Save The Dirt

 
 
Dirt-525 
 
 
Dirt has a bad name.  We assign it to foul, perverted things. Icky nasty things we do not touch lest it taint us, infect us. We are a society bent on cleanliness; antiseptic-ness. We pride ourselves in our civilized approach to dirt.  Filth is what animals live in not we who are above such things. 
That dirt which lies beneath our feet, it is alive, that soil; a  mosaic of organic-ness which makes up much of our planet. We don’t think much of it but it’s there.  We walk on it, build our homes on it, plant our food in it. It’s what holds it all together and it’s more important than people realize.
 
Throughout history, civilizations have prospered or declined as a result of the availability and productivity of their soils.  Soil resources are critical to the environment as well as food production.

Soil is defined as a natural body consisting of layers that are primarily composed of minerals, mixed with organic matter. It is the loose covering of fine rock particles that covers the surface of the earth and is the end product of the influence of the climate, organisms, minerals and the passage of time.

When used in agriculture, it serves as the anchor and primary nutrient base for plants and soil resources that are crucial to the environment.  It absorbs rainwater and releases it later, helping to prevent floods and drought. It cleans the water acting like a sponge as the water percolates through it.

Soil is the most abundant ecosystem on Earth and is home to countless lifeforms; invertebrates, bacteria, fungi and algae.   It supports and plays a crucial role in all life on this planet.

 

Soil food web 

Good soil should contain a healthy mixture of soil-based organisms. These are the naturally occurring micro-organisms that release powerful enzymes responsible for keeping it free of molds, yeasts, fungi and other parasites which would otherwise make normal plant growth impossible. These organisms fix nitrogen from the atmosphere into the soil and decompose organic compounds, including manure, plant residue, and pesticides; helping to prevent them from entering waterways and becoming pollutants.

The primary home of the vast soil food web is the topsoil. It’s the top layer of soil and contains most of the available nutrients. It’s where most of the biological activity takes place.

 

dirtFarmer_and_tractor_tilling_soil 
Scientists believe that 24 billion tons of topsoil are lost every year to erosion by wind, water and other causes including the way we feed the planet. Conventional agriculture encourages the depletion of topsoil because the soil must be plowed and replanted each year.  Many experts believe that our chemical dependencies are stripping the soil of its life-giving properties and turning it into unproductive, thus, lifeless dirt.  One inch of topsoil can take 500 years to form naturally. According to current trends, the world has about 60 years of topsoil left.
 
 

 Topsoil erosion occurs when the topsoil layer is blown or washed away. Without topsoil, little plant life is possible. This is a phenomenon known as the Aeolian processes.  This has happened before notably during the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s when a period of severe dust storms greatly damaged the ecology and agriculture of the US and Canadian prairies.

On a dry grassland, the grass rooted into the soil can be the only thing keeping the soil stable. If too many animals are allowed to graze for too long, the grass can be stripped away and the soil will lose its anchoring roots. The area can become a desert. This is called desertification. Desertification and soil loss is a worldwide problem.

 
Dust storm blowing into Dodge City. The worst storm recorded was Black Sunday, April 15, 1935. Survivors talked of dust so thick it drifted like snow.
Dust storm blowing into Dodge City. The worst storm recorded was Black Sunday, April 15, 1935. Survivors talked of dust so thick it drifted like snow.

 

“According to the United Nations desertification is a creeping catastrophe. Already creating millions of environmental refugees worldwide every year, one third of the earth’s surface and the livelihoods of at least one billion people are threatened.” 

 By The Future World Project

 

A Turkana man herds livestock back from grazing grounds in Kenya, Africa where desertification in a problem.
A Turkana man herds livestock back from grazing grounds in Kenya, Africa where desertification in a problem.

 

This problem only deepens through time.  As our global population continues to swell and demand for food increases, our ability to feed the world will become more difficult and in time perhaps impossible. Once land is lost it’s hard to gain it back. I know dirt isn’t exciting, most of us don’t think of it beyond a few scientists and the odd nut like me, but we all can do something about it. It is our planet and we have to right to our existence because it’s down to that.   We need responsible and sustainable land stewardship not just here and there but everywhere.

A great place to start is at home, in our own yards.  The website Wikihow features an excellent article; How to Prevent Soil Erosion . It is focused on what the average person can do about soil erosion at home and in the community. It is on the small scale but a good start.

Beyond that I think we the people need to raise awareness about this problem and through societal and monetary pressure persuade the movers and shakers in this world that we care about our topsoil and the future of the food supply. And that steps must be taken to prevent further loss and to reverse bad farming and land management practices. We need to adapt sustainable farming practices that encourage the development of a healthy topsoil by rewarding those who regenerate the environment and produce food that supports a healthier society.     Most importantly we need to change the way we think about soil and how we use it. We must treasure it as the precious natural resource it is.

Future generations are counting on us… 

Have a fruitful day,

Nancy

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“A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. 
― Franklin D. Roosevelt

 
 desertification in Niger soil dirt
 
 
 
 “The soil is the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all. It is the healer and restorer and resurrector, by which disease passes into health, age into youth, death into life. Without proper care for it we can have no community, because without proper care for it we can have no life.”
― Wendell Berry
 
community-garden-thanks-to-green-guerillas
 
 

References and Related Articles 

  

Woody Guthrie — This Land is Your Land Youtube

Health Benefits of Soil Based Organisms (positivehealth.com)   

Soil Food Web (soils.usda.gov) 

How to Prevent Soil Erosion  Wikihow.com.

We Are What We Eat: Topsoil erosion  YouTube  

Topsoil – 1948 Educational Documentary   

What if the world’s soil runs out?  Time.com  

Losing Ground: Re-thinking soil as a renewal resource (fewresources.org)  

Soil Food Web (soils.usda.gov) 

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The Sexy Gardener

 
 
 tulips gavota-560_86731o
 
 

It is a sunny afternoon in mid October. There is a slight breeze. I can hear the sound of birds and the occasional airplane overhead. I am engaging in one of my favorite activities; Gardening, It makes me happy, especially today–today I am doing one of my most favorite of favorite activities; digging…

 

…Oh how I love to dig…

dirt hand photo(2)

 

 It is primal, it is physical. It gets my blood pumping and pulse racing.  It is natural and it penetrates my soul…it is almost akin to having sex.  It is the mindless and mindful coexisting, together as one.  It hovers on a higher plane and rewards in obvious and not so obvious ways. It is almost spiritual and definitely enlightening. I can do it for hours and become quite invigorated. In that token digging is sexy and so are the people that do it.

Yes, I’m still talking about digging. 

Being a gardener, this thing for digging is a good thing. I am drawn to nature and to the very soil itself.  I suppose that is the way with us gardeners. The soil plays such a vital role in our lives and in life in general. For there wouldn’t be life as we know it, without it.

I love the feel of the fresh good earth–it feels so alive. It is soft and luxurious, fertile as the day is long, this stuff is almost akin to magic.

Gardening is sexy–don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. All that fresh air and exercise, not to mention all the “naturalness” can really get the heart pumping. 

Gardening is good for you.  It is a unique form of exercise that allow you to do something calming, creative and fun while working various muscle groups….gardening can keep you fit.

Women in general can burn up to 300 calories with an hour of moderately strenuous gardening activities like digging, cultivating or using a spade. Men typically burn around 400 calories per hour while doing the same activities.

Being in shape can enhance sexiness…

love-passion-kiss-shadow-photo-70160

OO-la-la…

And what about dirt?  Can dirt be sexy too?

There have been studies as of late indicating how exposure to the bacteria found in healthy soil, whether it be from the food grown in it or just by working the soil can raise serotonin levels which boosts your immune system and elevates your mood.  There has been numerous studies linking the act of just being out in nature to good health. These indicate a direct correlation between our health and happiness and the exposure to the soil itself. We all know that general happiness and satisfaction with oneself is the key to sexual attractiveness.

Come on, tell me dirt is not sexy.

dirt plant hands

 

I do feel more connected with the Earth out here and I am compelled to seek this connection. There is a force inside us that needs to express this somehow. There seems to be a theme behind all this random chaos. We are intertwined with all of creation in a symbiotic dance of existence on planet Earth. We are driven to spread forth and propagate. We share this drive with all other life.  This too, is sexy…

egg and sperm

 

“I celebrate myself, and sing myself, 
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.” 
― Walt WhitmanLeaves of Grass

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Have a great day,

Strawberryindigo.

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Soil bacteria is good for your mood (environmentalgraffiti.com)

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The therapeutic benefits of gardening and getting your hands in the soil (jtoddring.com)

 

Good Tree Bad Tree

I must confess something to you.  I have been known on occasion to brag up my green thumb, yes, its shocking but true.  Most of the time I can back that statement up but not now…

Now at this very moment a reddish-brown shriveled husk of a tree sits in my front yard, a testimony to my ignorance and arrogance. I know enough about trees to know better.  It is a foolhardy and risky endeavor to plant a tree where one once stood, especially an old sick one. I am guilty of such an offense.

It all started innocently enough.  I was at one of my favorite nurseries. I was wandering around like I do when I spied a beautiful tree, it was smallish and covered with tiny white flowers.  It was a dwarf Yoshino Ornamental Cherry tree and it had a twin!  I get excited by stuff such as that.  I almost let out a squeal and start to jump up and down but I contained myself long enough to purchase the trees and arrange for their delivery.

Now I had to figure out where to plant them.  I have a habit of falling in love at the nursery and bringing home plants I have no room for.  So far it has all worked out, I’ve always found a home for them, but trees are special.  You can’t just stick them anywhere and expect them to thrive.  But that’s what I did. Right where an old sick one once stood about a year ago.

I guess I thought the tree and I where above such practical nonsense as compaction and nutrient depletion and for a while it seemed that we were.

I was so proud of the trees, they were the first in the neighborhood to bloom.  People would stop and gaze appreciatively at them as the passed by.  I too, would gaze appreciatively  at them and that is what I was doing when I noticed the first brownish leaf.  It was just one.  I didn’t worry.  Then more brown leaves started to appear. I scoured gardening books like I do and found the answer.  It was a harmless fungus and it would be O.K. in time.  We’d had an unusually wet spring so that made sense to me.

The other healthier tree grew and produced green glossy leaves, While its ugly twin stood there looking sick and depressed.  I tried to fed it, I tried some old gardening tricks, to no avail.  In the back of my mind, I knew what was wrong, I hoped that everything would turn around.

Now I would avoid the tree like the plague, I couldn’t stand the sight of it.  The sight of my failure, for all to see.  Where once the tree invoked pleasure in the people walking by.  Now people shook their heads and made faces of disgust as they walked by.

Does having a dying tree in my yard make me a bad person?   I know people want to ask what I did to the poor thing?  I feel so embarrassed.  I”ve almost cut it down several times, it small enough for me to do by myself.  Something in me won’t let me do it.  Maybe I’m holding out hope for the underdog, which I have a habit of doing.

I just can’t give up on this poor wretched tree.  So I’m babying it and watering it and even talking to it.  It is probably a lost cause but I’m crossing my fingers and hoping for the best.  Please, wish us luck…

Strawberryindigo.