Dear MOTHER: February/March 2013

Reader letters about killer compost, broody hens, setting out to farm, the beyond-monetary riches of a garden, pollution from nuclear weapons, genetically modified foods, composting meat and fat, and more.

| February/March 2013

Dealing with killer compost

Reader David Goodman of Ocala, Fla., reports that, after using manure contaminated with the persistent herbicide aminopyralid in his garden, he has lost about $1,000 worth of perennials and veggies. 

Photo By Fotolia/Chariclo

Yearning to Farm

Most people in my generation want to be doctors, lawyers, writers or hold desk jobs. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with such career paths, but they’re not for me.

I want my cubicle to be measured in acres, not inches. I don’t want to hear a clock ticking all day; I’d rather hear chicks clucking, or maybe the sound of wind through the trees. I’m not taking the traditional route — I want to be a farmer. I know it won’t be easy or the most lucrative path, but it’s how I want to change the world — by getting my hands dirty and producing food. My idea of a good life is one in which I have a deep connection to the Earth and to each item of food on my plate. We need as many farmers as possible, especially in these times. I recently read an article that said about half of all farmers plan to retire in the coming 10 years. To me, that’s terrifying.

I am excited about my journey. I welcome all suggestions, comments and questions at

Ariel Drouault
Great Barrington, Massachusetts

Killer Compost Keeps On Killing: ‘I Feel Completely Violated’

In fall 2011, I picked up a double load of composted cow manure from a local farmer. I diligently spread it into my new garden beds and around my young fruit trees and blackberries. After doing so, I noticed the leaves on my blackberries started to curl a bit, but I wasn’t too worried at that point.

Come spring, however, almost everything I had planted in my garden beds exhibited bizarre growth — if it grew at all.

cary brief
1/29/2013 10:46:29 PM

I had a problem with killer compost a few years back, you even published my letter. With a tremendous amount of investigation (Dow has most stuff on the internet removed) I found out that one of the Universities that got hit real hard with this stuff, found that activated charcoal would lock up the chemical. Depending on how strong a dose you receive it can take years to go away as it is persistent and doesnt break down easily. I used about 150# on a 40 x 60 plot. I found a place in NJ that shipped it for a reasonable price. Two very important facts about Activated charcoal, #1 you must purchase the kind that has not been treated with petroleum, I think one is activated by steam or heat, not petroleum, # 2 use the powder not the granules and #3 wear old clothes, eye protection and a good serious dust mask. dig it in 8-12 inches deep if possible and not on a windy day. I saved the majority of my crops by diggin it in right around the plants. Plants that were dying came back! Good luck.

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