A country for old men…

The Contrary Farmer

Unless you suffer from an overactive bladder as many of us do, you may find this essay a bit on the crude side. But nevermind, you will get there too eventually unless you are lucky. In terms of overactive bladders, there is an advantage to living on a farm that rarely gets mentioned, even though the “fall out” from it is quite significant for society at large. Farms provide owners with a private place far from any bathroom where they can relieve themselves.

You know all the old jokes, even if they aren’t all that funny. How old men develop the habit of checking every building they enter for the location of the bathroom before they do anything else. How the farmer with the round barn had an “accident” as he frantically looked for a secluded corner to pee in.

Until I joined the legion of men with enlarged prostates, I did not appreciate the full meaning of tranquility on the farm. In public, I must keep a furtive eye on the nearest bathroom and make sure I do not move more than a minute or two away from it. If I have to give a speech, I am usually safe beforehand because I am too scared for any bodily function to work no matter what. After the speech, however, if I avoid eye contact and abruptly breeze by you as if I am trying to steal second base, please understand. Even in my office at home, absorbed in writing, I have to make mad dashes for the bathroom. This is another unsung advantage of cell phones. You don’t have to hang up in this situation.

But in the field or garden hoeing, or among the trees sawing and chopping, or in the barn trying to convince my sheep that Lucretius said it all over 2000 years ago, no problem.  Believe me, knowing this adds another dimension to the calming effect that a rural environment can bestow.

But using your farm for a bathroom has social significance too. What if, as in my perfect world, some 50 million Americans (out of 300 million) lived and worked part of the time on their own little farms. Let us say they committed half their bodily waste directly to the soil or to the animal manure bedding in the barn— as some of us do. The amount of waste that would thus become good fertilizer and the savings from not having to turn it into sewage and getting rid of it, is enormous.

It says here right in this weird book called Holy Shit that a human produces 180 pounds of feces and 90 gallons of urine per year. If those 50 million people applied half their waste directly to the farmland or the barn manure pack, just half mind you, that would equal 11,250,000 tons of waste every year (I hope I am doing the math correctly) with a fertilizer value of at least ten cents a pound or $20 a ton in today’s chemical fertilizer costs, according to the same book. The expression, relieving nature, suddenly takes on a much higher meaning because in this case it means relieving humans of having to find another way to provide our soils with fertilizer worth at least $225,000,000 and relieving society of the horrendous cost of running all that waste through bathroom and sewage disposal system.

If my calculations don’t suit you, do your own. The savings involved and the good accomplished will still be amazing. Of course we may never get 50 million people onto farms, but what about 20 million? That’s still a lot of relief.

One Comment

Shucks, some of us should comment! Although I no longer live in a rural (as in “unincorporated”) environment, I’ve practiced a thing called “sheet composting” for years, right here in Ukiah. Now, I don’t mean that I don’t use my WC for personal waste, but I do spread all of my peelings, grounds, citrus skins, in short, all of my “legally compostable” goodies, under fruit trees (plum, apple, peach) and other deserving root zones. Add to that the occasional convenience pee, and I wind up feeling rather smug and constructive about it all. As for good old feces, I’m not there yet, at least not where I live. The treatment plant will just have to do – and that’s another whole initiative for enterprising new “local” thought.

Suggested theme, for a local brand: Ukiah Bloom, 25, 50 and 100 lb. treated sacks.