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Date:9/1/2014 4:52:02 PM
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Manure, Part III
In addition to manure and green manure there is compost. Basically, composting is the fermenting of plant and animal matter over time to produce an optimum fertilizer. Often, as was described by the "Farmwife", water is added to augment the fermenting process. For us here at La Ferme Sabloneuse, we do not have the time for this. What we do is add leaf mulch to our sandy soil in order to try and improve its organic make-up and hopefully turn the sand into loam. Yet again, I quote Wikipedia: "Loam soils generally contain more nutrients and humus than sandy soils, have better drainage and infiltration of water and air than silty soils, and are easier to till than clay soils." Basically, as I understand it for our particular use, humus is dead plant matter applied to the soil. The official definitation differs from mine but for us, humus is dead grass and leaves spread on our fallow fields. I have deposited countless loads of Oak and Maple leaves to the valley garden this fall to improve the soil composition. I have no delusions as to the nutrient value of the leaves yet I know that it is still an improvement over the inherent fertility of the glacial sand deposits of La Ferme Sabloneuse.

In days past, at this time of year, countryfolks were accustomed to seeing smoke in the air from all the fires in the area. Both Native Americans and colonists would burn their crop residue because they knew that the ashes could be used as fertilizer. At La Ferme Sabloneuse, we've always spread the ashes from our woodstoves on the garden. The term "potash" was used to describe the burning of broadleaf trees and then leaching the ashes in iron pots. This produced the potassium compounds that are so needed for soil fertility.

The hazy days of "Indian Summer" owes its name partly because of these garden fires. In colonial times, in early November, the brief period of mild weather after the first frosts was a time when the Indians would be best able to attack the European settlements. The harvests were in and smell of smoke was in the air from all the garden fires. First Nation warriors were then free to go on the warpath. Their villages had stores of food and a precious few days of warm weather before the snows allowed them to attack their enemies. Thus, the warm smoky days of November was a time of worry for the colonists.

Even in Europe, the value of ashes as fertilizer was widely known by the peasants. I can only surmise that as their animal-produced fertilizer was demanded as payment by their overlords, the peasants realized that the ashes from their cooking fires was the only thing left to them to spread on their fields. (Please continue on to Part IV)
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