About a year ago while talking about ‘life on the farm’ at a Fairfield Historical Society Meeting I asked if anybody wanted to hear a manure story. Our Library Director nearly fell out of her chair, but a majority of the attendees signaled their approval. So maybe you heard one or two of these before, but many FHS Members missed that ‘live show’ opportunity. If you think this is an inappropriate topic - - close the file out now. The following is rated “M”.
George Costanza: “Yeah. You know, about how when you break it down, it's really a very positive thing. You know, you have a 'newer,' with a 'ma' in front of it. MA-NURE. It's not bad.”
Of course George’s date announces she has a boyfriend immediately after he makes this statement. But ‘manure happens’ and Farmers make great use of this nutrient rich organic fertilizer.
While still farming in Moonachie, my teenage Father Peter was bringing a truckload of pig manure through the town of Secaucus. Right in the center of town the truck accidently dumped the load. He immediately took off and drove on all the back roads (that he could) back to Moonachie. Taking no chances, he hid the truck behind the barn and hosed it clean. Later a Friend stopped by with a hilarious account of what he had just seen in Secaucus. Cars were driving on sidewalks to avoid the foul mess and storekeepers were waving their arms at the helpless Police. Pete was lucky nobody got his license plate number, but then again, it may have been covered with manure.
In Fairfield we used horse manure almost exclusively. It’s much easier to handle, has much bedding straw mixed in, is not as ‘hot’ as other manures, and decomposes in only ninety days after it is plowed under.
After you harvest a crop you spread manure on the field and then disc harrow it thoroughly. Everything is chopped up into very fine pieces to a depth of about ten inches. This takes about four to five passes for most crops. A good job for a son or nephew. Then the ground up manure and top soil is plowed under about fourteen inches deep. The previous manure from months ago is now totally decomposed, and our naturally weak sandy soil is now chocolate brown with all of the organic matter. Perfect soil for growing practically anything.
Another good job for sons or nephews is spreading the manure. The manure spreader is basically a wagon with a conveyer bed that creeps the manure towards the rear rotating spike bars and large fans. Yeah, it’s where the feces hits the fan ! Generally 95% of the load flies to the rear as designed, but you learn quickly that an occasional chip flies directly at the tractor drivers head. It’s not a good time for being inattentive.
Typical manure spreader, untypically clean. One tall lever up front controls the conveyor bed creep and the other engages the spiked bar and fan rotation. The large wheels provide the power.
Remember Old Fairfield Dairy having between 600 and 800 milking cows ? With each cow passing 20 tons per year that’s 12,000 to 16,000 tons of manure. That’s 1.4 to 1.8 tons per hour ! How much of such a huge amount could ‘Dutch’ Francisco actually use for his crops ?
The Fairfield Dairy herd was between 600 and 800 cows. Each cow generated 20 tons of manure per year.
An older Friend of mine caddied at the Mountain Ridge Country Club when he was a young boy and told me this story. A couple of pranking caddies made up a fable that MRCC was built on top of the old Fairfield Dairy manure pile. They related the tale within earshot of a nosey member and the rumor spread quickly :- ) :- ) The prestigious and well-to-do members were greatly annoyed and complained to MRCC Management. Within a few days the Caddy Master and the course Pro called a meeting of all Caddies and scolded them about their bad lie :- ) :- )
So you ask : ‘Where did you get the manure for your farm?’ Well, we only used high grade horse manure from the elite English riding stable Junior Essex Troop in West Orange. It was free but we had to leave our dump truck there all week for the young cadets to ‘pitch in’ daily.
Needless to say, the removal and loading of horse manure was not a Cadets favorite duty :- ) :- ) So they did a pretty sloppy job of truck loading with stray manure all over the dump body and sometimes even on the cabs roof. Our truck was surely not as clean as the picture below.
This 1950 Chevrolet dump truck is identical to the ‘manure truck’ we parked at Junior Essex Troop.
Retrieving the loaded truck was a once a week chore, and not much fun. First you had to drive to West Orange, then drive the truck back and forth, then drive home. Four trips in all. Since the truck was pretty filthy, it was best done on weekends at twilight. Less chance of an over eager Policeman harassing you for going through his affluent community ( there’s an effluent joke in there somewhere ). So the shortest route home might not be the best way to go.
Another chore was the manure trucks annual Motor Vehicle Inspection. One year on a damp and dreary day the Wayne MV Inspector told my Dad not to go inside the building with the dirty truck. Dad waited outside for about 15 minutes until all the cars ahead of him had exited the inspection lane. Then they waved him through the building with no stops for anything at all. 30 seconds later : PASSED ! Now get outta here ! I’m sure Dad laughed all the way home, and already knew how dirty the truck would be again the following year.
Another time we redefined the expression “A diamond in the rough”. This usually means one having ‘exceptional qualities or potential but lacking refinement or polish’. Dad once found a beautiful diamond ring in the manure pile. Literally a diamond in the rough. What were the chances of that ? It was probably a tough decision, but this dirt poor Farmer was not going to return it to the Essex Troop ‘lost and found’. Maybe that was the year all six of us got new Easter suits and dresses <?>. Yep, just another (hard to believe) manure story from our Fairfield Farm.
“truth is stranger than fiction, because fiction is obliged to stick to probability, and truth ain’t.”
A 1904 reinterpretation of Mark Twain’s famous expression.
If you’re not careful, over fertilizing with manure could increase soil phosphorus levels that could stunt root crop growth. Radishes and root parsley were among the twenty five vegetables we grew that did better with little or no manure. So a Farmer has to be cautious and plan field use accordingly, especially if they use the more ‘hot’ manures from poultry.
Even though we did not use chicken manure, Uncle Pat helped out a friend and allowed him to dump a few loads in the back of the Farm. These stockpiled loads crusted over after a year, but just a few inches below the crust the foul :- ) :- ) smelling paste was festering into something more putrid than words can describe.
Industrial Developers west of us needed a shortcut for truckloads of fill for their excavation project, so Uncle Pat kindly gave them permission to cut through the back of our Farm. The farm road was tractor narrow and the huge 2 x 8 dump trucks were very much wider. As the trucks passed the roadside pile they broke the outer crust and filled their deep rear wheel hubs with ripened chicken manure. On their way out they filled the other side wheel hubs.
2 x 8 Dump truck wheel hubs ready to be loaded :- ) :- )
As they entered the industrial park east of the Farm, the trucks picked up speed slinging white globs of putrid manure on Spielman Road, Audrey Place, and Just Road. The entire development was unwittingly plastered. And with 90 degree temperatures (and many open windows), the rancid odors entered every building in the area. The Police Department was pummeled with calls about a likely toxic gas leak or hazardous waste spill ! Every Police car and Road Department vehicle was dispatched to the scene. It was hilarious to watch all of these vehicles circling the blocks sniffing around in search of an accidental industrial discharge. No one but us ever knew the real cause of the ‘hazmat’ incident. Who says working on a farm is dull and uneventful ?
Sorry Everyone, lots of manure but no pony.
Dedicated to the Junior Essex Troop Leadership, Instructors, and Support Personnel who taught these young boys and girls ( coed after 1982 ) proper horsemanship, traditional values, para-military discipline, responsibility, and even the necessity for privileged kids to perform unpleasant tasks.
............Paul Pollio April 20, 2020