Mucking The Barn

There are times that I think I’m just a glorified farm girl.  That my main job on our farm, milking the goats, is just a Hollywood version of the real thing.  I talk myself down saying that real farmers work way harder.

Until today.

I mucked the barn.  And there is no glory in that.  No Hollywood there either.  Just a lot of poop, dust and pee soaked straw.

Our intention this winter was to keep layering straw on top of the organic discharge from our goats (i.e. poop and pee) to make, at the end of winter, layers upon layers of organic compost that will make our garden grow like never before.

Intention is one thing.  Ammonia is another.

For you non-farmers, non-composters, the smell of ammonia happens when you have an unbalanced compost pile…too much nitrogen.  In our case, too much pee and poop for the trampled down layers of straw (carbon) to absorb and deal with. 

Thus, I mucked the barn. 

Let me explain what mucking the barn smells like.  At first, and throughout, you inhale a strong scent of ammonia.  I always remind myself, don’t get any bleach in there.  Ammonia mixed with bleach will kill you.  Literally.  Me, dead on a pile of poop and straw, would not be a good thing.

After you’ve adjusted to the Ammonia smell, or at least given up to hoping you won’t get high or brain damage while mucking the barn, you plunge the pitchfork into the mess.  As the process of lifting and peeling off layers of soon-to-be-garden-compost continues, you are overwhelmed with a variety of smells.  You begin to think you may not even be in your own barn, but at the zoo, cleaning out the giraffe building.  Or the monkey building.  Or, if the real truth be known, for any of you local enough and old enough to remember, the OLD monkey building. 

Top that with the chemical dust that infiltrates the air at a manicure salon, minus the high-pitched buzzing of the fingernail sander/Dremmel tool. 

And, add in a touch of mint.

Cover your mouth and nose with your sweatshirt at times when the dust is thickest, to no avail, because pitchforking and keeping your face tucked into your neck don’t go well together.  One is going to win.  And, because you’re there for a job, and not for your health, pitchforking wins.

Finally, after announcing you are finished with your portion of the project, you hope that the mucking memories haven’t lodged themselves deep enough in your nose that you’ll be smelling them for a week.

Later, take a shower.  Be thankful you are because the minute the water hits your mass of long hair, a cloud arises, similar to that dirty kid’s dust cloud in the Charlie Brown Christmas Special.  What was his name?

But, the humidity of the shower dislodges the particles of dust, poop, pee, straw, ammonia, giraffe house, monkey house, manicure dust and mint from the tiny hairs of your nose and, before thinking, you swallow.

And you think, that’s why farmers have strong immune systems.  Without wanting to and before realizing it, they eat, via the swallow, a tiny portion of everything that was in the barn.

And, then, again you become the Hollywood farm girl and go to yoga.

You hope you don’t smell too much like barn in the 95 degree yoga studio, two feet from the people on all sides of you.

Happy mucking!

-  The Goat Cheese Lady

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About The Goat Cheese Lady

I am Lindsey. I am an urban farmgirl attempting to balance city and farm life. I make cheese. I milk goats. I am married to the Animal Whisperer, man of exceptional knowledge and patience, I have two boys who are louder than my sister and I ever were, two big dogs, a few milking goats, some egg laying chickens and rabbits. Coyotes, rattlesnakes, deer, bear, and bobcats are frequent visitors. Just around the corner is the city. The pool. Yoga. The neighborhood friends. But we...and our farm...are hidden...by the rocks.
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6 Responses to Mucking The Barn

  1. Melanie says:

    I used to wait far too long to clean out the barn from our (2) horses and (2) goats…..You’re right….it’s RIPE and the smell is hard to take. I like your idea of using leaves. That never occurred to me. Good luck! Maybe part of cheese-class-tuition in the fall could be a large bag or two or three of leaves (good part….delivery is included!).

  2. Laura says:

    Oh, no! I would think of deep litter only with chickens! Unless you had a very spacious set up. And money for extra bedding.

    • Yes, the “Money for extra bedding” part seems to be a un-thought-of factor! We definately go through a lot more straw now that we know it has to be a lot deeper. I liked the solution Richard and Kerry posted…using leaves. Next year you’ll find me driving the neighborhood picking up everyone’s bags of leaves! Lindsey

  3. ecofarmer says:

    Ya.. THey forget to tell you when promoting the “Deep litter Method” that they mean really really deep- like add a foot fo straw a week!
    We are having a little more success this year, primarily as I kept dumping bags of leaves into the barn for the goats to eat & shred. That worked really really well for quite a while, as it was lots of carbon.
    Now I have to dig the litter out of the way of closing the door, as the “floor” has risen about 6 inches!
    I think I am just going to raise the gate :)
    But I do understand why all my Grandparents generation (Nebraska farmers) carried bandana sized handkerchiefs, and why even movie cowboys wore them around their necks…
    By the way, a couple excellent posts recently, especially the school snack one.
    We are happy to see more and more folks living the dream and doing the “right” thing no matter how challenging it can be, it helps us feel less like wackos :)
    Richard (and Kerry)
    ps-I think we tried to friend your facebook, if we did it right..

  4. Melina says:

    Dust mask, it’s a good thing.

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