SOIL

Will there one day be a time when the food demands of billions of people is greater than the available farmlands to grow crops? In the midst of consumerism, will a concerned world recognize the need to keep our land healthy for food and drink?

How long has it been since you have held a clump of rich black soil in your hand How long since you have felt the soft warm earth squishing between your toes? Or walked barefooted in the sand and felt the freedom it brings? When did we decide that it was unhealthy for kids to play in the dirt and get a little under their fingernails?

The heart of earth – ‘tis a magnet, a tug, a fragrance when a breath of fresh air touches your face… Sense its hunger to heal…its beauty…if it stirs your imagination, let it…
The planet Earth and its constant turning relationship with the sun sustains mankind with water, air and soil. Air to breathe, water to quench thirst for all living things and soil to provide sustenance and dwelling space. One third of the earth’s surface consists of a land mass which accommodates billions of humans and countless species of animal life. Free-flowing saltwater oceans and seas cover the larger area of the planet.

A century of industrial growth brought dramatic changes to the world’s habitation space in the 1900’s. Cities, railways, super highways, airports, agribusinesses, amusement parks, major league sports complexes, factories, pipelines and housing developments covered the lands. Prosperity brought a new style of living to the average households with modern conveniences. Concrete driveways and sidewalks brought a separation from daily contact with the heart of earth – the soil beneath our feet.

Yet, the relentless growth of sprawling cities, ribbons of highways that crisscross nations and concrete-covered lands continues. Will there one day be a time when the food demands of billions of people is greater than the available farmlands to grow crops? In the midst of consumerism, will a concerned world recognize the need to keep our land healthy for food and drink?

Healthy soil is without doubt an invaluable commodity of this global sphere, as necessary to life as the air we breathe and the water we drink. We could not exist without it. And, so, who will ensure protection of these resources so freely available to all?

Those questions are being addressed worldwide by a host of environmentalists, farmers biologists, researchers, conservationists, concerned young people and persons of every age, color and nationality. Advocates of soil care, healthy crops and healthy foods have fostered a promising new wave of action and awareness in agriculture today; an awareness that encompasses tillers of the soil from world leaders to Mom’s backyard flower bed. Those pebbles of sand were once a part of rock formations. They contain minerals present in solid rock; minerals that promote plant growth. Decaying natural waste provides other necessary elements needed for feeding the roots of each plant. Nature’s wonderful (natural) interaction provides and blends each component exactly as designed to produce the whole product. The soil is its own little factory of blended components and performs in its natural function of nurturing each seed embedded within its womb.

Each member of this mass of humanity we call earthlings affects a day, a space, a decision. We affect persons we touch, the care of possessions. We are individually and corporately bound in the throes of life. We create positive or contribute to lesser. We give or take from the universe daily. No one escapes their moment in time. We share a planet.

 

Photo by Gabriel Jimenez on Unsplash

THAT WEATHERED OL’ STUMP

There was a weathered ol’ stump in my dad’s backyard, once a silver-leaf maple the old folks said. The stump was just right for sittin’ a bit, ‘cept for the tooth marks of a cross-cut saw.

I sat there one day, it was quiet and still – and I felt like that stump had a story to tell. Borne by the breeze from a forest of trees, this maple tree seed had fluttered and fell. Fluttered that day to the soft green hay. Nestled and nourished it had come there to stay where it landed to stay in my dad’s backyard that fine spring day.

I pictured the tree as it grew straight and tall,laden with treasures both large and small. Low branches for swings and bird nests and things. The fullness and shape of a big maple tree resembles a puffball symmetrically. Each branch and leaf seem to know how far its limbs should go so that all who stand in its shade will know that its just the way a maple tree should grow.
When autumn arrives the hills explode with a landscape of leaves reds, and gold. Who can drive by those rich colorful sights without feelings of awe at nature’s delights?

In winter it stands stark and bereft of leaves,but soon enough, as everyone knows, spring comes and brings warmth so the sap starts to flow. And freely it flows for all to partake of a breakfast of pancakes all slathered with sweetness and praise for the big maple trees and their giving ways.

But the years go by and the tree gets old and soon its lumber is sawed up and sold. Its beauty transformed into desks and chairs and all sorts of wares.

And who hasn’t sat by a campfire at night a-crackle with flames throwing warmth and light? I sat on the weathered ol’ stump that day and marveled a bit at all I had glimpsed of nature’s rich gifts. It matters, you know, that we comprehend a little seed blown about in the wind brought birds and shade and painted hills and even stumps to sit on to dream and be still.

Photo by Zuzanna J on Unsplash

The 21st Century

In this 21st century now nearing its first quarter, we are reminded almost daily that the world around us is fraught with change. Drones, robots, rockets and satellites bespeak of almost unimaginable methods of communication, warfare and industry unheard of a century ago. Changes welcomed by some populations and decried by others now appear in the midst of daily living.

It seems perhaps a time to ponder the ramifications of the wide utilization of these man-made instruments of power. Has it brought sustainable progress that will assist our earth in the premise of life, of abundant life, of continuing advancements for the good of mankind even as we learn of problematic concerns over which there appears little ability to control? Can we find solutions to non-disposable waste, to disappearing glaciers, to smog-filled cities of mass populations? Can we comprehend the outcry of this generation as developed and under-developed nations, alike, are affected?

This globalization now seems to be touching and disturbing the status quo in each part of the universe and breaking into the integrity of daily expectations. Each of us as a member of this mass humanity called earthlings affect a space, a place, a day, an hour. We affect persons we touch, the care of our possessions. We are individually and corporately bound in the throes of life. We touch good or contribute to lesser. We give or take from the universe daily. No one escapes their moment in time. We share a planet.

Dear Readers

Hello Friends,
When I last wrote, I had just been invited to attend a writing workshop on Providence Organic Farm near Central Lake, Michigan. My book Ira’s Farm was to be used as a centering topic in a discussion of writing memoirs or other types of articles centered on Love For The Land. What a wonderful learning event that was. So many talented, dedicated and caring people, which included retired women, one gentleman, working women, an employee at Providence Farm and the co-owner of the farm. At the last session, as we walked into the barn where our meetings were held, we walked into a room full of onions drying on the floor and garlic roots hanging on the rafter boards above our heads. Now THAT was an atmosphere appropriate to the subject at hand! Real motivation.

My previous post “The Hills Are Alive” is an Introduction to the book I have just begun to put together. I’ll tell you more about it as it begins to take a more compact shape. In the meantime, I would love to hear from some of you with comments for what you would like to have in this blog. Stories from you of a friend or relative who is composting or involved in issues that will help protect and heal the land, clean the environment, new recycling opportunities, or any number of interesting items.

Ginny

The Hills Are Alive

The hills are alive with the sound of music in northern Michigan. Well, perhaps
not music, literally, but there is reason to sing and rejoice and celebrate. The
natural beauty of rivers and lakes and streams flowing throughout the region now also include fields of lush green row crops grown by organic farmers concerned about the environment. Organic farms are introducing to the area a natural form of raising crops—natural fertilizers, innovative soil preparation, weed control using natural means. This pioneering movement is bringing healing to the land. It produces nutrient-dense vegetables and organic apples and all manners of healthy local foods in addition to soil regeneration.

From the tip of lower Michigan’s mitten where Mackinac Bridge blends into
the north edge of the village of Mackinac City, the greening panorama unfolds
south to Kalkaska and west to Frankfort. Encompassed in this area are the
counties of Antrim, Benzie, Leelanau, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska and Emmet. White
fenceposts often mark the borders of farms where front yard signs proclaim the
information that this is a Certified Organic Farm. Cattle grazing in grass-covered
pastures attest to the practice of raising free-range stock. Chickens thrive in
outdoor moveable pens covered for safety. Kiosks filled with just-picked
vegetables lure passing motorists along country roads. Summer outdoor markets
abound. Truly a lifestyle to sing about – this promise of a reverence for nature
and a vision for the future of northern Michigan.

Come join me now as I walk, in print, through a journey of change
blossoming among the hills of nearby villages such as Leland, Northport,
Interlochen, Traverse City and Petoskey. I write from a vantage point of
observation and interest because as a young girl in the 1930’s, I walked many a
time barefooted through fields of wheat and corn with my dad on his small, rural
farm. I am enthralled at the thought of small farms becoming a way of living in the world of today and especially in the area where I am spending my retirement
years. If you feel the urge to dig around in the dirt after you close the pages of
this book, do it. Let the sweet, rich soil slip through your fingers. Sense the need
to protect it. The greening of the earth lies therein.

UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL

I am sitting in the spacious dining room of the Senior Independent facility where I have lived for the past five years. It is a beautiful sunny day. I’m looking out the window which faces our pond, a pond often teeming with nature’s activities. A mourning dove sits quietly perched on the patio railing, perhaps wanting to be sure he is mentioned in this review.  Redwing blackbirds nest in the high bushes there. If you are watching, you can catch glimpses of cardinals and goldfinch and robins and doves and chickadees flying around. Ducks come and go, landing at will on the pond for a swim. Frogs and snakes and butterflies live among the cattails and bushes. A Canadian geese ‘family’ strutted around the area in late May with five little goslings trailing along behind them – hatched in a nest well-hidden in the brushy areas around the pond. Occasionally a muskrat is sighted swimming there, and a skunk delivered her offspring among the cattails close to the walking path this spring, which caused a flurry of excitement for a few days! A red fox was sighted running across the lawn last fall. Black squirrels and gray squirrels fearlessly roam across the outdoor patio where coffee and local gossip are enjoyed around the wrought iron tables on many a summer morning.

In addition to the animal life, plants and trees of every sort abound in the pond area. There is a mature sugar maple tree across the way that resembles a large mushroom and its round sphere is a sight to behold in the fall when autumn colors appear. Vibrant green pines and flowering crimson ornamental trees, flowering shrubs and a few tulips planted in a small flower bed tended by a resident add to my window view with shades of colors as varied as crayons in a Crayola box… All is well with my soul.

Last week, an unusual incident happened near the patio, witnessed by the morning coffee hour regulars — usually ten to twelve of us. We had noticed a redwing blackbird laying very still on the patio and realized he must have hit the window so hard it caused his death. We became aware almost immediately of a number of blackbirds flying back and forth from nearby trees, flying directly over the bird on the patio in a distressed manner. They continued this commotion for an hour or more before leaving. They must have been aware that the bird on the cement patio was no longer alive. Could this have actually been happening? Have any of you witnessed a ritual of this sort with birds?

But I must move on… (My friendly mourning dove still sits atop the railing, as I turn my thoughts to other news.)

I recently visited the newly-opened Blue Vase book warehouse in Interlochen, about ten miles from Traverse City. And found a treasure! Have you ever looked at a book cover and known you had to get this book before you even opened its pages? Turn Here – Sweet Corn: Organic Farming Works by Atina Diffley had me hooked. Published by University of Minnesota Press, Atina Diffley wrote a 335-page book in story form of her passion for the land, the soil we walk on and plant gardens in, the soil that constitutes acreage for farming and forests and beaches and gopher holes. Soil often pocked with stones and rooted perennial grass clumps. This woman loved soil. Loved it enough to endure drudgery, crop-destroying storms, fifteen-hour work days, years with no profit as she and her husband put all available resources back into healing the land on their farm. What a teaching, compelling page-turner Diffley created as she told of her honest endeavor to live the dream and, in reality, answer the urgent call of her heart and soul. I learned in the most elemental terms of the almost impossible demands of creating a certified organic farm. It is an incredible tale.

At approximately the same week that I ‘had my nose in that book until late in the night’, I received an invitation to a writing workshop June 27 at Providence Organic Farm in Eastport to speak about my efforts of writing, self-publishing and marketing the book Ira’s Farm: Growing up on a self-sustaining farm in the 1930’s and 1940’s.

Have a good and productive summer, friends. Happy gardening. I’ll write more later.    Ginny

Photo by John Duncan on Unsplash