Things we’ve learnt: old Spanish agricultural wisdoms. Dog poo to protect your trees!

Things we’ve learnt: old Spanish agricultural wisdoms. Dog poo to protect your trees!

Nicholas and I live in an area that has suffered a great deal of de-population over the decades: our village is shrinking at a rate of about 5% a year. It’s something we are trying to do our little bit to fight, by encouraging more people to move to this beautiful but abandoned place. As a result of this de-population, there are many older and elderly people working the land who are very passionate to pass their knowledge on to the next generation. Nicholas regularly comes home with interesting tidbits, philosophical observations, and lengthy detailed instructions that have been told to him by the seemingly tireless seniors he meets on his travels around the countryside. I have decided to start writing them down in the hope that they will be preserved and passed on as far and wide as possible. 

Nicholas pasturing the goats on our finca
Nicholás takes his goats for a walk.

Spray dog poo on your trees. 

Here at the Freedom Farm we sure love our three goats. They give us vast quantities of fresh milk from which we make cheese, yoghurt, cajeta and many other delicious things. They also give us the premium compost that feeds the soil and plumps up the veggie garden.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that goats are very destructive, they are intelligent, curious animals and they can eat A LOT! 

Pasturing the goats out on the finca sounds like a great idea until you realise they can strip an olive tree of its olives, its leaves, its twigs, and its bark in no time at all. I won’t even begin to describe the kind of massacre they can commit to an almond tree with almonds on it, it is tragic.

Baby goats are so nimble, they love jumping up on a tree to reach the best leaves
They just love climbing up the trees for the freshest juiciest leaves.

When you’re relying on the trees to provide you with food and a moderate income, the last thing you can afford to do is let a bunch of goats eat them. Currently our strategy is to pasture the goats with a moveable electric fence: we create all kinds of weirdly shaped paddocks in an attempt to keep the goats off the trees and it’s a real bore. I miss the days when we didn’t know any better and we would let the goats charge all over the place creating havoc, climbing trees, exploring the forest.

It seems sad to restrict their movements, but after all the work we did to get the trees back in production, what choice do we have? Well, says the elderly Spanish gentleman who sells us our bales of hay, you could try spraying the trees with “mierda de perros”- that’s the Spanish for “dog shit” in case you were wondering.

Molly and Babs, two of our dogs, finca guardians and premium poo makers.
Molly, 4, and Babbington, 3. Joint chiefs of finca patrol.

Then he proceeds to instruct us on the correct methodology. First you must choose a nice big dog turd, preferably fresh and extra stinky. Then you must mix that stinky turd into a large bucket of water and leave it for a few days to get nice and… well… stinky. Once you’re satisfied with the malodorous concoction, you can proceed with the next horrifying step, which is to take a large paintbrush and apply the mixture to the trunks of your trees. The result is that your trees are now totally abhorrent to goats (and probably every other living being). This is because goats are surprisingly dainty when it comes to hygiene. Goats, unlike sheep, do not graze or eat from the ground – they browse, taking bites from head height or above. This helps them to stay healthy and avoid all kinds of ground-dwelling parasites. Goats will also refuse to eat anything that has been munched or even touched by another goat, so don’t forget to take a carrot or an apple for each goat individually or you might have a riot on your hands!

One of our beautiful trees, dripping in almonds
Our best almond tree would be a real treat for a hungry goat!

We have not tried the dog poo method yet but I am certainly not ruling it out. I expect that the next time a goat escapes the electric fence and strips one of our precious trees I will snap and start sniffing about for the nastiest dog poo I can find… 

If you have any old Spanish agricultural wisdoms to share with us please get in touch by emailing freedomfarm18@gmail.com

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