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Soil Testing

by Cybele
We have wanted to get chickens for Heckle ever since the nurse at his hospital told me about her two year old son getting chickens and naming them Turkey and Grocery without a touch of irony.
I have equally high expectations for the naming of our chickens. No pressure, son. No pressure. My confidence is some what justified, since Heckle calls our friends’ baby, Anchovy and has a toy seal called, Clap Happy.
Chickens and kids can be a great combination – most of the time. The poor chicken getting a cuddle from a headless child is my favourite photo of my childhood chickens. It reminds me of what I loved about having chickens, although I can’t remember this poor chicken’s name. I do remember Donald duck who laid eggs.

The history of your soil

A little while ago, I found out that a property not far from ours was a uranium smelter in the 1910s. It was one of many industries in the surrounding area at the time. Nice. No wonder my skin has been glowing. Perhaps, glow in the dark chickens could have their advantages. I’m having visions of fluorescent pheasants and friends frolicking in the night, as amazing garden lighting displays.
Our block slopes down away from the house and over the years we have built up the soil on the top levels with all the good stuff for vegetable gardens and fruit trees. All the while, avoiding the bottom tier, because once upon a time it was filled using sludge dredged up near by. Such are the joys of inner city living.

Soil testing for pesticides and heavy metals

We would like our feathered ladies to roam free, so prudence won and we had our soil tested. It was easier than expected. I did what any good toxic investigator does and googled ‘soil testing’. Lo and behold a whole lot of them came up. Suddenly, I found my Friday night fun, as I became more and more intrigued about TPH, BTEX, VOC, PAHs, OC/OP/PCBs, SVOC’s, aliphatic/aromatic speciation, GC/MS scans for unknowns, SPOCAS, Chromium Reducible Sulfur, AVS & SEM and blah, blah.
The long and the short is that for most backyard ‘farmers’ you will want PCB, OC, OP (pesticides and friends) and heavy metal tests done, but it’s best to explain your site to the analyst and ask for recommendations.
I dug up soil from the suspicious parts of the garden, popped it in a snap lock plastic bag and sent it on its way to Envirolab. A week and $150 later we had our results. I compared them to these soil testing interpretations for heavy metals, zinc and mercury. Thankfully, the news was better than I had expected.
The bottom tier of our garden will not win prizes for being the most pure soil. We do have small traces of lead, zinc, nickel and chromium, but sadly us city dwellers can be exposed to these nasties just going about our day to day lives. The good news is that for most of us, this exposure is dramatically less than it used to be and some how our parents and grandparents survived much worse.
This little family won’t be making soil sandwiches with our lower patch of dirt and we will be making an effort to remedy the situation, but I feel better knowing that in the meantime we’re in the ‘safe for agriculture’ zone, which is better than expected. So, if our feathered dames wander down there they will be okay.
Looks like the most dangerous thing for our chickens will be over zealous huggers. Chook and child

About BlahBlahMagazine

Cybele Masterman (Bele) trained as a beauty therapist, aromatherapist and journalist. After working as all of the above has found herself on a quest for a beautiful and meaningful life that doesn't cost the earth. Follow on google: +blahblahmagazine twitter: @blahblahzine or Instagram: BlahBlahMagazine

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