I come from a long line of dairy farmers - certainly by 1840 they were on the farm that my grandparents had up until 1960. My father eschewed cows, choosing instead to raise pigs.
(Go ahead, have your little jokes. You won't think of any I hadn't heard while growing up.)
Dad set up a cozy pen for the pigs (never hogs; dunno why, but they were always pigs, as in 'Go feed the pigs'). He used the ground floor of an old stable and penned in an adjacent area alongside that was roughly the size of the stable floor, thereby giving them lots of outdoor living space. Posh digs for pigs.
Once or twice we raised six pigs in a season, but normally we had four - he'd sell two, and the two for ourselves would see us through the winter. Come spring, he'd go buy shoats (we didn't breed them) and we'd start the cycle over.
The shoats were always adorable, and each spring when he brought them home he'd warn us: 'Don't go getting attached to the pigs. They're not pets. They're next year's suppers.'
Never fear, Dad. By the time we were done weeding the extensive vegetable gardens, and hauling the weeds out to the pigs, and hauling the slop bucket full of potato parings and apple cores out to the pigs, we were glad to see butchering time arrive and dig into the resulting pork chops.
My father, on the other hand, never heeded his own advice. You'd catch him standing by the pen, scratching one of the pigs behind the ear, saying 'How's that, George? You like that melon rind?' and 'Hey, Spot, make room for the others!' and so forth. Who moped when it was time to take the pigs to the abattoir? Hah. Not us kids.
(He didn't do his own butchering, not after the first year; he cried so hard he wouldn't do it after.)
Sorry, brief digression there.
What I actually started to say is, there's nothing better than pig... manure for fertilizer. Beside pig mature your average dairy farm contains just so much CS. (It's not 'BS' as dairy farmers generally have only one bull. Ha ha.)
Now, pig manure is a tad on the ripe side. I don't mind it too terribly much myself - I don't especially mind cow manure, if it comes to that. Fresh country air and all. In Adams County, around Gettysburg, turkey farms are a big commercial enterprise. I'm telling you, once smelled, turkey crap is not to be forgotten, and is best avoided. IMHO
Back to the story: once Dad stopped raising pigs (about the time I started high school), he converted the outdoor section of the old pig pen into a strawberry patch. And that patch, fed with years of natural fertilizer, produced the best berries I've ever had.
Let's jump a span of forty-plus years and some 3000 miles, shall we? Ain't computers grand!
The fish pond in yesterday's blog was, as I think I mentioned, part of the old system used by the Victorian rectory for their home-grown fish dinners. They actually had a small series of pools - with the one in the photos being the largest - and the water circulated among them.
The large pump they had (wonder how they powered it?) and the first pool was on what now belongs to the neighbors behind us. It was dismantled and the pool filled in long before my time. I've seen an old photograph or I wouldn't have known about it; Himself said it was being taken out about the time he first saw this property, months before breaking ground to build the house.
I'm not sure how many pools were in the series, but we have four on our side of the fence, the large one and three small ones. At one time Himself had thought about hooking up a pump to the uppermost of these pools (the smallest) then have a waterfall to the next (a sort of triangular pool), then to the short trough-like pool that connects to the fish pond. I'd love to do that - the waterfalls would sound lovely. But getting a system rigged up that would take the water back to the pumping pool would be more trouble than it's worth at this stage.
You still with me here? There'll be a quiz after.
Since he never did set up a pump except in the fish pond itself, the smaller pools have become frog havens and probably mosquito nurseries.
This afternoon I pinned up my hair, got on my mucking gear, and went out to tackle the smaller pools while Himself did more dredging in the pond.
I didn't think of taking a picture of the connecting pool before I started. After I had it just about clear, though, down to the lining, I wished I had remembered to do a before-and-after. The photographer at our house commandeered the camera,* and this is what he came up with:
That will give you an idea. That's the triangular pool, which is the second-largest overall. It's obviously nowhere near as big as the fish pond, but it's sizable enough that I can't quite reach across it with the rake in my hand.
*The pix are a bit blurry and not well exposed. Himself says it was the shutter speed. I shall say nothing.
I won't know how well these pictures show up until I post the blog. You can see the rake handle sort of across the lower point, just about at the bottom of the picture. In the upper part of the photo, toward the back right, is the trough that leads from the now-highest pool. That will be easy to clean out, though, as it's dry, or very nearly so.
The connecting pool is about, oh, I'd say 6-to-8 inches deep. The triangular one is probably a foot at its deepest point. And it's exactly as you see: absolutely full of leaves and branches and decayed plants and sticks and old cherry pits and pine needles and at least eleven years accumulation of - crap.
The connecting pool was in the same state when I started. You couldn't tell there was any water in it at all. Debris had rotted into the bottom and formed a thick layer of silt, and with last year's dead leaves over top, it was covered so completely it looked almost like solid ground.
After two wheelbarrow loads like this:
...the connecting pool is essentially cleared of muck, but as I say, when I started it looked like the triangular one. The stepping stone in the middle is about 6" square, if that gives you some idea of scale. And before I started, I didn't know there WAS a stepping stone.
The duckweed from last week didn't smell all that great - did you know duckweed has an unpleasant smell? at least, once you start shifting it around it does.
I figured the stuff in these smaller pools would be just like the debris from the bottom of the fish pond, kind of smelly but not bad, really. I mean, the muck didn't smell anywhere near as much as the duckweed. Organic material. Natural odor. Just plants decomposing with a kind of earthy smell, but not even as bad as some compost piles I've smelled.
But this waste from the bottom of the connecting pool--! Oh, it is rotten, truly foul. No way was I going to dump this stuff over the retaining wall and have the miasma lingering until first frost or beyond. So Himself dug us a pit and that's where I've been dumping it - it mashes down once the water drains out of it, though I think I'll have to ask him to dig a second pit before I'm done the triangular one.
At any rate, I was reminded this afternoon of my father's strawberry patch. You can turn pig... manure into strawberries. I don't see why a pit full of rotten pond slime wouldn't make wonderful food for a rosebush or something.
Purse sow's from silk a can't ear you make a. Rearrange these words into a familiar phrase or sentence, lol...
Goodnight, Sparklers, wherever you are!