Resource.co.uk - Leonie Butler
March 18, 2011
American farmer and self-confessed expert on manure, Gene Logsdon, is on a mission to get us all talking about the value of shit. And that’s not just your regular horse, cow and sheep poo, but dog dung, cat litter, even human faeces, not to mention more ‘off beat’ manures from bats (a highly desirable fertilizer, apparently) and pigeons. As a mother of a toddler, I think I deal with a fair amount of shit on a daily basis, but could I be missing a trick?
Logsdon wants us to appreciate the potential in ‘a good healthy bowel movement’, to manage this natural resource – especially in light of the dissatisfaction with chemical fertilizers in farming – and realise the value of manure as humus and fertilizer. (Where there’s muck there’s brass, as the saying goes.) Logsdon’s belief is that ‘only on smaller, decentralized farms and gardens can food and manure be managed in a truly economical way’.
Despite being a humorous, if somewhat gross in places (see chapter 18 – ‘Dealing with Our Dread of Human Excrement’) read, Holy Shit would be of most interest to someone with a small-holding or similar. A lot of the ideas, for instance the use of outhouses and dry toilets, are more geared up to the rural rather than the urban dweller.
Saying that, the chapter on composting dog and cat poo is interesting for any pet owner. Logsdon refutes the idea that using pet poo compost on your garden is dangerous by pointing out that ‘it takes only a temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit to destroy roundworm eggs and less than that for other internal parasites, and that temperature is easily reached in a compost pile’.
Holy Shit is not a practical guide to actually using manure, but an interesting introduction to appreciating its value. An ideal book for the bathroom pile, perhaps?
Read the original review.
Mother Earth News - February/March
An Excrement Expert’s Manure Manifesto: Gene Logsdon’s ‘Holy Shit’
Manure is not waste product — it’s a valuable resource that’s vital to our food production.
Not Just Another Load Of Crap
Did you know that one of the most valuable farm commodities that I sell is manure?
In fact on this farm you’ll have pick of chicken, goat, cow, sheep, pig – and when we kept them – duck and rabbit manure.
We’ve got plenty of dog and cat manure too. But I don’t sell it because there’s no market for it.
Human and animal waste is a valuable product of life. And most people don’t give it a thought except when a trip to the bathroom is in order or when they are emptying the cat box or picking up dog doo in the yard (or heaven forbid off the carpet).
Without manure it is hard to maintain soil fertility. And that’s true whether we’re talking about a small suburban vegetable plot or 500 acres of farm ground.
Fact of the matter is – that it takes turds to make tomatoes.
And that’s just not my opinion...
More to the point of this post, is another great book, Gene Logsdon’s – HOLY SHIT -Managing Manure To Save Mankind.
Human and animal waste management is a serious health, environmental and economic consideration.
If you haven’t had a chance to read HOLY SHIT I strongly recommend it. Gene Logsdon discusses just about every type of manure that the average American is likely to step in and some types that are really offbeat- like guano (bat). I give a lot of credit to Chelsea Green for pulling no punches with the title. Waste management is no laughing matter. His chapter on dog and cat manure is a must read for every pet owner.
The way that feces and urine- animal and human - is being currently managed in America is not sustainable. It is about time that someone mention what is often considered not mentionable in polite conversation. But mention it or not- in the barn, backyard, cat box, pasture or in your home – shit happens – and piss does too.
The more educated you are about this fact of life and the manner in which you choose to deal with it will in many ways determine the future health of our families, animals, communities and pocket books.
Why am I writing such a crappy post?
Because this is the time of the year that many people start to think about their gardens and begin to make plans for the spring. Soil is not inert – it is alive.
And if you want a bountiful harvest you must maintain your soil and understand the cycle that manure plays in soil health.
For those of you who garden and don’t have access to livestock manures but have dogs or cats, you might want to give serious consideration to safely composting pet manure. Now is the time to make future plans for your garden’s soil fertility.
Read the original article.
Mother Nature News - January 21, 2011
Gene Logsdon's new book may be the number one book on the number two business.
City dwellers visiting working farms are often overpowered by the sights and sounds generated by the sheer volume of muck involved when humans and livestock live in close proximity to each other. So if the thought of picking up after your dog makes you feel squeamish, then this book might not be the book for you. If not, read on.
The provocatively titled "Holy Sh*t: Managing Manure to Mankind" may be the number one book on the number two business. It is told from the perspective of an author who’s spent much of his professional life covering farm-related issues for the likes of Rodale Press and Farm Journal.
In the era of “Peak Oil,” author Gene Logsdon provides the lowdown on poop with a healthy does of barnyard humor. Going by the moniker “The Contrary Farmer,” Logsdon contends that manure is a precious resource too valuable to waste when the true cost of industrial farming and the toll it takes on rural farm communities is taken into account.
Read the original review.
Holy Shit! Can Manure Management Save Us?
Sustainablog - January 18, 2011
“Holy Shit!” is damned right. Here’s a book about just that — manure. Precious, plentiful, misunderstood manure. Cow manure, horse poop, human feces, dog shit, you name it, Gene Logsdon writes about it.
In this recent book from good ol’ contrary farmer Gene Logsdon, the wonder and mystery and amazing fertilizing power of manure is revealed. Simultaneously, the book will make you wonder why we let this, uh, natural resource cause so much harm when it could be doing so much good! “Managing manure to save mankind” is no light statement, but it’s very, very real...
Read the original review.
Manure Vital to Farming's Future
Western Farm Press - January 18, 2011
A generation later, Charles Mitchell still recalls the discarded gum wrapper floating down the irrigation ditch in a carefully tended vegetable garden located at a on the campus of a Chinese agricultural college he was visiting in 1987.
In fact, for Mitchell, a soil scientist, the sight was a bit of an epiphany. The night before, he had casually flushed this discarded wrapper down the toilet of his living quarters, located only a stone's throw away from the garden.
The waterborne wrapper was a quaint reminder of the indispensable role waste — not only livestock but human waste — has played in fertilizing crops throughout four millennia of farming.
Now, after a long hiatus and in the midst of one of the most serious energy crunches in history, some farm observers believe that farmers in the United States and the rest of the West will soon view manure with the same respect as their counterparts in the East.
To and increasing degree, they already are, contends Gene Logsdon, author of "Holy Sh*t: Managing Manure to Save Mankind."
Indeed, as Logsdon sees it, the title of his book precisely expresses what Western farmers must learn to do over the next few decades: use and manage manure as a critical source of soil fertilizer...
Read the original article.
You Can’t Get Manure from Sacred Cows
Erstwhile Luddite Blog - January 4, 2011
When Katie Couric televised her own colonoscopy to encourage early detection of colon cancer, it worked. Suddenly, people in late middle age found themselves having to answer to their children and friends as to the state of their bowels. The incidence of colonoscopies increased as death rates for the cancer decreased. Perhaps we need some celebrities to take up the case for the product of colons: manure. In the circles I run in, Gene Logsdon passes for a celebrity, but maybe we could get some extra lift if we recruited Justin Bieber or Lady Gaga. They might appeal to a different sort of audience than a curmudgeonly old farmer from Ohio.
With Logsdon, you don’t get a lot of sentimental prose about the uplifting feeling of holding sweet-smelling fully composted manure in your palm. No, he gets right down to business. He tells you where to get your animals to dump, how you handle a pitchfork, and for that matter the right kind of pitchfork to use. He doesn’t skip past the stage where the manure stinks to high heaven, he just helps you get through it.
By talking about pitchforks, I’ve already lost the policy wonks. They will tell us that the only way we can manage manure to save humanity is to build giant anaerobic digesters that will harvest the methane from the septic lagoons of factory farms. Logsdon argues convincingly and at times mockingly otherwise, pointing out that such farms are not only an abomination from many moral and environmental perspectives, but that in the long run they are not economically viable.
One of his favorite hobbies is attacking conventional wisdom as espoused by the talking heads. If agri-business considers something essential, he’s bound to show how it’s really an unsustainable fad. However, refuting the arguments of agribusiness is just a side track, the main line of the book is reserved for explaining how he believes manure management does work. He is confident that eventually everyone else will figure out what doesn’t work.
When I first laid eyes on Holy Shit, I knew before I cracked the covers that Logsdon would get around to discussing management of pet feces and human feces. He is a thorough author who likes to see an idea all the way through, and if he thinks there is any chance he can shock a few folks in the process, so much the better. I was not disappointed.
He begins with discussion of the process of proper application of manure as fertilizer. He then devotes a chapter each to best manure management practices related to fowl, horses, sheep, cows, pigs, and specialty animals (bats, rabbits, and such). From there he sails into kitty litter and dog dung. If you think this is a negligible amount of manure, you don’t have indoor cats or a city dog, but given that millions of us do, that is a lot of crap that currently just gets landfilled.
Unfortunately, when he gets to the part about cats and dogs, his reliability starts to break down just a little. I’m going to pay attention to someone who has a good 70 years of experience in the manure of livestock, but since his own cats and dogs are outside almost all the time, he doesn’t have much first-hand knowledge of practical uses for their collected manure. From that point forward (the final third of the book or so) he steps away from the practical hands-on knowledge that I so appreciate and indulges his more philosophical side.
It’s not that I don’t want to hear what Logsdon thinks about bio-solids or the USDA, it’s just that it gets a little hard to differentiate between when he is talking about something he’s researched well and when he’s simply being cranky. Take, for example, his attack on vegans. He claims that a small group called Friends of Animals wants to eliminate ruminants because their farts are leading to global warming. This is quite a stretch. Their website does cite a non-controversial UN report that found 18% of greenhouse gas emissions come from the dairy and meat industries, and they do layer onto that their own belief that small farms are not an acceptable alternative to factory farms that generate so much of the problem, but I don’t believe they are calling for the entire elimination of all ruminants, nor that such a course of action would be a logical extension of what they do propose. Logsdon likes to poke at the corporations, poke at the organic farming movement, poke at the government, poke at his neighbors, and poke at universities. Perhaps he figured that if he devoted a chapter to poking at vegans it would get everyone in the mainstream back on his side again. But even if the vegans were as absurd as he makes them out to be (and in my opinion they are not), they are a tiny but principled minority of the country. Picking on them is kind of like shooting fish in a barrel. Sure, plenty of people will pay to do it, but is it sporting? He is so dedicated to ridiculing vegans that he even seems to imply that methane isn’t really all that big a deal in terms of global warming. Wrong.
Still, you haven’t fully enjoyed a Logsdon book until he’s made you good and irritated. He is known as The Contrary Farmer, and penned a well-known book of that name. Part of his shtick is to push a point until you are just about ready to walk away from him, and then to lure you back with funny lines like “I have had it with all movements. Except of course the one driven by the bowel.” Incidentally, that bit about having had it with all movements doesn’t really ring true, since later he exhorts his readers to get involved in civic society. He’s like that, spouting out contrary ideas in order to alternately alienate and draw in various viewpoints.
On the whole, Holy Shit lives up to what I want in a Logsdon book. It’s a good read cover to cover and a good reference book that you will never loan out to a friend unless you’re sure they will get it back to you by spring.
Read the original review.
Sacramento News Review recommends Holy Shit
December 23, 2010
Some may call it old school, but who doesn’t love receiving and giving books during the holidays? And this year, you can take it to the next level: give a green book that just might spur some meaningful, eco-friendly change in a friend or family member’s life. Any one of the following eco-savvy books would make a great holiday gift:
Holy Shit: Managing Manure to Save Mankind by Gene Logsdon. Smart and salty Ohio farmer/writer Logsdon has produced this brand-new, highly readable, well-researched book on the usefulness of every type of manure, from farm animal to pet to bat to human. Wendell Berry gives the thumbs up on this one as well; it’s no stinker.
Read the original article here.
Logsdon Knows His Shit
Permaculture Activist - Winter 2010
Review by John Wages
BECAUSE OF GENE LOGSDON, I grew pearl millet this summer. Growing up in the 70s, I subscribed to Organic Gardening & Farming (as it was called in those days). One early acquisition from the Rodale Press book club was Small-Scale Grain Raising. Only after moving back to Mississippi almost 40 years later did I actually try to grow some small grains, and I've consulted Small-Scale Grain Raising (now in its 2nd edition) several times as I tried to figure but when to harvest my millet in advance of the birds. It was Gene Logsdon's homegrown advice and humor that protected me from malignant self-doubt—the kind that saps our energy and keeps us from trying new things. Probably, it will be the humor of writers like him, and maybe James Howard Kunstler, that sustains us through the coming transition. For a reader who needs some lightening-up, Holy Shit delivered a boatload.
Holy Shit takes us through the story of manure from its universal use on the farm in the early 20th century to today. In fact, the first six chapters deal with manure as it was then. A chapter on pitchforks deals with the many types of forks, as well as the proper way to use a fork to avoid straining one's back. There are manure forks, bedding forks, hay forks, chopped-fodder forks, bundle forks, clover forks, and silage forks. The length of the list makes me suspect there are at least 20 more in Ohio alone. Unless one grew up on a farm in the days of hand labor, one probably doesn't know that there is a fork specialized for every task. It makes sense that a pitchfork for picking up mown clover would have a different design than the one for moving manure from barn to spreader. Speaking of manure spreaders, they occupy a chapter rich in anecdotes and practical details: how to operate, maintain, and avoid damaging old spreaders. "The invention of the manure spreader ought to be hailed as more momentous than that of the plow, or the automobile." The end of this remarkable chapter notes, "Philosophers would make great manure pitchers," which I suppose is true on both counts.
The next several chapters discuss each major type of manure in turn, beginning with chickens. What is the best way to collect manure in order to avoid odors and simultaneously conserve its valuable nutrients? Occasional data from sources like the Old Farmer 's Almanac ("the wisdom of the ages") is interspersed with personal anecdotes as to which type of bedding is best. Although each chapter is an entertaining read in itself, hard data are presented: 100 lbs. of wheat straw can absorb 210 lbs. of water, while an equivalent amount of sawdust absorbs only 80 lbs. Sawdust makes excellent bedding, although the author cautions us against' using it for chicks. They may eat the fine wood particles and clog their digestive systems with the indigestible particles. He notes that his mother used peat moss, the most absorbent bedding of all, to brood chicks.
Unavoidably, of course, the conversation turns to human manure. With a respectful nod to Joseph Jenkins' The Humanure Handbook and Sim Van der Ryn's The Toilet Papers, the author surveys several methods for dealing with human waste. As with barnyard manure, the two main concerns ought to be odor and nutrient recovery. Rather than give detailed plans for composting toilets and outhouses, which are readily available in print and on the web, he gives us a perspective of the problem. No agricultural system can be truly sustainable, over a time span of centuries, without returning the minerals and nitrogen from human feces to the soil. After all, the point of agriculture is generally to feed humans. Seed crops like the staple grains and beans end up transferring a significant amount of phosphate, among other plant nutrients, to the dinner plate, and eventually to the toilet bowl. This makes no sense. But the author is not one to pontificate. No rant this, Logsdon explains what a difference it could make if only 20% of Americans converted to composting toilets. It should be fairly obvious that flush toilets will probably be the last unnecessary convenience Americans are willing to give up. In a post-collapse world without dependable municipal water systems, rainwater will probably be used to flush waste. Possibly the one modern convenience more dear than the automobile is the flush toilet.
As complete a survey of manure and methods for its recovery as I've seen; Holy Shit includes a lucid description of alternatives for dealing with dog and cat manure. If human manure can be composted and safely used on a garden (after the requisite thermal composting to at least 122°F for 24 hours, or long, slow decomposition over one or two years), then certainly the poop of companion animals can as well. The pros and cons of biosolids are covered in a separate chapter.
Holy Shit is a masterful addition to the venerable library of Gene Logsdon's contributions to sustainable farming
Finally, A Practical Guide to Dealing With...Manure (Book Review)
by Sami Grover, Carrboro, NC, USA
Treehugger - 11.24.10
It's not often that a book inspires you to go out and shovel steaming piles of horse poop on a cold November afternoon. But that's exactly what happened to me after reading Gene Logsdon's Holy Shit, and I mean it as a resounding compliment to the author. I should note, of course, that it doesn't take much to get me thinking, and writing, about poop, pee, compost, and all things biodegradable.
From the selective flush and letting it mellow, through musing on the benefits of (male) pee on compost, to asking whether recycling our poop is the key to sustainable farming, I am somewhat known as the toilet correspondent here at TreeHugger. But Logsdon's obsession with all things brown and smelly puts me to shame.
Logsdon has long been known as an eminent agrarian thinker and practitioner. From being an advocate for horse-powered farming (and the resulting fertilizer), to writing (and re-releasing) a guide to small-scale grain raising for backyards, homesteads and small farms, he has always made a strong case for small-scale, low impact farming, and a strong reliance on traditional methods and knowledge.
Romanticism This is Not
But as Matt argued in his post about Logsdon's argument for horse-powered farms, the man has enough experience and knowledge that it is hard to paint him as your typical starry-eyed nostalgic romantic. Holy Shit: Managing Manure to Save Mankind is yet further evidence that the guy knows his, errrm, stuff—and that what he has to share is important, practical and common sense knowledge that could help us navigate the looming challenges of feeding the world after peak oil, climate change, and dwindling reserves of phosphorous-based fertilizer take their toll on our oil-dependent farming systems.
The Mainstream Rethinks its Attitude to Manure
Starting with an anecdote about a mainstream mega-farmer Logsdon knows in Ohio, the author explains how his friend was considering getting into the feedlot beef business, despite the fact that raising beef in Ohio is, apparently, usually a losing proposition in terms of profit on your meat. But Logsdon's friend was not dreaming of striking it rich with beef—it was manure that he was interested in. With fertilizer prices trending upwards, this farmer—whose primary business was growing corn on 8000 acres—was realizing that access to manure may well be key to successful farming in the future, not to mention a handy revenue stream in its own right.
Logsdon goes on to explain what a change of tune this new found interest in manure really is—describing how the modern industrial farmer has often come to see manure more as a nuisance to be disposed of than a valuable resource for nourishing the land. Whether it's meant flushing manure into holding tanks and pools, or the only marginally more useful practice of using it to create energy, the pervasive attitude has been that "The only shit that is going to drop on this farm is mine and my wife's."
Practical Advice on Managing Manure
Yet while Logsdon celebrates the emerging cultural shift, and recounts historic precedents of saner attitudes to waste, from the farms he grew up on to the Chinese practice of recycling human poop, he somehow manages to avoid the tone of "I told you so." Instead, he sets about reintroducing us to the tools, practices and benefits of manure use in the farm and garden. Whether he is explaining the practice of using deep "manure packs" to minimize cleaning out cow sheds, or walking us through the various designs of pitch fork and their uses, Logsdon manages to provide both a practical wealth of knowledge for small farmers and gardeners, and also an amusing and emotional treatise for practical common sense and sustainability.
In short, I am a fan.
The book also walks us through the relative pros and cons of different types of poop—exploring the benefits of chicken manure for the garden (by far the easiest poop to deal with for the small-scale grower), through to musing about the possibility of potty training horses, composting dog or cat feces (proceed with caution, he says), and railing against our cultural fear of human poop. He also weighs in on the arguments surrounding the controversial use of sewage sludge and biosolids on farms, appealing for folks to keep an open mind, given the urgent need to find alternative methods to deal with our waste.
Not a Scientific Manual
I should note that Logsdon is more essayist and farmer than scientist. This is not the book for detailed tables of nutrient values in different types of manure (as Logsdon argues, they range so much that that type of data is somewhat worthless), and there are times when the author's argument's smack more of strong personal opinion than well-researched science. (His argument that methane from cows is not a major issue because deer fart too seems a little simplistic.) Logsdon also does not spend too much time dwelling on the potential pollution problems related to manure, although his tips for proper composting, storage and application of manure would no doubt reduce many of these issues considerably.
But it is above all else a rich, funny, and passionate plea that we get over our feces phobia and start thinking seriously about the nutrients that we flush down the toilet, or shovel into cesspools, every day. It is also, of course, a manifesto for appropriate scale farming—because as Logsdon points out, when it comes to animal husbandry, beyond a certain level of size of farm it is almost inevitable that manure will go from being a resource to being a problem that needs to be dealt with.
Given the urgency of rethinking our food systems, Holy Shit: Managing Manure to Save Mankind is a vital—and highly enjoyable—read for anyone who believes that poop must play an important part in a revival of sustainable farming. (It's even more of a vital read for those who don't believe it, but that may be a harder sell.) If nothing else, it'll make those folks, like me, who spend a little too much time thinking about pee, poop and compost, feel just a little more normal.
Read the original review on Treehugger.
Gardening By the Book
November 22, 2010
It was so tempting to make light of the title of this book. But I wanted my review of it to be taken seriously, so I'm taking the high road. Besides, no one could do it any better than the author himself.
Few people could make manure sound so amusing and so fascinating, while sharing more than one person should know about it. Logsdon knows his...er...stuff. The title is more than just a play on the irreverent expression - it portends the invaluable and practical information between the covers of this small and easy-to-read book.
Gardeners have long known the benefits that aged manures can impart to their gardens. But as Logsdon points out, we are not making use of them to their full potential. We can learn from our ancestors and from the practices in other cultures and countries. And it's not nearly as disgusting as you might think.
I enjoyed this book to the point that I want to meet this man who knows his shit. I have a feeling he talks like he writes and that's the best kind of book, especially when the subject matter has the potential to be off-putting. It could happen one of these days, if I decide to get in the car and drive the hour and a half to Upper Sandusky, where Logsdon lives. He's practically my neighbor.
Read the original review on Gardening by the Book.
From Soil to Soil: Gene Logsdon on the Backside of Agriculture
Englewood Review of Books - November 19, 2010
By Ragan Sutterfield
Shit. The word carries a certain sense, a sort of incredulity, skepticism, disdain. It comes in different shapes and sizes—there can be loads of it, tons of it, piles of it, bags of it, people can even be full of it. But Gene Logsdon wants us to rethink all of that and to see it as holy, set apart, a special gift that will play a key role in saving humus-kind.
Gene Logsdon should know. As he says in the preface to Holy Shit: Managing Manure to Save Mankind, “I grew up literally knee-deep in the stuff at times.” Logsdon was a farm kid who was well acquainted with the ways of manure, a man who grew up and continued to farm and deal, day in and day out, with shit (the productive kind they have on farms, not the other kind that tends to go on in offices), eventually becoming “The most experienced and best observer of agriculture we have,” as none other than Wendell Berry put it. Logsdon has written more than two dozen books on everything from wildlife to alcohol, and in every one he brings a sense of humor and deep purpose to showing a world that is losing its way, back to the soil from which it came.
Holy Shit is a kind of manifesto, a tract to reacquaint ourselves with an essential animal activity that, in an ideal world, connects us to the cycle of life—a cycle we are deeply disconnected from. The nutrient cycle is one of the most important cycles on earth and the more we can utilize every element of that cycle the better. With the nutrient cycle plants capture energy from the sun that are then utilized by various organisms including animals well suited to eat certain plants. People then eat both the plants and animals to capture the stored nutrients since we can’t capture nutrients directly from the sun. At this point in the story we have something more like a food pyramid or hierarchy. But it doesn’t stop there, every day we empty the unused nutrients from our bodies and these nutrients could then go to provide much needed nitrogen and other essential elements back to plants. Of course, except for the occasional camping trip, most of us just let the cycle end in a toilet. An end that does little to participate in the great web of life that creation seems set up for.
Read the entire review at Englewood Review of Books.
Holy Shit: Managing Manure to Save Humankind
Orion Magazine - Reader's Corner
Reading anything by Gene Logsdon, the “contrary farmer” as he is best known, is always a blast. An important writer for the sustainable agriculture set, his keen wit and common sense can drive the reader through the most common of topics with delight. Take his brand new title, Holy Shit: Managing Manure to Save Humankind. What can be more common and useful than manure? Yet it has become a problem due to the copious amounts of it that are currently being created on-farm and off on the one hand, and also due to society’s prudish approach to this most elegant of fertilizers, raising alarm bells for those like Logsdon with a nose for sustainability. As he says, “If our civilization has sunk into such state of paranoia that intelligent and educated people equate manure with disease, death, and destruction, it is high time to rise up and scream, ‘Holy Shit!’ ”
This tidy volume covers topics from the history of agricultural manure use—human and animal—to modern practices of managing everything from farm manure to pet poop, and Logsdon makes a compelling case for it as the answer to declining soil health and dwindling chemical fertilizer-producing fossil fuel stocks. Laugh your way through this new contribution to the sustainable canon and you’ll be left with an appreciation and a roadmap to a more enlightened approach to excrement.
Read the original review here...
by Pat Leuchtman
When I was a child being driven from New York City to my uncle’s dairy farm in Charlotte, Vermont, I was sure I knew the minute we crossed the state line because I could smell the scent of manure in the air. For me, Vermont meant a perfumed cow barn and manured fields; I could think of no lovelier fragrance. I still feel that way. Gene Logsdon, farmer, anthropologist, cultural critic and author of Holy Shit: Managing Manure to Save Mankind (Chelsea Green Publishing, $17.50), would understand my pleasure in the smell of manure.
While my childhood knowledge of manure was essentially aesthetic, as a gardener I have come to appreciate the benefits of manure as a fertilizer. Over the thirty years we have lived in Heath we have always had a flock of chickens, for eggs and meat, and for a few years we raised pigs for meat. Their manure was a good by-product for our garden soil. I can’t say that Logsdon would approve our management of manure. He doesn’t think it should be mixed into a compost pile.
On the other hand he would appreciate our deep litter chicken house. I do not clean out our chicken house every year, letting the chicken manure mixed with wood shavings bedding essentially compost in place. This deep litter does help keep the chickens warm in winter, and scientific studies have shown that chickens housed on deep litter are healthier. Although most modern Americans wrinkle their nose at even the idea of manure and all the germs in it, the reality is that the deep litter has even more good bacteria .
Read the full original review at Commonweeder.com.
October 21, 2010
Read the feature here.
The Omaha World-Herald
October 2, 2010
Farmer and author Gene Logsdon treats manure with the respect and attention it deserves — but from a different angle than has been common in recent years. He likes it.
Research in recent years has concentrated on how to de-stink and responsibly dispose of the concentrated animal waste produced on feedlots, in factory-farm chicken houses and piggeries every day. Breathing the air in those places has been accused of harming the health of farm workers.
The stench, which spreads far and wide downwind, is a major point of dissension between livestock producers and residents. Loud protests have been mounted when a cattle feedlot has wanted to expand or a chicken-raising facility has wanted to move into a rural neighborhood. Despite some advances, no affordable solution to the smell problem has been found.
But animal manure, according to Logsdon in “Holy (S-word): Managing Manure to Save Mankind,” is the future. (The title of his book actually uses a familiar, earthy term for manure. For our needs here, we’ve resorted to a family-friendly substitute.) Manure is gaining so much in long-term importance, he suggests only half-jokingly, that animal wastes will be “the hottest commodity on the Chicago Board of Trade one of these days.”
Chemical fertilizers are steadily rising in price. Potash from Canada, until now a cheap source of a major component of potassium fertilizer, is dwindling. Natural gas, a component of commercial nitrogen fertilizer, is being shifted to other uses, such as vehicle fuel. The era of abundant, cheap chemical fertilizers may be passing, Logsdon suggests.
His answer? Manure. Well-managed manure. His book discusses the pros and cons of various waste from various animals and the benefits of special coop and barn design. The book is a how-to on how to bed animals down, save the resulting manure pack and spread it properly.
It’s hard to believe that some of what Logsdon foresees is even possible. For instance, how will a farmer with thousands of acres of corn get enough manure at a reasonable enough price — including transportation — to take care of his crop’s fertilizer needs? And many, even most, farms these days are livestock-free operations — they raise crops, not animals.
But Logsdon is unstoppably, even wildly, optimistic. He sees farmers adjusting their operations so that they can be sustained by manure. He sees less concentration in human population, more farms and increases in farm animals everywhere. He even talks about the use of treated human biosolids as fertilizer on crops, something that leave many people shuddering.
Logsdon has raised a problem that will resonate in the future. As the price of chemical fertilizers rises, as the materials that go into them dwindle and as wastes from large-scale animal operations pile up, farmers will be looking for practical solutions. Perhaps Logsdon and his book can supply part of that.
Logsdon Shouts “Manure” From The Mountaintops
Contrary Farmer Gene Logsdon’s most-recent title Holy Shit: Managing Manure To Save Mankind (Chelsea Green, 2010) may sound a bit irreverent at first blush, but nothing could be farther from the truth. With characteristic wit and humor, Logsdon draws extensively from his wide and varied background as a farmer, scholar of anthropology and archeology, agricultural journalist and longtime BioCycle contributor to make a solid case for not flushing and forgetting about one of the world’s most precious resources. “Most people, even farmers, do not have really good grasp of the food chain,” says Logsdon, whose book offers chapters on such varied but complementary topics as pitchforks and their proper use, maintaining and operating a small manure spreader, animal husbandry and manure management, recycling grey water for irrigation, and composting cat, dog and human waste.
“Nothing prepared me better for writing this book more than working for BioCycle,” says Logsdon. “Before that, I never thought about waste at all — most of us don’t.” Logsdon says what was initially planned as a small volume on handling barn manure soon took on a life of its own. “I realized all the stuff I learned at BioCycle fits into this book,” he adds. Logsdon, who grew up on a farm, contends that Western civilization is consumed with an unnatural paranoia about excrement and thus goes to great expense and folly to keep it out of site and out of mind. This includes expending an estimated 58,400 gallons of water a year per household to flush it away. Meanwhile, the author points out, synthetic fertilizer costs skyrocket while farms are left devoid of organic material and the beneficial microbiology — or as Logsdon put it, “livestock” — that comes with it.
Logsdon’s historical and personal anecdotes are equal parts entertaining and informative. For instance, the author informs us not far into Chapter 1 that once upon a time in China, “The polite thing to do after enjoying a meal at a friend’s house was to go to the bathroom before you departed. I am not making that up,” he promises. “Manure was treated like a precious gem because it was a precious gem.” When Logsdon reveals over polite dinner party conversation with some “Very Nice People” that he “manures” his garden ever year, the reader can almost hear the gentrified jaw drop.
No subject is taboo for Logsdon including his exploration of applying treated biosolids to agricultural lands. “Humans discharge from their bodies something approaching 50 million tons of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium per year,” he writes. “We’re talking $50 billion a year in biosolids fertilizer that we are mostly throwing away, after spending incalculable amounts of money to do the throwing.”
Whether you keep a couple of backyard chickens, run a small truck patch, operate a dairy or sometimes just get the urge to sit and think deeply about things, you will no doubt find many nuggets of wisdom between the covers of Holy Shit: Managing Manure to Save Mankind.
It’s an undeniable fact: the way we’re currently dealing with our waste (both human and animal) is not sustainable in the long term. Consider the following:
Each of the U.S.’s estimated 100 million cattle produce an average of 27 pounds of manure per day = 2.7 billion pounds of manure PER DAY = over 985 billion pounds of manure per year.
Each pig produces an average of 8 pounds of manure per day. With an estimated 70 million pigs, American farmers deal with over half a billion pounds of pig manure per year.
The nation’s 68 million pet dogs and 73 million pet cats produce an average of 100 pounds and 50 pounds of waste per animal, per year, respectively.
Americans flush away an average of 60 billion gallons of toilet waste per year.
That’s a whole lot of waste, and it’s not even counting waste from other animals such as goats, sheep, horses, or chickens. The way we are handling it: overwhelming our sewage systems, sequestering animal wastes in “manure lagoons,” and throwing cat and dog waste in the garbage — none of it is sustainable. The odor and methane from improperly handled livestock waste is harmful to those who have to live nearby, and to the environment as a whole. Our landfills are full of plastic bags of dog and cat waste, producing yet more methane. And all of that flushing takes an obvious toll on our fresh water ecosystems as well.
There has to be a better way. Farmer, author, and manure advocate Gene Logsdon wants us to recognize that we need to change the way we deal with waste. His book, Holy Sh*t: Managing Manure to Save Mankind (Chelsea Green, 2010) is nothing more, and nothing less, than a crash course in all things manure. And I’m surprised (and pleased) to tell you that it is fascinating. Maybe not something you want to read at the breakfast table, but definitely an interesting read. Any eco-minded person who produces waste (that would pretty much cover the audience here at Planet Green, right?) would do well to read this book.
Logsdon suggests that it’s time to do away with the chemical fertilizer industry, which is, (as we’ve seen over and over and over again) doing more harm than good, and start using all of our waste (yes, all of it — livestock, pet, and human manure) to enrich our soil instead. If we put all of that waste to use, we’d effectively kill two birds with one stone: rid the country’s farmland of synthetic chemical crap and put the waste that is currently harming our environment to good use. This means no more manure lagoons to stink up rural areas, no more endless bags of cat poo being trucked to the landfill. Gardeners and farmers alike would compost their manures to enrich the soil they grow on. He calls for the end of factory farming, because in all ways (including waste management), these operations are not sustainable.
Logsdon does it all in this book: he instructs us in how, exactly, manures should be handled for proper composting, tells us how that composted manure can be best used, and (perhaps most importantly) opens up an important discussion about our aversion to something as natural as waste. If we confront this aversion, really start to talk about it, and think — non-emotionally — about how we can handle all of the manure we produce, then and only then can we start to change how we deal with it.
This was a great read — entertaining and informative, and full of actionable advice that any gardener or small farmer can put in place right now.
Read the original review on Planet Green.
Sneezing Cow blog
September 30th, 2010
by Michael Perry
From the moment I met him at a fancy author dinner and we bonded over the fact that we had both been wrassling sheep (for agricultural – not entertainment – reasons) less that 24 hours previous, I have felt an affinity for Gene Logsdon. Just the other night in response to a question about raising chickens and pigs I recommended his All Flesh is Grass, which I re-read every year. And the fact that we are actually going to be able to feed our chickens from our own fields over the coming winter is a direct result of many sessions spent dog-earing Gene’s Small-Scale Grain Raising.
At this point, I think of Gene as a friend, although I would never treat him with the informality of a “pal,” because where I come from, one always reserves a measure of deference for wise elders.
When I recommend Gene’s books, I often refer to his plainspoken outspokenness…two qualities I tend to admire because neither comes naturally to me. Gene tends to just lay it right out there. Which brings us to the whole point of this post.
Gene has a new book out. It’s doing well. Getting good reviews, and the interviewers are calling. But no one seems to want to mention the actual title of the book…
Read the original article here.
Publisher's Weekly Review
Holy Shit: Managing Manure to Save Mankind
Gene Logsdon, Chelsea Green, $17.50 paper (196p) ISBN 9781603582513
Common sense and just the right amount of folksy humor make this treatise on feces a pleasure to read whether or not you've ever knowingly come within 50 miles of a compost heap. Logsdon writes for a wide scope: how to recognize a manure spreader for those who don't know; the finer points of old-fashioned pitchfork tines, for readers who actually use them. In addition to lots of clear DIY instructions for utilizing waste, Logsdon, a blogging farmer in Ohio, draws from his boyhood experience during the days of the privy, his Amish neighbors, and his understanding of how ancient China saw agricultural productivity rates the likes of which we've never had in the U.S. Ultimately, the real coup here is that this book overcomes the yuck factor and illustrates how, as with many things American, we've taken a natural, healthy, efficient system and replaced it with something expensive, toxic, and marketable – in this case, chemical fertilizers. As food locavores gain visibility and popularity, so too should the rear end of sustainable farming practices. (Sept.)
Holy Shit! A Book Review
MatterDaily - August 14, 2010
By Todd Simmons
With a title like Holy Shit for his latest book, author Gene Logsdon set himself up perfectly to lob (lob!) one joke after another about, well, shit. I mentioned to a friend recently how humans don’t seem to be as funny anymore, and he said, isn’t that just called awareness? My friend was right, but later on I realized humans are not as funny anymore because most of us are aware of the growing calamities the world over, but most of us are still not living right, in a variety of ways, and it’s hard to be funny when you’re living so wrong. Gene Logsdon gets to make all those jokes about poop because he is right, and right by the bucketful. He is right to advise us on how to better manage manure, and he is right to keep an open mind about using what is now considered waste as a fertilizer. No kind of poop goes unexplored—cows, horses, goats, sheep, pigs, cats, dogs, birds & bats, humans—you name it, and Logsdon dives in.
Holy Shit is a national treasure, a book so right it rings the Liberty Bell on every other page. What carries this book along is how Logsdon disarms you with his wit, his country charm, and his experience—this book would mean next to nothing had it come from a research department at a university. However, reading about Gene on his family’s farm, spreading manure on the fields, or putting down additional bedding in the chicken coop, makes his answers to our wrongly perceived problems seem like the only answers. I can see many, many people taking issue with what Logsdon has written, and if he didn’t have experience—both his own and human history dating back thousands of years—Logsdon might be banished to the outhouse. However, history is with Logsdon, and we would all do well to get to know manure a little more intimately.
I love books like Holy Shit—books that so clearly define and solve a perceived problem, that in doing so, many problems fall by the wayside. In managing our manure better, we could instantly conserve vast amounts of water, end our dependence on commercial fertilizers (their end is coming anyway), build up the health of our soil, grow amazingly nutritious food, and learn how to properly use pitchforks again.
Who would have thought our salvation could come through shit?
Read the original review here...