Dear MOTHER: February/March 2013

Read this incredibly helpful reader letters ranging from topics on killer compost and broody hens to composting meat, fat, and much more!

  • 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
  • Farmland
    Bob Freeman of Cookeville, Tenn., suggests those looking for land to farm connect with aged farmers who may not have the energy or finances to continue to care for their property. “The owners would be a great reservoir of knowledge,” Freeman writes. 
    Photo By Fotolia/Veneration
  • Free-Range Chickens
    “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,” writes aspiring farmer Ariel Drouault of Great Barrington, Mass. 
    Photo By Dreamstime/Martine De Graaf
  • Indoor Seed Starting
    Reader Alicia Gouveia says Barbara Pleasant's article on indoor seed starting in the December 2012/January 2013 issue has likely saved her from a few more years of seed-starting trial and error. 
    Illustration By Elayne Sears

  • Dealing with killer compost
  • Farmland
  • Free-Range Chickens
  • Indoor Seed Starting

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.

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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