Gene Logsdon and Friends

Manure: The Gift That Keeps On Giving

In Gene's Weekly Posts on October 7, 2015 at 10:19 am



Our son, Jerry, gave his mother a big trailer load of cow manure for her birthday last spring. She could not have been more pleased. Where can you buy even from Neiman Marcus, barn manure aged for three years with a bouquet somewhere between old English leather and woodsy leaf mold? My brother-in-law, Brad, does one better. He not only gives his sheep manure to family members who live nearby, but delivers it by the forklift load and spreads it neatly on their gardens about four inches deep. We are all real nice to Brad. If we don’t already get the gift that keeps on giving, maybe next year. And if you wonder about whether it really keeps on giving, you should see my sisters’ gardens after receiving this kind of treatment for a few years. Luther Burbank would be jealous.

Making barn manure compost is simplicity itself if you have a front end loader. Just scoop the manure bedding out of the barn out into piles, like around six feet high and eight feet in diameter, and watch it turn into black gold over several years. Brad turns his piles with the loader once or twice a year to hasten composting, but Jerry just lets the microorganisms do the turning and waits a year or so longer for the composting process to complete itself. He has plenty of space for it around his barn far from human habitation so no paranoid twenty-first century health faddist will raise unfounded fears of odor, rodents or microbes of devastation. The heat of composting and three years of decomposition renders the compost almost as pure of harmful bugs or pathogens as the driven snow. More…

Dancing With the Weeds

In Gene's Weekly Posts on September 30, 2015 at 9:44 am



It is fashionable now to see who can come up with the most damning information about herbicides and I take my turn at that pastime too. But those of us who grew up on farms when only the hoe and the cultivating shovel stood between us and the avenging weeds, the arrival of 2,4D was more welcome than Santa Claus. Weeds are what drove so many of us to the cities. No city slum is any worse than the space between a brush-choked fence row and tall corn when you are scything  weeds there in August. No city street pavement is as hard as clay soil when the hot sun hardens it after heavy rain, especially when as a boy you are trying to push a wheel cultivator through it. No city traffic jam can equal the feeling of powerlessness that comes over you when staring at the rollers of an old corn picker choked tight and fat with weeds.

Before agriculture, there was no such thing as weeds. The plow invented the weed. As humans increased and multiplied, so did weeds. Those who battle them on a grand scale today adore the great god Monsanto who came down from the heaven of science to save us. But not even gods are a match for weeds and now we face a grim world where we have a choice between killing them with chemicals so powerful that they might kill us too, or going back to those seemingly primitive times when nearly every human spent time wielding a hoe.

A hoe, used wisely, can become an instrument of peace and tranquility, not slavery. But most farmers made the same mistake John Henry, the Steel Drivin’ Man of folklore made. More…

Missing From Syria’s News: The Ag Angle

In Gene's Weekly Posts on September 23, 2015 at 10:20 am



Recently I heard on the news that a widespread sandstorm was blanketing a large part of Syria. The farmer in me immediately perked up but there was no commentary, no details, and I did not hear the news repeated. I admit, ashamedly, that I know nothing much about Syria, but a widespread sandstorm indicated a situation that deserved a little more attention, it seemed to me.

I started doing a little digging into Syrian agriculture, and just as I suspected, the farm news there is not good, and is connected directly to the terrible upheaval and conflict going on there. Syria’s population is estimated at around 17,000,000 and is about the size of Iowa  whose population is right around 3,000,000. That should tell us something right away. About 20% of the land in Syria is barren desert and 50%  is pasture of very limited productivity, so it seems obvious that most of that population is concentrated in a relatively small part of the country. Then in 2007 and 2008, the worst drought in 40 years hit the most agriculturally productive part of the country. Some 800,000 rural people, including 60,000 herders, were forced to abandon their land and migrate to city slums (I am reading this from the Carnegie Endowment For International Peace website, a post titled “Drought, Corruption, and War: Syria’s Agricultural Crisis,” but you can find the same information from many sources). The tragedy was enhanced because the government under the Assads, father and son, has been following a policy of shifting farm laborers into the cities to increase the growth of the urban service sector. More…