Saturday, May 7, 2011


Where is my sh%$! What the what?! Manure, dung, doo doo, excrement, kaka, whatever else you want to call it, it's still sh#*! As part of my gardening adventure here in Arvikheer, my good intentions (and enjoyable, though somewhat time consuming and perhaps even a little hard work) were blown away by someone else's good intentions...

Let me start at the beginning. One of the exciting projects that both my school director and I were in agreement about was gardening. She envisions a greenhouse on the school grounds, growing vegetables. These vegetables would supplement the diet of the children living in the school dormitory, plus some would be sold to the public, with the profits benefiting the school as she sees fit.

My vision is to teach some children and adults about the wonders of gardening, the magic of vegetables and to introduce more variety as well as vitamins to the dorm students diet. I also have a serious gardening addiction that needs to be fed by just such activities!

Since I came to town in late August last year, one of my first outdoor gardening endeavors thus far has been to get the directors' ok to plant salad fixins' in the two large urns outside the school. It has been almost a week since I did that. After amending the dirt with potting soil, horse dung and some sawdust, I planted seeds with the help of a dorm student. I have been diligently checking and watering the urns daily, garnering some strange looks from the school workers and much curiosity from the children. I am anxiously awaiting the emergence of some green any day now! (provided all the seeds have not been pecked out and eaten by the birds I have witness feasting there...)

The compost bins, thrown together with the assistance of some of the Eco club members are another project that some folks seem to be interested in. While adding my own compost scraps to the pile yesterday, I noticed that one of the other bins is now being filled with veggie peelings, mostly from potato's. These I am pretty sure can only be from the school cooks..yea! What excitement to know that some Mongolians are willing to try this weird idea of mine out!

My enthusiasm really jacked up my mood yesterday. The pleasant weather also helped me feel fine and I spent several hours and many trips hauling bags of dung I had found from at the stream bed to the fenced in garden bed areas in front of the dormitory. There I dumped this dung, not bothering to scatter it, or to get my shovel from home and bury it.

As a farm girl, I understand the usefulness of manure as a fertilizer. Farmers worldwide know how beneficial animal dung can be! In some countries, such as China, the use of "night soil" is employed to boost crop growth . Here in Mongolia, animal dung is most frequently used as fuel for ger stoves; especially in areas where wood is not readily available, i.e. a majority of the country. Some of this dung I found even appeared to be from a stall with partially decomposed straw combined with it. The perfect combination for helping this rocky, sandy dirt produce better crops! I erroneously thought others would see this dung as exciting and beneficial as me!

What a rude awakening I had today on my way past the dorm to the monastery where I assist with the Saturday afternoon English class, when I saw all my dung was gone!! Who would ever think in a country where garbage, broken glass, discarded clothing and all sorts of trash are frequently found lying around that some animal dung thrown into a dirt bed would be offensive. Outraged, confused and pissed off, I went to class, vented to my monk friend and called Oyun.

After class I met with her and one of the dorm teachers. Apparently as part of the great weather spring clean up the school director told all the foreign language teachers to clean all the sh*% out of the beds in front of the dorm building. Ugh....there is not a heavy sigh heavy enough to convey my anger at myself for not burying that crap!

There appeared to be confusion as to why I might need the dung when we are attempting to make compost. I explained that the compost won't be ready for months and the only way we can get this dirt to grow stuff is through enriching it with dung! Ah, ha... that's all I needed to do was explain this basic fact. I did notice today that there is a little less trash around the school building; trash cans are still on my radar!

Next time I go hunting for dung, I intend to train students, (look out Eco club) exactly what to collect and perhaps we will have a dung collecting field trip! Live and learn.

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