GENE LOGSDON: How About a Manure Magazine?


The Contrary Farmer

​If I were young and crazier, I think I would start a magazine called “Manure Matters” or “Fecal Point” or “Defecation Nation” or “Excrement Extra.” I had no sooner written about manure a couple of weeks ago when there appeared in the New York Times Sunday review section a most interesting editorial about stools and the author was not referring to bar stools. (“Should We Bank Our Own Stool?” by Moises Velasquez-Manoff, Oct. 11, 2015.) Journalism has discovered the medical practice of using feces from healthy people to correct digestive tract problems. Then “CG,” one of the responders to this blogsite, clued us in with a link to a very complete article about this procedure. “Medicine’s Dirty Secret” on the website Mosaic: The Science of Life. The practice has evidently been around awhile but has been and still is controversial. Both articles show all so clearly how much we are affected by cultural attitudes rather than scientific fact. Shit—oops, s**t— is bad stuff to our culture and no amount of scientific fact is going to dissuade many people from changing their minds. When I was being interviewed on the radio about my book, Holy Shit, I could not say that awful word on the air without getting bleeped, but recently I was mystified to hear a radio reporter say goddam either because he figured out a way to beat the bleepers or because he was quoting somebody directly. Seems to me that “go**am” is surely more offensive than “s**t”.

​Aaron Tartakofski of CB Engineers in California also responded to the blog and shared with us a link to his work on a new way to turn manure and sewage into odorless fertilizer. CB Engineers is doing experimental work in Minnesota and working with an company based in Israel on ways to save water, one of the huge benefits from the company’s new way of treating waste. Last time he emailed, he was in Israel. I hope that we’ll be able to follow his efforts here.

​More electrifying yet for those of us accustomed to being frowned at for talking about bodily wastes is the new movie, “The Martians.” The hero is an astronaut left for dead on Mars and among other adventures, he (Mark Watney played by Matt Damon) learns how to grow potatoes using his own feces for fertilizer. This has prompted lots of discussion on the Internet and elsewhere and whether or not Watney could do this in real Martian life, the discussion goes a long way toward lifting the veil of fear and revulsion off the subject of excrement.

​Another manure story in the news right now has to do with a pond in a municipal park in Columbus, Ohio. Park managers discovered that a toxic algae bloom had developed in the pond like the kind that has been causing pollution headaches in Ohio’s major lakes including Lake Erie. In this case, farm fertilizers and manures can’t be blamed because none can get into this pond. What can get there is pet manure runoff. People like to walk their dogs in the park and did not see the need to scoop poop up after their pets. They do now. I can attest from the personal experience of playing a lot of softball in Columbus parks that the amount of dog excrement is quite noticeable in the grass alongside the ball diamonds and is a source of great irritation to moms and kids spreading blankets to watch the games.

​But experts believe a bigger source of the manure contaminating the pond comes from duck and geese flocks, especially Canada geese. Those of us who have seen what happens to a golf course when geese declare war on it are not surprised that a flock of them can cause toxic algae bloom on a small pond. I can hardly wait to hear how the park caretakers are going to remedy the situation. Perhaps the influx of coyotes into cities will take care of the situation, but if there are enough of them to make a dent in the goose population then coyote manure might become the problem. Golf course caretakers tell me they are allowed to break goose eggs in the nest to keep down the population but oh my, not cute little goslings drop-putting all over the greens. Using sheep to keep the grass mowed on golf courses as in bygone days has been discussed but sheep crap too, as all creation does. This could open up a market for all sorts of new diaper arrangements like the ones put on horses in public places.

​You can see why a manure magazine would be a great success. After food, what could be more a part of our daily life?


since Manure’s root is Mano (hand), a subtitle or theme for the mag could be, “a hand’s on approach to manure” or somesuch. 🙂

My father, were he still living, would have loved your column. We heard plenty of cow pie stories and other excremental jokes in our youth. 🙂 Once, while on a picnic, we turned the tables on him and silently passed under the table one of those small cylinders filled with something squishy which, upon pressing the thumb within, would emit a variety of sounds
that sounded like letting air. The funny part was watching the expression on his face and the twitching of his nostrils in an effort to find the offending odor.

When I was visiting my daughter in East Bay a few years ago, we met a lady in Oakland who was a member of Gray Water Guerillas. They would use a compost toilet for the solids and be able to catch and reuse gray rinse water (after filtering of course) for watering the garden. This was before the great California drought got really bad. I thought it was a great idea, but in Oregon, we had plenty of water.