Thursday, August 13, 2009


I spent my 21st summer working in the shipping/receiving bay of a furniture factory. Most of the time we were figuring out how to pack a semi-trailer to the gunwales with sofas, love-seats and comfy chairs, but there were also smaller outfits delivering the odd order to rural furniture stores. One of these guys was a farmer who did delivery on the side. When his semi rolled in, my manager's orders were always the same: “Prajer! You and the other farmboy — load this thing up and get it out of here.”

Even though the trailer was clean, it had very obviously been used to haul livestock. I'd spent a string of my previous summers helping (I use the term loosely) my uncle out on his farm; the “other farmboy” had, indeed, grown up in the country, and was saving up to start on a small acreage. The smell wasn't an issue for either of us.

One afternoon as we packed in a few sofa-beds, my buddy said, “This is kind of a nice smell, actually.”

I reluctantly agreed. “You never heard me say it, though.”

“Guys like you and me, we know there's nothing wrong with that smell. Unless the cow is sick, it's a nice smell.”

These days, after I've pedaled past a half-dozen small farms I don't mind being a little more vocal on the issue. Yes, a little manure is a nice smell. Some varieties are more agreeable to this nose than others, mind you: I prefer horses and cows to pigs and goats. But even the latter aren't bad, so long as we're not talking about an industrial farm with a lake's worth methane-producing manure. When it comes to manure I will happily take it, and recommend it, over a petroleum-based nitrogen fertilizer any day of the week.

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