Where there is muck .....

Today's Blip follows on a bit from yesterday's diesel ban topic.

Farmer Franz had phoned to say he would be coming around to collect our muck heap. As I had mentioned about two weeks ago, it was very full. Farmers are under continuing pressure to control the amounts of fertiliser they use on the land, whether organic muck and slurry or manufactured fertiliser.

The whole issue is very complicated and intertwined. Some will remember the UK being the environmental dirty man of Europe (along with being the financial sick man of Europe) back in the 1970's spewing out sulphur and the like causing acid rain which with the prevailing west winds was killing the forests of the northern continent.

The issue was tackled and since I have been in Germany (1990) nobody talks about acid rain problems. And the UK also lost it's financial sick man tag thanks to it joining the EU. OK, so now it has the tag of being the Clown of Europe and from being a leading G7/8/20 country it is now slipping back since the Brexit thing happened and may regain it's Sick Man title soon too.

Franz will tell you that in his younger years in the 1970/80s, farmers didn't need nitrogen fertiliser as there was more than enough landing on the fields from car emissions. Then came the catalytic converter and now so they need to buy the stuff again, I think one of the most expensive costs worldwide in food production.

But we also know nitrogen fertiliser is not very efficient, there is large leak off into streams and rivers, reducing oxygen levels, causing algae plagues etc.

Getting the balance right is the key thing. Being able to satisfy the world's ever-increasing appetite, allowing us the freedom to move around the globe and yet ensuring we have an environment that is both able to exist and to make life worthwhile, all need to be considered.

It is probably largely a "feel good", back to mother nature, organic thing that at least makes me feel as though our muck heap is positive or at least less negative to the environment. It puts back organic matter into the soil that is essential for plants and the animals that live in it. The importance of worms in our soils is becoming more and more an issue. And from looking at a bucket load of muck, you can see the evidence of how much the worms love our muck.

Franz only took one trailer load, partly because that was about 90% of the heap and a second loading would not be economical but also because he barely managed to get over the field when he deposited it. The ground is a lot more slippery than it appears. Luckily he did us first today when he collected the spreader from a farmer in the parish. Franz's own much heap will have to wait. The small amount we have left will be very useful in coming weeks in our garden.

Just for the record, many large items of seldom-used farming equipment are used in a form of "collective". One farmer will buy it and others rent it when they need it. The muckspreader, for instance, costs €15 per load regardless of time or distance. Naturally one is subject to having to possibly queue up as often the weather, season determines when jobs need to be done.

And incidentally, it's not just farmers contributing to over fertilising and run-off. We hobby gardeners are apparently much too generous with our use of artificial fertilisers. So try asking your local horse livery for a few bags of the muck before going down to the garden centre for a bag or two of rose, tomato, lawn, bedding ...... fertiliser. Even in the wonderful English immaculate lawn, a bit of aeration and some well-rotted compost finely distributed at the right time of year will do wonders.

A warning - tomorrows Blip may just deal with the matter of the disposal of human sewage! Enjoy your dinner or breakfast.

Oh and for the technical buffs - Franz uses his small Austrian built New Holland for the front loader, the big UK built one does the "real" men's work with the plough etc, His old Deutz has to do the dirty work pulling the muckspreader. And Franz mentioned he prefers the double axled, small, under the trailer, wheeled muckspreader to the large wheeled single axled spreaders commonly used in the UK - simply on the basis that the large wheels on the outside of the trailer body get in the way of loading.

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