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.
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.
– The Goat Cheese Lady