Every home should have a manure heap of some sort behind an outbuilding. It's the busiest place in the village and very useful - I really missed that during the years we did not have any animals at home.
Horse manure is of course the best stuff to have lying around, but sheep droppings and especially hen poo goes a long way too, to heat up the heap. That's when flies, bugs and beetles arrive. The butterfly population has increased too, since the animals arrived. Helping biodiversity on a small scale, I guess...
When we had horses, the grass snakes took over our manure heap. They lay eggs and need a warm place for them to hatch and that we could provide in abundance. They became very tame and all summer you could see small pencil sized heads popping up when we walked by. In the autumn they left for the woods and we missed our slimy, beautiful friends.
Our dear hens love the manure heap too. I started to build up a heap in the wrong place and thought I would move it later in the summer. I never made it, as our hens turned it over and scattered it in all directions. They had help from a lot of small birds that live nearby.
Now that the weather is turning colder our yard is turning into a pit stop for the migrating birds. They find corn, seeds, bugs and stuff that will keep them going for a while, a long while, I hope. In the mornings small birds sit warming themselves. A manure heap generates a surprising amount of warmth, and the raccoon dog that uses it as its toilet every, night must like it too.
I remember one spring, when we still had horses at home. The warmth arrived quite early and it was glorious weather for a long time. The warm winds brought small tits, sparrows and lots and lots of robins to our village. It's the first and only time I've seen so many robins in one place. They stayed around the stable eating bugs and grains and collected bits for their nests. Then one afternoon the weather changed and snow arrived. Our father who was a practical and a very caring person put his thinking cap on, handed me a hay fork and off we went. He figured that we had one thing to offer all the small birds and that was warmth. The rest of the day we dug trenches in our massive horse, sawdust and straw heap. I still remember how hot it was, we dug as deep as we could, only our heads stuck out and it was almost dark when we finished. And the birds came. We could not save all of them but a lot stayed the nights in there. Every day we dug some more, until winter went away again. The birds found maggots to eat, we left grains as well and it was all a bit lovely.
This memory has stayed with me. It was a small act of kindness but it helped many. Today I think of that kindness and wish more people could take time, dig deep and help out. You don't have to have a heap of poo around the corner to help someone, a generous heart goes a long way to do that. And the ability to see something good in everyone, says Molly the sweetheart.
A blog about a small holding in Southern Finland. Each original story is accompanied by a stunning watercolour illustration or resplendent photographs.