Holy S@#!, Managing Manure to Save Mankind!

I’ve been curious about the book “Holy Shit,  Managing Manure to Save Mankind”, for several years now. Mostly because I want to build a composting toilet. I finally ordered it from our library. It is funny, insightful, hopeful, and scientific.  It’s taken a lot of years for me to understand the significance of manure as a resource. Having a kitchen garden was my initiation. We used a lot of alpaca manure in our California garden. According to Gene it’s likely that chemical fertilizers will reach a point when they are too expensive. Manure will then be regarded in a different light. Reading this book made me feel that everything comes full circle even the waste cycle of animals and people. Imagine that.

It would be nice to build a composting toilet. Many progressive farms and homes have composting toilets. I still cannot understand why we are flushing in clean potable water. It’s just bad design that we’ve become addicted to. It’s also  a drag being sweaty, hot, dusty, and dirty, and dismantling clothes just to get to a bathroom, inside. Composting toilets on a farm are just practical. I’ve been in some composting toilets that are simply lovely. They can be clean, comfortable, beautiful, safe,  and non-invasive. In other words, they can be done quite tastefully.

Here’s a little insight into something that I learned from this book. I discovered this insight in the first chapter of the book.

"Holy Shit" by Gene Logsdon

“We all need to read again “Farmers of Forty Centuries, by F.H. King, published in 1911 about Asian agriculture at that time. In Japan, Korea,  and China, manure was treated like a precious gem because  it “was” a precious gem. Every scrap of animal waste, human waste, and plant residue was scrupulously collected and reapplied to the land. So precious was manure that Chinese farmers stored it in burglarproof containers. The polite thing to do after enjoying a meal at a friend’s house was to go to the bathroom before you departed. As a result, for hundreds of years the Asian farmers maintained an unbelievably productive agriculture. The food harvested per acre was at the very least five times the amount that American farmers were producing in 1907.” Holy S@#!. My first thought when I read this was that cancer was probably rare or even unheard of in those days. Wouldn’t that be nice?


Michael moving cows

The cows are back at Buxton, all 300 of them! There are some young frisky ones that are already testing fence boundaries. They will eventually get up to speed with the rules!  The cows bring another element to the farm. They have tremendous energy. You have to be on your toes around these guys. This beautiful herd crossed the river for the first time this season yesterday without any confusion. That’s always a relief to us. I’ve already harvested some of their manure for “compost tea.” Ou seedlings will benefit from the tea.


moving the herd


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About Grace

Grace and her husband Michael manage Buxton a Polyface satellite farm. Her first passion is to align with radiant health. She knows intimately that when you have your health you can do anything. Next, her passion for vibrant healthy food and beautiful landscapes along with her interest in permaculture influenced Grace's decision to align with the Polyface farming model. With 20 years of experience in the healing arts, she feels growing food and pasture raising animals is one of the greatest healers and a true source of personal empowerment. It's been said, "if you're not living on the edge your taking up too much space." Grace lives joyfully on the "leading edge" surrounded by the breathtaking beauty of the appalachian mountains where her and Michael steward 1000 acres with profound appreciation."

14 Responses to Holy S@#!, Managing Manure to Save Mankind!

  1. Wow, from the title, I thought Joel had written a whole knew book where he expressed how really made he was at Industrial Agriculture, Monsanto and the US Government.

    Buxton ? Wasn’t that the place whereAndy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) toldEllis Boyd “Red” Redding (Morgan Freeman) to dig up that old tin box under the Oak Tree along the old Stone Wall in that hay field ?

    Yeah, you know ? The Shawshank Redemption!

    Okay, but seriously, I am not really into compost tea. I’d rather apply the whole lot on top of the ground and let nature slow release it. The only area where I could see teas as a benefit is perhaps house plants. Of course it’s not to say that it’s of no benefit, it’s just that I’ve never noticed a superiority of it over just applying the compost to allow the slow release of nutrients. We actually had quite a discussion of this over at the WSU Extension “The Garden Professors” Discussion Group.


    Thanks for your article!

    • Grace says:

      THanks for this article on compost tea. I like the idea of it been a “slow food” for our plants. Very nice. I have some research to do on this, pumps and so forth. The article you sent inspired me. Thanks a bunch. I know of people using it in their gardens and they no longer have weeds coming back the following year. Imagine that!

  2. Lori says:

    This post was timely for me. This past weekend I was visiting with my 93-year old grandfather and we were talking about life when he was newly married. The newlyweds lived on the family farm with three generations pitching in to keep up with the chores, even though all of the men held off-farm jobs. He mentioned that the hay field always had incredible soil – and he attributed this to the fact that the outhouse compost was spread on this field. Spreading that human manure was the worst chore, but created the best soil.

    He also shared how they moved the animals from field-to-field, rotated crop beds, used cover crops and came up with a use for just about everything on the farm. I told him that Joel Salatin and family follow similar principles and they now need to teach others because just about all of this knowledge has been lost. What’s old is new again!

    I’m reserving this book from our library today!

    • Grace says:

      Thanks so much for sharing this. I do feel we are going to come fully circle with this issue. It’s a matter of good design. As gas prices increase and people feel it, I think minds will open more and more on topics even as misunderstood as manure as fertilizer. I realize that humanure to be safe needs to sit for a year or two before it’s spreadable. That’s easy! Our compost sits a year anyway.
      You will like this book. Gene is funny, smart, innovative and fearless! Enjoy!

  3. When I tell people I’m looking forward to getting chickens they all say, “Oh, yes, for the eggs.” Then they get this confused look on their face when I say, “For the poo too!” But I guess when you live in a suburban/grocery market reality manure is a thing to be avoided.

    • Grace says:

      That’s a great way to “come in through the back door” with city folks! Once they fall in love with the sweet hens, their nitrogen deposits will be better understood and appreciated!

  4. Mellisa says:

    I, too have read the book. It has changed my way of thinking considerably. I am with Cynthia about being excited for the compost I will get from my chickens. Hopefully this spring is the last time I ever have to buy compost for my garden!

    • Grace says:

      If you have horses nearby, you can haul their manure for free. Some folks don’t like to use it because of the wormers, but I say it’s ok if it’s free, at least to get the garden going. (The wormers don’t break down.) But if I had horses next to me and had to drive a half an hour to buy compost, I would start with the manure. Goat manure is good too. I also recommend lasagna gardening in the fall with cardboard and straw this too will build your soil. Have fun with your hens!

  5. We have been living with a composting toilet for almost 8 years now and we love it! It feels so right to be giving back to Mother Earth. Our’s is just a 5 gallon bucket with what we call our “throne” built over it. A box with a toilet seat on one side and a place to hold a bucket of sawdust and toilet paper on the other. Personally I’d much rather clean 5 gallon buckets than a conventional toilet! We got the idea from the “Humanure Handbook”

    • We use the humanure composting toilet as well and have no desire to go back. It’s a hard sell on some guests though…

      We began by keeping one in the barn for our outside chores. I’m considering building an outhouse on skids for our farm guests to use complete with a humanure toilet inside and captured rainwater for hand washing. One day…

      • Grace says:

        What a great idea, inside the barn. I didn’t think of that. For temporary situations like when we’re working outside this is a great idea. Thank you.

    • Grace says:

      We did the bucket thing on a farm in Maine. I hated cleaning it. I want this toilet space to be inviting not repulsive. I think it’s says a lot to have lots of sawdust on hand for this purpose which I can’t recall we had in Maine. We also had a pit toilet in Maine. I like the simplicity of 5 gallon buckets but I really want it to be clean. I look forward reading the Humanure Handbook it’s next on my list. THanks!

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