How Much Manure is in Your Job?

The snow has melted. There is a really loud bird singing outside the window. Crocuses poke through the dirt, and the Yankees just got clobbered by the Red Sox–it’s spring.

Time for growing stuff.  This weekend, we constructed the garden. At the old house, I built a ton of raised beds built when my husband wasn’t looking. It was a suburbanish-urban area right under the flight path of the airport. Our yard was first thing important people and foreign dignitaries saw upon approaching the runway. Our urban homestead had the potential to make everyone smile.  I waved as planes approached the runway, hovering three feet over my treeline. The guy in the third seat behind the wing tipped his glass, waved back, mouthing the words, “Nice garden.”

“Thanks,” I mouthed back, “Enjoy your stay.”

My husband didn’t feel the same way about my homesteading. “It looks like you barfed vegetables all over this yard, like someone with ADHD invaded!” He wanted rows. I wanted production. I stuck vegetables in every pot, raised bed, and crack in the sidewalk I could. Production.

Screen Shot 2013-04-08 at 6.01.39 AMWe’ve relocated to the forest and fenced in space for an epic garden–the kind that’ll feed a small nation through the winter. It required more than the usual couple bags of manure–it was time to get real, so I visited the family farm down the road. Ironic that I grew up in a rural area–we all laughed about chickens, tractors and cows, and now I want to be a pseudo-farmer.  I respect them. They work hard on behalf of the nation for very few accolades–kind of like teachers. We share a common affinity.

“Oh, we have manure,” said the farmer, leading me to the bags. Point to note, you must request  “aged manure,” or “composted manure.” It makes a difference. You can’t just let the cow poop on your carrots; that’s a health hazard.

Screen Shot 2013-04-08 at 6.01.23 AM“Why can’t I just poop in the garden?” my son asked looking to cut out the middleman and be naked in public.

“Can’t I use the cat’s litter box?” another friend wondered.

No. It must be aged manure.  I handed over the measurements, and faster than I could say “Jimmy Cracked Corn,”  three cubic yards of manure appeared in the middle of my freshly tilled land.

Three cubic yards of manure is a lot of shit. We’ve been telling poop jokes all weekend.

The size of the pile made me wonder–if I could measure all the nonsense I’ve put up with in my careers in a tangible manner, what would it look like sitting next to this pile? And whose job would have the biggest pile?

Would a lean startup have less than a corporation, because they are so quick to measure and move, whereas corporations would let the pile sit, waiting for stockholder approval? Would police and emergency personnel have a larger pile because are paid to put up with it, or would they have zero because they have authority to do something about it? Would teachers have insurmountable piles because we can’t pick up a shovel without three layers of approval, filled out in triplicate after a national test, and by the time we get the ok, three more cubic yards would have been dumped on top?

Martha's vegetable garden. Not mine. Someday.

Martha’s vegetable garden. Not mine. Someday.

Would government officials have big piles, or would theirs be kept to reasonable levels because they have can donate parts of their piles to the rest of us? Would theirs be compounded by the manure added by opportunists, lobbyists, and extremists?

Who’d have the largest pile?

I started to think it wasn’t the size of the pile that would matter, but what happened to it. Would we smile, pick up our shovel, and use the manure to make things grow or would we let it fester into a pile that grew ever deeper… How do we make a difference in whatever we do, enjoy going to work, and grow a beautiful garden of results?

One shovel at a time, I think. Never look at the pile in front of you, just take a shovelful, rake it around, and then plant some seeds. You’ll be eating carrots, radishes, and tomatoes in no time. Everyone else will be standing around looking at their piles while you feast.

[Images: hacer.org, green.autoblog.com and marthastewart.com.]

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