Archive for July 19th, 2012

Moo Doo!

American colonists had a tough time of it 200+ years ago, trying to farm in most of New England.  Besides the extreme winters, short summers and even shorter growing window, they had to contend with thin, rocky soil, once they were able to clear the land after harvesting impressive timber yields.

When I dug the holes for my apple saplings and blueberry bushes, I couldn’t make the rows even or straight due to numerous boulders and rocks and thick dead roots buried deep under the earth.  I could have done some earth moving if I had a tractor (you see plenty of women on tractors in Maine), but right now it’s not in our budget (a good used one runs $12K – $20K).  So we will live with asymmetrical rows.

Year Two of my orchard. Apple trees grow slowly so it will be awhile before these bear fruit. You can see the bee hives in the distance.

These newly planted highbush blueberry bushes look completely unexciting at present, but just wait a few years!

I’ve been told it is very difficult to grow apples organically, because apple trees are magnets for insects and disease and do best when repeatedly sprayed with pesticide.  For now, however, they remain untreated, since it will be several years in any case until they bear fruit.  Blueberries aren’t bothered by pests (unless you count bears, moose and deer).  After some research I’ve learned that the healthier and richer the soil, the stronger my trees will grow and they will  then be more  likely to survive, and reject infestation.  The best way to enrich the soil is through composting.

For the past two years I’ve been composting my vegetable waste in an outdoor bin.  This year all the peelings finally decomposed into a rich, black soil that I could add to my plantings.  It wasn’t enough, though, so I headed into the closest town to buy more compost.  (Definition of a town in rural Maine:  it has a hardware store and a small supermarket and maybe a pharmacy if you’re lucky.)

Our compost bin (made in Israel by Keter Plastics; we bought it at Lowes).

Here is what the inside of the compost bin looks like. The dark stuff on the bottom layer is already-composted fruit and vegetable peels that have turned into a rich soil; the top holds carrot, celery, apple, and other peels that I dumped the day before. It takes a minimum of 2 months for this to turn into compost. Fortunately, it’s nearly odorless.

“Oh, you want Moo Doo!” said the sales associate at Paris Farmer’s Union.

“Uh . . . okay . . cow manure . .  I get it.  But how bad is the stink?” I asked, not looking forward to transporting it in my car, much less spreading it around my  property.

“Moo Doo isn’t cow manure,” she informed me, “it’s cow manure compost.  You get all the benefits of fertilizer to enrich the soil, but it’s odorless.”

I found this hard to believe and just hoped the four 25-lb bags were hermetically sealed without any holes.

“Moo Doo!” the sales associate announced over the public address system.    “I need four bags of Moo Doo for a customer!  Mooooo!  Doooo!”  She actually mooed like a cow over the PA and smiled at me.

I blushed.

I made the 35 minute trip home uneventfully, and more importantly – –  since the bags were fortunately sealed tight – –  odorlessly.

“Hey, Hon’,” I said to my spouse, “can you help me unload the car?  I just bought 100 lbs of Moo Doo.”

This did not go over well.

Fortunately , when I opened the bag the Moo Doo was indeed odorless, and it looked almost identical to my all-vegetable compost.  Intrigued, I went to

Their motto:  “We Doo Moo. (Udderly the Best.)  They also sell t-shirts (“Moo Doo Happens.”)

It turns out that the company’s dairy farm has a lot of cows which produce a lot of milk.  Unfortunately, they also produce a lot of . . . shall we say, “end product?”  In fact, manure runoff can pollute streams and ponds and the abundance of “riches” can be downright problematic when it comes to disposal.  So the Moo Doo people came up with an innovative solution:  compost it.  They capture the methane gas that is produced, and then separate the liquid from the solid waste.  Solids are brought to the composting facility, where they are incorporated with carbon sources to produce Moo Doo garden products. Composting uses aerobic bacteria, fungi, and other microbes to break down the complex organic matter into a stable substance known as humus (no, not that kind of hummous!).  Amazingly, the methane gas extracted from the manure is used as a clean-burning, environmentally safe source of fuel for electric generation. This electricity is used to provide power to the farm, and any excess is sold to a local utility.  I guess you could say it’s recycling from the inside out.

So now I, too, doo moo.  Or Moo Doo.  Whatever!

Udderly the Best . . .