DIY

A Super-Duper Poop Scoop

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PHOTO: JEAN PETERSEN
The poop scoop at work dragging a large pile of manure.

Most farmfolks will agree that unloading manure and compost
with a hand shovel is just about the most
unpleasant task imaginable. My husband Fred and I
thought so, too. Now,  thanks to our homemade
“poop scoop,” we let the tractor take care of
such tiring (and messy) chores.

The “scoop” comes in quite handy for a number of other jobs
around our Florida homestead, too. We frequently use our
invention to dump manure on the garden, to drag water
hyacinth from the Withlacoochee River, and to move heavy
logs over short distances.

If you have a tractor — and a little bit of know-how
— you ought to be able to build and use the same
gadget … or modify our design to fit your own specific
needs. (With a lot of scrounging, we were able to assemble
our device for only $12! If you’re handy at “hardware
foraging,” you can probably keep your expenses as low as
— or maybe even lower than — ours were.)

Filling a Need

The “poop scoop” was born of the desire to use an old ’56
Ford 8N tractor to scrape manure out of our truck, over its
lowered tailgate, and onto the ground. And although our
standard boom crane was too short to handle the task, my
husband decided that the apparatus could be modified so it
would work.

(For the information of any folks who might be unfamiliar
with tractors, a boom crane consists basically of one
or more hooks fastened to a steel framework which, in turn,
fits onto the tractor’s three-point hitch. The attachment
is used to lift machinery, bales, and so forth. Since such
implements can be bought new for around $80, chances are
that — if you don’t already have one — you’ll
be able to purchase a used unit at a fairly reasonable
price.)

When Fred set out to “fix” our crane, he knew the boom
would have to be made longer. And the means to this end
turned out to be right in our own junkyard … in the
form of a street-lamp “extension arm” (the curved stem that
holds the light away from the lamppost). Of course, any
piece of curved pipe (approximately 1 1/2″ in diameter and
72″ long) would have done the job just as well.

Since we still wanted to be able to use our boom for other
tasks, too, we decided to bolt (rather than weld) the
extension arm in place. To do this, Fred first clamped the
lamppost arm under the crane’s tip, with an overlap of
about 12 inches. Then — using a 9/16″ bit — he
drilled two holes spaced 7 inches apart and centered
so each bore was 2 1/2 inches from the nearest end of the
overlap .

We fastened the tubes together with a pair of 5 1/2″ X 1/2″
hardened steel bolts (Be sure to ask for such
fasteners specifically. “Regular” bolts won’t be able
to withstand the stress placed on the joint by heavy
lifting or dragging).

A Steel Scoop

With the “new” longer arm in place, we needed a piece of
metal to serve as our scoop. The local salvage yard owner
recommended that we use hardened steel for this purpose,
too, and sold us a piece of 1/4″ plate measuring 18 1/2″ X
26″ … which would be small enough to fit into tight
places when in use.

Our street-lamp extension arm came equipped with two
brackets, which we used to secure the steel plate in
position. The lower (double-ended) mounting
hardware was fastened to the scoop with a pair of 1 1/2″ X
1/2″ bolts and lock washers … while a 1″ spacer (simply
a piece of pipe cut to length) was used between the upper
bracket and the steel plate. A 3 1/2″ X 1/2″ bolt holds
this “top” assembly together. (If you fashion your extender from a length of
conduit, all you’ll have to do is attach two similar
brackets to the pipe.)

Finally, we welded an “eye” onto the lower mounting point
to accommodate the hook of a tow chain, which was secured at its far end to the boom crane itself. The chain adds strength to the whole
assembly, since it effectively prevents the extension arm
from bending when the unloader is pulling.

In practice, we have found that our homemade scraper leaves
about two inches of manure just behind the cab of the
truck, but it’s easy enough to get rid of those
hard-to-reach remnants with a shovel. Fred manages to
maneuver the scoop around the truck bed’s wheel wells by
judicious use of the tractor’s steering. (A little steering
goes along way, since the working plate is 11 1/2 feet
behind the tractor.)

In addition, I’ve found it an easy matter to use the device
to turn compost — in less than 10 minutes — by
simply pulling the decomposing material out of our big
three-sided bin and then pushing it back in again.

Self-Reliance = Self-Satisfaction

There you have it: a device that’s simple to build and
operate, has no moving parts, and will help you create a
healthier garden by making short work of your most
strenuous and time-consuming chores.

Who knows? Maybe you’ll start with our design and modify it
to tackle the specific heavy labor around your
place. I hope so, because — if you do — you’ll
experience the same satisfaction I get every time I use the
“poop scoop” … the joy that comes from knowing that
we got the job done by relying on ourselves and making do
with what we had.