Thursday, 27 August 2009

We plough the fields and scatter

Photo: Chris Miles

Occasionally, living in the country is not all bucolic pleasures and the ripe fruits of harvest. In recent years we have been beset by what my son calls "the smell of death" - not the rotting corpse smell which sometimes happens if a mouse dies under the floorboards, and which is literally the smell of death, but the awful miasma created by the pile of sewage waste that lives a quarter of a mile down the track, and which is ploughed into the fields at this time of year. At such times, it's an undescribable, but utterly pervasive smell, with a background whiff of ammonia, and it catches at the back of your throat, causes headaches and nausea and OH is having nosebleeds (though they were probably started by the chaff that flew at the beginning of the week when the grain was being cut).

People living in the countryside are sometimes divided over the issue of smell - many people aren't keen in living near a pig farm, for instance. With the exception of hen batteries, I would say that the aroma of living animals is generally tolerable. This, however, hangs in the air for days (in fact, the pile at the end of the track has been there for some months, so there's often a lingering smell when the wind blows in our direction) and is impossible to escape. It's the first thing you notice when you wake in the morning and it can seem to hang even more heavily in the evening air. We are told that ploughing it straight in to the fields will cut down on the odour, but it doesn't while the ploughing is going on, and that has been for several days now. Worst of all, I think, is that you can taste it all the time. Today is lovely, fresh and breezy, but I have just realised that I don't want to put my washing out, because the air is full of grey dust.

I do accept that returning human waste to the soil of much preferable to dumping it in the sea and using artificial fertiliser, and that the lime treatment which makes the ammonia smell worse is necessary to reduce pathogens; I don't want to run for the city to escape, nor do I wish country life to be sanitised for my convenience, but oh, I shall be glad when it stops.


Table Talk said...

Actually, this isn't just a countryside issue. The same smell has been raising the eyebrows of my visitors over the past week. Birmingham has several 'country' parks and a very good thing too. They make a tremendous difference to the city landscape and provide much needed open spaces for the local children. But the one that I live near also has a section that is left for hay each year, I suppose to service the Urban Farm and this has been the week when they've been treating that area in just the same way as you've described. There is bringing the country into the city and there is bringing the country into the city!!!

GeraniumCat said...

Goodness, I'd no idea it happened in cities as well, though I know that quite a number of communities around the country have had the same problem. It's been much better today, I'm glad to say.