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Guano happens. February 25, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in chickens, critters, gardening, homesteading, wit and wisdom.
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Our friend Ben and Silence Dogood heard from Curmudgeon of Weed Whackin’ Wenches fame this afternoon on the subject of what makes a good Valentine’s Day gift for gardeners. This year, Silence and I went in on a mutual Valentine’s present in the form of a fabulous antique seed box (see our earlier post, “Deluxe seed storage,” for more on it). Curmudgeon wanted to let us know that Wing Nut had presented her with worm poo for Valentine’s Day. (See her post, “Giddy about worm poo,” at http://www.weedwhackinwenches.blogspot.com/ for the full story.)

There is only one possible response to this for the passionate gardener: “How sweet!”

Especially for those of us of the organic persuasion, excrement as fertilizer and soil amendment is something of a Grail quest. As oenologists will rhapsodize over a particularly choice vintage or a specific terroir, we’ll swap stories of how big our tomatoes grew after we fertilized them with worm castings from our earthworm composter. Or get into heated arguments about the merits of, say, well-rotted chicken manure versus mushroom compost (which, lest you think our friend Ben is straying from the topic, is made from composted horse manure). Or spend hours and days trying to determine if llama poo is really a better fertilizer than cow flops, or if it’s just more exotic. Or invite friends to come crawl around under our bunny hutches and take home some nice rabbit droppings.

To the non-gardener, our friend Ben can only say, just thank God I haven’t started on another one of my rants about the benefits of composting toilets and outhouses, and how jealous I am every time I see that someone else has one or both. But I digress.

High on the Manure Mystique Scale is a substance called guano. Guano is a more hifalutin name for bat and bird droppings, though apparently, while all bat droppings qualify as bat guano, only exotic birds are allowed to add the G-word to their excretions. One never hears mention of chicken guano or goose guano, only of Peruvian seabird guano or Antarctic puffin guano or what have you. (Poor chickens, whose high-nitrogen droppings make a superb fertilizer when mixed with straw and allowed to compost so it doesn’t burn the plants, are more accustomed to hearing their excrement roundly condemned as “chicken ****.” Our friend Ben is covering their ears.) Perhaps California condor or ivory-billed woodpecker droppings would be considered exotic enough to qualify, but our friend Ben does not know who determines these things, so I can’t ask them.

Mind you, even bat guano takes on added cachet when it’s from the sunny tropics. Our friend Ben should know. One year, I bought an International House of Guano from that bastion of all things guano, Worm’s Way. It contained Jamaican bat guano, Mexican bat guano, and Indonesian bat guano. You can also purchase these guanos individually, along with T-shirts to show your support for your favorite. (Worm’s Way also sells a more general “Guano Happens” T-shirt. Check them out on our blogroll at right.)

But—at last arriving at the point of this post—guano is not just for gardening. It’s also good for your ears.

A hasty disclaimer: Our friend Ben is all for herbal remedies and other non-invasive alternative practices. But note that little phrase, “non-invasive.” People who stick neti pots up their noses or lighted candles in their ears strike our friend Ben as a few guano piles short of a load, and I feel that way about this whole colon-cleanse mania, too, just so you know. Our friend Ben has never recovered from the fateful time in my vulnerable youth when I read the tale of a yogi who apparently was able to expel his intestines, intact but inside-out, wash them off thoroughly with salt water, and somehow manage to get them back where they belonged. He was revered and lived to be over 100 years old. But if that’s what it takes to reach an advanced age, maybe an early death isn’t all that bad.

Of course, if our friend Ben could block my ears with guano so I wouldn’t be subjected to the clamor of people screeching into their cell phones every time I went out in public, it might actually be worth it. But the guano I’m referring to is music. It is reggae music made by a group from Charlottesville, Virginia called the Guano Boys. Our friend Ben owns their first two CDs, “Guano Boys”—the cover of which shows a stylized bat with a guitar hovering over three planters that are growing batlike foliage—and “Guano Happens.”

Heading to their website, www.guanoboy.com, our friend Ben found the following description of the band: “With their heads in the Caribbean Islands and their feet firmly rooted in the Appalachian Mountains, Guano Boys offer a distinct brand of island music styles. Original sounds in the style of reggae, soca, ska, and calypso with an occasional roots cover create an enticing musical recipe.”

Our friend Ben prefers not to connect the words “recipe” and “guano,” and poor Silence, an accomplished cook, is even more appalled by the juxtaposition. (Though, as our friend Ben pointed out, there is the ever-popular manure tea… ) But the Guano Boys’ music is good. If you enjoy reggae and island music, and you happen to be a gardener, what more could you want? Except, perhaps, one of those colorful guano T-shirts. Or maybe an International House of Guano, or a good-sized bag of worm poo, for your next celebratory occasion. A big jug of manure tea, anyone?