As good as a gold mine
I'm thinking a lot about soil fertility at the moment, as we are building new raised beds, and topping up the existing ones. The undergardener has been collecting horse manure, chicken manure and spent mushroom compost for me, as a special treat :-)
The horse manure in particular was lovely - well rotted, light and not too wet - reckon we'll be looking for more of that. Our acupuncturist - who is also a horse trainer - provided that - reckon we'll be looking to get more treatments real soon!
Anyhow, it got me to thinking about a book I studied for the Leaving Cert - way back when - Lord Jim, by Joseph Conrad. Much has been written about this book, not least the fact that it inspired Apocalypse Now. Watching that would have been great Leaving Cert preparation....
Anyhow, the thing I keep thinking about is the mention of the guano island - an island made of or covered in bird excrement - "as good as a gold mine- or better", says the character, trying to get the crew to undertake the perilous voyage to harvest the guano.
In the mid nineteenth century, guano was found in large quantities in Western Australia- this became a lucrative export for the colony - ships would make a journey of several months to Australia and back to collect the guano for British farms. I suppose a strong constitution woudl have been a requirement for the return journey, especially when you crossed the equator.
The US passed a law in 1855 allowing it's citizens to annex any such island, harvest the guano, and then relinquish posession once the guano deposits were exhausted.
A fascinating topic, although not for dinnertime converations :-)and indicative of the general importance of soil fertility, and how it was achieved before petrol chemical based fertilizer.