Yards are always proud of their muckheaps aren`t they? It`s the sign of a tidy yard apparently.
When I was younger “doing the muckheap” was an all day job, and God help you if you forgot to throw that dropping all the way up or sweep the dust against the muckheap wall. We did have rather a spectacular `heap though. It was in a shed, and began at the end of September. Dutifully we forked up everything and built a rectangular pile, with edges you could drop a plumb line down. Once this first layer got to about 8ft, and it was nigh on impossible to put any more up there, and we used a ladder to scramble up in order to level off the top and push back the muck, we were permitted to begin the second layer. And then the third. By about February there were three large layers, with the top one almost touching the roof, and only the smallest helpers could go up there and level it off. The rest of us would be on the other layers forking piles up. Usually a mother would be standing by the gate informing us where we had left lumps, or it wasn`t quite horizontal.
For some reason, I remember in a half term, we decided for some reason that the muckheap needed remodelling. So layer number two was split in half, and the majority of it forked upwards so that layer three reached the roof and we were bent double levelling it off. I think we were obsessed. But we were very fit and strong. And smelly, come to think of it.
Towards the end of March a local farmer, along with his muck spreader, would come and empty the contents of the shed. It would take him a day and a half, at least!
The next yard I went to had very small muckheaps, which required emptying once a fortnight. And there was a reluctance to do anything to them except dump wheelbarrows. Invariably leading to straw piles across the yard until whichever staff member was flavour of the month and had to “sort it out”. Towards the end of my time there a couple of us became quite accomplished at muckheap modelling; photographic evidence even reached Facebook! Our faces used to fall as the next livery owner pushed an overflowing barrow towards us …
Now we have muck trailers, which are actually very useful and get emptied weekly by the tractor. Barrows are wheeled up a ramp (easier said than done), round a corner and into the trailer. Livery owners are usually pretty good at keeping it forked back, right up to the top of the sides. I have seen it being emptied when it`s half full because everyone`s dumped their muck. Today, however, the trailers hadn`t been emptied for about ten days and there was a queue of wheelbarrows down the ramp. We couldn`t muck out because they were all full! The trouble was that the guy who usually takes the trailer away is off this week celebrating his birthday (I mean, how dare he?!) so we called in the reserves. Affectionately known as Bill and Ben, I asked the two middle aged odd-jobbers if they could assist. Willingly they went to get the tractor and proceeded to tow away the first trailer … along with the fence post …
Whilst they were gone we took advantage of the prolonged absence of the trailer to have a good sweep underneath it. Usually it returns in the time it takes to blink so we don`t have time to pick what has missed the trailer. Bill and Ben return, crashing into the gate, and then have a prolonged discussion about how to reverse the trailer back safely, without crashing into the new livery`s shed. They call for back up in the shape of a builder (who built the stables over a decade ago and is still here titivating them). He performs a twenty three point turn and manages to back the trailer in to it`s parking space. “Make sure it`s against the ramp” I say, supervising this manoeuvre whilst holding up my broom. They nod in agreement, unhitch the trailer and disappear off.
One of the grooms starts the mammoth task of emptying the wheelbarrows… only to find that there`s a four inch gap between the ramp and trailer! So we have to ring up the men to come and sort us out before someone puts a leg down it.
Honestly, it was a comedy act. But now the muckheap and yard are tidy!!