the slurry on the plants themselves, as it may scorch the leaves.

11:37 AM  
Blogger Auntie said...

PS, that came from a sustainable ag. extension manual.

11:38 AM  
Blogger MissKris said...

The worst agricultural smell I ever smelled was the compost at a pea vinery. When we kids would ride past it on our bikes we'd try to hold our breaths for as long as we could. It was THAT bad. The best and sage and alfalfa over near Madras. Heavenly. The stinkiest out-in-the-woods smell...skunk cabbage!

6:11 PM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Auntie, I'm very impressed that you are reading ag manuals.

Darev, Large scale pig farms are criminal.

Weese, it could make a vulture vomit as well.

Syd, I didn't know you had row crop experience.

Kris, I wonder what they were using?

9:32 PM  
Blogger darev2005 said...

Yep, I was right. I didn't want to know what slurry is.

4:20 AM  

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