How About a Manure Magazine?



​If I were young and crazier, I think I would start a magazine called “Manure Matters” or “Fecal Point” or “Defecation Nation” or “Excrement Extra.” I had no sooner written about manure a couple of weeks ago when there appeared in the New York Times Sunday review section a most interesting editorial about stools and the author was not referring to bar stools. (“Should We Bank Our Own Stool?” by Moises Velasquez-Manoff, Oct. 11, 2015.) Journalism has discovered the medical practice of using feces from healthy people to correct digestive tract problems. Then “CG,” one of the responders to this blogsite, clued us in with a link to a very complete article about this procedure. “Medicine’s Dirty Secret” on the website Mosaic: The Science of Life. The practice has evidently been around awhile but has been and still is controversial. Both articles show all so clearly how much we are affected by cultural attitudes rather than scientific fact. Shit—oops, s**t— is bad stuff to our culture and no amount of scientific fact is going to dissuade many people from changing their minds. When I was being interviewed on the radio about my book, Holy Shit, I could not say that awful word on the air without getting bleeped, but recently I was mystified to hear a radio reporter say goddam either because he figured out a way to beat the bleepers or because he was quoting somebody directly. Seems to me that “go**am” is surely more offensive than “s**t”.

​Aaron Tartakofski of CB Engineers in California also responded to the blog and shared with us a link to his work on a new way to turn manure and sewage into odorless fertilizer. CB Engineers is doing experimental work in Minnesota and working with an company based in Israel on ways to save water, one of the huge benefits from the company’s new way of treating waste. Last time he emailed, he was in Israel. I hope that we’ll be able to follow his efforts here.

​More electrifying yet for those of us accustomed to being frowned at for talking about bodily wastes is the new movie, “The Martians.” The hero is an astronaut left for dead on Mars and among other adventures, he (Mark Watney played by Matt Damon) learns how to grow potatoes using his own feces for fertilizer. This has prompted lots of discussion on the Internet and elsewhere and whether or not Watney could do this in real Martian life, the discussion goes a long way toward lifting the veil of fear and revulsion off the subject of excrement.

​Another manure story in the news right now has to do with a pond in a municipal park in Columbus, Ohio. Park managers discovered that a toxic algae bloom had developed in the pond like the kind that has been causing pollution headaches in Ohio’s major lakes including Lake Erie. In this case, farm fertilizers and manures can’t be blamed because none can get into this pond. What can get there is pet manure runoff. People like to walk their dogs in the park and did not see the need to scoop poop up after their pets. They do now. I can attest from the personal experience of playing a lot of softball in Columbus parks that the amount of dog excrement is quite noticeable in the grass alongside the ball diamonds and is a source of great irritation to moms and kids spreading blankets to watch the games.

​But experts believe a bigger source of the manure contaminating the pond comes from duck and geese flocks, especially Canada geese. Those of us who have seen what happens to a golf course when geese declare war on it are not surprised that a flock of them can cause toxic algae bloom on a small pond. I can hardly wait to hear how the park caretakers are going to remedy the situation. Perhaps the influx of coyotes into cities will take care of the situation, but if there are enough of them to make a dent in the goose population then coyote manure might become the problem. Golf course caretakers tell me they are allowed to break goose eggs in the nest to keep down the population but oh my, not cute little goslings drop-putting all over the greens. Using sheep to keep the grass mowed on golf courses as in bygone days has been discussed but sheep crap too, as all creation does. This could open up a market for all sorts of new diaper arrangements like the ones put on horses in public places.

​You can see why a manure magazine would be a great success. After food, what could be more a part of our daily life?


I know I’m coming to you a bit late but there is a magazine that covers manure management issues on livestock operations across North America – Manure Manager.

The value of good manure is known to all of us. I have often wondered if we could get the same effect by having a group of politicians speak to our garden -sh!t is sh!t, right?

Just got done hauling home three wagon loads of horse manure from the neighbor. Last year’s pile has turned black and looks like it’s ready to spread for the next crop of vegetables. You can’t keep taking without giving back to the soil. So keep spreading it on thick, Gene.

Did not the Chinese and Japanese collect “night earth” for the farms? Why waste perfectly useful manure, regardless of origin. The Plains Indians – Native Americans – and many pioneers used dried buffalo chips, yep, manure, for their fires. I do think it makes sense to ensure that there is no disease risk involved in the use of manure, but that’s not all that difficult to attend to.

May Sterculius smile upon you all!

Hi Gene, have been reading you for ages but this is my first comment. We have a composting toilet installed in the bathroom at our place; have had it for 15 years. All the waste composts in the system for 6 months and then gets added to the garden. Everyone comments on how green my lettuces are (unless they’re in the know, I generally keep mum). It’s a RotaLoo if anyone wants to look it up (don’t know how to paste a link here, sorry), probably only available in Australia where I am. I’m indebted to one of your countrymen, Joe Jenkins, whose Humanure Handbook was a great influence on my thinking.

Today’s Contrary essay is our poop de jour. We in the choir have been singing the praises of what Gene, our choirmaster, has so aptly named ‘Holy Shit’. And the medical world is finally catching up with us in appreciating what a wonderful thing shit is when applied properly. In gardens or intestines the right shit works wonders. The daughter of a friend suffered for close to a year from C Diff. She was flat on her back when driven to Philadelphia for a fecal transplant. She did the driving back two days later. Good shit!!

If there is to be a mag or journal devoted to this shit, a scratch ‘n sniff compost centerfold would get us gardeners flipping to the middle each month. The smell of compost beats the crap out of those perfume strips that are in some magazines.

There was a magazine called “Garbage” that was published for a couple of years back in the 80s. I remember reading several articles covering human byproducts and the use thereof — complete with directions for building your very own composting toilet… 😉

I think this is a really sh!tty idea!! 🙂

Good wake up call to remind gardeners, etc. of alternatives to chemical fertilizers… 85 years ago in my tiny Kansas town the local doctor told his neighbor, my grandmother, when she wondered why his garden always out produced her own, that his secret was the use of his ‘night jar’… And I am laughing at your list of possible descriptive titles for another book about this. Lot of recent techniques for turning sewage waste into potable water… no doubt you have read many, many articles about this. Good luck… good health.

I can remember working at a site in Toronto, Ontario where there was a small pond and a flock of Canadian Geese. They were eating the grass and pooping every 6 or 7 minutes. What blew me away was that the little green bombs of joy would literally catch fire and smoulder from, what I assume, is all the nitrogen in the grass. It looked like little burning cigarettes sprinkled around the parking lot.

Rivanna Service authority that runs the waste treatment plant for Charlottesville city and Albemarle County Virginia have been making a great fertilizer combining the finished waste treatment material (shit and whatever) with lime,They used to give it away to local residents but now sell it to a company in Eastern Virginia that bags it and sells it at a pretty hefty price.
Waste is only waste if its misdirected before I moved back to this farm I came thru town everyday and I’d bring a trailer with sides and load it with already bagged leaves the city folks had put out for leaf pickup greatly improved an old garden spot.

Great piece! ( and thanks for the mention)

As we like to say here in San Francisco, “You’re #2 is our #1”

Sign me up as a charter subscriber too Gene, as all honest people will admit: shit happens!

Crap Chronicles? One of the best things about finally moving to the country again (after initially moving from CA to KY in 1974 as a “back-to-the-lander”) is that all of a sudden we have an infinite supply of strawy horse manure. And I have to tell you, Gene, that when I was reading all the back-to-the-lander books back in 1974 as a 22 year old, you were a little too cynical and jaded for me then, starry optimist that I was. Now you and I are like two peas in a pod. And something you might be amazed at–I was–the Wayne Co. Public Library in southern rural Kentucky just got in your “The Contrary Farmer’s Invitation to Gardening” as a new book! Now really that means the world has to be changing for the better….

Gene, your manure magazine names cracked me up. BB

I don’t use feces yet, but do use diluted urine. And it really makes the compost pile ‘work.’ Maybe ‘poo publishing company’ printing the ‘dooty diaries?’ Be well, keep making me smile. We can’t ALL be crazy. You make me feel less so.

I would like to become a charter subscriber to your new venture.

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