Thursday, December 27, 2012

NEW YEARS' RESOLUTIONS AND MANURE



The Rev. Dana Prom Smith, S.T.D., Ph.D. (12/27/2012)

 

Many years ago in an alternately different life as a clinical hypnoanalyst in West Los Angeles, a client who was barely able to walk was brought into my office, dragging her feet along the ground, supported by her husband and brother.  The presenting problem was her increasing paralysis.  In our second session, she told me about recurring dreams of water bugs and tarantulas dominating and ruining her life, such as water bugs overwhelming her apartment and a tarantula completely filling a room.

 

As we explored her dreams, we talked about how she could change them if she wished.  After settling on a strategy, she dreamt them again in hypnosis, transforming the dreams by sweeping out the water bugs and deflating the tarantulas.  Later, quite to her surprise, she told her older brother and her husband to “buzz off” after which she began walking normally, even driving, and becoming a docent at the Getty Museum.  She showed me pictures of her older brother with a black beard and black clothing. He resembled a water bug.  Her husband while not the color of a tarantula suffered a hirsute similarity. 

 

Dreams are often night letters we send to ourselves from our unconscious process to be read in the morning, almost always cast in symbols.  Although the idea of the unconscious process in human beings is popularly identified with Sigmund Freud, it goes back a lot of earlier.  Saint Paul mentions spiritual experiences “too deep for words” (Rom. 8.26.)  A proper reading of the story of Adam and Eve is that this wasn’t an historical account, but rather a metaphorical account about the conflict between the conscious and the unconscious in all of us.  The word “adham” in Hebrew is not a name but a noun meaning “everyman” or "mankind."

 

While the 19th century German philosopher Friedrich Schelling coined the phrase, earlier Shakespeare in Hamlet told a tale of unconscious and conscious conflicts.  “To sleep, perhaps to dream— / ay, there’s the rub.”  In Macbeth, Banquo after his encounter with the three witches says, “A heavy summons lies like lead upon me, / And yet I would not sleep.  Merciful powers, / Restrain in me the ursed thoughts that nature / Gives way to in repose” (II, 1.)

 

As Plato made clear in the Allegory of the Cave, there’s a difference between appearance and reality which is precisely where the unconscious and gardening coalesce.  The reason that New Year’s resolutions so often fail is that they are made consciously, people thinking they ought to make the resolution.  It’s an appearance of consciousness, not the reality of the unconscious.

 

Another client for years made resolutions to stop smoking and failed to stop.  Only after a dream in which she saw herself covered with the slime and dirt of tobacco did she successfully stop.  Disgusted with herself for befouling herself, she stopped. 

 

The unconscious process of gardening is in the soil, not in the plants.  For most people, gardening is in seeds, plants, fertilizing, and watering.  Actually, the heart of gardening is in the soil because without soil everything else is for nought.  The first thing in creating good soil is in the right mixture of clay, sand, and silt.  In the high country we have very little silt.  Most of it has slid down to Oak Creek, the Verde River, and the Valley of the Sun; however, we have excellent sand called volcanic or lava sand and clay.  Mixed together with the addition of compost we have a great soil because the volcanic sand is jammed with nutrients which will be released by the mycorrhizae in the compost.  Clay stabilizes the retention of water.

 

Tightly packed, too much clay inhibits the growth of roots.  Clay when fired becomes pottery.  Sand allows for root growth, but the water flows right through it.  Mixing the two gives a great basis for excellent soil, and happily both are abundant in the high country.  The next thing is organic material and compost.  Once added, your soil’s unconscious process will be “rarin’ to go.”  Two New Years’ Resolutions: pay attention to your dreams and bury your kitchen clippings in the garden.

Copyright © Dana Prom Smith 2012

Dana Prom Smith and Freddi Steele edit Gardening Etcetera.  Smith emails at stpauls@npgcable.com and blogs at http://highcountrygardener.blogspot.com.

 

 

 



             

Thursday, December 20, 2012

THE JOY OF QUIET


Dana Prom Smith

 

Wordsworth had it right when he wrote:  “The world is too much with us; late and soon, / Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers: / Little we see in Nature that is ours; / We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!”  He wrote of the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century, not the Cyber Revolution of the 21st century.

 

Nearer to our time, Marshall McLuhan wrote:  “When things come at you very fast, naturally you lose touch with yourself.”  Nowadays things are coming very fast, taking in too much information at once, so that we don’t have the time to understand the information, much less what we think and feel about it all.  We lose contact with ourselves so busy are we handling the assaults of information.

 

Pico Iyer, the novelist and essayist, wrote in the New York Times (9/24/2012) in an essay “The Joy of Quiet,” “In barely one generation we’ve moved from exulting in the time-saving devices that have so expanded our lives to trying to get away from them — often to make more time.”     

 

We lose contact with ourselves, almost as though we weren’t there, becoming an information receiving machine without a soul.  In addition to the assault of information, we are rattled by the assaults within ourselves, such as indignations, ideologies, and unresolved conflicts.  When we turn from that inner fracas and begin to pay attention to our senses, the distractions fade away.  Enjoying our five senses takes our minds off our inner turmoil and external assaults.  Petting a dog will do it.  We need a refuge where we can become reacquainted with ourselves which is the reason that meditation is so important.  Gardens beget meditation.

 

Meditation is zoning out so that one can zero in, but how to do it?  Paradoxically, paying attention to our five senses is the pathway to the spiritual.  Many years ago I spent some time at a remote Augustinian monastery.  I’d been on a spiritual quest to find a way to meditate that was congenial to me, and the Augustinian monastery was a stop on that journey that ended the journey.  The monks walked around a courtyard garden chanting and invited me to participate.  The more I participated, the freer was my mind to focus.

 

Their theology didn’t beguile me although I relished theological conversations with them.  It was their method.  I learned how to meditate.  And so it is with gardening.  If we want to meditate, we first must leave the assaults and discords, becoming at ease with ourselves, recalling an experience in our lives where we felt completely at peace with ourselves.  Experiencing life in a garden is akin to such an experience of ease, especially near dawn or in the evening at the gloaming.  Enjoying the full pleasures of our senses is one of the gifts that a garden gives us to help us to zone out so that we can zero in. 

 

Such an experience leads to a fusion of our minds and our bodies. Experiencing wholeness releases us from ourselves.  Some people call it emptiness, but the word “wholeness” better suits the experience.  With our sensory needs satisfied, we can relax our defenses and be at ease with ourselves.  A garden with its tastes, aromas, sights, sounds, and touches is such a place.  

 

Once our senses are satisfied, we can move beyond ourselves.  We’re no longer hungry or grasping.  Meditation beguiles us, drawing us outside of ourselves in a moment of transcendence and clarity where we see ourselves from outside of ourselves.  We’re free to move beyond the bulwarks of our assaults and conflicts, opening to the new, seeing things in a different way.  In many ways, most of us have had such experiences, but they’re chancy and occasional.  A garden gives us the possibility of practicing and cultivating those experiences of discovery.  We become acquainted with ourselves once again, feeling at ease enough to move beyond our safe zones, to see ourselves from fresh perspectives, delivering us from perpetually rehearsing yesterday, embracing today and tomorrow.  If we embrace life as a gift, gratitude becomes the reason for living.    

 

Copyright © Dana Prom Smith

Dana Prom Smith along with Freddi Steele edits Gardening Etcetera, blogs at http://highcountrygardener.blogspot.com, and emails at stpauls@npgcable.com.

 

 
 
 
 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

BIG FOOT AT THE MUSEUM CLUB



The Rev. Dana Prom Smith, S.T.D., Ph.D. (11/17/2012)


 

Q.  You may not remember me.  My name’s Abigail.  I wrote you last year about my husband Rusty who used to like to watch Ice Road Truckers.  Now, he’s on Animal Planet and Finding Big Foot, especially after he saw Big Foot come out of the Museum Club late one night in December.  He’d been in the Club, “hoisting a few” and chewing the rag with some buddies about the dangers of foreign influences in Flagstaff.  After he left, he sat in that old broken down pickup of his running it in neutral to heat up the cab.  He swore he saw Big Foot dodge the traffic of “66” and head down to the railroad tracks.  He said it disappeared in swirling snow as it moved on towards the new Walmart.  What do you make of it?


         

A.  Yes, Abigail, I remember you well.  As I recall, Rusty didn’t like picking weeds because he thought it was against nature.  I don’t want to be rude, but I have doubts about Big Foot sightings after someone admitted to “hoisting a few” beforehand.  Also, some exhaust may have seeped into his cab, something like the Oracle at Delphi in ancient Greece who breathed carbon dioxide vapors coming out of the rocks before she pronounced her prophetic hallucinations.  Her vapors were probably just like Rusty’s.    


 

Q.  That’s what I thought, but Rusty got all bent out of shape when I asked him how many “brews” he drank in the Museum Club, but I never thought about his broken down exhaust.  Then he went into a tirade about the foreign influences in Flagstaff and that Big Foot is just “a sign of the times” like some kind of apocalypse, you know, “the end of life as we know it.”  He talks a lot about “things just ain’t what they used to be.”

 

He saw a woman in the market with a head scarf, and it nearly freaked him out.  Turned out that she was a little, old woman from Poland who was visiting her son, a prof at NAU.  She was wearing a babushka to keep her head warm in the winter.  I think what really got him was that she told the butcher that American sausage is inferior to Polish and that our beets were dried up and withered, too.  The manager told him to control himself.


 

A.  Well, Abigail, I have a plan.  Weeds in the nature of the case are foreigners.  We don’t get many weeds from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, or Finland.  Most of them come from Russia and Asia, especially Asia Minor, and from the lands around the Mediterranean.  Even the Scotch thistle, which came here from Scotland, originally came from Italy along with its thistled cousins, the artichoke and the diffuse knapweed.  Now, if he wants to fight foreigners taking over Flagstaff, he can begin with weeds.

 

      Q.  But he says he doesn’t believe in intruding into nature.  He said that we should let nature take its course.  The result is that our yard, both back and front, is a mess.  It’s full of weeds.  Like you said last year, I put in some bearded iris, and they were bright spots in our desolation. 

 

A.  Well, you and Rusty can go native as a way of resisting the foreign takeover of Flagstaff.  Plant a lot of American vegetation, such as grasses like sheep fescue, Arizona fescue, and blue grama.  They don’t take a lot of upkeep since their native and hardy, leaving him time to watch Animal Planet.  Besides, they’ll blot out any of those foreign intruders.  Weeds are foreigners who want to take over the high country and exploit it.  Cheat grass’s root system spreads out, using too much moisture, and knapweed poisons the ground around it so that nothing else can grow.  They’re subversive like the Dalmatian toadflax which uses it’s siren beauty to take over the natives and shove them out.  Keeping America strong means planting native vegetation and picking foreign weeds.  This way after a day of planting natives and picking foreign weeds, he can run the flag up the flag pole and salute it. 

Copyright © Dana Prom Smith

Gardening Etcetera is edited by Dana Prom Smith and Freddi Steele.  Smith can be emailed at stpauls@npgcable.com, and he blogs at http://highcountrygardener.blogspot.com

 

 

 


   

Friday, November 02, 2012

THE ANSWER MAN: Growing Tomatoes

 
 
The Rev. Dana Prom Smith, S.T.D., Ph.D. (10/7/2012)

 

          Question:  So what’s the big deal about growing tomatoes in Flagstaff?  Back in New Jersey, it was a cinch.  All I had to do was stick’em in the ground, and they’d grow like crazy.  Last year all I got out here was spindly little vines that don’t grow more than a foot and vines with tomatoes that ripened too late.  Anyhow, what ever happened to my favorite heirloom, the Brandywine?

 

Answer: Let’s get something straight.  I’m fed up with Easterners with their shiny shoes, pressed trousers, and slicked back hair whining about how hard it is to grow tomatoes in Flagstaff.  If that hot, sticky, icky, humid, sub-tropical climate were so great along with that carcinogenic air, you can always go back.

You come out here and want to change things, like our sense of high fashion.  So, we look like walking mummy bags.  Just try your six inch stilettos in a six foot snow drift.  Anyhow, welcome to the high country.

 

Question:  Hey cowboy!  Thanks for the welcome.  Now, how about the tomatoes?

 

Answer:  All right!  Growing tomatoes in Flagstaff may not be a cinch, but it doesn’t take a miracle worker, either.  All it takes is adjusting to different circumstances.  Of all the animals on the earth, human beings have the greatest capacity to adjust to climatic change.  Only weeds adapt better than human beings.     

          First, since our growing season is shorter than many, plant tomatoes that have short growing seasons, such as Canadian and Siberian.  These varieties are available in local commercial nurseries.  If they aren’t, you can start from seed which is often better because they’re disease free.  Sadly, nurseries are like hospitals, no matter how hard they scrub, they harbor diseases.  It’s no big deal to start with seeds, and besides you can watch the miracle of life right on your sunny window sill.

The best time to start seeds is the middle of March, the same time for planting onion sets.  This doesn’t involve a greenhouse or an elaborate setup.  All you need is one of those pellet kits that are really tiny greenhouses.  You’ve got several months to get ready.

After hardening off the young plants, they can be set outside the middle of May well before the last freeze if they’re protected by Walls O’Water which are really small tubular greenhouses.  So much for the short growing season.

          Second, growing them in containers better controls the soil, fertilizer, water, and diseases.  The five gallon, black plastic containers from the nurseries will do.  The tomatoes won’t be offended by such plain housing.  Besides, it’s good for recycling.  If you want to go upscale, you can buy specially designed containers for tomatoes at fancy prices.

          Third, Flagstaff is better for growing tomatoes than humid, hot, sticky places because some diseases that need those climates don’t do well here.  Besides, our air is better.  However, we do have a few of airborne and soil borne diseases which makes container growing all the more important.  Whatever you do, don’t plant them close together because airborne diseases can hop from one plant to the other with ease.  You Easterners live all jam packed like sardines, but out West we think a little space makes for good neighbors and healthy tomatoes.

 

Question:  Okay, I know how you feel, but what tomatoes would you suggest?


 

Answer:  Thought you’d never ask!  Several varieties do well up here.  One of my favorites is the “Galina,” a Siberian golden cherry that brings a person to bliss when eaten right off the vine.  Next, I’d recommend the Canadian “Prairie Fire” which produces a delightful 3-5 oz. tomato.  Then there’s the Czech “Stupice,” an early producer with small sweet and tangy fruit.  It was developed by Milan Sodomka in the 1970’s.  Finally, there are two Siberians, “Gregori’s Altai and Sasha’s Altai, both of which produce small to medium, tasty fruit.  These all produce within sixty days.  Have at it “Jersey Boy.”  Be sure to buy your seeds early.

 

Question:  Do you have to be a grump to grow tomatoes in Flagstaff?

 

Answer:  No, but it helps.

Copyright © Dana Prom Smith 2012

Dana Prom Smith along with Freddi Steele edits Gardening Etcetera.  His blog is http://highcountrygardener.blogspot.com, and his email address is stpauls@npgcable.com.

 

           






 

 

Monday, October 15, 2012

THE MAN WHO LOVED BACON


The Rev. Dana Prom Smith, S.T.D., Ph.D. (10/14/2012)

 

          My father was a man who loved bacon, the taste of bacon and the smell of bacon frying in a skillet, of coffee brewing, and of the fragrances of a wood-fired stove.  Happily, my mother preferred cooking on a wood-fired stove, said she could control the heat better.  As the daughter of the fading years of the frontier, she was taught to cook on a wood-fired stove with cast iron cookware.  The aromas of breakfast on fishing trips into the High Sierra are some of my fondest memories as a child.

 

          It wasn’t only the aromas of those early morning breakfasts, it was also the sounds, sizzling raw-fried potatoes and onions and eggs frying in the bacon fat, sunny side up with crinkled edges, and the crackling of a wood fire.  Carcinogens, cholesterol, and saturated fat aside, it’s hard to beat those breakfasts.

 

          My father relished his senses.  He savored his “wee dram” of single malt Scotch, caressed my mother’s shoulder, watched the colors of a sunset at the beach, listened to my mother play the piano, and delighted in the aromas of his roses.  He was connected to himself because he was connected to his senses.  Sadly, nowadays, much of gardening has been dogmatized.  While sustainability is right on, it suffers from being taken over by the politically correct and morphed into a purse-lipped ideology.  A pinched correctness takes us outside of ourselves into artificial world of dogmas.  Gardening isn’t an intellectual pursuit.  It’s a sensual experience.


 

          It begins with the feel of dirt running through our fingers sans gloves.  It’s pleasurable as well as a necessary.  Good soil flows, and as it flows we can check it contents.  It’s also important to smell the dirt, sticking our noses close to it, checking out whether it smells fresh or not.  Sour soils or alkaline soils aren’t happy soils.

 

          The tactile sense is the first sense by which our parents communicated with us, holding and caressing us.  No ideas or dogmas, just touch.  Also, it’s the first sense we use in gardening, not only letting soil flow through our fingers, but also touching the plants, even caressing them.  Plants need to know we care for them.  A garden is not a world of disparate, external entities as in a machine, but an organism where members are related to one another internally.  We relate best by touch.  Kale doesn’t grasp ideas, and as anyone who has grown kale knows, it’s not always correct.  If not touched, roses need to be smelled.


 


          The aroma of a garden is the aroma of life.  For most of our external lives, we live in sterile environments.  We scrub and wash everything to death.  At work we are usually encased in steel, glass, asphalt, and concrete, all of them dead.  Walking through a garden in the still of the evening, there are the aromas and sounds of life, a scent-laden moisture in the air, the whirr of life unseen, and the moldering of fallen leaves, all signs of fertility.  Sometimes, we’ve become so accustomed to the harsh artificial sounds of civilization that we can barely hear the softer natural sounds of life.

 

          A breeze rustling through a garden, the songs and chirps of elusive creatures, and the skitterings of fleet-footed foragers are all the sounds of life.  We hear these sounds only in a garden or the forest.

 

          Gardening is a great way to connect with ourselves because a garden isn’t an idea or an ideology, it’s an experience of sight and taste. A beautiful red berry or a tomato plucked from a vine, a snap bean stolen from a bush, and a bright green of a leaf of lettuce freshly picked all connect us with ourselves.

 


          Of all the people I know who think they possess the truth, be it religious, horticultural, or political, I seldom find a happy one, so busy are they in defending and attacking one another.  They're seldom at ease with themselves.  The astemiously correct are worse, conjugating everything by a grammatically correct ideology.  Relishing life, sensualists are connectd with themselves.  On loan from God, a garden is a sensualist’s paradise.

Copyright © Dana Prom Smith 2012

Gardening Etcetera is edited by Dana Prom Smith along with Freddi Steele.  Dr. Smith can be emailed at stpauls@npgcable.com, and he blogs at http://highcountrygardener.blogspot.com.




         

Sunday, October 07, 2012

THE ANSWER MAN: Family Gardening

The Rev. Dana Prom Smith, S.T.D., Ph.D. (10/1/2012)



          Question:  I’ve a secret I’ve kept from my children.  I don’t like to pick weeds, not even as a boy.  Once, I was sent to bed without my supper for refusing to pick weeds.  Now, I want my sons to pick weeds.  Should I tell them about my behavior as a boy, or should I keep it a secret?  My wife doesn’t even know.  She’s a Master Gardener and an enthusiastic weed picker.  What’s your opinion on full disclosure, like weeds and income taxes.


         Answer:  Well, full disclosure is always the right thing, unless you want to keep a secret, like smoking pot in the boy’s restroom at high school or cheating on your income taxes.  Then you keep secrets.

          The problem isn’t so much honesty as it is a division of labor, and that would allow you to be honest with your sons.  Deceit, denial, evasion, and obfuscation never work.  As politicians find out, cover-ups often bite them in the butt. 

A friend of mine told me about picking weeds as a boy in California.  The weeds were geraniums.  His father sent him with a hoe and shovel to chop geraniums.  They exuded a sticky, whitish gunk that got all over his skin and itched something fierce.  His father got in there with him, and together they hacked geraniums.  Often, he took him on expeditions along back country roads all over Southern California looking for oak leaf mold.  They’d come back home with large gunny sacks filled with the stuff.  He loved those trips.   Don’t use your boys to do just the scut work of gardening, or your daughters, for that matter, if you have any.  Include them in the fun times of gardening.  They’re not your employees.

 

          Question:  That’s all well and good, but my wife, Doris, is a speed demon at spotting weeds.  She even uses their Latin scientific names.  When she spies some cheat grass, she’ll say, “Harry, pick those Bromus tectorum over by the sidewalk” or “Get Centaurea diffusa before it goes to seed.”  It’s like I’m some kind of employee.  If she really loved me, she’d know about my aversion to weed picking without me having to tell her.   I don’t know what to do.  I feel so alone and confused.

 

          Answer:  Buck up!  Don’t be a weed wimp.  It sounds like Doris runs your family.  You’re probably resisting her.  I doubt she really likes to pick weeds but does it because it’s the right thing to do.  She sounds like “a-right-thing-to-do” personality.  Never ask your children to do something you’re unwilling to do yourself.  In short, confess your sins and pick weeds with your sons, even making a game of it, like giving them the names of people you and they dislike.  I give my weeds the names of several plutocratic politicians.  That way you can dig out the weeds, roots and all, with gusto.

 

Question:  But what about Doris?  What should I tell her?  I mean this whole feminist thing has really taken hold of her.  It’s almost like she’s possessed.  She’s so assertive.  I don’t know what’s happened to her.

 


Answer:  Look, buddy, Doris has found her voice.  Be grateful that she’s got some gumption and stop whining.  What do you want?  A woman who thinks she’s an assistant male?   Tell Doris first.  She’ll want to hear it from you, not second-hand from them.  I can tell you one thing, “if mamma ain’t happy, nobody ain’t gonna be happy.”  You could tell her about your childhood trauma of missing dinner.  She might even sympathize with you.  Then you can use her considerable energy to get in there and pick the damned weeds.  Never resist someone else’s power.  Always use it.  The only way to get over your aversion to picking weeds is to pick weeds, even the dreaded Scotch thistle or as Doris would say,"Onopordum acanthium."  Cowboy up.  Doris might fall in love with you all over again.  If you want a happy wife, smiling children, and a beautiful garden, you need to pick weeds.  A famous horticultural shrink told me: “Families that garden together stay together.”  Well, bucko, picking weeds is just the shadow side of gardening.        

Copyright © Dana Prom Smith 2012

Dana Prom Smith along with Freddi Steele edits Gardening Etcetera and emails at stpauls@npgcale.com  This article appeared in the Arizona Daily Sun, 10/13/2012.

 

         



         

Saturday, September 15, 2012

DRY AS A BUFFALO CHIP



The Rev. Dana Prom Smith, S.T.D., Ph.D. (9/13/2012)

       Meine ┼░berfrau noticed a small, dry patch near her hair line.   She hied herself to a local salon to buy oil to nourish the dry patch.  When she told the sales associate that a patch on her skin was “as dry as a buffalo chip,” the woman replied, “We’ve got a lot of buffalo chips up here in Flagstaff.”


        This set me to thinking about various types of dung usable for nourishing the garden.  It’s the best stuff to enrich the soil because it’s not only nutrient-laden, but it’s also high in fiber which makes for a rich, friable soil.

 

          As with a fine wine, manure is best when it’s aged.  One of the obvious reasons is to leach the salts because as with human beings animals of the field urinate and defecate in the same spot.  Although urine is high in needed nitrogen, it’s loaded with salts which sterilize the soil.  In 146 B.C. after the Third Punic War in which the Roman army under General Scipio Aemilianus defeated the Carthaginians, the general had the city of Carthage ploughed under, sown with salt and sacked, and the survivors enslaved.  It is said that he wept at the destruction.

 

        History and a general’s personality disorder aside, chicken manure needs to be aged the longest because when fresh it’s too much of a good thing.  It’s best to put it in the compost pile along with the bedding and let it age for six months.  Of course, just as with a bottle of fine wine it should be turned now and then with a pitch fork to add air to the pile.  Oxygen is essential for decomposition as it is for nearly everything else.

 

          Human feces aren’t good manure because we’re omnivores, eating both flesh and plants.  We’re also narcovores, eating drugs, both legal and illegal.  Eating the flesh of other animals raises the possibility of passing on the diseases of the animal.  Drugs are passed through the digestive system into urine and feces which means that those drugs will be passed onto anyone who eats vegetables nourished by them.  Many times, the consequences are tragic, especially in the case of endocrine disrupters.  In short, our dung really stinks.

 

A Vietnam veteran told me about being shot in his leg in a rice patty which was fertilized with human dung.  As a consequence, it was badly infected, and he came near losing his leg as a consequence.  There is a lot more to his story, such as being captured and escaping.

 

The dangers of human feces and urine, of course, are one of the issues involved in using treated waste water for snow making and the gradual seepage of treated water into the aquifer where it’s pumped out for human consumption.

         

          Cattle and horses are herbivores and sometimes narcovores in commercial feed lots; however, cowpies and road apples, and even buffalo chips, especially when accompanied with the straw bedding, are great for the soil.  Although they needn’t be aged as long chicken manure, they’re best aged to leach the salts from the feces, urine, and bedding.  Manure is properly aged when it no longer stinks.  I’ve been told that elephant dung is perhaps the best dung for successful gardening, but I suspect it’s difficult to come by.  Being trampled by an elephant is not a risk worth taking even for the most exquisite dung.

 

Dung's not only rich in nutrients, it also adds fiber, and soil needs fiber just as much as do human digestive systems.  It makes the soil more friable, less compacted, which is important for the roots.  A plant with its roots in tightly compacted, constipated clay is something like binding a growing child in a straightjacket.

 

Adding organic matter such as dung also renders the soil more hospitable to those strange creatures called mycorrhizae, a word which literally means root fungus.  They enable a plant’s roots to retrieve nutrients from the soil.  Without them, gardens will be dry patches with pitiful plants, and with them rich soil with flourishing plants.  When you think of dung, think of well-aged wine.  Salud!

Copyright © Dana Prom Smith 2012

 









Along with Freddi Steele, Dana Prom Smith edits Gardening Etcetera.  His email address is stpauls@npgcable.com, and his blog site is http://highcountrygardener.blogspot.com..