When I began this farming adventure, I realised I needed a plan for manure. There’d be a lot generated with the number of animals I planned to own. If there wasn’t some sort of strategy, things could get messy very quickly.
To prepare for the manure, I constructed a large compost bin with two holding areas. I naively believed one holding area would last the summer, maybe until January. What I didn’t anticipate was the amount of soiled bedding hay and shavings that would need to be disposed of. One bin filled within two months. I began piling the bedding material off to the side and dumping manure only in the second bin.
The manure bins and pile were out of the way and out of site, so I wasn’t concerned with it. Then my kids decided they wanted chicks of their own. My son couldn’t settle for just one breed and got two. Add my daughter’s new breed and that meant three more coops would be needed this summer. We could just house all the breeds together, but I want to breed true, so that’s not going to happen.
The ideal location for a row of coops was the manure pile. We began moving it a little at a time. Yesterday, my sons decided they were going to jump right in and move a large section of it. Part of the motivation was the use of the four-wheeler and wagon. They made two trips with manure from the old pile to the new pile. There were lots of giggling and squeals as they splashed through puddles and cut through tall grass. As my daughter would say, “Boys plus bike equals fun.”
Then I heard concerned raised voices and a final, “Go get Mom!”
My youngest ran toward me and I met him on his way. Together we walked to the manure pile while the eight-year-old began to explain.
“There’s bees. Lots of them. We think there’s a nest in the manure.”
Bees? He must have meant hornets. I’d never seen a bee hive in a manure pile and never heard of one. But my boys weren’t wrong. We stood a safe distance from the manure pile and watched about 30 bees swarm around it. Something had been disturbed. After a minute, the queen bee appeared.
I instructed the boys to dump what they had already loaded into the wagon and to leave the rest with me. Perhaps the bees would disperse and leave the manure pile now that their hive was disturbed. Either way, I’d finish moving the pile.
After the boys dumped the load, they returned with another story. Along with manure, hay and shavings, they’d found a large clump of mud in the wagon. They threw the clump into the woods. Hopefully, that will be the end of the bees for now.
I’ve always said, “You learn something new every day.” Today, I learned that bees – small ones, not large bumblebees or honey bees – make hives in manure piles.