Farming is not a get rich quick scheme. In fact farming isn’t a get anything quick scheme! Everything moves at nature’s pace, not your pace. It doesn’t matter if you bought your farm in September, nothing will grow until spring. Ordered a bunch of chicks from the feed store? They won’t be laying eggs for 6 months or so. Planning on starting a beehive? It will be 18 months before you can expect to harvest honey. Everything moves slowly, naturally, and if it’s livestock you are raising you can just keep feeding them. The only thing you’ll get back, for months and months (and in the case of cows, years) is POOP. Farm fresh poop!
Sure, we have fresh eggs from the chickens we serendipitously (overheard someone wanting to give away 19 chickens and jumped on the opportunity) added to my relatives flock, but since she feeds, houses and cares for them I really consider them her hens. We have a few bags of rabbit hair from our Angora rabbit, Dusty but I haven’t learned how to spin it into yarn. We have one baby dairy goat, and a few bags of frozen goat milk that I hope to make into soap. But so far our number one product from our little hobby farm is MANURE!
During the winter farmers deal with the buildup of animal excrement in stalls and pens by adding more clean, dry bedding on top. It might not sound very hygienic but believe it or not that layer of composting manure and straw actually helps to keep the animals warm in the freezing weather. But once spring rolls around it’s time to muck those pens out. I understand that some farmers, with barns full of cows, just let the manure build up and up and up but with only four goat pens it seemed like a good idea to clean them out and start fresh. Mind you after dozens of wheel barrow loads full of decomposing goat excrement and bedding, damp and heavy and odiferous, I was second guessing my impulse towards spring cleaning! And when tipping over the loaded wheelbarrow tipped me over and I landed on my butt in the middle of our compost pile (the dry side, thankfully) I wasn’t all that happy that our number one product was farm fresh poop!
On the other hand, while we don’t envision trucking it to the local farmer’s market, manure mixed with the pine or straw bedding is a useful product. Piled up in heaps it slowly decomposes into rich compost, full of nutrients for the garden. Goat, and rabbit, manure can be applied directly to the garden without composting; however the composting process provides an even higher percentage of nutrients, with 1.5 percent nitrogen, 1.5 percent phosphoric acid and 3 percent potassium. Studies have shown that composted goat manure increases crop yield among a variety of vegetables and even suppresses some serious plant diseases. So while we don’t have much to show for our hobby farm effort just yet we plan to start spreading some of our Number 1 product on the vegetable garden and I think we’ll finally see some return for our investment!