Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Permaculture Projects: Free Bird Manure

I was running through my neighborhood this morning, and I noticed something.  There are trees lining the road through one area I was running, and on the road under every tree was a fairly substantial ring of bird droppings.  I looked ahead down the road, and there appeared to be little white halos on the ground surrounding the trunk base of every tree.  Between the trees, the road was clean.  It hasn't rained here for quite a while, so the droppings have had some time to build up.

This made me think of a few things things.

First, it reinforced the concept of Edge.  The individual bird droppings were very small.  That means it was the manure of the small finches, sparrows, and chickadees that are all over the place right now.  I am thinking that they must be roosting in these trees at night.  In nature, these small birds are the inhabitants of the edges between field and forest.  From my previous post on the Importance of Edge, I discussed how the edge is booming with life.  Well, this is just another reason why.  These small birds are constantly fertilizing the edge.  What a brilliant design for us to model.

Second, along the lines of modeling nature... which is what Permaculture is all about!  I have heard of many people who have bird feeders and bird waterers and bird houses and bird perches scattered throughout their yards.  But these individuals have noticed that the plants (usually grass) growing under these structures will grow much better than the surrounding areas.  So every year, they will move the locations of these structures to spread the fertilizer around a bit.  Then they also get the added benefits of pest control (birds eating the pests), increased biodiversity (every addition of another species will almost always be beneficial), and increased beauty (these birds are just fun to watch!).

Third, this is is why Principle One: Observe and Interact is so important.  If I was just in my running zone listening to my Ipod, I never would have noticed this and been spurred to share.  Now, I also saw a small crab on the road.  Yeah, a crab.  We are nowhere near a body of water... I'll have to think about that one. :)

Finally, I thought what a waste.  All that rich nitrogen is going to be washed down the sewer system with the next rain.  This also reminds me of another thing... My boys are little right now and are just getting potty trained.  We can be outside playing and they will have to pee two or three times an hour sometimes.  I have taught them that if we are in a natural setting, they can pee in the bushes or behind a tree.  Our interaction goes something like this:  "Daddy, I need to go pee-pee!"  "Again?  Right now?"  "YES!"  "Okay"  "I want to go pee-pee in the bushes (or on a tree)"  "Okay, which bush needs your nitrogen?" (yes, :) I actually say that!)  They will look around and say "Hmmmm, I think this one is a good one."  And then the nitrogen delivery is made.  I love it.  My boys love it.  And I am pretty sure the plant enjoys it as well.

Observe nature.  Smart design.  Minimal work (interaction) on our part.  Let nature do the bulk of the work.  Great results.  That is Permaculture!


  1. JB, I just read in the "Dogs" book we got at the library that "the dalmatian is unique in that it excretes urea, and not uric acid, in its urine. This means that it shoudl be a popular breed with gardeners because its urine does not kill lawn grass."

    How cool is that?!

  2. OMG, this is too funny. My FIL taught my eldest son to pee outside whenever he felt like it. I've worked very hard to curb this (boyish?) desire to pee outdoors, but I guess I'll just have to let go and let them help me "be green". :-)

  3. Ha! I love it!

    ...and another reason Dalmations are cool!