Gary GruberUncategorizedSPREADING MANURE
February 12 , 2023 /


This is for real, not a metaphor for the shit storms we have witnessed recently in several quarters. Those emit a different kind of smell from this job that I had in 1973.  This post was inspired by someone asking what job I had that would surprise most people.


I had just finished a year’s internship that followed three years of graduate school culminating in a Ph.D.  I was beginning work in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and we rented half of a big farmhouse just south of the city on one of three farms owned by a Mennonite dairy farmer and his son.  Having had some good farm experiences earlier in my life on my grandparents’ farm, I knew how to drive tractors and had also gained experience driving buses and trucks in other jobs during graduate school.  On this farm there was a large feed lot that had to be emptied of manure on a regular basis and then spread to adjacent fields as fertilizer for various crops.  When the owner learned I loved these kinds of farm jobs he was quick to offer me a part-time job in exchange for part of the rent.


First the manure had to be loaded into a spreader wagon with an open top. A chain connected the wheels to move the manure from front to back where the spreaders were turned by a chain connected to the wheels.  This had the effect if breaking the manure into smaller pieces while also kicking it up and out the back of what I call the wagon spreader.  As long as the wind was coming from the direction that I was driving it was no problem but when I turned the opposite direction and was driving with the wind, it was like the following wind in a sailboat.  Some of the manure and the smell made its way toward me and the tractor.  The good part was when I had one of the tractors with an enclosed cab but I often got one that did not have a cab.  Therefore, big stink, shitty job.


There is a kind of therapy involved with spreading manure and getting paid for doing it.  It’s alone time in out in a field feeling like you’re contributing to helping plants grow.  The hum of the tractor engine, the emptying of the manure spreader, a sense of accomplishment.  Some people apparently have a similar experience in mowing grass and I had that feeling doing other field work on the farms such as mowing or tilling the ground.  Years later we had our own “farm” where I mowed several acres regularly on a ZTR (zero turning radius) mower with a 50” deck. The only manure there was from donkeys and chickens but that’s another story for another time. I also had a diesel tractor and a bush hog for mowing adjacent fields. You can take the boy from the farm but you will never take the farm out of the boy.

Please share your thoughts and opinions