Sunday, November 7, 2010

Can I put *bleep* in my compost heap? Or, what to doo with poo

My husband and I live in a pretty unique area. Our own property is heavily wooded, so various species of wildlife wanders through. Some of our neighbors, however, have different types of animals. Some have dogs and cats and others have horses, goats, pigs, chickens and creatures typical of rural living. Sometimes these animals get loose and roam free, so we often find various animal droppings in the yard. In other words, sh*t happens.

There was a time when I would have thought that sh*t was a questionable word, but apparently it’s not. There is a popular book and TV show with the word in the title. It seems that when you add the asterisk, it changes the pronunciation of the word to “bleep”, which of course, is a perfectly acceptable word. But in the interest of the general reading public, I’ll go ahead and keep the “bleep”.

I’m not really crazy about all of the “bleep” we find in our yard. We have found everything from horse to goat “bleep” with an occasional pile which may be sheep “bleep”. As I said, the neighbor’s fences are often in disrepair and it is not unusual for a horse or other large animal to wander down the street.

I’m usually not looking down when I walk through my lawn, especially when I just wake from sleep, so I sometimes find myself toe deep in “bleep”. I have quite a bit of tolerance for wildlife “bleep”, since I am a nature lover. But when domesticate pets or rural livestock finds its way into our yard and leaves a heap of “bleep”, I sometime want to weep.

The question is, should I sweep the “bleep” and return it to the creep that allowed their animal to roam and leave the heap?

After all, we know that heaps of “bleep” can cause toxic substances to seep into our storm drains, polluting water bodies such as streams, rivers, bays, creeks and even the lovely Chesapeake.

Perhaps I should keep the “bleep”, adding the heap to make my compost pile complete. Are there benefits to reap from “bleep?” I decided to ask my “peeps”.

I was told that the answer to this question depends on two things: 1) What kind of animal created the heap and 2) what kind of foods that the animal eats.

Some sources say that waste from “barnyard” animals has benefits to reap, but not the poo from dogs and cats and other pets we keep. Others say that manure from plant eaters (herbivores), such as horses, cows, and sheep, is okay but not omnivores or carnivores – animals that eat meat.

Since many barnyard animals, including pigs, goats and chickens, sometimes eat meat, I believe that the herbivore/omnivore definition is a little more complete.

But what about wildlife poo? Perhaps I should consult a zoo!

Some zoos have found new ways to conquer their mountainous piles of poo. Miami Metrozoo and Woodland Park Zoo are making compost from their ever-present doo. The Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse, New York, is looking into ways to use elephant doo to power their entire zoo! But all of these sources seem to focus on the leaf-eating, herbivorous poo.

So what does all of this mean for me and you? Unless you are a scatologist – a scientist that is educated in various types of doo, it might be best to bid the unknown piles of poo adieu – carefully shoveling it into a plastic bag or two, and leaving it for the garbage crew. Placing the bag on your neighbors porch and running away, of course, is considered quite taboo.

For more of the scoop on what to do with piles of poop:

The Do’s and Don’ts of Composting Pet Poo – This post is on an EXCELLENT website called Confessions of a Composter!!
Composting: Do the Rot Thing (pdf file)
Guide to Composting
Can I Compost It?
Backyard Composting – It’s Only Natural (pdf file)
The Scoop on Poop – Safe Pest Waste Disposal (pdf file)

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