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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Some Smokin Hot Sh!t

Manure Muffins Slow Cooking: If I had left a little more space between them, I could have had a neat little carriage driving obstacle...
Composting is near and dear to my heart.  This year, I have been experimenting with a new to me product for bedding; Corn Cob Pellets.  As I am not known for following recipes, I do not use the product as the instructions indicate, but have devised a method that suits my needs.

The stalls in my rented former dairy barn are concrete and slightly sloped.  I use wood shavings as cushion and the corn cob pellets for absorbency.  Where the horses usually pee, I cover with a dusting of the Corn Cob Pellets and pile the shavings over the top.  The horses rearrange the wood shavings where they want them, but the pellets stay in place.  I have found that the pellets absorb the urine like a sponge and hold it better than the shavings alone, which act rather more like a paper towel in absorbing the urine, soiling more bedding.  As the Corn Cob Pellet Bag claims: Use Less Bedding.  Hurray.

I know that wood shavings tie up more nitrogen in the soil than they deliver while composting, but the particulars were beyond me, so I contacted James A Fawcett, Ph.D., Field Agronomist with ISU Extension to enlighten me on the Wood Shavings vs. Corn Cob Pellets Tournament of Composting.  He said, "While the carbon source (wood chips) is being broken down, the bacteria need nitrogen to function so the N is not available for plants [on which the un-composted manure is spread] until the carbon source is decomposed and then the bacteria die and release the N back into the environment. The composting would not be as important with the corn pellets as with wood chips, but after the composting process the N would be available faster than if the bedding (corn pellets) is applied directly to the field. I believe the C:N ratio in bacteria is about 30:1, so any carbon source with a C:N ratio higher than this will temporarily tie up some nitrogen. Grass clippings are one of the few carbon sources that will not tie up any N as it breaks down since the material already has enough N for the bacteria."

To further explain, he told me, " Bedding materials with a high C:N ratio ties up N in the soil and/or manure until the bacteria break down the carbon source ( wood chips). I assume corn pellets are made from corn cobs and/or stalks. They would have a C:N ratio of about 60:1 compared to 200+:1 for the wood chips, so there would be less of a problem with using up the nitrogen."

You can see from the eminent Dr. Agronomy's explanation what effect putting raw manure has on your hay field.  Using the Corn Cob Pellets decreases your carbon footprint by a whole lot of shoe sizes.  Composting eliminates the footprint altogether.

I have noticed that my baby manure pile, not quite to the composting size, is already smoking away, much hotter than normal.  I suspect the Corn Cob Pellets of adding more heat to the sh!t pile.  If my suspicions are correct, it should take less time to turn into Compost Gold.

Composting is easy.  You make a pile of manure [in the shade is best], spread it out to be about four foot high by four foot wide, with a nice flat top and let Nature Mama do the rest. Sure, you can turn it, but unless you have a skid loader or tractor [Santa Baby, I've been an Awfully Good Girl], but you really can skip this step. In 6-9 months you have helped give birth to black gold compost.  The joy of new life for your garden, hay field, for whatever you need fertile earth.

You don't need to be a radical hippy, tree hugging environmentalist to compost.  It makes cents.  Spreading raw manure on your hay field will reduce yield/quality.  Composting will increase yield/quality.  Using the Corn Cob Bedding will reduce bedding costs.  Win. And. Another Win.  If you don't have Corn Cob Pellets as a local alternate bedding supply, look for another.  I once knew a gal who used sunflower shells from a local oil producer.

Local Bedding Supply and Composting: Fun!  Easy! Good Stewardship!  Makes You Happy!

Kind Regards, 
Michelle Blackler
Serendipity is an Accidental Sagacity Corporation company.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Stable Exercise and Winter Weight Control Program

As the temperatures fall, my jeans begin to tighten.  I usually accept that this as The. Way. Things. Are.  During spring and summer, I loose weight.  Fall and winter, I gain weight.  The trouble with accepting this as a fact of life is that every year I seem to loose less weight in the temperate months and gain more in the intemperate. My skinny jeans are most unforgiving of this trend.

This year, I moved the horses from livery back to my full and complete charge.  Cleaning stalls and acquiring the amount of food & bedding required to keep four horses helped me to loose the additional 20lbs that clung on me over the last five years of paying someone else to to the hard work.  My skinny jeans favored me.

But after Thanksgiving, the waist band is starting to bind.  And Christmas Cookie Season is just around the corner.  I do not want to unpack the fat jeans.  So, I decide to turn stable management into a gym.  Yes, cleaning stalls burns calories, but if there is no sweat involved- as in the summer, the weight hangs on steadfast to the love handles.  By altering how I clean the stalls, I manage to produce the much needed sweat and return to pre-Thanksgiving weight.

Adding lots of light layers of clothing is a must for sweat inducing labor.  One big coat makes me too hot.  It must be a slow sweat.  Instead of trying to scoop as much poop as possible on each forkful, I scoop smaller forkfuls faster, increasing the aerobic-ness.  The addition of lunges really adds to the workout.  Realizing that I scooped and dumped always on the same side, I re-positioned the wheel barrow so I had to lunge, scoop and twist the other direction as well.

By the second stall, I have a good, even sweat going, and feel the routine is worthy.  I make sure I am breathing well [exhaling on exertion, inhaling on recovery], using good balance during twists to support the weight on the fork, and using each side of my body equally.  I finish by briskly sweeping the alleyway, incorporating more lunges and twists, equal on both sides.

Cleaning the stalls this way takes me an hour to do what normally takes forty five minutes, but afterward I am glowing and feel quite energized instead of the normal feeling of thank-god-that's-done.  And I don't have pay  to go to a gym and spend an hour sweating there, which pleases me no end.

Lucy has weighed in on the subject with her usual enthusiasm.  Her useful advice: after any period of inactivity, perform a deep Downward Dog Stretch.  Then, the Lucy Fur Method of Extreme Fitness calls for: terrorize bunnies at top speed for an hour or until the Humans call you and offer a treat.

I'll stick to the Stable Routine, leave the bunnies to Lucy, add in the Downward Dog and I am confident that I can enjoy a few Christmas treats with out the Wrath of the Skinny Jeans.

Kind Regards,
Michelle Blackler
Serendipity is an Accidental Sagacity Corporation company.