Pee, poo ‘n pasture
When I order ‘pea, pie and pud’, I get a pie topped with mashed potato and peas.* The Railway Cafe in Timaru serves it with a mountain of potato and a gravy moat: on a day out I’ll have one for lunch if I’m starving.
A late summer chore is shoveling out a year’s worth of ‘pee, poo ‘n pasture’ from a goat house. Wetted down and stored in a compost bin it’ll be ready to go straight on the vegetable garden the following spring. Fertile ground for ‘pea ‘n pud’ and everything else besides.
Peas, potatoes, steak from a home kill to make a pie: we’re all set for a feed of ‘pea, pie and pud’. That’s the thing. No matter how much we enjoy the occasional meal out, it’s hard to beat home-grown, home- made.
The poos and pees, with clean, dry meadow hay scattered on top every evening for bedding, build layer by layer. It’s that and the composition that makes June exclaim: “It’s the most physical day of the year!”
Layered like a plywood laminate, and a composition that reminds you of MDF (medium-density fibreboard). A daily ‘MDF’ mix of pee, poo ‘n pasture that gets pounded down by goat hooves and ‘glued’ to the underlying layer.
A thick mat has built up by winter that provides good floor insulation, and as the material starts to decompose, some heat. There’s always plenty of loose, clean hay around for the goats to lie on.
In that house I put in a 17mm thick tanalised plywood floor. It does the job but the muck sticks to it like it was determined to add to the ply’s laminations. You have to chisel it loose with the spade.
You don’t have that problem with the concrete base that’s in the other goat house. Every time that one’s cleaned out I get reminded that Dad did the concreting: just inside the entrance to the house he etched in the concrete ‘Coopers 1996’.
He supplied the gear, the hard labour and the expertise, and I supplied the raw materials. His 100 metre extension cable added to my 25 metre one got to where he’d plonked his concrete mixer near the goat house.
What I remember most vividly is the big red handkerchief he used as a bandana to keep the sweat out of his eyes. He was working out in the open – a north facing aspect exposed to the full intensity of a baking mid-summer sun. Stripped to the waist and in his trademark baggy khaki shorts and Roman sandals.
His tan deepened and he didn’t so much as wear a hat, let alone sunscreen. I think he believed that the health benefits of considerable exposure to the sun far outweighed any possible harm. He never had so much as a solar keratosis let alone any skin cancer.
After contemplating such swarthiness, I can’t help but think about my skin. I inherited my mother’s fair complexion and profusion of freckles. A hot sun only needs to wink at me and I start to go red.
There were no skin cancers at my last check up a couple of years ago, but lots of solar keratosis: in my case small red blotches or scaly white patches, particularly on my face, back of the hands, and legs. These days I’m a reluctant adopter of broad brimmed hats, long sleeves and trousers, and sunscreen.
Goats can get cancer too and New Zealand’s very high UV count doesn’t help. Our goats get plenty of shade and have good shelter, and in colours of brown and black are not as susceptible as white Saanens.
Their housing is substantial and they can always poo and wee while they get shade in there. June won’t be strewing the floor with rose petals, but the daily addition of meadow hay is a good muck barrier.
Muck that’s now in a compost bin by the veggie garden. The ‘MDF’ layers, now in fragments and well-aerated, got doused in water from the hose, and its first night in there we had 10 mm of rain followed by a very hot day.
“Ugh, something’s died!” I said to June. The stench, as the heap began to cook, like a toned down version of a rotting sheep’s carcass. The pong far less intense after just a few days – much decomposing having already occurred while it was on the floor of the goat house.
It’ll be odour free, friable compost by next spring: muck and magic, peas and potatoes. And cow pats to steak pies.
Seeds and tubers planted in morphed ‘pee, poo ‘n pasture’ morphed themselves into peas, potatoes and cows. Food for thought and food for the table: ‘Pea, pie and pud’.
* ‘Pea, pie and pud’ is a slang phrase used in Central Otago and Canterbury.
That’s all on modern-day homesteading at Little Owl Gully for this week. I look forward to having your company again for next Monday’s post. Bye for now.