DISCLAIMER:  If you have a weak stomach, are faint of heart, or have delicate sensibilities… You may want to skip this entry…

 

A few blog entries ago, I mentioned that I grew up with cows on the “farm”.  I use air quotes for “farm” there because it really wasn’t a farm in the conventional sense.  It was more like 20 acres out in the country that had a house, a good-sized yard, some farm land (that we rented out to other local farmers), & in one sliver of the overall 20 acres…  a small barn & cow pasture.  My dad maintained a small herd of 8-10 cows from as far back as I can remember until he had a heart attack in the late 90’s and could no longer maintain them.

Growing up, I could not for the life of me figure out why he even bothered.  They were A LOT of work… We’d sell one off at auction every year or so when the herd got too big, but the amount you’d receive hardly justified the effort to me.  And as the only son, that meant a lot of effort (aka… work) for ME.  It wasn’t until much later in life that I figured out that those cows for him were actually stress relief.  And he had a plenty enough stressful job.

But for me, they were just work…  And the reason I missed Saturday morning cartoons most of the time.  Or the reason I couldn’t go to a sleepover at a friend’s house.  That was as far as I could see it at the time…  I’m not at all proud of how selfish that sounds now as I type this all out…


There are certain things that have to be done in order to manage even a small herd of cows.  One of the more glamorous annual chores that fell to me once I was old enough, was the cleaning of the stable.  Our stable area wasn’t huge…  Maybe 20′ x 12′ if my memory serves.  It didn’t take much more space than that given the small number we had.  The main purpose it served was it gave us an easy place to feed them.  But it also gave them a place to stay warm in the winter or provide cool shade in the summer.  So when the cows weren’t out grazing the pasture, they inevitably ended up in the stable.

I wonder at this point if any of my readers even have a clue about how much poop 8-10 cows can produce in the course of a year…  I’ll pause here so you can try to get a visual…

smiling-cow

Let’s start with the rough dimensions…  I’ve already given you the stable dimension… 20′  x 12’… But let’s talk depth now…  As it turns out, 8-10 cows… over the course of a year or so… can generate poop that is roughly 2′ deep in a space of that size.  That’s almost 500 CUBIC FEET of cow patties my friends!…  And it was my job to remove them…

Why did it have to be removed you ask?  Wouldn’t it just biodegrade?… Au contraire mes amis…  You have to understand that there is an Imbalance in The Force at work here…  The rate of cow patty degradation is FAR LESS than the rate of cow patty production…  So if you do nothing about it, eventually your cows would trap themselves between the ceiling of the stable & the pile of manure under their hooves.  Because really, they’re not all that bright…

So how exactly does one remove 500 cubic feet of manure?…  Well, one shovel full at a time of course…

Actually that’s not true at all…  There are much greater subtleties involved than just this…

Oh sure, the fresh stuff is of a consistency that requires the use of a shovel.  But once you get beyond that top layer… to the 6, 9, or 12 month old poo… That requires a totally different approach.

You see, cow patties of this maturity have basically hardened into a substance stronger than concrete.  A shovel will do you no good in this scenario…  No, Step 1 involves breaking the substance up into manageable fragments.  For this, a Pick Axe is your weapon of choice.  There’s not much art form to it… Just grab the non-pointy end & swing it like a West Virginia Coal Miner…

coal-miner

With the poop broken down into at least basketball sized chunks, you can move on to Step 2.  Here you’ll just need a good pitch fork.  Just back your trailer up and start pitching the chunks from Point A to Point B.  Its back-breaking work, so you’ll want to pace yourself.  And LOOK OUT for the occasional immature chunk… Those sneaky bastards in the 3-6 month old range still carry some water weight with them and they will wretch your back in a heartbeat!

Once you’re done with those big chunks, you’ve reached the final step.  This is by far the easiest of the three steps as it just involves raking up the small bits into piles so they can be easily scooped up… It’s basically the same process as with leaves in the Fall… Only it smells worse… And you’re less tempted to jump in the pile & make snow angels…


“I’m the man in the box
Buried in my shit
Won’t you come and save me…

~ Layne Staley (Alice in Chains)


Give credit where credit it is due because Layne Staley got this much right…  We’re just like the cows…  If left to our own devices, we’ll bury ourselves knee-deep in our own crap EVERY TIME… We proved it in the Garden and we’ve continued to prove it collectively on a daily basis ever since…

Christians don’t like to admit this, but that doesn’t make it any less true.  I’m not really sure why, but Christian culture… which is based on the need for a Savior… drives us to act as if we really don’t.  It’s a messed up paradigm & one of my biggest daily struggles.

TRUE CONFESSION:  I do not have it all together… but I AM working at it with his help.

And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him. ~ 2 Corinthians 3:18

My closest friends in this world recognize this about themselves & are vulnerable enough to admit it.  And they accept me where I’m at on this journey and we encourage each other to persevere in this race we run together.  This type of fellowship is available to everyone… but you have to be willing to let your guard down to get there…  and maybe deal with a little poop along the way…

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