It’s Wednesday, and each night this week, I have stayed up a little later and a little later despite my promise to get myself on a more regular schedule. Regardless of the hour I go to bed, the time my feet hit the floor and the new day starts is fairly consistent. As the light of the morning starts to creep down the hall from the living room to the bedroom, a dog stirs. That stir has a ripple effect through the other dogs in the bedroom with me… and to the cats as well. Once a dog (or dogs) start beating a path from the bedroom to the back door a time or two, I am up. Beats cleaning up “accidents” in the house that would be better deposited outside.
I responded to a tweet a couple days ago. A dog had soft bowel movements… what could they try? I recommended acidophilus — also known as probiotics (probably because it’s easier to spell). Someone responded that the food the dog was eating had probiotics in it. Well duh… seems it doesn’t have enough in it.
To copy the description on the CalVet website where I buy mine: Powerful, live, “good” Lactobacillus bacteria – improves digestion and absorption of nutrients for better weight gain and general health – beneficial in treating yeast and bacterial infections, bacterial diarrhea and urinary tract problems.
I keep a few pounds of this around all the time. Matter of fact, I spoon a small amount on the dogs’ food in the morning. In the evening, I spoon some powdered kelp on their food. This is my attempt to make cheaper dog food better. If one of the dogs gets diarhhea for whatever reason — and one will from time to time, a little extra acidophilus seems to clear it up.
Now poop… I am a slight expert on poop having picked up probably hundreds of pounds of it over the years: firm, soft, straight, curvy, green, yellow, and even full of stuff I had not known was missing yet like pens, jewelry, pieces of foam from the dog bed, sheets, dish cloths, shoe parts, and such. I used to marvel at how artisticly they could stack it on a tree stump or a shrub. It was so remarkable that I once took some photos of a “dump” left on a stump. Something about it was clever(?). However, after I uploaded the photo and looked at it on my computer screen, it just looked like “sh##”… and my attraction to this field of art has been forever lost.
I apprenticed with a wonderful sculptor several years ago. She used to say: “Art is a crock.” Yep. When it falls from the back end of your dog over a tree stump, it is just that!
But getting back to my “poop” expertise… just what do you do with the poop from 30 dogs? Think about it, if each one poops just once a day, that’s 30 piles of poop. And I think dogs poop more than once a day. In the advertising for premium dog food, they mention “less stool volume.” That statement is correct. For 20-some years, I fed my dogs Purina ProPlan or One. Then came the price increases and the recession and then unemployment. I had to switch to a lesser Purina product. I did it with great reluctance over a couple months. Two notable differences: more stool volume and more body odor. But the choice is feed the dogs or not have enough food for the dogs.
So what to do with the poop? I clean up poop from the yard twice a day. It gives me a chance to check for problems (even if I don’t know who has the problem, I have a head’s up). It also gives me a chance to walk the whole yard in case there are any problems like a snake in the yard, a hole in the fence and such. The backyard covers a little over an acre. I have a regular route I take to sweep the yard for poop… up and down in rows so I cover the whole yard.
(As an aside… dogs eat poop. So my question is: if you feed a dog a pound of food and it poops a pound of poop, then another dog comes along and eats that poop, will that dog poop a pound? And if so, how often will that same poop be re-eaten and re-pooped? Maybe this is the answer to cutting dog food costs??? Reduce, re-use and recycle. Don’t worry, just kidding. This is just idle chatter that pops into my head while I am cleaning up the yard without the iPod.)
I used to put a plastic bag in a bucket and when I was done cleaning up the yard, I would put the poop-filled plastic bag in a large yard-sized plastic bag. Once a week on trash day, I woould drag this out to the street for the trash men. Because of the weight, it would usually take two or maybe three large trash bags per week. While this wasn’t so bad in the winter months, this was close to a disaster in the summer. The SMELL! The FLIES! Not to mention that one day, a small bag fell out of the trash truck just down the street past my house. After it got run over a couple times, there was a 2’x2′ area of poop.
So I explored the internet and came up with a solution based on two theories: compost the poop! Both are essentially the same. One is based on what they do in Alaska with Husky poop. Yep, lots of dogs there, so lots of poop. The other is based on Joseph Jenkins’ book, “Humanure.”
In short, I built a round bin with wire. It’s about 4 feet across and 4 feet high. I lined the bottom with 6″ of hay, then lined the sides with hay. It’s kind of like a cooler built of hay. Drop the poop in a layer in the bottom of your bin. Then layer some matter on top — this can be cut grass, more hay, leaves or even some matter from an older bin of composted poop (I consider my final poop to be twice baked). You will need to add water as needed to keep the material moist. But watch out… that thing will heat up to temperatures of 140 degrees which will kill bad stuff. After it cooks, I let it sit for several months so it breaks down into brown, crumbly compost. I have a large border bed in the back of my property where I put the finished compost.
With the better grade of dog food my bin would hold 2 months worth of poop and I had 5 bins in rotation. Yesterday, I added a 6th bin to the rotation. I could probably work out a way to make the 5 work, but I just don;t have the extra time right now. Unemployment is very time-consuming here at the “bit-by-bit ranch” of beingstray.