Manure Cow Style, and a Bumper Crop of Peas

In the days of the cabin on the mountainside and slow living, I knew a friend with a dairy farm. Every year this farm found itself in need of quick disposal of manure- like 250 OXBODY dump truck loads. That is a lot of manure. Blacker than black, this stuff was mature, friable, and the dairy farmer told me he pushed his bulbs directly into it for his flower garden. I told him I would take as many loads as he would give me.

My lot was shaped in a triangle, Isosceles? Right angle? The short base ran the length of the property along the gravel road, and on the 90 degree long side was the driveway up to the corner where the tiny cabin stood. I say STOOD, because today, if you drive down hwy 191 on the south side of Asheville NC, you can make a right hand turn in a lane where my cabin once was.

That is a pity, too, as it had been built elsewhere in 1903, (I owned TWO houses, ironically built in that same year), and moved there in 1954. The log cabin was a temptation to every 6 year old boy that ever visited, and then some. For you see, the ends that crossed and protruded at the corners made a natural ladder for the climbing. Not many young testosterone cases could resist finding out what it looked like on the roof.

Down on the non-ninety degree angle at the base, the land dipped down and formed a lower yard in the trees accessible by steps in the side of the mountain. This triangle at the base of a triangle was fenced in and made a wonderful pen for a couple of goats. I was all full of visions of homesteading and each morning I got up early, led Edelweiss the Nubian milking goat across the front yard and up to the little side porch on the kitchen side of the U shaped house. And then I did the same again late afternoon. I got about one quart of milk a day. Terribly nasty after a day or so, goat milk is delicious if very fresh. I also made cheese, (hard variety), and butter by shaking it up with rennet in a ball jar.

Edelweiss was a cantankerous she-goat with spite in her eye and a deliberate poopy hoof that she knew how to use. She loved to plant it in the milk bucket when she was particularly irritated. This was mostly due to the fact I refused her the right to eat such delicacies as foxglove and mountain laurel or black walnut, all extremely toxic to goats. One time she got loose and headed straight for the foxglove. It took a pint of mineral oil, and my veterinarian friend Ann, to save her life. And it was black walnut that eventually claimed both of my goats when they were on loan to friends to help clear their land…

The dark green OXBODY dump truck arrived that spring dwarfing the cabin, the land and my tiny car. The pile that was left was about 4-5 feet high and took up much of the driveway. I don’t know if he thought I was being greedy for the black poo or what, but I only got the one load. When I say OXBODY, I mean the road work dump trucks into which an entire house would disappear. Later that day I looked out and my 4 year old daughter was flapping her arms and running up and down the black mountain in my driveway.
“God has been so good to us!” she said as she ran and flapped, “God has been so GOOD to us!”

That was the year I read Lorna Doone. That was the year of the rare luxury of eating peas by the bowls FULL. That was the year of pea banquets- huge bowls of peas lightly saute’d with nasturtiums and tamari sauce, eaten on the side porch overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains….


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