The Power of the Poop Pile: One Young Gardener’s A-Ha Moment

“But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.” Luke 8:15 NIV

With the garden season in full swing again, we can often be found with dirt under our nails and a shovel in hand. Tending flowers, herbs, berries, and veggies keeps us busy and happy. But like all good things in life, these delicious garden goods and beautiful blooms would never have been able to form without our investment of time, hard work, and  — you guessed it — a little love.

And even then, there was one more ingredient we needed to provide if we wanted optimal yields. The gardens craved some good old-fashioned organic fertilizer (aka horse manure). Loads and loads and loads of horse manure, composted over time to create a pungent pile of “black gold.”

The Power of “Poop”

When we purchased our little patch of earth in the Yokna River Bottoms of the Mississippi Hill Country, the pastures were overgrown and the only remains of an old garden were a few uneven mounds in the grassy lawn. The first thing we needed to do was rebuild the soil.

One day, as my then ten-year-old son and I were mucking the horse stalls, he struggled to maneuver the heavy wheelbarrow. Just as he turned that overloaded cart around the bend, my hardworking little man lost his balance and fell smack-dab into the middle of the poop pile. His frustration peaked as he threw the shovel across the woods, kicked the rusty wagon that had failed him, and let loose a string of words I had never heard him say.

From the barn, I fought the urge to rush to him and soothe his shame. He fought tears, as he brushed himself off and fumed for a while.

Then he began to gather his tools and his composure. By the time my son returned the wheelbarrow and shovel to me in the barn, he had a smile on his face again. “Well, Mom, I guess everybody has to fall in the poop pile eventually,” he said. I gave him a big, tight hug and thanked the heavens for the lesson only a farm boy could learn.

Turn Your Mess Into Your Message

The thing is, everyone has bad things happen in life. All of us, no matter how faithful, devoted, or kind we are, will fall into the poop pile from time to time. And when that happens, we may even earn the right to pitch a little fit, as my son needed to do that day. In the midst of our suffering, we may throw our hands into the air and ask “Why, God?” We may kick and scream and cry and, heck, let out a few words we wouldn’t ordinarily say.

But it’s what we do next that really matters.

My son taught me that there’s no point in staying in the poop pile. Why sit around complaining about the messes in our lives? It would do no good to keep fuming and feeling sorry for ourselves.

Instead, when despair hits hard and our hearts are aching, we must take a few steps back, regain our composure, gather our tools, gain a new perspective, return to the ones who love us most, and use that mess to harvest something beautiful and useful in our lives.

Sometimes it takes a lot of hard work and a good bit of patience, or as farmers often say: “A year to root, a year to shoot, and a year to fruit.” But eventually, with faith and determination, we can build a beautiful garden of goodness.


Launching a sustainable farm has been a positive journey for our family. It has taught us many important lessons, including the value of good soil, patience, and hard work. But it has also taught me the value of the poop pile. Deep faith. And a strong sense of humor.

Learn more about Julie’s farm by visiting and be sure to check out our newest Belle Book Babies by Jolina, Kellie, Lisa, and Shellie. So many great stories to discover!


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Julie Cantrell

New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author at Harper Collins Christian
Julie Cantrell is a tree-hugging organic-farm girl and mother of two who happened into a mid-life adventure as a novelist. She's having fun parenting, writing, teaching, speaking, and living the dream.

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  1. Lisa Wingate says

    Oh, so true, Julie! Isn’t it funny how the things kids say can be so very wise if we take a moment to think about it? There’s no reason to stay in the manure pile. Why not use it to grow something good =D


  2. says

    I just loved this, Julie. What a sweet reminder that even when we fall face first in the poop pile, we can always get up again and dust ourselves off. By the way, we’re looking at a sustainable farm today in WI, just for fun–hoping to learn more from them! :)

  3. says

    What a great story, Julie!! I’ve been in more than a few poop piles in my life and I had some hissy fits myself. But you are so right – God does clean me up and bring good out of it. You have a wise son!

  4. says

    Julie I love that! What insight for a ten year old:) Oh, that our older hearts can learn these lessons more quickly…
    What an adventure y’all must be living out there. Blessings to you…

  5. says

    Wise words indeed, Julie! I’m thinking he was a smart young man that day for many reasons, among them being his resolve to clean up and move on instead of tracking the poop all over creation. :) Speaks to me!

  6. Melanie Backus says

    Hello dear Julie! I love your words today. Our experiences in life, whether good or bad, teach us a great deal. Poop is poop no matter how you look at it but staying down in it won’t do a bit of good. Like your precious boy, get up, dust yourself off, and move on. Life, is interesting, to say the least!
    Love you, girl!

  7. Miriam Lozano says

    Great message……sometimes that poop pile can get the better of us, but yes, we must get up, clean up the mess and keep on going….Love it!

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