farm smells

This post might just as well be titled ‘farmers smell’ (both connotations), or even ‘farmer’s smells’.

Fermentation.  In the compost pile — mostly piggy bedding — belligerent in the beginning,  beguilingly sweet at the conclusion.  In the sauerkraut crock: increasingly assertive over the course of six weeks or so, until you’ll go to some lengths to keep visitors out of the basement.  Poultry feed, mixed whole and crimped grains, a complicated ferment, sprouting as well as acidifying, the smell of which drives our bibulous hens wild.  Windfall apples with yellow jackets mining the holes in the white flesh; moldy grapes under the leaves on the arbor, forgotten by the humans but most appreciated by the fruit flies.

Late honeysuckle blooms over the yard gate which surprise you as you come through in the dark after closing the poultry up for the night.  Chocolate mint underfoot where the old herb bed used to be, now a holding yard for spent round bales we’ll use to mulch next year’s winter squash patch.  The intoxicating smells of tomato leaf and marigold bloom; sharp smells of hot pepper and sweet pepper; carroty Queen Anne’s lace foliage crushed under the hoofs of a passing cow.  Hot machine oil under the tractor hood; parched, cracked soil beneath much-needed rain; second cutting clover hay, sweetest of sweet smells.

Dairy fermentation:  yogurt, at once both sweet and sour; buttermilk, what John Seymour called “noblest of drinks”, with two natures, first sweet and then sour; kefir, sharply alcoholic.  Warm yellow smells of cheese; sweet whey and sour; complicated smells in the cheese cave, where geotrichum candidum and pennecilium roquefortii argue with dirt mold, wood mold, and just plain ordinary mold.

Loving dog breath on your cheek as you share the porch swing for a nighttime meditation.  Ruminant urine, with its messages of health, of openness or gestation.  Musky goat smells, and the unpleasant rankness of chicken manure where there is inadequate litter to absorb it. Boots; wet socks; damp basement walls. Sweat, of horse, or cow, or human; and clothing that no hot water or detergent can ever make innocent of its hours of labor.


2 thoughts on “farm smells

    1. two-thirty pm here, and Poland is awake —  Shawn and Beth Dougherty The Sow’s Ear Check out our new book, The Independent Farmstead

      Library Journal starred review: *Dougherty, Shawn & Beth Dougherty. The Independent Farmstead: Growing Soil, Biodiversity, and Nutrient-Dense Food with Grassfed Animals and Intensive Pasture Management. Chelsea Green. Sept. 2016. 336p. photos. index. ISBN 9781603586221. $39.95. AGRI Husband and wife Shawn and Beth ­Dougherty have written about the “self-sustaining” grass-based farming movement on their blog, ­ Their first book, a well-organized overview of managing a diversified “farmstead,” takes the concept of backyard hobby farming to the next level. Drawing on their 20 years of experience on the Sow’s Ear Farm in eastern Ohio, the Doughertys offer practical know-how on a variety of farming topics, with photos and philosophical considerations of their methods. Although not exhaustive on any given issue, there is enough information for most readers to get started with confidence. They encourage readers to adopt holistic and creative problem-solving techniques. Oft-ignored subjects such as seasonal rhythms and interpersonal dynamics—the “people aspect” of the farm ecosystem—are addressed. Easily navigable sections let readers skim as needed, but the conversational style lends a cohesive narrative. With a compelling foreword by holistic farmer Joel Salatin, this is right at home on a workbench or bedside table. VERDICT A solid choice for those embarking on a serious animal-based hobby or enterprise, aspiring homesteaders, and sustainable farmers who already have basic knowledge of animal husbandry and agriculture. The authors’ blog provides a nice supplement; for more introductory guides, try Carleen Madigan’s “Backyard Homestead” books.—Amanda ­Avery, Marywood Univ. Lib., Scranton, PA  

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