Three for the Neighborhood, or How I Scored Unlimited Amounts of Horse Manure

What We Do button (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

  • One

Our renovation project has so far generated a fair amount of scrap materials. Luckily it’s mostly wood and only some drywall, which is virtually not reusable.  Of the wood  DH and I have saved most: we take out the nails, tease off the drywall and have built up a nice stack of project wood in our shed.

But then there is the wood that is no longer structurally sound, or boards that are so driven through with nails that taking them all out would reduce them to splinters.  Just as we were going to delve into our (pricey) options of disposing of this, I received a Freecycle notice asking for “untreated, unpainted scrap wood for boiling down maple tree sap – nails no problem”. Well!

The guy came by today to pick up heaps of scrap wood. Turns out he started syruping five years ago as a school project for his daughter. He asked around his neighborhood about maple trees, and everyone offered their tree. It’s so much fun he does it every year now. The sap is running already and he ran out of wood.

  • Two

We started building our first cold frame.  The “lights” – the glass frames that sit on top of the box – will be the Freecycled storm windows we picked up a while ago from someone who had them sitting in the basement. Hadn’t fit a window in years.

We’re going for a very simple design without hinges, very much based on Eliot Coleman’s cold frames.

In a few weeks the lettuce seedlings in our basement will be ready to be transplanted outside. We won’t have raised beds yet (unless the weather atypically cooperates). But we’ll have lettuce! I’m thinking I should sow the spinach too…

  • Three

This is the one I’m most excited about. There’s a house around the corner with a stable attached. In the stable, two horses. Amie and I sometimes drive or walk past there on the way from or to school. Last week I left a note in their mailbox asking if they could spare some manure.

The owner called today and very generously offered us all we could take, indefinitely! As soon as the snow has melted we can go and take a look. In the meantime I’ll be figuring out how to transport it and reading up on how to compost large amounts of horse manure…

Anyone any experience with this?

I love my new neighborhood!

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  1. Horse manure is a great resource. Our neighbor stables three horses in the winter, and I swap him an occasional dozen eggs for all the manure I can haul. Dig out where you are going to put the coldframe down about 18-24 inches. Load fresh horse manure in the bottom, put back about 6-8 inches of light soil on top and plant your spinach. You have just created a hotbed like the old market gardeners of Paris. You will be amazed at the spinach you get. I put older manure into compost heaps to heat them up or mix with straw to dress tomatoes. Stop top dressing the tomatoes once they set fruit.

  2. Thanks Steve!
    We’re going to do this. Today we’re putting together the big coldframe (4′ x 8′).
    If we have materials left over we’ll make a small experimental hotbed with one of the smaller storm windows.
    I can’t wait to eat good spinach. I used to hate it as a child (would only eat it if it was all creamed up), now I crave it. But our local grocery store (a Whole Foods) hasn’t had very little organic spinach for months due to bad harvests in California and no locally grown spinach at all.

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