A friend sent some quotations about soil. Perhaps she was thinking that soil is my profession, where farmer is the verb and is the subject.
“Land, then, is not merely soil; it is a fountain of energy flowing through a circuit of soils, plants and animals.” Aldo Leopold, 1949.
I find it interesting how Leopold punctuated that sentence. Land comma then comma is not merely soil semi-colon. People don’t punctuate like that any more. I’m not saying it’s bad, it’s just different. One can ruin a day calculating and recalculating punctuation.
“…the Latin name for man, homo, derived from humus, the stuff of life in the soil.” Dr. Daniel Hillel, no date.
Actually I don’t believe that connection, as poetic and viscerally true as it may be; homo is human, being, man, mortal. Humus is ground, earth, soil, land, country, on the ground. Nice thought but a reach, though I will keep my mind open.
“The soil is a great connector of our lives, the source and destination of all.” Wendell Berry, 1977.
I like Wendell Berry, quiet, Buddha-like, he once tried to play the fiddle. I appreciate people who try to play the fiddle. And he thought well of horses, taught English. His quotation has a doomful Biblical cast. That’s what happens when you’re raised in the back country of Tennessee, on second thought Kentucky, explains the doomful.
“I would rather be tied to the soil as a serf… than be a king of all these dead and destroyed.” Homer, “The Odyssey.”
I suppose I should read “The Odyssey” some day. Before I die, I’ll put that on my Bucket List along with “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
“I saw all the people hustling early in the morning to go into factories and the stores and the office buildings, to do their job, to get their check. But ultimately it’s not office buildings or jobs that give us our checks. It’s the soil. The soil is what gives us the real income that supports us all.” Ed Begley Jr.
Now just convince the Pentagon of that, and the governor of Wisconsin, and the mayor of Stevens Point and NYC. When farm land has annexation rights, I will believe that. Until then I’ll put the farm vocation between truck driver and janitor. Just doing chores and hope to be left alone while at it.
“Soil erosion is as old as agriculture. It began when the first heavy rain struck the first furrow turned by a crude implement of tillage in the hands of prehistoric man. It has been going on ever since, wherever man’s culture of the earth has bared the soil to rain and wind.” Hugh H. Bennett and W.C. Lowdermilk, circa 1930s.
I don’t know if this is supposed to be an accusation or not, mindful of the book Ishmael. It is hard to farm without erosion except to say some of it is ugly, some of it is wicked, some is unnecessary. So erosion is a problem.
“Landscapes evolve steadily by jerks.” Ray Daniels, 1987.
This could be interpreted several ways. I have seen landscapes evolved by jerks. Also by spasm and reflex. What cheers me is sometimes we put landscapes back on the shelf, to do something useful and still at the same time good to look at. Reference the previous quote.
“Those who labor in the earth are the chosen people of God, if ever he had a chosen people.” T. Jefferson, “Notes on Virginia.”
I don’t suppose it advances my cause to suggest that a right-thinking God doesn’t have a chosen people, if maybe a people do choose he/she/it. If maybe to the same end result.
“… I cannot conceive of the time when knowledge of soils will be complete. Our expectation is that our successors will build on what has been done, as we are building on the work of our predecessors.” R. S. Smith, director of the Illinois Soil Survey, 1928.
That is pretty much how I feel about dirt and farming. I thought that way as a 4-H kid and then as a young family farmer, to think I would by now have this dirt business figured out. I don’t.