16 July 2012

Urine, Muck & Other Matters


On most farms there can be found located somewhere upon the premises a muck hole which for ages has been filling up with decomposed vegetable matter. Shovel this muck into piles, to remain until dry, then it should be carted into the barn yard to be used as circumstances require. In mixing it with the manure in the yard, select the lowest places to spread it on, so that the drainage from the higher parts of the yard, or urine from the stable may flow upon it. Spread a quantity of it every night as litter for the cattle to lie upon. This earth, impregnated with urine, kneaded under the feet of the cattle, will lose nothing which has been given to it. 

Soap suds, and all the urine, &c., from the chambers, should be mixed with the manure heap composed of earth. The result of observations shows that a man renders per day at least three lbs. of urine and other matters; this, multiplied by 365 days, gives a yearly product of 1100 pounds per person, or 11000 pounds for ten persons who ordinarily live upon a farm. 

We hope the few foregoing remarks on manure making will serve to lead the industrious farmer into new channels of operation
[Leavitt’s Farmer's Almanac]


This old almanac entry speaks of something that was common in the Agrarian Nation—the use of "night soil." Night soil is human excrement ("other matters") used for fertilizer.

In my extensive collection of "Cultivator & Country Gentleman" magazine from the late 1800's there are ads for "Poudrette."  Poudrette is defined as "a manure made from night soil, dried and mixed with gypsum, charcoal, etc."

It's interesting to note that "poudrette" is still being sold to farmers. It is municipal sewage sludge and it's now called "biosolids." 

I have no problems with using properly treated "humanure" as a fertilizer, but sewage sludge has all kinds of potential toxins in it. I'll bet the biosolids of today are a whole lot more toxic than the poudrette of the late 1800s. You can learn more about sewage sludge used in agriculture at this link: United Sludge-Free Alliance.


odiie said...

Our ag rep just offered us biosolids for our farm, but there are so many medicines, antibiotics, etc in it today that I won't use it.

Herrick Kimball said...


That's encouraging to hear. It breaks my heart to see farmers around me spreading sludge on their fields. The sludge purveyors add lime and sell it cheap. Cheap a powerful incentive.

Thanks for your comment.

ronc said...

There is more on this subject here: