Attitude of gratitude
For the past few days, I've been a little sick and have just been very behind in all of my little chores and things. Chris and I are getting ready to do our planting, which gets me very excited. His land is pretty much virgin land and has gone into pasture for the time that he's been there, so it's going to be very interesting seeing how the soil behaves this year. I'm thinking we're gonna want to get some manure and some blood meal fertilizer just to give our soil a little boost. I'll probably also pick up a couple packages of earthworms to throw in the mix just to see how it bolsters our growth. I was listening to a talk from Joel Salatin about soil, and he was talking about land that lay in waste.
Joel is one of the US's most inspirational, unconventional farmers. I use the term unconventional not to mean that he's quirky or different (which I believe he is) but because he really works from an ecological point of view. This is very different from conventional agriculture because conventional agriculture is more about working by whatever means humanly possible to produce more product and a more uniform product. The conventional method of agriculture deals more with aesthetics than with natural beauty--conventional agriculture is one era of humanity's idea of beauty. This type of agriculture is BIG agriculture--the type that comes with a lot of land, a lot of machinery, a lot of chemicals, and a lot of borrowed money. It is also the type of agriculture that gets the most governmental subsidies. Ultimately, it is the type of agriculture that is rough on the earth.
Now, from my studies as an agricultural student, I've learned the earth is not looking for a rough body-building coach that can change the way it is and revolutionize it to become Mr. Universe. That's not how the earth works. Now, it does need nutrients, especially when we as farmers grow things that use up those nutrients, but the thing is that there are ecological ways to remedy this. One of the token methods of maintaining nutrients is intercropping. This means companion planting, or planting crops that put in nutrients with things that take out nutrients. Corn, squash, and beans are probably the most popular form of intercropping, and one of the oldest on this continent. Native peoples used this method for thousands of years, and never needed pesticides and industrial fertilizer.
So this is my philosophy: to work with the earth in an ecological manner. I'm still learning a lot--there's no pretending that I know everything there is to know about working with soil, and to be honest, I probably don't even know a lot. Therefore, we start with what we know and gradually learn.
Back to Joel Salatin. When he was a little thing, his family moved to a plot of land that was rough, laid to waste. Back in the 1930's the conventional method of agriculture met an ecological crash with the dust bowl. From decades of tilling the land and tilling it hard in aesthetically pleasing plots, the topsoil was basically regolith. It was not a living entity, and multiple feet of earth blew away in the wind. That's multiple feet down, across the midwest and western US. It was 850 million tons of topsoil (Kinsley Library). Vast expanses of land were laid to waste. And this broken down, dead earth was the earth that Joel moved onto. It takes time to heal. Through years working to build up topsoil and let the land heal, the land was transformed of its own accord.
One society nowadays is fast moving. We are obsessed with immediate results. In some ways, this gets things done, but when does motivation turn into addiction? Our lives move so fast, sometimes I think we barely have time to live them. This brings me back to my Tuck Everlasting dream, which I've written about in previous posts. How would we as a society act if we had all the time in the world? Now, there's a lot that goes into this question. Sometimes, I think our society believes we DO have all the time in the world, and we just go on living in this fast-paced manner, creating artificial deadlines for ourselves, and therefore pushing ourselves and pushing ourselves like conventional agriculture pushes the soil. When will our dustbowl come? When will we realize that we have become regolith, and are no longer really living, no longer working in tune with each other? We need to slow down and look at each other and really connect deeply, set roots, and just live. It may take time, but I think we can do it. The kicker is that we may have to work for years--decades without seeing any results. But it will get us clean from our addiction of immediate gratification, and allow us to have gratitude for all the little things in life. We must give ourselves time to heal, and will therefore heal each other and learn to know ourselves.
Love and Blessings,
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A sustainability major at U of L, beginning farmer, crafter, and writer.