P.E.I. dairy farmer turns poo pit into ice rink

·3 min read

A manure pit on a P.E.I. dairy farm is filled with something you might not expect — kids.

Wilbert Talen has been adding to his farm just north of the Charlottetown airport. Recent additions include a new barn and a manure pit — and that manure pit is getting some unique use.

"We are skating on our newly constructed manure pit," Talen said. "We built this manure pit in October and what we are skating on is just the water that has accumulated."

Right now, the pit is poo-free, said Talen.

"The cows aren't in the barn yet. So, by the time we come to April this manure pit will have a lot different look and smell," he said.

"We're not ones to waste an opportunity. We noticed there was water in the bottom, it started freezing and we thought, 'Hey, that looks like a good skating rink.'"

Tony Davis/CBC
Tony Davis/CBC

The pit goes about four metres down.

It takes about a half hour to scrape off the ice surface after it snows. He is teaching one of his sons how to skate and his other son and daughter how to play hockey.

"This is sort of a once-in-a-lifetime experience. They won't be here next year skating on it so we thought we would strike while the iron is hot so to speak, or skate while the ice is cold," he said.

"Skating is… well… you know what rhymes with pit."

The ice is not NHL grade, Talen said, but he thinks it is above average.

"I'd have to say it is No. 1 in the No. 2 business, if you catch my whiff," he said.

Tony Davis/CBC
Tony Davis/CBC

Talen and a few other dairy farmers were thinking about using the pit for a hockey tournament, but they thought the boards might be a little too stiff, he said.

"This is just pure concrete so it's a little aggressive for hockey boards, but we won't lose the puck anyway."

Talen said the pit only has about 20 centimetres of water at the bottom so he doesn't worry about his kids falling through — though he said he isn't telling them they should invite their friends over.

"We're also a little leery about telling kids about manure pit stuff and with COVID, and so forth, we know they would have to stay a hockey-stick length apart anyway," he said, adding there is no desire to turn it to a community rink.

Tony Davis/CBC
Tony Davis/CBC

Talen's kids understand a manure pit can be dangerous, he said.

"There is a fence around. A manure pit is really actually a dangerous place to be when manure is around, the kids know that and next year we definitely won't be down here."

Tony Davis/CBC
Tony Davis/CBC

Joash Talen and his family usually go to a local rink and said he is learning to play some hockey on the manure pit ice.

"It looks kind of like a prison from down here," he said. "I usually go about a quarter of the way. It takes a long time and I get hot."

Joash said he isn't upset that the pit will soon be filled with cow dung.

Tony Davis/CBC
Tony Davis/CBC

The poo pit rink is an expensive one. Talen said farm manure pits can cost around $200,000.

The pit will be used for skating until the ice thaws or April, when the cows are expected to move into the barn, Talen said.

At that point he will shoveling poo into the pit — not snow out of it.

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