TAVISTOCK - It may just be stinky old manure to you, but to Larry Bearinger it smells like something else entirely - money.
Bearinger, owner of Tavistock's Pumped Environmental Services, is a "nutrient distribution specialist." Or, if you prefer, he spreads manure. Except he doesn't work for a family newspaper and can use a better word than "manure."
The licensed agriculture mechanic has carved out a successful, if smelly, niche business for himself finding a use for the stuff that comes out of the business end of livestock.
Springtime is the height of the manure-spreading season, as farmers prep their fields with this natural alternative to fertilizer.
That means he's running seven days a week this time of year, from sun up until sundown, spraying the liquefied slop on fields across the region.
Whether it's pig, cattle or chicken manure, he spreads it all, charging farmers by the gallon, and laughing all the way to the bank.
"Those guys are hungry for manure, " Bearinger said, pointing at neighbouring fields around a dairy farm in Oxford County, where today he's pumping out another pool of brown slurry.
Bearinger got into the manure business in the late 1990s, and learned as he went.
Regulation and technology have evolved a lot over the years, and so has competition, but he says He's still the only guy locally who spreads manure full-time.
His wife eventually learned to accept what he does for a living, too.
"We went out and started a corporation, much to the surprise of my wife, " he said. "When I started, I had no idea what was involved in liquid manure application."
Yes, it's smelly work, but you get used to it. He reckons it's better than some of the chemicals you can be exposed to at other industrial jobs. And he's often cleaner at the end of the day then when he worked as a mechanic.
"You can wash it off. It still smells, but eventually that goes away, " he said. "You learn not to take a hot shower. When you do, that smell just seeps right in. It usually takes a few good, hot days after the season is done to get it out of your system."
Bearinger also likes being a middle man for one of nature's most basic functions.
"You can say we're at the end of the life cycle, or we're at the beginning. It just keeps going around and around, " he said.
He's a popular guy in rural areas, too. If you're a farmer with a manure tank that's about to overflow, you love to see Bearinger show up at your farm.
"When I come driving in the driveway, I'm everybody's best friend, because the (manure) tank is full, " he said.
When Bearinger started in the business, manure was spread to fields by irrigation. Today, Bearinger works with a customized system he designed and built himself that churns manure tanks and pumps it through some three kilometres of hose to his spreading tractor chugging along in the field.
To do that, he had to mount a truck engine on a trailer, and uses it to power an industrial-strength pump needed to push as much as 84,000 gallons of liquid manure an hour. He modified the truck's drive shaft to run a long nozzle that stirs up the sludge from the bottom of the manure tank.
Then he added a second churner - a long probe with a 36-inch propeller on the end, all powered by another tractor that helps stir up the manure further and get it into a spreadable form.
"We have to go in and stir it up. It's like making a chocolate milk shake with the old Nestle's powder, " he said.
The manure business means Bearinger gets to apply his unique mechanical and welding skills and build custom machinery uniquely designed for this specialized work.
His spreader is a modified tractor he calls the Pink Panther, and his prized possession is his Monster Truck - a strange-looking rig built of three separate truck bodies complete with giant combine tires on the back.
"If I believe I can make it work, I'll build it, " he said. "When I was a kid, we had a sandbox. Basically, this is no different, just on a bigger scale. I get to build my toys, I get to play with them and I get paid for it."
Bearinger, who grew up on a farm, genuinely loves what he does. His father always wanted to make agricultural machinery, and now his son gets to.
"I'm kind of living the dream my dad had, " he said. "It's a lot more than just cutting steel and welding parts together for me. I feel fortunate I get to live this life."
It's loud work, being around all those humming pumps, belching engines and chugging machinery that stir, suck and spray manure all day long. But Bearinger's ears are fine-tuned to any slight indication that something isn't quite right in his special system of roaring of equipment.
"When it's running, all you're going to hear is a big block of noise. To me, that's like a symphony, " he said.