Saturday, 25 September 2010

Muck Redux

 I left you a while back with the air full of a certain farm fragrance. So here´s the latest poo.

manure producers of Galicia
Two Sundays ago we took the dogs out for a long ramble near Calzada del Hermanillos, near a sweetly isolated strip of Roman road/alternative Camino on the way to Leon. We wound it up with a visit to the Casa el Cura, a Casa Rural (rural bed and breakfast inn). Our wild old friend Leonel lives there and helps to run the place. (Leo is the Cuban guy who stayed with us a while last Fall, and tried hard to buy the Alamo here in Moratinos.)

Whilst tossing back shandies in his fine front patio we watched a massive mob of sheep pass by on the street outside. They belong to the family that owns the Casa el Cura, Leo said. And it occurred to me... Leo has dung access. And Leo owes us a favor. I asked. He said “hell yeah.” And the following day, armed with ten black rubber buckets and two shovels and a tarpaulin, we filled the back of the Kangoo with fragrant fertilizer and delivered it up to the back yard of the Peaceable.

The following day I took the galgo dogs to Leon to be neutered. It took all day. I pottered around town, enjoyed several uninterrupted hours in a university library (it was heaven!) discovered a new corner of 16th-century Leon I´d never seen before. I returned to the veterinary clinic in the evening to pick up the girls.

And while sitting on a bench in the sun outside, I felt a fierce itching on my ankles. Then up round my knees. Something was biting me, but I couldn´t see any spider or fly or insect anywhere.

It was maddening. All the way home, and through the evening, and then overnight, I felt the little pinpricks. I couldn´t spend too much time worrying about my itchiness because I had two convalescent greyhounds to deal with, and a camino to plan for, and guests in the house.

Wednesday morning I rose, covered in bright red spots. I showered in the hottest water I could stand, stripped the sheets off the bed, sprayed the bedroom and the laundry room with flea-killer, and washed dogs, sheets, blankets, clothing, and whatever else occurred to me. And as I loaded the machine, I saw what the problem was:

The itchies were FLEAS. I assumed the veterinary clinic must have an infestation, and the fleas came home with us from there. But that place is spotlessly clean.

Then came Kathy and JoAnne, two fashionable ladies from California, ready to walk the last bit of the Camino Invierno with me. (Me and Kathy go way back; she was the very first pilgrim to visit The Peaceable Kingdom, back before it was even blessed. Her sister is an LA Woman, tiny and energetic and neat as a pin). On the way home from the train station JoAnn pointed out there were fleas on her ankles, fleas in the back seat. And a sewer-like odor.

And so I fumigated the furgoneta, too, and set the chickens loose out back, to give the sheep poo a good going-over. I changed my mind about where those bugs must´ve come from: They came with the sheep poo. Sheep are always crawling with fleas, you know, and they´d certainly hitch a ride in the manure pile. A car is always so warm inside, and with the occasional dog and pilgrim chucked in for a nice snack, it would be a flea paradise. And add me, a nice main course. Fleas, mosquitoes, flies, spiders, all kinds of vermin -- they just love to bite me. (Just so you know: Paddy spent that Night of the Bites under the same sheets with me, but suffered nary a nibble. No one else in the place, nor in the car, was bitten. There is no justice.)

So, putting all crawly things behind us, the three of us ladies set off on the train to Monforte de Lemos, for a 120-kilometer camino to Santiago. It´s the same alternative camino trail I followed in April, but without the dysentery, mud, and solitude, and with some improved waymarks. It was MUCH more enjoyable this time around. I intend to write it up fully so other pilgrims and hikers can take advantage of an unspoiled trek through Darkest Galicia.

The hike took a week to do. We came home Friday, beat-up but satisfied. There were beautiful, clean sheets on my bed, and when bedtime arrived I slipped into my favorite place and let out a deep sigh.
I thought for a moment I felt something walking on my ankle.
But by then I was asleep.

Stay with me. The story continues!
This morning a tractor roared up to the rear of our garden and backed a big trailer up to the gate. Inside the cab, smiling the biggest smile in Moratinos, was Eduardo. He´d brought our abono. Three tons of it.
Eduardo, a farmer outstanding in his tractor

What a beautiful gift – farm-fresh fertilizer, tons of it, straight from the dairy to our door. There´s plenty enough for our vegetable beds, trees, roses, flower pots, compost bin, and maybe even the desert wastelands that once were lawn!

Now all I gotta do is finish building the raised-bed frames, and wrestle them into place, and level them. Once I get the concrete mixer back from Bruno, I will set to work to make up some good dirt. I have all the elements now, and Leo even gave me the recipe for garden soil:

Dirt for Growing Things In
1 shovel of sand,
1 shovel of peat moss stuff
2 shovels of regular local dirt (aka “adobe”)
2 shovels of manure

Cream together in the cement mixer for a couple of minutes until uniformly damp and lumps disappear. Dump it into the garden bed, coat with chopped straw, and leave it to bake in the sun and rain for several months (over winter).

And in the spring, with luck and rain, hoeing and weeding, sun and seeds, you get:

Lettuces, carrots, turnips, melons, beans, tomatoes, peppers, squash, and marigolds.

Hope springs eternal, out here on the meseta.
You can have it all if you work hard and ask nice, and when your neighbors give you so many kinds of shit. Excrement is something we all can appreciate if we give it a little thought.

And if you can keep your shiny clean dogs from rolling around in it.
And if it isn´t full of fleas.


The Solitary Walker said...

Err, I'm beginning to think you a thing about this, err, poo thing, Rebekkah! There are websites out there which could help you, you know...

In the meantine, may your vegetables grow exponentially (not to mention excrementally), and may your biting bugs be banished forever...

GREAT post!!!

AnnieSantiago said...

Great post, Reb!

Fleas seem to love O-positive blood.. is yours O+ ???

I hope to snag one of your tomatoes this Summer!

ksam said...

I'm scratching!!

Tracy Saunders. said...

Do you know the old joke about being encased in excrement?
"Don´t sing".