The Brown Stuff

When I began the gardens here, I trucked in dozens of loads of composted manure to build the flower beds. Each season since, the gardens have needed new servings of this wonderful stuff as well as some of that compost I showed you in an earlier blog. Last week I found myself focused on replenishing my supply of manure, and I naturally looked to our go to guy, Scott MacLeay.

Almost thirty years ago, Jim was picked for jury duty in a long and ugly murder trial. He carpooled to duty with Scott, sharing many hours when they could talk freely to each other about the trial. It proved a bonding experience, and they began fast friends.

Scott has gone on to be one of our most helpful of friends as well. He dug the foundation for our house, built our septic system, contoured the land around the house where the gardens now live, put in our driveway and the upper lot for staff goddesses, moved rocks for steps and brought us many loads of gravel from his gravel pit across town. And you’re right if you think you’ve heard tell of Scott before, because I have shared photos of him tearing and hauling away the sorry building on the farm land we bought down the road. When Scott was done there, he left us with a beautiful field of clover.

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The longer we live here, the more impressed we are by Scott’s impeccable work. We have found a driveway put in by Scott doesn’t wash out like our neighbors’ driveways and a septic system by Scott gives no trouble unlike one neighbor’s fragrant mosh pit. His elegant work around our house has left us a dry basement with all precipitation draining away from the house. To watch him on his dozer or back hoe has always been an experience of watching a master at work, but thirty years later, I observe him with greater respect, ever glad Jim met Scott.
Scott has been a wise and generous steward in our small town as well, sharing his talent and time with the town. One of his recent projects was to put in a new parking lot for the town school, charging only for materials but not his time. What an incredible gift. Because he has been so many people’s go to guy for so many years, Scott probably knows more about the underpinnings of this town than anyone else, but he is restrained, discreet and if your oil tank leaked into the ground and he had to come in and clean it up per EPA standards, he did the job and that’s was the last time he spoke of it. He could probably embarrass just about everyone in town, but he never does.

Last week he came over to discuss one of our next projects, and I mentioned my search for composted manure. He offered to load up our pick up truck with manure composting down at his gravel pit. This was an eye opening experience for me because I had never seen Scott’s pit. We met him there early last Sunday morning, an enormous landscape of sand and gravel on the flood plain of the Connecticut River.

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As we looked over an area fifty acres wide, Scott explained how as he finishes harvesting rock, sand and gravel from any area of his pit, he uses the horse manure he hauls off from farms in town to rebuild the topsoil and re-contour the land. He always looks to the closing of this pit, working each day to leave his pit a usable field for future generations. Scott mentioned his concern with our town pit where this proactive work is not being done. So many things press in on small towns right now, and properly sorting out the town pit is not a very sexy expenditure and one that our town has decided to hold off on until the entire pit is harvested. Scott worries that when the time comes to close the pit, the town will face a half million dollar cost to do the work Scott does each day. Looking at how Scott had spread manure onto smoothed out sections of his own pit, I noticed the vibrancy of the returning Flowers. I only wished Scott was in charge of the town pit as well.

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But there was not much time for wishful thinking. Scott had his back hoe poised and loaded with some lovely brown stuff for the farm. It was time for Jim and I to go back to the one place where we could serve the seventh generation and do our best to return to the earth everything we had taken from her.

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